Blog Archive

Friday, November 17, 2017

Living our Values: Birdies Fore Love

Stewardship is a value that RSM has held throughout its 90-plus year history. Through stewardship, we better our firm, develop our people and support our local communities. Each year, RSM partners with the Davis Love Foundation, the host organization of The RSM Classic, a PGA Tour event, to raise funds to assist children and their families through our Birdies Fore Love (BFL) program. Over the last eight years, RSM has donated more than $9 million dollars through BFL to charities where our employees work and live!

This year, RSM employees, partners, and friends, with a generous match from the RSM US Foundation, were able to donate more than $2 million, which benefited over 70 local charities.

Employee champions in each of our 90 local offices organize the fundraising for Birdies Fore Love. In the Chicagoland offices, employees planned bake sales and silent auctions to help raise funds. All funds raised benefit the three charities the office is supporting this year: Greater Chicago Food Depository, Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, and Ronald McDonald House.

“I am deeply proud and taken aback by the generosity of RSM’s network of donors,” said John Davitt, the 2017 Birdies Fore Love national co-leader. “I truly believe that the stewardship culture at RSM transcends charitable programs and is woven into the very nature of our client service.”

Friday, November 3, 2017

The American Dream Continued...


Editor’s Note: Hunter Pearson was one of nine RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity to “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s Pursue Your Passion (90-90-9) program. Through Pursue Your Passion, RSM is supporting personal and professional aspirations by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their dreams. Hunter’s dream? Help his grandfather live his dream of returning to Normandy, to revisit life-changing experiences he had during World War II. Read Hunter’s story:

On September 12 2017, the Pearsons embarked on their journey to Normandy. The crew consisted of Harvey Pearson (Grandfather and World War II veteran), Rebecca Pearson (my sister), Miriam and Dennis Pearson (Harvey’s son, Rebecca and I’s parents), Brian Hoysa (grandson), Gary Pearson (my uncle and Harvey’s son), Jay and Renea Pearson (cousin and wife), and Linda McLelland (cousin). We flew over in two waves with a rendezvous location of Charles De Galle airport in Paris, France. It was here that we united with 25 other participants, from 12 different states, and began our mission to Normandy.

Pierre-Samuel Natanson, “battlefield guide,” and Stephane Lamache, “tour manager,” met us at Charles De Galle with an itinerary and words of encouragement, knowing we were jetlagged. We were then told to “load-up” and the crew was off to our home base in Bayeaux, France.

Bayeaux is a small town in Normandy, which provided a central location to rest and rejuvenate each day. The wonderful staff at Hotel d’Argouges created one of our fondest memories. They quickly learned that my grandfather was a World War II veteran, and presented us with a complimentary cheese and cracker plate during happy hour. Toothpicks were placed in the cheese with the United States and French flags. As they presented the plate, they shook his hand and said, “Thank you for allowing us to be French.” We experienced moments like this throughout our trip and for that we are very grateful.

On the first night, we had a group dinner at a local restaurant in Bayeaux. The restaurant had a quaint ambience, which encouraged communication between the tour members, and enabled us to tell our stories. Stephane requested everyone’s attention and asked that a member of each party introduce themselves. I was voted to do this for our family and informed the additional 25 members of our journey who, why and how we were there. It was an emotional evening for me as I realized I was not only making a dream come true for my grandfather and I, but this was my family’s passion as well.

It was at this moment everything started to settle in. I imagined if it were 1944, I was 18 traveling across the Atlantic, removed from my friends and family, meeting new people, not knowing what the next would bring, not knowing if I would make it back from that day’s mission, etc. I maintained this mindset for the remainder of the trip in an attempt to understand what my grandfather and the men who fought in World War II experienced.

The next morning quickly came, and the tour was officially in motion. Each day had approximately five stops and the days were set in chronological order until the liberation of France. To help my grandfather conserve energy, we made sure a wheelchair was readily available. He didn’t think too highly of this and refused to use it the entire time. At age 92, he completed every stop and fully enjoyed the tour. (For a complete overview of the tour please read Pilgrimage to Normandy, written by Gary Pearson.)

Each day, we learned new details about the war, and gained new perspectives as we walked in the same footsteps of the brave soldiers in 1944. The final days quickly approached, which brought us to the most influential sights of the Invasion of Normandy concerning the United States, Utah and Omaha beaches. If you’re familiar with Saving Private Ryan, the opening scene is a depiction of what took place on Omaha Beach on D-Day. It was chilling to see the German defenses that remained and the superior tactical advantage they held. As the United States soldiers arrived on the beach they were sitting ducks. German cross-fire easily mowed down thousands of American soldiers. However, with superior arial support from the Allies, German defenses were overcome and the Atlantic Wall was breached.

Visiting these beaches created a few more family memories that are important to us. There was a small bar by the museum at Utah Beach named “Le Roosevelt.” The owner of this bar allowed veterans to sign the wall, tables, chairs, etc. When he found out about my grandfather, the owner gave him a special place to sign above a Marilyn Monroe picture. Little did he know, she was a favorite of his.

The final memory I’d like to mention took place at the American Cemetery by Omaha beach where nearly 10,000 American soldiers were buried. One of those men was my grandfather’s best man’s brother, Granville Payne. Prior to departing on our trip, we determined the location of Granville’s grave to take my grandfather there and lay flowers. Once located and respects were paid, he looked at me and said, “Hunter, I am officially done with Normandy.” It was not necessarily a happy moment but an emotional moment that needed to be had. I feel it brought closure concerning World War II, and fulfillment to my grandfather.

Massive amounts of people from all walks of life, different cultures, different languages, different beliefs, etc. came together for the common good. Many died but by believing in a common goal they were able to work together and change history. The resiliency shown and the sacrifices made by the United States, English, Dutch, Canadians, French, and all other Allies from June 6, 1944 to August 16, 1944 should never be forgotten.

The Pearson’s would like to sincerely thank the RSM and the RSM US Foundation for enabling this opportunity and helping to provide my grandfather his dream, for his influence in providing us the American Dream.



In addition to Hunter’s story, his uncle shared in what it meant to the family to pursue their passions.

The American Dream

PILGRIMAGE TO NORMANDY Pearson’s Relive D-Day Thanks to RSM US Foundation

Thanks to the RSM US Foundation and its essay contest “Pursue Your Passion,” our third-generation nephew, son, and grandson, Hunter Pearson, won the prize. It’s true Dad had tried to get to Normandy twice before. September 11, 2001 grounded his flight to Europe. On the second try Mom’s health started to fail and the trip again was cancelled. My brother and I revisited taking the trip time and time again, but never got past the talk stage. But with the contest prize money in hand there was no excuse and this third try was a charm for Dad’s dream.

He was stationed with the 15th Air Force in the Italian campaign and flew 50 highly dangerous missions over Europe from May 1944 to August 1944 as a left waist gunner on a B17 bomber. On June 6, 1944 his mission record shows the target was a marshalling yard in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The crew knew something was up because bomber command had sent up everything that would fly that morning, and he remembered the sky was dark with planes heading to their targets. When the crew returned that evening they were given the news that the invasion of Europe was on.

Our guides emphasized that one of the singular reasons for success on D-Day was the overwhelming superiority of aerial support. The battle for the skies was over and the bombing campaigns prior to D-Day played a great part in the victory at Normandy. Dad’s targets over places like the Polesti, Romania oil fields destroyed a large part of the Nazi war machine and its efforts to resupply planes, tanks, and other mobile units with critical petroleum supplies.

Our guides were honored to have a World War II veteran on the tour and a soldier who had served in the European theater on D-Day. They said that in their four years of conducting tours throughout Normandy, they had yet to guide a World War II veteran to the D-Day sites. I liked their comment that they didn’t know what was worse, “participating in the day to day slog through Normandy, spending the night in a foxhole, or returning to base and safety at night in your bunk knowing you’d have to do the same thing again the next morning.” In 1944, at 18, Dad was stationed in the square middle of the bomber armed with a 50 caliber machine gun. The Wehrmacht instructed their fighter pilots to strafe the bomber through his open window where it could do the most damage to the plane. As Hunter related in his essay, he is a true American hero, and at 92 he was in a condition to fully enjoy this tour.

The Tour Participants


There were ten of us on the tour. The guest of honor, Harvey Pearson; our first cousin, Linda McClelland; my brother, Dennis Pearson, whose family scored a 100% attendance; his wife, Miriam Pearson; daughter, Rebecca Pearson; and son, Hunter Pearson, the famous essay winner. Brian Hoysa represented my sister’s family, and I, Gary Pearson, was the eldest son. James and Renee Pearson, our first cousins from Lavonia, Georgia, rounded out the group.

So, with the generosity afforded by the RSM US Foundation, Hunter and Dad booked the Normandy tour through the World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, from September 12 to September 20, 2017. The rest of us piled on and arrived at Charles De Galle airport and boarded the tour bus with 25 other souls bound for Normandy.

Our guides, Stephane Lamache, “Tour Manager”, and Pierre-Samuel Natanson, “Battlefield Guide”, would be with us the whole tour and deserve accolades for the wonderful service the Pearsons received.

What follows is an attempted brief synopsis of our journey through Normandy, the epic events of D-Day, and the aftermath of the invasion through France.

Where, When, and How

German intelligence knew an invasion was imminent. After all, three million troops were stationed in the British Isles and they weren’t there just for sightseeing. In preparation for the inevitable, in late 1942 the Germans started construction over what they called “the Atlantic Wall” along the Atlantic coast from Norway to Spain. Not one massive line of concrete, but a series of strong points making the most of the natural defenses hugging the coast.

How would the Allies penetrate these defenses? They had learned a few lessons on what not to do. The failure of the commando raid at Dieppe was one example. In 1942, British forces conducted a raid on the port of Dieppe and most of the forces were killed or captured. Invasion of any heavily defended port was doomed to disaster. The beach had to be packed sand, not a rocky coast where equipment could get bogged down. This seemed to indicate the Allies would try for the Calais sector, close to England, and consequently the Atlantic Wall was heavily fortified there. Normandy seemed to rise in the planning stage with its intermittent sandy beaches, its potential for surprise because of its distance from England, and the fact that its defenses were still in the construction phase and not yet complete. Then there was the when factor to consider. There had to be a full moon for the paratroopers, favorable tides and stable weather for the landing craft.

The Germans monitored the weather daily, the Allies hourly, and on June 4th the meteorologists informed the Allied high command that a break in the front was approaching on June 6th. The next window would be toward the latter end of July and Ike knew any further delay would sap morale. The order was given.

A surprise of sorts was achieved. Rommel was in Germany and most of the German brass could not imagine the invasion would occur under these weather conditions. The ships, planes, and men moved toward their staging positions.

The Longest Day, June 6th, 1944

The British and Canadian Sectors

There was no better place to start than the Pegasus Bridge that spans the Orne River. The Bridge was taken by surprise, with just one casualty. The three British Horsa gliders stopped within yards of the bridge entrance and this key objective was taken without a fight. It would not be so easy for some of the other sectors on the longest day. The British and Canadian flanks were secure with the taking of the Pegasus Bridge, but the hard work for the frontal assault would be through Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches. Today there are many vacation homes on the British and Canadian sectors but those beaches came under heavy fire resulting in heavy casualties. One surprise for me was the statistic that the Canadians in the ratio of their population when compared to the other Allied countries took the highest casualties.

The Commonwealth cemeteries were laid out next to the field hospitals and are cared for by the English and Canadian governments. The thought was to create a garden like the internees would know in their native countries, and the grounds are beautiful, remote, and peaceful. Each tombstone is etched with a legend chosen by the decedent’s family. Another highlight on the day’s tour was the artificial harbor at Arromanches, known as Mulberry Harbor. Churchill backed the project, which entailed filling barges with concrete and sinking them off the beach to create an artificial harbor for the ships to unload badly needed supplies. The capture of ports would come later and these artificial harbors were crucial for the success of the invasion.

The Longest Day, June 6th, 1944

Utah Beach and the Paratrooper Landing Zones


The next day would bring exploration of the sites captured and held by the paratroopers of the 101st and 82nd Airborne. To seize bridges and crossroads, the Allies had invested resources in creating paratrooper units to land behind the lines to hold strategic areas and then link up with the forces coming from the beach.

The Allies had been impressed by what they thought were successful operations by German units in the battle for the island of Crete, but what they didn’t know was that the Germans sustained high casualties in that battle and had given up on creating new paratrooper units. The technology to guide a parachute had not yet developed and there was a high probability the landings could not be concentrated.

The drop zones were missed and the units were scattered. This, however, may have contributed to the success of their mission because the Germans got reports of landings from all over the area and were confused about the ultimate strategy of the invasion.

One unforeseen success of this operation was the ambush at Chateau de Bernaville of the highest-ranking German commander in Normandy on the night before the invasion. Thinking that his communications trailer would be more secure if it was separate from his comfortable lodging at the Chateau, he concealed the trailer in the woods. When the first reports filtered in, he drove from the Chateau straight into an ambush set up by the paratroopers and was killed. This delayed counterattacks the next day when the Germans did not know that he had died and there was no one in charge.

The heroics of the paratroopers at the bridge approaching La Fiere was a worthwhile stop where it was explained how the troops stopped five German tanks that tried to destroy a bridge needed to move the Allied forces inland. It is hard to imagine the ferocity of the fighting there overlooking this bucolic scene.

Then the towns of Ste-Marie-du Mont, taken by the 101st Airborne, and the tale of the 82nd Airborne at Ste-Mère-Eglise, where the parachute still hangs from the church steeple, were riveting, as well as the museum with its restored C-47 aircraft.

Eisenhower was asked what three weapons won the war. He replied, “The Jeep, the bazooka, and the C-47,” being the workhorse aircraft, which I always thought was a surprising choice.

The stained glass window in the chapel at Ste-Mère-Eglise, showing the descending paratroopers, was very moving. All throughout the square you could still see the pockmarks on the buildings from the shells and bullets that were shot that night.

The guides emphasized that the area behind Utah Beach was marshy and the Germans had flooded the area so it was imperative the paratroopers take and hold the exits from the beach, which they did.

At Utah Beach the heroics of Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., the son of the President, were recounted. The troops missed their landing zones by half a mile and the decision had to be made whether to fight back to the planned landing zone and not confuse the expected reinforcements of the second wave. General Roosevelt gave the command, “The war starts here,” and there was no delay in moving off the beach and making their original objective.

The Longest Day, June 6th, 1944

Pointe du Hoc

The fighting for Pointe du Hoc would not be as easy as the frontal assault on Utah Beach. Pointe du Hoc was located between Utah and Omaha Beach and was a narrow, elevated peninsula that jutted into the ocean with cliffs of 250 feet above the water. From this vantage point you could easily observe Utah and Omaha Beach and it was critical that the guns located there be neutralized for the safety of the invasion fleet. A squadron of 500 Army Rangers was assigned the task of scaling the cliffs, capturing this German strong point and neutralizing the guns thereon. The plan was to shoot grappling hooks to catch the cliff’s edge and then scale the cliffs under heavy fire from the machine guns above. This was the most heavily fortified position we saw on the tour, with the narrow peninsula covered with concrete pillboxes and, at the very tip of the peninsula, a heavily fortified observation post looking out over the open ocean. With casualties of fifty percent, the Rangers took the position, but found none of the guns that intelligence said were located there. The Germans had instead moved the guns inland a short distance and had substituted logs in their place where aerial reconnaissance would mistake them for the real thing. Shortly after the capture of Pointe du Hoc, a patrol was sent out and found the five naval guns and destroyed the trigger mechanism so they could not be reused.

German Panzer units counterattacked the small Ranger force, but they held their ground.

Historians in hindsight counted the Ranger effort as a futile one because the reputed guns on the site were not there. But as Pierre astutely observed, the Germans wanted this position because they could see the entire battlefield from Pointe du Hoc. The position could serve the Germans as a central brain system to launch an organized counterattack and the Rangers never let this happen. In that light, their heroic effort was a success.

The Longest Day, June 6th, 1944

Omaha Beach

It is difficult to describe the ferocious fighting and the Allies’ effort that occurred at Omaha Beach. The only comparison I can make is the Confederate General Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, which did not succeed, and the invasion force at Omaha Beach, which did succeed. Both were fortuitous events in the history of the American experience. There were three exits off Omaha Beach and high cliffs in between those exits. We visited the exit at St. Laurent-sur-Mer, the seawall where the American force was pinned down all morning a mere 100 yards from heavily fortified German positions. All morning the troops could not advance because of the murderous fire raining down from above. General Bradley, from his command ship, considered a re-embarkation of the invasion force because of the stall. He reconsidered when he saw the battleship Frankfurt that had disobeyed orders to come close into the beach making headway with its artillery barrage. Then, as Pierre again so astutely stated, events started to evolve. At the Lieutenant and Captain level, American officers on the beach used their training to improvise, so envied by the British High Command, and started to find weaknesses in the German defenses. In some places they gained positions on the ridge overlooking the beach. Slowly the troops moved off the beach but never reached their goals for the day. It truly was one of the most heroic efforts by any of the Allied forces on the first day.

I liked Pierre’s observation that you wanted experienced units, but not too experienced, because then the experienced units would be too cautious. The divisions picked for the first wave on Omaha were the 1st Division, the Big Red One, and the 29th Division, the Blue and the Gray. The first American division had experience in North Africa and Sicily. The 29th Division, comprising units from Maryland and Virginia, called up from the National Guard, had never experienced combat. Having visited the D-Day Memorial at Bedford, I was anxious to see where they landed. I will never forget seeing a pillbox that would catch the Bedford Boys in a crossfire. Nineteen Bedford Boys died in the first sixteen minutes of the landing. As is well known, Bedford, Virginia took the highest casualties per capita of any community in the war. I was pleased to see the exit off this beach named the Rue de Bedford.

The Stall

Once the Allies successfully established the beachhead, they moved into the Bacoge country with hedgerows that grew on the field boundaries. The French resistance had tried to warn the Allies that these hedgerows would create natural defensive obstacles benefitting the Germans. But the Allies either didn’t understand their significance or disregarded the intelligence. In any event, the troops were unprepared.

The hedgerows were thick, matted vegetation to fence in the livestock, and there was a trench at the bottom which created plenty of camouflage and cover for troops and their guns. Every time one hedgerow was taken, there was another defensive line behind it and this caused the Allied push to stall.

This was aptly displayed on the tour when we met a French farmer who took us to a field on his farm where five German 88 artillery guns were captured. Through an interpreter he told us that, while he was not born at the time of the invasion, he would relay what his uncle and father told him about the battle. This particular hedgerow was one of the scenes in the film “Band of Brothers” and the American platoon started at one corner of the field and moved down the hedgerow, capturing all five German 88 guns. I had read about the 88 artillery pieces in some of Ernest Hemingway’s dispatches from Normandy and these guns were feared by the Allied troops. Originally used as anti-aircraft guns, they were found highly adaptable as field artillery pieces and were easily disguised in the hedgerows. The Allies slogged it out in the Bacoge country for three weeks, falling behind in their invasion timetable. The troops devised ingenious field blades that they welded to the front of their tanks, which helped in moving through the hedgerow country.

Perhaps this is a good juncture to relay some of the sights we explored in Bayeux, where we lodged in the Hotel d’Argouges. The staff was impeccable and served us an excellent breakfast in the morning and a wonderful Happy Hour every evening.

The Bayeux Cathedral dated to the time of William the Conqueror, the victor in the battle of Hastings in 1066, a beautiful medieval cathedral that soared above the town. Bayeux was spared the devastation suffered by the rest of Normandy and was quite lovely.

I had heard that church attendance in Europe was nonexistent and all the famous cathedrals just served as tourist destinations. On Sunday morning I tested this proposition and the cathedral was packed with worshippers. I was there when the service closed and the cacophony of the bells was beautiful. Thinking that most of the congregation were tourists, I hung around and was pleasantly surprised that they were locals, as I saw them walk down the street and enter their flats wearing their Sunday best.

We also took the opportunity to view the Bayeux Tapestry, a 230 foot long embroidered chronicle of William the Conqueror’s cross-channel invasion of England. The tapestry told the story of Harold, who had taken an oath to support the coronation of his half-brother, William, after his father’s death. Instead he crowned himself and William built a fleet in Normandy, crossed the channel, and defeated Harold at Hastings. It was fascinating to see this thousand-year-old tapestry describing the battle, the oath, the ships sailing across the channel, the coats of mail being loaded on the ships, and the horses with smiles on their faces, happy to take part in the drama.

This is also a good time to describe our visit to Colleville-sur-Mer and the American cemetery located there. We had the coordinates to find the grave of Granville Payne, Latham Payne’s brother, who died after running over a land mine in a Jeep at St.-Lô. The cemetery was everything we expected and was immaculately kept. Granville’s resting place reflected the gravity of his sacrifice and it meant a lot to all of us to remember a Warrenton boy who gave his all. Dad remembered Granville as a teenager and his brother, Latham, was Dad’s best man at his wedding and our next door neighbor all those years growing up on Lees Ridge Road.

The average age of the GIs buried at Colleville-sur-Mer was 23 and 9,387 Americans are interred there on the bluff above Omaha Beach.

I could not help relaying to Pierre a story I remembered about the cemetery. I asked if Charles De Galle was revered in France.

He replied, “He was regarded as a great liberator of the French people, but as a political figure, not so much.”

I then felt secure in relating that in the 1950’s when John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State under President Eisenhower, he requested an audience with the French president De Galle. The French president in a fit of nationalism had ordered all non-French individuals out of the country. Secretary Dulles told De Galle that President Eisenhower requested a clarification, “Did the order include exhuming all of the remains of the American GIs buried at Colleville-sur-Mer?”

Charles De Galle withdrew the order.

The Breakout

In one of my favorite remarks from our guide, Pierre, he relayed that after three weeks of slogging through the Bacoge, “events evolved.”

The Allies could replace their casualties, the Germans could not. By June 30th the British objective, the city of Caen, fell. Then the port of Cherbourg was cut off, and finally on July 5th the strategic city of St.-Lô was taken.

The Allies started to move and General Bradley and Field Marshall Montgomery started to see an opportunity. If the British pressed from the North and Patton swung to the South, the Germans could be encircled in an envelope, so the Allied strategy changed to take advantage of the opportunity.

The Corridor of Death

By August 16th the Allies had 150,000 German troops encircled in what was known as the Falaise Pocket and Hitler finally ordered the first retreat of his armies.

The pocket shrunk to a corridor known to posterity as the Corridor of Death, only 3 miles wide. In that area the remaining 50,000 German troops that had already not escaped attempted a breakout near Hill 262.

A brave Polish armored unit near Chambois had sealed the Falaise gap and was attacked on both their rear and front by the Panzer units attempting the breakout.

One of the most moving sights was the ford over the Dives River, a stream really, where the entire German army retreated, clogging the little country road with abandoned equipment and dead horses and men.

At this point the censors of RSM US Foundation may see fit to strike the following passage from a family publication. It was said that the ground turned white from the maggots coming out of the shallow graves. Then the sky turned black with the flies produced from the maggots.

It was hard to visualize the suffering while viewing the beautiful Normandy countryside from Hill 262 spread out before us. What a beautiful place to end this epic trip.

Pierre said that historians view the battle of the Falaise Gap as a tactical victory, but a strategic defeat. The 100,000 German solders that escaped would later show up at the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. But the war was over in France, where the enemy only fought short rear guard actions that did not impede the Allied advance.

The scenery at Hill 262 made me yearn for the hills of Fauquier County and our pilgrimage to Normandy drew to a close. Thank you, RSM US Foundation, for making these memories for the Pearson family possible.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Meet Shaz Mian: RSM Technology and Management Consulting Manager

Shaz Mian | TMC Manager | Chicago, IL
What is your role at RSM?

I am part of our management consulting group where I lead our Great Lakes practice for the Performance Management & Analytics team. The focus of this group is IT tool specific; we utilize applications such as Prophix, Host Analytics and Adaptive (to name a few) that we implement in order to resolve clients’ budgeting/forecasting, reporting and consolidation challenges.

How did you get into that role?

I worked directly at one of our Corporate Performance Management (CPM) vendors in Toronto. At that time, RSM CPM was growing rapidly and the former CPM national lead was looking for someone to help her manage and grow the team. With the expectation of the role to wear multiple hats, my experience (support/consulting/sales engineer/direct sales) seemed to fit what she was looking for.

What do you like most about our Technology and Management Consulting practice?

Today, we are miles from where we were five years ago, which shows the success of CPM and potential of more growth ongoing. With the firm’s focus on an integrated approach, it has gotten me more passionate about a practice where moving away from a tool focused approach to an integrated approach with Financial Transformation team. This is what separates RSM from other firms and vendors, allowing us to continue to work toward leaders in the CPM space.

What are some of the challenges that you face?


Joining a relatively new practice, there were areas of improvement such as standardization and consistency across regions. It allowed me to learn and contribute to the practice from day one.

Any memorable client stories?

I flew down to meet the CFO of one of my clients for a lunch meeting to just touch base with him on the project. The client’s team was running behind on the project and the CFO thought I was coming into town to make sure they were on target, but I was just there for a friendly check-in. That gesture really stood out to the CFO and it helped him get a sign-off on another project. It helped me develop a great relationship, which lead to referrals in his network.

What are 3 of your favorite things that that aren’t work-related?

  • I love watching Kevin Hart and I think he is one of the funniest comedians out there. His stand ups on Netflix are hilarious. 
  • I love Hawaii, it is absolutely beautiful out there and my favorite place in the world.
  • I am not a Bulls fan, but a diehard Lakers fan. Even though I’m from Toronto, we didn’t grow up with an NBA team, so I watched the Lakers.


What advice would you give to someone starting their career?


I would advise someone to constantly take everything in and try to get involved in areas outside of your scope if there is that opportunity. It will allow you to grow and find other avenues in which you have interest. Never stop wanting to grow. Because in your career, you will always learn something and constantly chase new knowledge no matter where you are in your professional development.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Surviving and Thriving

Editor’s Note: Shelley Moreno was one of nine RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity to “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s Pursue Your Passion (90-90-9) program. Through Pursue Your Passion, RSM is supporting personal and professional aspirations by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their dreams. Shelley’s dream? Provide travel packages and professional makeovers for seven breast cancer survivors for the 2017 Breast Cancer Thrives Cruise. Read Shelley’s story:

For most of us with a breast cancer diagnosis, we just put our heads down and fight, not really thinking of what it will be like when years of treatments and surgeries end. Lost hair, lost time, altered physical appearance, depleted, overwhelmed with permanent painful side effects. “Who was I now? How do I go forward from here?’” I asked myself. Bridging the gap from cancer fighter to cancer survivor was something I didn’t have a rule book for. I tried to get my old life back. But that was no longer there. Then a fateful meeting with two powerful breast cancer survivors, Jan Ping and Beverly Vote, and the opportunity to appear on TV to tell my story and receive a makeover, changed my life. A path to healing rolled out in front of me. I began to see a new self-emerge. I experienced depth and meaning for life that made the past years not just a hardship, but a gift. Transforming hardship into growth and learning is what life is all about. But we can’t do it alone. It starts with just one person who takes the time to understand like Jan and Beverly did for me. I knew I had to share this with other women who were suffering in silence as I once had. When I saw the 90-90-9: Pursue Your Passion contest announcement, it took my breath away, and everything in me knew I had to put myself out there. Even if I could just help reach one woman, it would all be worth it. But we ended up reaching so many more.

Beverly and Jan were immediately game to help! Jan, an Emmy award-winning makeup artist specializing in post-treatment cancer beauty would do makeovers on chosen survivors, and Beverly, who founded The Breast Cancer Thrivers’ Cruise where over 200 survivors come to heal, would help me secure spots for more women.

When I started calling the women we chose, I don’t know whose mind was more blown – theirs for hearing they were getting an all-expense-paid cruise to the Caribbean along with a makeover, or mine for knowing I was the catalyst. The days of meeting the women over the phone and spreading the message of hope were joyous and surreal. Our hearts connected over the miles on these calls. We shared our stories of heartache and triumph. Some of the survivors included: Julie from California - like me a two-time survivor and single mom of young children, Jo from Colorado - whose little sister was diagnosed within one week of her, and Laurie from Minnesota - who lives on an isolated ranch where local support groups don’t exist.

As the women shared their concerns of medically-forced physical changes, which made them no longer feel like themselves, Jan and I planned to do the makeovers for the Captain’s Dinner on the cruise. Then the makeovers took an exciting turn when the TV show Jan worked for heard about RSM’s Pursue Your Passion contest and wanted to feature two of the survivors. What a special day! Survivors Julie and Deanna showed up to set with their whole families. As they shared their stories on camera, I saw them melt as I once had. The magic of the makeover is not just a wonderful result, but the process of being truly seen and cared for was amazing. I felt so proud to say the RSM name on TV and be a part of broadcasting a message of hope. I have met people who saw the episode and said it helped them.

Next we had the cruise to look forward to, but getting there wasn’t easy! Each of us had our ailments, kids to plan around, doctors to okay our travels, etc. But when we all finally arrived in Miami, the feeling was electric as we all met and embraced. For the entire week we lived in a state of, “Pinch me; I can’t believe this is happening!” Special moments were spent snorkeling in crystal waters, laughing late at night until our sides hurt and letting out stored up tears over chocolate lava cake. Despite our many physical afflictions, one night we all made it to the dance floor. As we let the past anguish wash out of us and the music move through us, we shared an all-knowing glimpse in our eyes that we are living on a second chance and with an unearthed strength. We truly were survivors.

With tears left behind on the ship, we stepped back into our lives owning our strength, embracing our imperfections and honoring our vulnerabilities. I am still in touch with all the women, and we continue to share our lives. Last month, I had a recurrence scare and Julie and Deanna were right there with their support, giving me right back what I gave to them. All the women expressed their gratitude to RSM. And so did my mom when she saw me thriving through this process of Pursue Your Passion. My mom said it best, “RSM rocks!”

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Helping Others- It's a Stitch...

Danielle and fellow RSM co-workers during one of her classes
Editor’s Note: Danielle Montes was one of nice RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity to “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s Pursue Your Passion (90-90-9) program. Through Pursue Your Passion, RSM is supporting personal and professional aspirations by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their dreams. Danielle’s dream? Take quilting classes to fine-tune skills to make and donate 24 quilts and 50 receiving blankets to Threads of Love, a nonprofit focused on premature babies; Setton Home, an organization that teaches parenting and life skills to teenage mothers; and Quilts for Kids, which focuses on children with lift-threatening illnesses, children of abuse and children living at or below the poverty level. Read Danielle’s story:

Before I begin to share my quilting journey, let me explain the quilting process. A quilt is like a sandwich in that it has three layers. The first is a quilt top, which is comprised of fabrics (typically cotton) cut in different sizes and sewn together to create an overall quilt design – this is the side of the quilt that has all the decorative elements. The second (middle) layer is the batting, which is the filler and is typically cotton or polyester. The backing acts as the bottom layer and is made up of one type of fabric. Quilting is the act of stitching all three layers together, and can be done either by hand or machine. Quilt blocks are individual pieces of fabric used to make patterns on quilt tops. Multiple blocks are sewn together to create a quilt. The size of the baby and children’s quilts made for donation are approximately 36” to 40” x 40” to 46”. That said, I’ve learned that it takes about 10 hours to make a quilt from start to finish, with more or less time needed, depending on the intricacy of the quilt top.

I have committed to sewing 24 quilts and 50 receiving blankets for donation. In addition, I have committed to teaching others how to sew and quilt a combined total of 16 quilts and 50 receiving blankets. Both projects are currently still in progress, but will be completed by December.

I began my Pursue Your Passion journey by researching sewing machines, quilting supplies, materials and classes. I chose a nice computerized sewing machine that was larger than the one I originally owned (making quilting a much easier process) and began watching countless YouTube videos on quilting as I researched and signed up for lessons offered in the San Antonio area where I live. I signed up for my first quilt class at Joann’s Fabric Store. It was a three-hour quilt block class that taught me how to assemble one block (a small baby quilt is comprised of anywhere between four to eight blocks). I needed a lot of guidance at first, but, by the end of the class, I felt comfortable enough to cut and piece a quilt block, although the thought of assembling a quilt and completing it was still daunting. I signed up for a private lesson where I was taught the basics of machine quilting and binding. I took an additional four classes and bought and studied quilt books and TV shows. Through this study and training, I can officially say I am now a quilter! By the end of August, I had quilted and donated five quilts for Threads of Love and Quilts for Kids, and pieced an additional total of 15 quilt tops. I’m now in the process of quilting the tops, and starting the final four quilts to reach my personal goal of 24 quilts.

Once I became a confident quilter, I began offering classes at my local office to interested co-workers. The response was amazing! I held three learn-to-sew classes, and one learn-to-quilt class between August and September, teaching a total of 12 individuals, many of whom had never touched a sewing machine. Through these classes, a combined total of 30 receiving blankets and one team quilt have been made for donation. I’ve also had one private quilting class with a teenager at my church, which will aid in her completion of a personal quilt project. Experienced quilters in the firm have also offered their time and talent to make quilts for donation, resulting in three completed quilts and two currently in progress. I plan to offer additional classes in October and November at work for both coworkers and their children and at my local church to teach others and make additional items for donation.

It’s been a wonderful experience to see others learn how to use a machine and have fun creating something from scratch – and we had such fun doing it! Some feel comfortable only sewing receiving blankets, others are excited to learn to quilt, for both volunteer and personal reasons. One individual has borrowed one of my quilting books and has already begun sewing two quilts as gifts for her family, while another has sewn a quilt and has a class under her belt. Others are excited to learn what they saw their grandmothers or mothers do, but never tried themselves. And some have children who would love to learn. I am excited to have my passion become another’s passion.

I have not had the opportunity to interact with any direct recipients of the donated quilts or receiving blankets, as they are donated to individuals through the organizations I support, but I know from the coordinators with at Threads of Love, Quilts for Kids and Seton Home that the donations are needed and greatly appreciated. After receiving the Pursue Your Passion (90-90-9) notification, a co-worker hugged me and, with tears in her eyes, said that she had given birth to a preemie and that during that difficult time, she herself had received love and comfort through donated receiving blankets, handmade clothing and a quilt from Threads of Love, and that it was such a blessing in her life.

I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to learn to quilt and share my knowledge with others to make an impact in my community. I am also grateful for the overwhelming support I have received from the firm and fellow co-workers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Gone to the Dogs!

Patti Leonard was the first of nine RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity to “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s Pursue Your Passion (90-90-9) program. Through Pursue Your Passion, RSM is supporting personal and professional aspirations by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their dreams. Patti’s dream? Establish the Sparky Foundation to help provide medical care for animals in need, and to rescue and re-home animals in high-risk shelters.

I can’t believe that I actually have my very own 501©3 animal rescue! When I sent in my submission for Pursue Your Passion, it was so different from others before me that I never thought it would go anywhere. The fact that my dream is now a reality blows my mind!

I received my IRS letter with my 501©3 approval March 16, 2017. I sat in my driveway and cried! So many years spent devoting my time to animals and various rescue organizations, and now I would finally be working for ME! Sparky Foundation would be MY rescue organization!

In May, we started the building to house the animals – a place specifically for their care. It’s still a work-in-progress, but we have the walls up, flooring installed, door hung and a ramp installed for special needs dogs. My awesome husband recently had the duct work done so we can run heating and air to the building and built a HUGE new dog house for my birthday! Now that it’s cooled off we’re able to continue work on the building, which we hope to have finished before the end of the year. We have two 10’x10’x6’ outdoor dog lots with houses and a half-acre fenced in yard.

Sparky Foundation works with a variety of shelters, rescues and vet hospitals in different areas in our region. We will drive up to two hours each way to save a dog. That’s what distinguishes us from most other rescues. We don’t take owner surrenders or animals from Craigslist or other social media sites. We take the “underdog cases” – the dogs that need us most.

Our first intake was Libby, a four-pound hairless Chinese crested/Yorkie mix from a backyard breeder. She was infested with fleas, and had toenails so long they curled up. She also had skin issues, was not spayed and had a hernia. Harley, a female pit bull mix, is a one-year-old pup who’d been chained to a bush with a cord and a shoe string as a collar. She was surrounded by trash. Cash, a full-blooded, boxer who went unclaimed at a nearby shelter, can sit, shake, and is house-trained. We saved him 12 hours before he was to be put to sleep. Bailey, a 10-week-old pup, was suffering from road rash and a broken femur after being hit by a car. Bella, a white shepherd seized by animal control due to neglect and possible cruelty, had been chained to a tree with no food or water and was missing a back foot. She was malnourished and full of infection. Darcy, a dachshund, was removed from a neglect situation. George and Lola were unclaimed strays. They’re all now being cared for through Sparky Foundation.

Working in rescue, you always have some cases that stand out – ones you’ll never forget. For me, one of those is Molly, a senior female boxer with the cutest little under-bite. Molly was found in a rundown part of town, malnourished and with her stomach hanging nearly to the ground, full of puppies. She’s about eight-years-old, which is about 50 in human years – too old to be having babies. She was picked up by animal control and taken to the shelter on a Wednesday evening. The shelter coordinator contacted me Thursday morning. Because of her age and size, she was a high-risk pregnancy, and the shelter isn’t a good place for a mama give birth! I arranged to leave work Friday at noon to pick her up. I was working on a proposal that day, though, and was running late, so I let the shelter know I would be there at 3 p.m. At 12:30 p.m., I got a call saying Molly was in labor and had already given birth to one puppy. By the time I finished work at 1:30 p.m. and made the hour-and-a-half drive to the shelter in the pouring rain, she had five babies. We waited another three hours for her to deliver the rest of the puppies but with the storm and construction on the shelter going on, she was too stressed. We decided she needed to be in a quiet place, so we loaded her and her babies into my car, and made the trip home in a downpour. It took two hours. Within minutes of getting her settled, she had the last two puppies. We had a total of seven – six girls and one boy. Unfortunately, three didn’t survive, but today we have four fat and sassy little eight-week-old girls. All four will be going to their new homes soon. Mama Molly will be with us a few more weeks, until she’s spayed – then she, too, will have a new home! She’s a chunky girl, wiggles from happiness all the time, is crate-trained, house-trained, and sits on command. She’s a sweet, loving dog.

To date, we’ve taken in nine cases – 13 dogs. We’ve had eight adoptions, placed two in foster care and have three attending an adoption event this weekend. Owning a rescue is more work than volunteering for one. There are days I ask myself what I was thinking. Then, something will happen: the first time a dog who never knew love licks me, when one that has no idea what a toy is finally starts playing with one or best of all – when a dog goes from being tied to a tree, neglected and abused –even had to have her leg amputated – finds her forever family. THIS is why I do what I do. Thank you, RSM, for making my dream come true! I am forever grateful that through your help I am able to save the lives of the hopeless, the neglected and the lost.

Sparky Foundation can be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thesparkyfoundation

Please like our page and follow us! If you’re interested in contributing to our care fund, contributions can be made via paypal by using the send money friends and family option to sparkyfoundationnc@gmail.com

Friday, October 6, 2017

Talking Teamwork with Rachel Sticco

Rachel Sticco | Associate | Tampa, FL
Rachel is an associate in RSM’s Technology and Management Consulting (TMC) group in our Tampa office. She just celebrated her 1 year anniversary, joining our firm after graduating from Florida State University. We asked Rachel for her thoughts on teamwork, one of RSM’s five core values


What does ”teamwork” mean to you?

Teamwork means that I will always get the chance to learn from others. When you work on a team, you are learning to collaborate with others and learning about your own strengths and weakness, which helps you find your fit in the team. When you are able to identify each team member’s strengths, together you can provide the client the best service.

How does teamwork play a part in your consulting role?


Everything I do is with a team. Consulting is very team based. There are so many ways to do one single thing, that in order to give the best service to our clients, you need multiple people with different ideas. Also, by having more experienced people on a team with you, you can learn more and grow, which is necessary for the job.

Why do you believe “teamwork” is one of RSM's core values?
We live and breathe teamwork every day with our teams and the clients with whom we work. Even if you provide work on your own you are still working with the client as a team. RSM fosters a great environment in the office to help employees of different lines of business (audit, tax, consulting) to work together on firm initiatives, including culture, diversity and inclusion, and overall office growth. Teamwork really is exemplified at RSM.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Nathaniel Rubin

Nathaniel Rubin | Associate | Atlanta, GA

My greatest passion is volunteering with Camp Kudzu. Camp Kudzu is a Georgia-based nonprofit organization that provides week long overnight summer camps and weekend family camp programs to children with Type-1 Diabetes. Their mission is to educate, empower, and inspire children and families living with the disease. Type-1 Diabetes affects people from all walks of life, and throughout the year, children from different races, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds come to Camp Kudzu with one common bond. 

When I describe Camp Kudzu to friends and family, I always tell them that it is not just a “summer camp”, but a loving family and community that promotes fun and spreads awareness about common misconceptions. Type-1 Diabetes is an incurable disease, and unlike people with Type-2 Diabetes, people with Type-1 Diabetes do not produce insulin. Therefore, it is crucial to check blood glucose and administer insulin appropriately. Additionally, Type-1 Diabetes is not associated with obesity. While we have made great strides in devaluing common misconceptions about Type-1 Diabetes, Camp Kudzu still has much more work to do. 

As an adult diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes, I have observed the power of Camp’s lasting impact with families in Georgia. I have volunteered at the overnight camp as a counselor for four years. Young children learn to effectively count carbohydrates, calculate insulin dosages, and maintain their pumps. They feel more confident and educated to handle their diabetes at school and home. In addition, they form better eating and exercise habits that prolong their lives. Camp activities such as water sports, zip lines, and arts and crafts foster friendships that last lifetimes. No one feels alone at Camp. To truly understand the passion instilled in the campers, you have to see it for yourself. After each meal, the camp band rocks the cafeteria, and everyone dances and sings to their favorite camp songs such as The Rainbow Connection and Sweet Caroline. It truly is impossible to describe the love, joy, and excitement campers and counselors feel at Camp! 

Counselors use time in the cabins to facilitate conversations about diabetes-related challenges. Some of the topics that our 13-year old boys discussed include: managing diabetes at school, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, and finding ways to stand up to bullying. Without the Camp community, the campers might not have a safe, nonjudgmental outlet to communicate these hardships. Together, campers and counselors help each other overcome their worries and fears. 

It gives me pride to see how Camp Kudzu’s philosophy aligns with RSM’s core values of respect and teamwork. Respect means treating another person how you would want to be treated. Whether I am with a colleague, client, volunteer or camper, acting courteously leads to a great relationship. Listening to others voice their ideas is crucial in work and in volunteering. We are strongest when everyone can come together, embrace our different viewpoints, and use our diversity to tackle adversity. 

At camp and work, teamwork is necessary to achieve success. As an associate, I cannot learn and grow without my colleagues’ help. Work can be challenging, but thanks to my colleagues in the office, I know that I can consult them if I become confused. If we do not collaborate as a team, can we really serve our clients to the best of our abilities? The answer: no. At camp, collaborating is essential. Days in the Georgia summer heat are long and tiring. If a group of people cannot come together and work towards a common goal of learning and growing, there will be little progress. Working together as an inclusive team and openly communicating is the only way to succeed. 

More than 6,000 children live with Type-1 Diabetes in Georgia, and Camp Kudzu’s goal is to serve every child. Roughly 760 children benefited from Camp Kudzu’s programming in 2016; however, more outreach is needed, especially for children in rural communities. Every volunteer, including nurses and endocrinologists who medically supervise the camp, is valuable. Their donated time is worth at least $400,000 each year. With nine PTO days, I could volunteer for two weeks at Camp Kudzu and provide strong male leadership for kids who could use an effective role model. 

Since Camp Kudzu is a nonprofit organization, it cannot operate without generous donations from the public. Eighty percent of camp revenues derived from charitable giving, and twenty percent from camp fees. The cost of attending camp is $1,500 per week for one camper; $750 goes to purchasing medical supplies, and the other half goes to staffing and lodging volunteers. Camp must ensure it has all of the medical supplies (i.e. insulin, test strips, glucose meters, etc.) on hand, which elevates the price of attendance. Many families have trouble affording camp; 42% of the campers attending need a scholarship to defray the high cost. Every donation, no matter how small, matters. 

After communicating with Camp Kudzu’s directors, I learned that scholarships, medical supplies, and outreach program funds are the most pressing needs. So, if awarded with the $10,000, I would allocate $7,500 to ensure that five children can attend camp cost-free. I would allocate $2,000 to purchase diabetes supplies. In an average week, roughly 220 campers attend camp. One test strip costs $1, and each camper checks his or her blood sugar on average ten times per week, adding up to $13,000-$15,000 of test strips. The remaining $500 will cover the costs of establishing educational outreach programs to attract more children in rural parts of Georgia. 

Camp’s long-term impact for children and families is enormous. Research shows that people who attend camps like Kudzu experience significant improvement in diabetes management and blood glucose control. As such, children who attend camps like Camp Kudzu or otherwise educate themselves can avoid complications such as blindness and kidney failure. Furthermore, families with more knowledge will make fewer visits to emergency medical facilities, saving money and time. I know that together, we can help make a lasting difference with Georgian families and make the world a better place!

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Hunter Pearson

Hunter Pearson | Associate | Gaithersburg, MD

On February 24th, 1925 a child was born in the small town of Warrenton, Virginia by the name of Harvey Lee Pearson. During his childhood and into late teens, the United States underwent the worst economic downturn in history. This period would last until he was approximately 16. During this time, Nazi Germany was building the most powerful army the world had ever seen. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and prompted the United States to enter World War II.

On May 20, 1943 Harvey was drafted into the army and reported to Fort Lee, Virginia. He reported to duty with 32 others from Warrenton, Virginia where he was then separated and placed on a train to Keesler Army Air Force base in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was at this time he found out he was placed in the Air Force. From there he went to Lowrey Air Field in Denver Colorado for Aircraft Armament School—then Las Vegas, Nevada for air-to-air gunnery school. Upon completion, he was assigned to his crew as the left waist gunner on a B-17 bomber.

Harvey was the youngest and smallest member of his crew. He was soon given the nickname “Whitey” and known to be very reliable. On May 10th 1944, Harvey and his crew were ordered to Grenier Field near Manchester, N.H., for further dispatch to an undisclosed overseas destination. Whitey discovered his flight path was near his home town of Warrenton. He asked the pilot if they could fly over his hometown and was told that it was a possibility. He was able to inform his family and friends that his plane may be flying over some time the next day.

Word traveled through the town that Harvey may be flying over. Morning came and the crew was set to embark on their journey. Whitey again asked the pilot and was told that restricted no fly zones may not allow them to fly over his hometown after all. Disappointed, he made his way to the back of the plane. On his way back, his navigator told him not to worry; he had set the flight path to take them in Warrenton’s direction. As the crew approached Washington DC, Whitey spotted what he was looking for. He saw the Warrenton courthouse and his house on a hill nearby. Whitey let out a “whoop and a holler” and the pilot let down gradually to 1500 ft. As they approached, the crew noticed quite a few people in the streets clapping and waving. The pilot then did a 360 degree turn, dropping to an elevation of just 500 ft., for one more pass. As they flew over, Whitey ran to the back of the plane for one last look at his home town. He was not sure he would ever see the place again.

The crew arrived in Foggia, Italy on May 20, 1944. While stationed there the crew completed 34 missions, 7 of which were to the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. The main purpose of these missions was to destroy the source of the German resources. More often than not, when the crew was in the air, enemy fire was taken. Whitey recalls one mission where his crew watched their left waist gunner brother’s plane get shot down. Frequently when they were in the air, planes were shot down around them and they couldn’t help but think “when will it be us?” On December 10, 1944 the crew found out they were set to return home.

During his duty, records were kept of all missions which included flight time, targets, and country. It was his dream to go back to Normandy and revisit those life changing experiences. Finally in 2001 he and his wife decided to do just that. They had flights on September 13th to go on their journey. On September 11th, 2001 planes were flown into the twin tours and the pentagon stopping all air travel. Acts of terror had now prevented him and his wife from pursuing this dream.

A few years passed and he and his wife decided to revisit his dream and plan again. The plans were set but this time his wife became ill. It was discovered she needed a valve replaced in her heart and his dream trip was put on the back burner again. Unfortunately, after a couple surgeries the doctors were unable to fix her heart valve. She eventually passed away in December of 2007 and the trip was never completed.

Harvey Lee Pearson is now 91 going on 92 years of age. He is the Soldiers Hill Angus Farm supervisor and able to get from point A to B on his own. With limited time remaining it would mean the world to help my grandfather live his dream for helping provide us the American Dream.

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Shelley Moreno

Shelly Moreno | Senior Associate | Los Angeles, CA

I was given an incredible gift and I want to pay it forward. After surviving breast cancer two times as a single mother of a now eight year old boy, I, of course, feel blessed to be alive. And at the same time, I also felt something I didn’t expect. In the face of the aftermath of the harsh, but necessary treatments and five surgeries, I felt shattered. There was so much to process and grieve. My heart was broken at the special times I had lost with my son. I laid in bed for months while I watched everyone on Facebook take vacations, have babies and go on with life. I had constant fatigue and I quietly distressed over how the treatments had left my appearance. I looked drastically different and who I knew myself to be was gone. As a result of steroids and hormone suppression, I gained 20 pounds, have spots on my skin and a tired swollen face. Telling people how bad I really felt, seemed too embarrassing so I tried to hide it. Like many women, I have always been plagued with perfectionism- having it all: the perfect work/ family balance and looking great while doing it. After all, as a mother, isn’t it my job to take care of everyone else I thought. With cancer, this was impossible. Redefining who I am is the biggest gift cancer has offered me. Through others, I got the courage to talk about my inner struggles and learn just how magnificent I am. Just the way I am. 

My healing journey began when I stopped by a cancer store for women to thank the woman who worked there for her kindness throughout the years of my diagnosis. A simple thank you turned into so much more. I let her know the cancer was gone, but that I was struggling with how I looked. The woman’s face lit up, and she told me I had to call the Hallmark Channel’s Home and Family television show. The show was looking for a breast cancer survivor to share their story on an upcoming episode for breast cancer awareness month, and I was a perfect candidate. 

Doubting oneself physically is such a personal and private concern, and a lot of times people feel isolated and even embarrassed, thinking that they were “better” before cancer and treatment forced these physical changes. 

Soon I would meet their Emmy winning makeup artist Jan Ping who was also a single mother and a survivor of breast cancer. Jan has made it her mission to help breast cancer survivors feel their beauty not only on the outside, but on the inside. Jan explained that doubting oneself physically is such a personal and private concern, and a lot of times people feel isolated and even embarrassed, thinking that they were “better” before cancer and treatment forced these physical changes She says, treatment is vital. However, how we feel about our self image is also vitally important. It can affect our mood, our energy, and even our will to move forward onto a healthy, happy future. While talking with Jan, my heart began to melt. Jan understood me better than I even understood myself. And she had made it through the other side. I appeared on national television with Jan and my son and told my story. The hosts of the show looked me in my eyes and really took the time to hear the feelings of what I went through. My own father said he had no idea how I felt until he saw the show. On the show, I was given a make-over and gifted a trip on the 11th annual Thrivers Cruise to the Carribean sponsored by Breast cancer Wellness Magazine. The makeover helped me find a beauty I forgot I had. I was empowered for the first time in a long time. The spring in my step was back with new purpose. 

This cruise is the longest running cruise event in the world that celebrates breast cancer survivorship. It is sponsored by the Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine which is a national publication that focuses on whole person care after diagnosis. Beverly Vote, the publisher of the magazine describes the cruise as a place where breast cancer survivors from across the country can come together and be heard and understood and celebrate each other and the milestones in their lives. 

The power of being understood cannot be underestimated. The process of being understood through the Hallamrk show, the magazine and incredible people like Jan Ping is what brought me back to life. I would like to partner with RSM to bring the Power of Being Understood to breast cancer survivors. I would use the award money to work with Jan Ping and Beverly Vote of Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine to impact the lives of seven breast cancer survivors by providing a travel package for each of them to go on the 2017 Breast Cancer Thrivers Cruise with me, and have a makeover experience with Jan so they too can feel the new sense of inner beauty, self-compassion and purpose I felt. 

In the spirit of paying it forward, a video will be created of these seven makeover experiences with breast cancer survivors from the Los Angeles area so they too can share their transformation. They will be randomly selected from area breast cancer nonprofits and support groups. With this video, many more breast cancer survivors will be reminded that they are not alone. 

What Jan guided me to see is that breast cancer does not take away my real beauty but in fact helps me to define what the essence of beauty really is. Helping other women survivors own their strength and beauty has become my new passion. It invigorates me and guides me. I feel a part of something so much bigger than me. And my son has a Mom that is thriving.

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Danielle Montes

Danielle Montes | Associate | San Antonio, TX

Some of my fondest memories as a child, were spending time with my grandmother going to the store to buy materials for her many craft projects and returning home to watch her create them. From sewing my Halloween costumes ranging from Cinderella to the pink power ranger, mending my clothes, sewing blankets and quilting it has been a joy watching her and learning how to create things myself. She has inspired me to learn how to sew and has instilled a desire to craft handmade goods that allow me to use my creativity and show how I love and care for others. Over the past several years this hobby of mine has truly developed into a passion upon which I would like to expand. 

I have used my skills as an accountant and sewing enthusiast to lead a total of four service projects that taught others how to design and sew over 300 beautiful handmade felt stockings for donation to a children’s home, Seton Home and my local church community over the past five years. In addition, I have made over 50 receiving blankets for premature babies through Threads of Love. With this experience, I would like to expand my current sewing skills into the realm of quilting. 

My grandmother has taught me some basics but is no longer making quilts due to her poor eyesight and neuropathy. I would like to participate in quilting classes offered through quilt shops in San Antonio and surrounding Texas cities. I would also like to attend one or two quilt retreats to learn the process thoroughly from start to finish and to learn additional techniques. With these quilting skills I would like to make receiving blankets and quilts to donate to my local community through Threads of Love for premature babies, Seton Home a not-for profit that teaches parenting and life-skills to young teenage mothers and Quilts for Kids for children with life-threatening illnesses, children of abuse, and children living at poverty level. 

I would also like to teach others basic sewing and quilting skills. Starting at home with my younger sister and expanding to the young women (girls ages 12-18) at my church and interested individuals (such as friends and co-workers) from the local community. The funds from “Pursue Your Passion” would enable me to purchase a midline quilting machine to complete quilts from start to finish. The additional sewing machines (2+ dependent on pricing at time of purchase) would be used to teach others and loan out to individuals who would like to make and donate a quilt, but do not have a machine of their own. The serger would be used to make receiving blankets. The embroidery machine would allow me to add special touches to the donated quilts such as a name or design. The quilting supplies budget would cover fabric, batting and additional accessories needed to complete the quilts such as pins, stabilizer, bias tape, thread, etc… It would also cover cutting pads, rotary cutters, scissors and machine parts that may need to be replaced as needed. 

With the combination of classes and supplies I have a goal to personally complete 24 quilts and 50 receiving blankets. The budget will also cover sewing and quilting supplies for the individuals I teach during the year. With my efforts and the efforts of those I teach, I plan on completing a total of 40 quilts and 100 receiving blankets to be donated. The funds will not only cover the cost of the donated quilts, they will also provide a long term investment in knowledge and machinery that will enable me to continue to teach and serve others for many years to come.

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Kyle McNamara

Kyle McNamara | Senior Associate | Las Vegas, NV

For a few days each year, my wife Charo and I wait anxiously for word from relatives on whether or not her family is safe. My wife’s family lives in a small fishing village on the coastline called Quinyangan Tonga, in the Masbate Province of the Philippines. It is a very poor village and only has electricity for five hours each night. The island lies on a popular path for Pacific typhoons.

Typhoon season can be deadly, as witnessed several years ago when Typhoon Haiyan rampaged through several regions of the Philippines, causing death and destruction. This village was right in the middle of the storm’s path and unfortunately, was not spared. Typhoons are a regular part of life in the Philippines and small villages on the coast typically do not have any protection from these brutal storms.

After the destruction from Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippine government distributed funds to these small villages; however, the majority of the funds were taken by corrupt public officials and never reached their intended destinations. The funds that were received by the village were used to construct an evacuation shelter in the hills, not far from the village, which would serve as protection against the flood waters and 100 mph winds.

My wife and I have recently learned that the shelter is unfinished. It has no floor, no wooden shutters for the windows, no bathroom, no running water, and most importantly, is too small to fit the entire village. Further governmental funds will not be allotted for the completion of this project. We asked ourselves, “What good is a shelter, if it does not provide the protection it is designed to give?” When I heard of the 90-90-9 program and all that it offers, I knew I had to apply.

My wife and I share a similar passion: to help those who are less fortunate. We regularly help feed and clothe the homeless in Henderson, Nevada as part of a church program and we are currently putting one of my wife’s siblings through college in the Philippines to help her obtain a better life. We are living with one income as my wife now watches our eight-month old daughter Scarlett on a full-time basis, which makes it even more challenging to help others.

My wife and I have discussed several projects with my father-in-law which would greatly assist the people of the village. We will use the funds received from the 90-90-9 program to fly to the Philippines, secure the required materials, and complete the construction of the shelter, while building an extension that will have a bathroom and will fit the remaining residents of the village. While there, we will use a portion of the funds to purchase sacks of rice, canned goods, and bottled water to be stored at the shelter to provide emergency provisions for the villagers during these terrible storms.

Fortunately, the dollar goes a long way in the Philippines, which will allow us to complete additional projects in the village. Fresh water is a scarce resource in the village. My father-in-law has to travel about a half-mile into the hills with a cart driven by oxen to get water a few times a week. It’s a difficult journey, made more complicated by the uneven ground and unpredictable weather. We will use some funds to dig a deep well on my wife’s land, which is within the village and will provide water to the villagers for drinking, cooking, and bathing. This well is located near the shelter, which will greatly aid the villagers in collecting water before the storms hit.

Any additional resources will be used to fix the village’s church, which was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. It currently has three walls, a rickety roof and not enough chairs for the villagers. The community is deeply religious, but they just do not have the income to fix their center of worship.

Another aspect of this trip is the fact that my daughter will meet her grandmother and grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins for the first time. Due to the costliness of a tourist visa and travel, my in-laws have not been able to come to America. This will not add any cost to the trip as she is under two years old and will fly for free.

It is not every day that people have the opportunity to potentially save lives. If selected to complete these projects, we can provide safety to people whose lives are put in danger with each passing storm. Furthermore, it allows the impact that RSM provides to enter the far-reaching areas of the world and provide the truest of community services, without the heavy budget, which will provide an everlasting impact on the people of the village and, more importantly, our family.

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Patti Leonard

Patti Leonard | Administrative Assistant | Greensboro, NC

For at the past 15 years my sister and I have dedicated our time to rescuing animals. She started out at a vet tech and was constantly bringing home puppies and kittens that were days old who had to be bottle fed. We lived together at the time and both just kind of fell into it. Over the years we have volunteered with various rescues including the Humane Society, the animal shelter, Gingers Fund and other groups as needed. I headed up a major fundraiser for Gingers Fund (an animal cruelty group based out of Lexington, NC) and raised over $6k for their group over a 3 year period. This was on top of the ones we did on our own. We took in animals that were what many deemed “throw aways” – the sick, the old and the ones that lost their owners to illnesses or death. We took them in, rehabbed them and found them homes with new loving families. After working with so many local rescues we discovered that there are holes in animal rescues that needs to be filled and with the money we raised for other groups we could be putting to use for our own 501c3 and taking on the areas that are often ignored or left out. Most rescues take on the animals that are healthy that they know they can rehome. The shelters end up with many of the owner surrenders. To anyone who has ever worked with shelters – the sick and the owner surrenders are the first to be put down in overcrowded shelters. A lot of the owner surrenders are elderly people who can no longer afford to take care of their pets, are dying and have to be moved to medical care facilities, are unable to care for themselves anymore and are moved to assisted living communities or the animals are surrendered by family members when elderly owners pass away. These are healthy animals that are being put to sleep at no fault of their own. It is also devastating to the owners who have to give them up just because they are physically unable to take care of them anymore.

My sister and I have always wanted our own 501c3 – to be called The Sparky Foundation – named after one of our family dogs who was a rescue that passed away a few years ago. The vision we have for the Sparky Foundation is to help provide medical care for animals in need, to rescue and rehome animals that are high risk in shelters – the sick, the elderly and those who just who cannot handle the stress of the shelter. We want to assist in spaying and neutering those animals we rescue so that they do not end up with litters down the road to end up in the same situation – victims of abuse, neglect or just dumped in a shelter. We would like to have one of our dogs trained as a certified therapy dog so that we can go into schools to educated children on having pets, to go into nursing home and hospitals and provide pet therapy for patients and residents. We would also like to work with the local Meals on Wheels program to provide dog food to the people who have pets. (Many seniors who get Meals on Wheels often share their meals with their pets because they cannot afford to purchase pet food. We want to provide them with a bag of pet food to be delivered along with their meals so that the elderly don’t have to share their food. By doing this it helps keep animals at home with their elderly owners longer. They don’t have to give them up to the shelter because of lack of food.)

We have already started laying the ground work for our organization but we need help to get us where we need to be. We need an out building that is climate controlled so we can house and treat animals until they are well enough to be rehomed (approx.$5,000-$6,000). We need $400 to apply for our 501c3 status so we can do fundraising and raise money to continue to help the animals in need. We need $500 for the certification class for our pet therapy project. And we will need supplies to help launch everything – pay for signs for events, supplies for the animals – kennels, food, treats, medicine, etc. $10,000 would help us jump start our dream.

 There are so many animals that are dying each year. We know we cannot save them all but if we can just save one or ten that is better than doing nothing. We are not only helping the animals but also the humans. We are giving those who have to give up their pets peace of mind. We are giving those who are sick and elderly unconditional love with pet therapy. We are giving those who are not financially able the chance to keep their pets at home by helping feed their pets. Right now we do what we can until we can do better. This is my passion. This is my dream. I am making it a reality one way or another! Having my company support me in my dream and my mission would be nothing short of amazing!

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Sarah Greyer

Sarah Greyer | Manager | Tampa, FL

For my thirtieth birthday, I wanted to do something really special to bridge my 20s to my 30s. As an adventuring accountant, I bought myself a flight to Nepal and a trip to hike Everest Base Camp (EBC), which had been a challenge I always wanted to complete. The mental and physical challenges of a difficult hike allow me to struggle, succeed, and show that I can push myself to be efficacious.

The first few days went smoothly. However, on my 4th day of the climb, I awoke not feeling very well. My guide suggested that instead of doing the full walk that day we should walk about 1/3 of the way, which was to a lower altitude and would help if I was starting to get altitude sickness.

On day 5, I awoke feeling considerably better. The first part of the hike this day was an hour uphill. When I started, the crisp mountain air filled my body with energy. I felt strong, almost resilient. After about 30 minutes, I started to feel nauseous. I figured the morning adrenaline was wearing off, and the fact that I had been ill was slightly impacting me again. I knew that EBC was about challenging your body and mind; so I kept ascending, starting to feel sicklier as we progressed. I needed to give my body time to adjust to the altitude, so we decided to return to the previous tea house to rest another day. My head was low; I was taking more time than I had planned.

This wasn't a failure, but a small obstacle. Isn't that how my job normally works? I plan for 80 hours on a job; then the client tells me that they forgot to mention they were acquiring a company before the end of the year. My job is about planning and modifying accordingly; hiking EBC is similar. As I started descending, I had to stop and sit. I vomited something fluorescent yellow reminiscent of ghost busters. I realized this wasn't a small setback; I had hit my limit; I could feel it in my body. I started to cry. I had altitude sickness, and unless we immediately dropped to lower altitudes, I could die. The emergency evacuation helicopter was called. I asked for a yak to help take me back to the teahouse. My guide responded, "Yaks can't make it this high Sarah; you have to do this." I slowly struggled to my feet, pulling out my hiking poles for support to descend the mountain. After a few minutes, I noticed descending the mountain felt like someone had put bricks on the bottom of my hiking boots. My guide took my arm, put it around his shoulder, and we walked together as I deteriorated quickly. Soon, my legs could not hold my weight, and I needed to be carried. My Sherpa (Mr. 5’5” and 120lbs) gave my backpack to my guide, and gave me (Ms. 5’10” and 160lbs) a piggy back ride down the mountain. I was holding on for dear life as I knew that's what I might lose. My eyelids became heavy; my arms no longer had the strength to hold me from falling. My body and mind had been pushed, and death was upon me. I was slipping away, down the back of my Sherpa. I heard the helicopter, and was hopeful. My Sherpa released me to the ground. My body couldn't get me to the helicopter; I couldn't push anymore. A man ran toward us to help. I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. The two men lifted me from the ground. I had each arm over one of the shoulders of my helpers. Between them, my feet dragged behind us, and my chin sagged into my chest. With little strength, I had to lift my head. I opened my eyes long enough to see the magnificent Himalayan mountains in the backdrop with a helicopter 50 yards in front of me on the mountain. My eyes recessed, and my chin collapsed forward.

The balance of the day was fragmented for me: a helicopter ride, an ambulance stretcher, and oxygen in the ambulance and hospital. The following day I had the strength to hold a phone, and called my family. Failures don't feel better when you share them. However, having supportive friends and family made me realize that I could one day accomplish the goal of hiking to EBC.

I flew out of Nepal on April 22, 2015; three days later the earthquake that destroyed Kathmandu shocked the world. My heart grieved for the Nepalese people.

It took me almost two months to fully recover physically from the ordeal; I pined about the failure that perhaps I could one day turn into a success. When I first read about this contest, I started thinking about the RSM core values and if anything that I was passionate about could possibly be portrayed in a light that I felt admirably represented RSM. Hiking to EBC has been an unattainable goal for me. I am meant to strive to be the best in everything that I do, and if I succumb to this failure, then I am not doing that. The way I feel about Nepal has changed. The only reason I survived on that mountain is because of the heroism and teamwork of my guide and Sherpa. I want to help the guides and Sherpas that put their lives in danger for hikers every day. If I go back to attempt EBC, then I will be helping this community. In addition, I want to make an impact and help the people in Nepal that have suffered through a devastating earthquake. EBC is at an elevation of 5,335 meters; for every meter of altitude that I successfully reach, I would like to donate $1 to a non-profit organization in Nepal to help with the earthquake recovery efforts.

This hike will exemplify the values that represent RSM in our communities, including teamwork, stewardship, and excellence.

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Jay Brown

Jay Brown | Senior Associate | Cedar Rapids, IA

I plan to enthrall my community youth’s interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) by combining cutting-edge multimedia technology and one of the most phenomenal sights that human eyes can convey to a brain, the first North American total solar eclipse in nearly half a century! 

My lifelong enthusiasm for astronomy, science, and the pursuit of knowledge has guided me to where I am today; a technology geek with a STEM background. Even now, I can distinctly remember the moment as a child when a troop leader brought out their telescope to watch the Alpha Monocerotids meteor shower on our fall camping trip. For the first time in my life, I realized science could be fun. 

I want to make the same impact, spark the same interest, and grow the same passion in kids today. Despite being one of the fastest growing job sectors, interest in STEM fields is steadily decreasing in today’s youth. The shortfall in the talent pool for STEM jobs is expected to be over 200,000 by 2018, and that number is only growing! 

The first step in bolstering America’s Talen pool is to bolster student interest in STEM. 

On August 21, 2017 the first North American total eclipse since 1979 will occur. For the first time in over 40 years, the continental United States will experience the incessant dance of the cosmos, a complete solar eclipse with the moons trajectory guiding it between the Earth and the Sun. A momentous moment, the magnitude of which cannot be understated. 

Unfortunately, our state is not on the path of the total eclipse. It is not even close. So I asked myself, how I can turn this once in a lifetime experience for me, a goal I have had for over 15 years, into a positive impact on my community and the world. 

With the resources and time afforded by this opportunity, I will accomplish four specific goals:
  1. Lesson Planning: First, I will be engaging local school district teachers in the months prior to the total eclipse. Assisting them with the lesson plans, presentations, and supplies required to prepare students for the big day, and foster interest in the event. 
  2. Live Video Stream: On the day, I will be live streaming the entirety of the experience to audiences around the world. In the minutes prior to the eclipse, I will be presenting educational information via poster board slides on the scientific explanation for, and impacts throughout history of total solar eclipses. The video will be freely available online throughout the globe, viewed by our local schools, and even available to RSM employees and clients to enjoy from home. 
  3. Classroom VR Exhibits: Though live streams can reach an enormous audience, I realize watching a live stream is unlikely to make a large impact on my community’s youth. Therefore, in the week following the eclipse, I will be traveling to various community schools to present an interactive virtual reality (VR) rendition of the event. Using 360 degree cameras, binaural audio capturing equipment, and Gear VR headsets, we will be able to capture and playback the live experience for classroom students in 3D. The full emersion of the experience will enthrall students in not only the event itself, but in many cases will be student’s first exposure to this advanced new technology. 
  4. Knowledge Sharing: Finally, I will put together and publish all lesson plans, videos, and classroom instructions. This information will be freely available to anyone in the world to repeat this experience in their own classrooms for years to come. 
As can be seen, the bulk of the cost lies in the cutting-edge technology required to execute goals #2 and #3; 360 degree cameras, VR headsets, and satellite internet live streaming equipment are emerging technologies on the forefront of innovation. This expense is followed by travel expenses, which are expected to be reasonable. However due to the ephemeral nature of the event, travel plans must be flexible to last minute change to adjust for changing weather conditions. 

Those that have seen a partial eclipse may find it interesting but forgettable. A total eclipse, however, is a memorable, life-changing event which burns itself into memory – and never fades. Help me bring this life shaping experience to kids in our community, and across the world. 

In conclusion, winning the 90-90-9 contest means the difference between having just a once in a lifetime experience, and taking that experience and sharing it with our community youth and youth throughout the world to inspire young minds. 

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known” - Carl Sagan