Melissa Smith, 45
President/CEO, WEX, Inc.
Though Melissa Smith, president and CEO of WEX Inc., doesn’t have much time to personally train for triathlons, she has participated in the Tri for a Cure nearly every year since it started – and in a huge way.
Smith’s company, a global leader in corporate payments solutions, has been the official presenting sponsor of Maine’s only all-women’s triathlon since 2013.
“It’s incredibly inspiring to see hundreds of women gathered at the start of the race, some of them cancer survivors, many of them attempting their first triathlon, and all with a fierce desire to end cancer,” said Smith, who plans to participate in the Tri for her seventh time on July 26.
Like many people, Smith has lost loved ones to cancer, and also has friends who are going through treatment.
“My friend, Sharon Leddy Smart, is a great example. She is a breast cancer survivor and has competed in this event for years, pre-diagnosis and post-treatment,” she said. “She is an amazing example of handling her diagnosis with grace and strength.”
“Cancer is indiscriminate in its attack which is why so many people are impacted and why the Tri for a Cure hits home on an emotional level,” added Smith.
According to Smith, WEX has contributed more than $217,000 through the past seven years. Dozens of WEX employees have also volunteered countless hours at the Tri for a Cure and have helped raise about $30,000 for the Maine Cancer Foundation through their ongoing support.
“In fact, one of our team members, Kendra Jarratt, came in first place in the 2013 event,” said Smith. “Behind the WEX women who participate, and the men and women who volunteer, are the many others who help their co-workers achieve their fundraising and training goals.”
Smith took time to speak with Maine Women about the Tri for a Cure and why her company decided to sponsor the event.
Q: How did you get involved with Tri, and why?
A: I met the event founder, Julie Marchese, through a mutual friend a year before the first Tri for a Cure. At that point, I had been involved with triathlons on a personal level for several years. I loved the concept that Julie was trying to start something that was empowering for women and add more of a sense of control to allow individuals to join together to combat the invisible enemy we call cancer. Julie had been touched by cancer and she wanted to put a dent in the disease and make a difference in the world by finding a way to fight back. I signed both WEX as a company and myself to help the initial effort. I don’t think anyone knew how powerful the event would become at the time.
Q: Why did your company choose to support this event?
A: WEX decided to make a long-term commitment for many reasons. We believe in health and wellness and are honored to put our money behind Maine Cancer Foundation’s Tri for a Cure. The Tri for a Cure is a magical event and has become the largest, single-day fundraiser in the state – and with the second-highest cancer rate in the United States, it is imperative that we join together to improve the health and well-being of our families, friends and neighbors. We also strongly believe in the idea of people working toward a unified cause and the simple concept, “the power of many united.”
Q: What are the benefits of being a sponsor?
A: As the Presenting Sponsor of the Tri for a Cure, WEX has the privilege of taking a leadership role in supporting one of the largest and locally impactful charity events in Maine. One-hundred percent of the funds raised by Maine Cancer Foundation are used to benefit the people of our state. As a business, we are always working to leverage our investments. Likewise, we look to leverage our philanthropic investments. The Maine Cancer Foundation Presenting Sponsor role is a natural fit for us in that it enables us to directly support the Maine community and also support our corporate health and wellness objectives. The reinforcing effect of supporting social good and promoting personal health cannot be overstated. It benefits us all.
Q: How does WEX hope to raise awareness about the event?
A: We have a strong and sophisticated community partner in Maine Cancer Foundation. The Tri for a Cure is a young event, now only in its eighth year. That said, the Tri for a Cure has been incredibly well-branded and is a source of real pride for Mainers. Through our underwriting support and the support of many other Maine businesses, Maine Cancer Foundation has very successfully raised awareness not only about the event but about the impact we all can make to end cancer by working together.
Q: In what other ways does WEX give back to the community?
A: While we are an international company, our roots and headquarters are here in Maine. We have a long and proud history of providing financial support. Our giving follows four primary tenets: Education, Basic Needs, Wellness and the Arts – and it is not limited to financial gifts. Many of our team members volunteer their time, energy and expertise to local organizations, both at the grassroots and board levels.