Competing for a cause

UBS Senior Wealth Strategy Associate Eric Vishnevetsky sets a fundraising record in the fight against pediatric cancer.

20 Nov 2019

As a Senior Wealth Strategy Associate with UBS in New York City, Eric Vishnevetsky helps his clients make wise financial decisions. When he’s not at work, however, he focuses on another cause: raising money for Memorial Sloan Kettering to help the organization fight childhood cancer.

Key takeaways

  • The D10—a one-day, decathlon-style “championship” with 10 physical challenges testing speed, strength and stamina—serves as a major fundraiser for MSK Kids, the pediatric division at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Since its inception in 2009, the D10 has raised more than $14 million for pediatric cancer research
  • With a little help from his friends, Vishnevetsky raised $110,686 in 2019, exceeding the previous D10 record for team fundraising as well as his expectations

Vishnevetsky, who works with the Abrams Group, recently joined Anthony Pastore as a guest on the podcast “UBS On-Air.” His passion for fundraising for cancer research and treatment goes all the way back to his days at Penn State when he took part in a dance-a-thon charity event, he told Pastore. The 46 hours of dancing, Vishnevetsky recalled, and the money that it generated for families at the university’s Hershey Medical Center, left him with a sense of obligation to do more. “There was a void that I wanted to fill,” he said. “You graduate and you leave, and you didn’t solve the problem. ... Cancer didn’t go away.”

The D10

The summer after his junior year in college, Vishnevetsky was working as a UBS intern when he met Rob Befumo, a Director with UBS Investment Bank. Befumo, it turned out, was a cancer survivor, and had recently competed in an event called “The D10” that served as a major fundraiser for MSK Kids, the pediatric division at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. A one-day, decathlon-style “championship,” with 10 physical challenges testing speed, strength and stamina, the event attracts serious athletes who compete as individuals or as part of a team. Befumo told Vishnevetsky about his D10 experience and encouraged him to try it himself. Vishnevetsky, intrigued, filed the advice away, and went on to finish school in 2015.

Cancer is the number-one cause of disease-related death among American children aged 5 to 14.

– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017

Two years later, as a UBS employee, Vishnevetsky was working out in a New York City gym when he learned that it offered training for aspiring D10 participants. He’d all but forgotten about the event, he told Pastore, mainly because he’d thought that it sounded too intimidating. “I had kind of checked it off as ‘I’m not going to be able to raise the money myself, [I’m] not nearly athletic enough, like I’m not even going to waste my time.’ ”

Eventually, Vishnevetsky told Pastore, a UBS colleague who had also gone to Penn State convinced him to change his mind. He wasn’t quite sure what he was getting into, but he decided he was ready to give the D10 a shot.

The fundraising begins

Vishnevetsky registered for the D10 in late 2017, and with regular gym time already part of his schedule, set a goal of raising $3,000. At first, he told Pastore, he was worried: Most of his friends were struggling just to pay rent, so he doubted they could donate to the cause. But then, at a UBS training event, he told his colleagues what he was doing, and nearly everyone in the room chipped in on the spot. “More than anything, I was just shocked,” he said. “Like, ‘Wow, what other impact can I make?’ ”

Since its inception in 2009, the D10 has raised more than $14 million for pediatric cancer research, according to the organization’s website.

From there, Vishnevetsky told Pastore, he organized a fundraising spin class, earned a generous company match from UBS, and changed his expectations again and again. “My goal went from $3,000 to five, five to 10, and 10 ultimately became $28,500,” he said. More than half of the money raised came from UBS employees, he added. “I think it attests to the type of people who work here, and how supportive we are of each other’s ventures.”

Making an impact

That June, at the event itself, Vishnevetsky gave his all alongside the other athletes and got his first real taste of what the D10 was all about. Soon, he told Pastore, he was thinking about 2019, when he hoped to participate again as part of a team. He reached out to a few friends and convinced them to commit, and they sat down together and made a plan. “We had a pretty well-rounded team athletically, but also four very unique networks that we could kind of tap into to really make a difference.”

The previous D10 record for team fundraising was $66,000, so they decided to see if they could break it. They set their sights on $100,000, Vishnevetsky said, and by the time the event came around again, they’d raised a total of $110,686.

While about $20,000 of that haul came from UBS, the vast majority was secured through more than 800 individual donations, Vishnevetsky said. His team showed up on the day of the competition and put in a strong athletic performance, but the real win, he noted, was in the process—and knowing they were helping MSK Kids. “It’s gratifying,” he told Pastore, “[seeing] our hard work go to good use and really make an immediate and direct impact on saving the lives of children.”

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