Photo above: DonnaLyn Giegerich Zapcic and Tom Zapcic at home with their dogs – Hanna and Hank.
Their story is one of resiliency, community outreach and a passion for enriching the lives of others. Tom Zapcic and DonnaLyn Giegerich have been together for over 30 years and those years have been spent creating; creating award-winning businesses, ways to serve others, inspiration and encouragement. Their lives are filled with art, words and stories of making a difference. They live lives bigger than themselves. They are the inspiration behind Kick Cancer Overboard, an organization that was created to send those who have been affected by cancer on an all-expense paid cruise. Tom and DonnaLyn host ‘Yoga on the Lake’ in their serene backyard during the summer months, to relieve business and corporate stresses for executives – and anyone else that wants to join. DonnaLyn is a nationally known motivational speaker with a passion to help others improve their leadership lives. Tom is a talented photographer who gives of his skill to philanthropic organizations. As a couple, they work both individually and together, lending their talents to be a change in the world.
DonnaLyn and Tom have been community-minded from the start, living in health and productivity with a zest for life. When they found themselves facing their own personal health battles, they saw it as call to action for them to do, be and give more. “It was our dual cancer couple crisis that propelled us to redirect both our professional and personal lives in ways that empower others,” DonnaLyn explains. Tom described it as “we were living vibrant lives beforehand, and in an instant it was as though someone poured gas on it, lit a match and said let’s see what you can do.” Instead of extinguishing that fire, DonnaLyn and Tom decided to take their individual talents, their desire to get out of their comfort zones to learn about others and those flames to light more fires, pouring what they had into others.
“Tom and I are so aware of the fragility of life,” DonnaLyn shared as she told of how they now live their lives in the spirit of trying. At the end of the cancer battle, they came out the other side and said to each other, “Let’s leverage all our giftedness, our talents and our networks and let’s create paradigms that let us help other people have fun through a cancer crisis or really any wellness crisis.”
This was followed up with a simple question from longtime friend and client, Ted Friedli. “What can we do with this?” he asked them. Seeing the resilience of Tom and DonnaLyn, Ted knew that through their trail, something good could come from it. That question sparked the flame that grew into creation – Kick Cancer Overboard. “There were so many laudable organizations out there, but none that sends those affected by cancer to laugh their butts off and not have to worry about a thing,” DonnaLyn said with regard to the void that Kick Cancer Overboard fills in the world of charitable organizations.
To date, Kick Cancer Overboard has sent 225 New Jersey families on free cruises. These vacations are all expenses paid from door-to-door, not a dime out of pocket. DonnaLyn and Tom praise the board of directors as they tell of all the fabulous experiences this organization has created. They glow as they tell the stories of the families they have had the opportunity to bless. Kick Cancer Overboard has sent families to sea with the intent to create memories, memorialize a loved one, take a break from the battle, to celebrate, to honeymoon and to just have the rest and relaxation that a cancer diagnosis can quickly steal. Tom says it best – “We can’t change their journey… but we can at least give them a break from it.”
DonnaLyn’s and Tom’s lives are full. They are blessed to have the opportunity of freedom that comes along with being business owners. They work daily maintaining and growing their insurance business, fitting in what Tom calls “pencil possibilities” – numerous activities to be a part of every day, from sponsored events to fundraisers for Kick Cancer Overboard and other worthy causes, and networking socials, to name a few. They fill up their calendars with places to be and things to do, keeping every day different, always doing something new.
As a couple, when they just want to be simply DonnaLyn and Tom, they can be found at their favorite Monmouth County dinner spots – Tommy’s Tap and Tavern in Sea Bright, Salt Creek Grill in Rumson or McCloone’s Rum Runner in Sea Bright. They are sure to reserve Friday nights for quiet time at home to walk their dogs – Hanna and Hank – or surround themselves with nature their backyard provides. But mostly they are out and about. Even their vacations are working vacations. Taking turns, they travel to exciting locations; Tom to teach pickle ball and DonnaLyn to teach yoga. On the rare occasion their vacations aren’t work-involved, they are filled with action and adventure.
Their current focus is for this October where they will be joining in the MMy Ride for a Cure Across America cycling event. This event offers cyclists a way to raise funds and awareness for Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). DonnaLyn and Tom will be jumping in to finish out the last 62 miles of the event.
Tom says it’s not about the bucket list any more, it’s just the list now. It’s what will you do today to make a difference, not about what you will do before you die.
They hope through their story they encourage others to do the same, that it gives a call to action. They want to see others getting involved, not waiting for a crisis to propel them to make a difference. Getting outside of yourself is where you find contentment and satisfaction of life. They ask, “What will your legacy be, how do you want to live out the rest of your life?”
DonnaLyn and Tom live each day focused on how they can make a difference and how they aspire to drive others to do the same. They invite you to “jump aboard our mission to help others.”
*Story: Shanna Polignone | Photo: Melissa Amorelli Photography