Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicholas Arquette.
Nicholas, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My story begins with my mother, Sally. When I was 11 years old and living in California, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. My brother and I learned quickly how much your world can change when a parent undergoes treatment and how much it can affect a family’s day-to-day life. Before she passed away, my brother and I were sent to live with my father in Idaho, and I always wished I could have met more people who understood what I was going through.
Years later, I moved back to California and began a career as an entrepreneur in the health and entertainment industries. By chance, I started volunteering with the Screen Actors Guild in a volunteer program the group organized called “Book Pals,” which paired actors with local schools to aid in enhancing the reading experience. Through working with children in elementary and middle school, I couldn’t help but recall how my grade school experience had felt confusing and tough due to my mother’s illness. I did some research on mentorship based on shared experiences with cancer, and I realized there was a true need for a program that addressed this common hardship.
In 2001, through the help of Lawndale Elementary School, I began to offer mentorship services to children who had siblings or parents experiencing cancer. In this, Walk with Sally was born. Enlisting the help of friends, we began to slowly expand our activities and reach. Soon enough, I was hiring people to help with fundraising and establishing our 501c3 status. In 2014, I took over as CEO, and I am so proud of the impact we’ve had in the lives of Walk with Sally families and volunteers.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not always been a smooth road, but I wouldn’t change anything about all we learned along the way. A nonprofit still must have structure and smart business minds. Though passion drives a lot, a charity cannot operate on passion alone. I have learned a lot about hiring the right people and investing in them, and that has contributed to a lot of our growth. I have also learned the importance of ending poor business partnerships quickly. Though it may be scary to cut ties with a major donor or sponsor, if the relationship isn’t benefitting your work culture or progress, it’s okay to cut ties and pivot. Because funding comes from the kindness of others, it can be intimidating for an NGO to make sudden donation changes, but it can benefit your organization so much more in the long-term to end toxic partnerships.
A real bump occurred a few years ago. In 2015, our marquee event and annual fundraiser was entirely rained out. We were worried about securing funds for the remainder of the year, but we regrouped quickly and did what we could to schedule another date. My advice for aspiring NGO employees and entrepreneurs? Don’t fold up your tent. Believe there’s going to be another day.
Please tell us about Walk With Sally. What are you most proud of?
Walk With Sally provides individualized mentoring and community support services to empower children experiencing trauma through a parent, guardian, or sibling’s cancer journey. Currently, we serve over 100 mentees in over 34 communities in and around Los Angeles. Our programming consists of friendship activities like art classes and surfing, emergency financial assistance, and college scholarships.
In terms of what I am most proud of, Walk with Sally has been innovative in its structure, fundraising, and long-term support. We have continued to challenge the traditional notion of a nonprofit, and that’s certainly contributed to our quick growth. Our programs are meant to help families for years and years, rather than a one-time activation. In order to stay fresh, I am frequently consulting with outside perspectives and new voices. In this day of split attention, Walk with Sally needs to give people more than one reason to be involved. Lastly, we have created a great corporate culture for our growing team. I want people to know and learn that nonprofits are an exciting and amazing career opportunity!
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I have to give a shout out to the South Bay community in general. They have embraced our mission and helped us grow, and I don’t think we would have as much success without their belief and support. Secondly, my Walk With Sally employees have continued to grow our programs through their dedication and passion, and I am proud to work with them every day.
- Address: 840 Apollo Street
El Segundo, CA 90245
- Website: https://www.walkwithsally.org/
- Phone: (310) 322-3900
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @walkwithsally
- Facebook: @walkwithsally
- Twitter: @WalkwithSally
Walk With Sally