2019 40 Under 40 Winners

2019 40 Under 40 Logo

Richard Pezzillo

New England Hemophilia Association
Dedham, MA

Why is a 40 under 40 winner

1. As executive director, Richard grew the New England Hemophilia Association (NEHA) from $400,000 in annual funding to over $1.1 million in only two years.

2. He pioneered the annual Providence’s Best Bloody Mary Competition to raise awareness and funds for NEHA from outside the bleeding disorders community.

3. Richard elevated NEHA’s Walk fundraiser to be the largest attended and highest-grossing fundraiser of all bleeding disorder organizations nationwide.

4. As a director at the Hemophilia Federation of America (HFA), Richard built a social media program that ultimately reached more than 300,000 individuals. He executed multiple national awareness campaigns that were key components to HFA’s annual fundraising.

Q & A

1. How did you get into health care philanthropy?

I have hemophilia—a rare bleeding disorder. Growing up, I treated this chronic condition as a burden and something that I was ashamed of. As I matured, I realized that it was actually the complete opposite. Hemophilia has helped me become who I am today, and I couldn’t imagine my life without the lessons it has taught me about myself, others, and life. I’ve realized I have become enriched through my experiences and what this condition has given me. I went to college with aspirations to become an on-camera meteorologist; however, during those formative years, I became involved with the National Hemophilia Foundation’s Youth Leadership Institute. Through this experience I learned that I have a voice and that it matters, so after taking a career turn to work for a senator on Capitol Hill, and then in health care, I unexpectedly found a field where am constantly challenged and continually growing. All of this has contributed to my desire to give back to a community which has gifted me in incalculable ways. It was a natural, instinctual feeling that I needed to pay forward what opportunities were given to me, and help others discover the same.

2. Why did you choose to make health care philanthropy your career?

I didn’t choose health care philanthropy, it chose me.

The New England Hemophilia Association (NEHA) has been a lifeline and support for families with a bleed disorder for over six decades; including my own. It is an honor to work in a field, and for an organization that is mission driven and constantly changing lives. Non-profit work like this never stops, as there is not enough time in the day or hands on a project to complete the tasks at hand; but it is arguably the most rewarding job to witness firsthand the difference the works makes for so many. It is the daily rewards, often accompanied by challenges, which remind me and my team why our choice to remain in this field will always be worth it as we continue to fulfill our mission. 

3. Tell us about a pivot point or crucial step in your career journey.

After graduating college, I was offered an internship to work in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill for a senator. While this opportunity was far removed from my undergraduate meteorology, I was thrilled for the experience, as it married the hemophilia and advocacy work I had done for years. Taking the leap and moving from home in New England, to Washington, DC, was frightening and overwhelming. The internship was unpaid and only lasted three months. I remember donning a suit for my first day and taking the Metro to Capitol Hill. I repeatedly questioned myself: ‘Do I belong here?’ Through my experience, I realized that I absolutely did. Three months went by in a flash and I was offered a paid position in the communication shop as a Press Assistant, and then earned my way to the position of Deputy Press Secretary. Four years quickly elapsed working on Capitol Hill, where I learned and honed professional skills that I use today, from mentors that helped me to grow and that gave me an opportunity to make mistakes and take risks. Writing speeches for a senator, staffing him on the Senate floor, planning press conferences and pitching stories to the media were all enhancing experiences to have under my belt. Ultimately, the pivotal lesson in my career journey was taking a risk into the unknown will always open a door if you seek it. 

4. What was your first job, and what is something it taught you?

I was sixteen years old when I landed my first job at a local Wendy’s. This job taught me that punctuality is crucial, communication with your supervisor (or anyone!) is key, and safety in the workplace always comes first. Often, working at a fast-food restaurant can come with a stigma, however I realize that without those fundamental learning points, I wouldn’t have started building a strong foundation for my future work ethic(s).

5. What are your future aspirations?

My husband and I plan to begin a family within the next couple of years. I am beyond excited to be a father and to pass along some of the lessons and traditions that my parents instilled in my brothers and I. My father has a particular mantra I always remember: the minute you start comparing yourself to someone else, is the minute you start losing a piece of who you are.

I hope to continue in a field where the mission of the organization is something that I believe in and can bring to life with passion—every day. When you can find that type of calling, work is enjoyable and meaningful. Moreover, I aspire to continue giving-back in ways that enrich my community and fulfill the mission of wherever my journey takes me.
Richard Pezzillo

Fun Fact:

I am a total weather nerd. Since I was a kid, the weather has always fascinated me to no end. Growing up, my brothers would be watching Wrestle-Mania, and I would be glued to another TV, enraptured by anything they were broadcasting on the Weather Channel, or wearing out my VHS copy of “Twister.” I also had a makeshift weather station outside of my parent’s house, where I would journal the high and low temperature of the day, humidity and barometric pressure.