FASTSIGNS Cares: When Community Success is Business Success

by April Angele

Sam and Susan Cilone aren’t the kind of people to just set up business in a town—they see their town as their business. It is that keen awareness of interconnectedness coupled with a sincere belief that what helps some in the community helps everyone, which has pushed their community support efforts to grow as their FASTSIGNS business has grown.

Susan Cilone grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and learned from a very young age about volunteerism and community. At age five, she remembers driving through her neighborhood yelling from the back of the family station wagon, “Come to the Carnival!” Her older brother, Danny, had built a backyard carnival from scratch as a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and at age 10 won a top prize for the money he raised.  Susan saw firsthand what can be accomplished when you harness the volunteer power of those who care.

In 1994, Susan brought her new husband to Louisville to open their business, a FASTSIGNS center. The first banner they made was a donation for that year’s WHAS Crusade for Children’s live telethon, occurring the weekend following FASTSIGNS of Louisville’s grand opening. That banner launched a 23-year relationship with the Cilone family, their FASTSIGNS locations, and the WHAS Crusade for Children.

Established in 1954 by WHAS-TV, the WHAS Crusade for Children, Inc. raises money for agencies, schools and hospitals to better the lives of special needs children.

This month, Susan began serving a three-year term on the board of the Crusade Endowment, which covers operating costs so every year 100% of the donations raised in the community go to charity.

Troy Cilone with father Sam presenting a special award to Melissa Swan
Troy Cilone with father Sam presenting a special award to Melissa Swan,
WHAS TV broadcast personality, to honor her work with the WHAS Crusade for Children.

“We have supported the WHAS Crusade for Children in too many ways to count over the years,” said Susan. “When my son attended his first telethon at age seven, he was both inspired and worried, because he understood the benefits but worried about the many more children he knew would need support in the future.”

Susan Cilone and family in the 2003 telethon.
All in the family. (From L-R) Dan Miller (Susan's brother and Executive Director of WHAS Crusade for Children),
Troy Cilone (Susan's son) and Susan Cilone in the 2003 telethon.

Her son Troy’s first donation, collected dollar by dollar from neighbors and friends, was $670 in 2003.

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Just as the Crusade operates year round beginning with grass roots efforts and culminating in a 30-hour televised telethon climax, so do the support efforts by FASTSIGNS and the Cilones progress through the year.

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At many events, the Cilones and their FASTSIGNS team, now from two centers, can also be found volunteering their time.

“Our team at FASTSIGNS brings the same level of expertise to the Crusade that we do for every business we serve, and we all enjoy honoring the volunteers who make the Crusade such a success,” said Sam. “We believe that the Crusade is the heart of this community and our community is the heart of the WHAS Crusade for Children.”

Grants in 2016 from the Crusade went to the American Red Cross, Kosair Children’s Hospital, Hardin Memorial Hospital, Harrison County Hospital, Frazier Rehab Institute, Autism Speaks, University of Louisville, Asbury University, Bellarmine University, Eastern Kentucky University and many school systems providing programs for developmental disabilities, Visually Impaired Preschool Services, therapeutic and psychological counseling providers, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Hosparus, Home of the Innocents, Junior Achievement and many more.

This is what can be accomplished with a  great deal of passion and a little hard work, just like that summer when Susan was just five and learned so much more than just how to make a haunted house out of an old tent.