Silence is Golden for Griffin CharitiesJuly 20, 2018 - By Joe Clements
FOXBOROUGH — In terms of CRE investment sales, Robert E. Griffin Jr.’s name rings loud and clear across the New England landscape where he has processed $65 billion of property during a dominant 36-year career. In philanthropic circles, though, his recognition level is virtually nil, the Newmark Capital Markets leader rarely feted among a Who’s Who of CRE professionals seen attending local fundraisers such as May’s dinner at Gillette Stadium supporting Ron Burton Training Village, New England Patriots legend Ronald Burton Sr.’s acclaimed youth initiative for which $1.5 million was pledged this year.
As cited by son Paul Burton, the record turnout was achieved from people wanting to honor the group’s 2018 Humanitarian of the Year, recognized for a lifetime of charitable giving that includes RBTV, that individual being one Robert E Griffin Jr.
“Rob has been a true, enthusiastic torchbearer who has done amazing things to support our mission, as he has done for so many others before,” Burton said in an interview after the ceremony, explaining the main obstacle was getting Griffin to ease fervently held tenets preaching muted munificence and accept the award, a hesitance Burton attributes to Griffin’s devout religious beliefs and “genuine humility,” typically dismissing his actions as unremarkable.
Griffin came to the RBTV camp in ruralHubbardston in 2012 as volunteers welcomed 130 children to kick off an annual five-week program that acts as cornerstone to a 12/7 (12 months a year for seven years) initiative featuring parent/child meetings, tutoring sessions and life coaches who provide a continuum of guidance and opportunities from ages 11 to 18, with thousands of youths aided and inspired since its inception in 1985.
Griffin had been asked to give a motivational speech to the campers so captivating, “we had an instantaneous connection,” recalls Paul Burton, an ordained minister and former NFL player who adds, “We have been friends ever since . . . I consider Rob a friend of mine, the entire Burton family and everybody at Ron Burton Training Village.” Paul Burton runs the program along with brothers Phil Burton and Ron Burton Jr., Ronald Burton Sr. having passed away 15 years ago from cancer.
Evidenced from the May dinner being attended by many in that Who’s Who of CRE professionals often seen on the charity circuit, Griffin’s decades of charitable avocation is not a surprise to that constituency, colleagues who have come to respect his desire for privacy on the matter. Yet in a video shown at the ceremony, many when given the chance let loose, among them New England Development founder Stephen R. Karp, observing Griffin “has a passion for giving back, and a passion for kids in particular,” and explains, “he doesn’t just give money—he shows up, and he is an inspiration to kids everywhere.”
Griffin is a person who “does a phenomenal job at giving,” concurs Market Basket principal Arthur DeMoulas in his video acknowledgement; and “a force for good everywhere,” states Belmont Capital founder Joseph O’Donnell, adding, “as tough as he is (in the business world), he really is a sensitive guy who gets it” from a charitable perspective. “Rob is an extraordinary guy,” relays CrossHarbor Capital Partners founder Samuel Byrne, terming him “passionate, compassionate and one of the most loyal friends I have ever had.”
The quality “empathy” is a constant reference to Griffin’s volunteering verve and the main target of his giving nature is also unanimous among those queried. “Rob’s commitment to children and to giving at-risk youth an opportunity to show what they can do is unparalleled,” says Burton, both mantras of the RBTV platform which Griffin and his family continue to support.
Griffin, for example, will be at the camp this week as the summer program winds down, offering hands-on support and mentoring to attendees, several in the video lauding his support of their growth,including Andrew, who says “he always makes you feel like a better person,” and “treats us like he is a member of his own family,” Mohamed observes, whereas Martin points to the four “pillars” established by Ron Burton Sr. in launching RBTV, those being love, peace, patience and humility. Says Martin: “he really exemplifies the four pillars by showing love to his community, and giving back to the people around him, even people he doesn’t even know.” In his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, Griffin’s theme focused on the pillar of “love,” after quipping that, ‘My wife clearly wouldn’t want me to talk about patience.”
Griffin instead declared to the audience that, “the greatest force of energy out there is love, no question about it,” and calling love’s inherent goal of “willing the good of others” to segue into a focus on RBTV itself and the faith inspired by Jo Ann Burton and their five children when in the mid 1980’s the patriarch took the family’s entire life savings to establish RBTV, fulfilling a vow he made as an underprivileged youth growing up in Ohio to help young men achieve success.
“I’ve never seen a family like the Burtons,” says Griffin, further outlining how comprehensive and time-consuming the program is to fulfill a platform of not just physical and emotional growth, but also enhancing academic and interpersonal skills and pursuing a professional career, with a high degree of college attendees.
“This is a heavy lift for them, to every year leave their jobs, give up their vacations, all to come here, and that to me is the definition of love,” Griffin observed while extolling people to pick up the baton and make the program available to other youth. Griffin, who has a history professionally of supporting women in a male-dominated industry, notes RBTV has produced tangible results already for young men; four in the most recent group have gone on to become student presidents their respective colleges, he reported, and the high school graduation rate is far above average. “Young women deserve the same chance,” he says, stressing the Burtons have their hands full yet calling on others to duplicate the model, declaring that, “There is no better charity in the country, in my mind, than this one . . . The results speak for themselves.”
Another well-known fundraiser held annually for the past 20 years by Children’s Hospital, the Childrens for Champions gala, is a brainchild of Griffin for which he has also kept a low profile on even as it has grown to be the hospital’s largest annual fundraiser, according to Boston Children’s Hospital Trust President Lynn Susman, whose institution leads all the nation’s Children’s Hospitals in charitable giving.
“Rob Griffin brings tremendous heart and passion to Boston Children’s Hospital,” Susman says in a statement to Real Reporter, continuing on that “We are grateful for his leadership, as Chairman of Boston Children’s Hospital Trust Board, and as the founder of our Champions for Children’s fundraiser,” an event she calls “a game changer for us,” raising over $55 million since its inception and supporting the Every Child Fund.”
ECF provides support for early stage, groundbreaking research, “bringing us close to cures for Sickle Cell Anemia and other rare diseases,” Susman outlines, and provides “critical help” for families not covered by insurance. “Rob is a tireless partner who gives unwavering support of every child who needs care and healing,” Susman concludes.
The ceremony behind him, Griffin says charitable work will remain a cornerstone of his life and that of his family, one linchpin being the Corey C. Griffin Foundation named after the eldest son of Cathy and Robert Griffin, and brother of Casey Griffin and Michael Griffin, who passed away in a drowning accident four years ago next month. The Foundation “endeavors to improve the lives of children through healthcare and education, as well as supporting young men and women who share Corey’s passion for entrepreneurship,” according to the non-profit’s mission statement.
Robert Griffin alluded to the tragedy during the ceremony, offering assurances to audience members—many of whom attended the massive funeral—that the family’s faith remains unwavering, their incredible poise in the wake of Corey Griffin’s passing having itself served as comfort to attendees at the service attended by thousands, and Griffin thanked those who have assisted for continuing to support the foundation which has donated funds to RBTV for a ball field in their son’s name as well as a memorial prayer garden.
As with other family members, Corey Griffin had embraced RBTV prior to his tragic passing, and Robert Griffin thanked the Burton family for their support during the difficult loss along with so many others as well. “We have been blessed with a deeper awareness of the glory of friendship,” Griffin said while also ensuring that “We include Corey in our ongoing life’s journey,” a path that will include the birth of the first grandchild of Cathy Griffin and Robert Griffin in the coming weeks, his salutation to daughter Casey in the audience invoking a round of applause.
The RBTV video which featured testimonials from youth attending the camp also featured remarks from Robert Griffin’s family, including Cathy Griffin who talks of “his powerful faith, his kindness, compassion,” and deems her betrothed “an amazing husband, because I have laughter in my life every day.” Casey Griffin marvels at her father’s “capacity to love other people” while Michael Griffin recalls pleas his children embrace the idea of “giving while no one is watching” as a backbone of their faith, a course they agreed Corey Griffin had followed during his notable life. “We were both amazed by that; our father never wanted the recognition, and he thinks it is only truly giving if you don’t receive it,” says Michael Griffin.