Boston's Underdogs - A Labor of Love and Necessity

In October of this year, BHCHP’s Emerging Leaders Board awarded the Hill Holliday Healthcare Team with the Change Maker Award at their annual Fall Soiree, in honor of their Boston’s Underdogs campaign, a public multimedia campaign across to raise awareness and funds about the work of BHCP’s SPOT program, Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment. The Change Maker Award is given annually to an individual or group of young professionals who are making a difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness.

The Boston’s Underdogs campaign serves to humanize--as well as destigmatize--the city’s homeless population by highlighting the stories of four real-life SPOT patients and providing insight into their struggles as well as the successes they’re experiencing as a result of their participation in the SPOT program.

The following is adapted from Scott Rabschnuck’s Change Maker Award acceptance speech.


Thank you to the team at BHCHP, especially Dr. Jim O’Connell, CEO Barry Bock, Dr. Jessie Gaeta, the Development Team, and all of the staff.

Thank you to the Emerging Leaders Board, for stepping up and putting your significant talent and energy to work for an organization whose everyday work will inspire you to make a difference in this world every day.

Thank you to Denise, Kristen, Rafael and Rudy, the patients featured in our Boston’s Underdogs campaign, for giving us such intimate and unfiltered accounts of their struggles with addiction, and their recovery that SPOT has helped enable.

To our brilliant and tireless team at Hill Holliday: 

Brilliant is fully on display as they’ve channeled the unflinching stories of people whom SPOT has served and saved. Our goal was to rivet the attention of people who’d otherwise be inclined to divert their eyes from those suffering from homelessness and addiction and recognize their shared humanity with these “underdogs.”

Tireless speaks to the nearly two-year timeframe from the day we first learned about this idea forming within BHCHP now known as SPOT, to when our agency team finally cracked the code in forging a coherent and compelling outreach effort for this one-of-a-kind program. This after many, many creative, well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful attempts. 

Our team never gave up, amidst set-backs and the daily requirement to focus on our day jobs. And while it’s convenient to call the drive we all sustained a “labor of love,” that’s a little trite for what was really at stake here. More like a “labor of necessity.” No one here needs more data to fully comprehend the scourge of the opioid addiction crisis. The more urgent questions surround what we’re going to do about it.

While policy makers push system reforms, while ER staff and first responders try to not get drowned by this tsunami, and while people with addiction and their families fight for any sign of hope or reprieve, the people at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program have done what they’ve always done. 

Quietly, effectively, without judgment or a playbook, BHCHP has instituted a practical, effective and courageous program whose purpose is as modest as it is profound: to keep people from dying. To help keep people alive whose only support during the depth of a drug overdose is the chair they’re led to in a converted conference room, and more importantly from the staff who not only administer medical assistance but who won’t leave their side until they’ve made it through their episode.

So how could our team get tired and give up when we saw how Dr. Jessie Gaeta and her team tirelessly plowed through all obstacles to set up the nation’s only supportive monitoring facility, and save people from dying of overdoses literally thousands of times? We better fight through our little set-backs and get a message out that rallies our community around SPOT and these underdogs.

One of the first things I learned about what makes the culture at Hill Holliday so enduring is our commitment to our community, which our founder Jack Connors would frequently state as, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” 

This ethos, along with my professional focus on healthcare, led me to serve on BHCHP’s Philanthropy Advisory Council. But it was only when I saw this team operate first-hand that I understood that, while many organizations do tremendous good serving others, the ultimate expression of service to those less fortunate is in conferring human dignity to all. BHCHP embraces this as a bedrock principle, and only such commitment to dignity for all can give rise to such an audacious program as SPOT. 

Now, the campaign is out in the market, and we hope it goes gangbusters in driving awareness and donations to SPOT. But everyone here understands that attention to good causes is fleeting, while getting involved in what those closest to us feel is important has more staying power.

So I’m asking everyone here to please go to, and I’m not only going to ask you to make a donation of your choosing, I’m going to URGE you to spread this to your social networks. That’s how this gets traction. I can only imagine the influence you all wield and the impact you can make.

You can all help write Boston’s next great underdog story.

Thank you.

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