The month of May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, but you knew that already, right? It's fair to assume the majority of you did not know that. The crazy thing is Lyme disease affects up to 500,000 people every year in the U.S. and they either don't know what it is, or their doctors don't initially give them the correct diagnosis from lack of knowledge. How does such a big disease have so little research?
Let's go back to circa 2010, West Coast, Bay Area. After experiencing burnout from a long and successful career in high tech, Linda Giampa was starting to feel like there was something missing in her life and career. "After I sold my high-tech startup in 2011, I took some time to meditate and manifest what my next steps would be." At the time, Giampa only knew that she wanted to work with a nonprofit and help people but wasn't sure where to start. She was looking for a sign.
Shortly into her time of reflection, one of Giampa's close friends from college came down with a mysterious illness. Her friend had been suffering neurological symptoms but couldn't find anyone to diagnose her correctly. After years of uncertainty and research on the internet, Giampa's friend had the feeling that she could potentially have Lyme.
"My close friend who was later diagnosed with Lyme disease had a tough experience because nobody believed or supported her at the time since doctors couldn't find a diagnosis."
Later Giampa would see a sign, both metaphorically and physically. As she was walking around her neighborhood she looked up and saw a sign for the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. Coincidentally thinking about her friend and curious about her new discovery, she stopped someone who was walking into the foundation's office and asked for more information. Founded just the year before in 2012, the Bay Area Lyme Foundation had been building their reputation after completing a couple of research projects on tick studies at Stanford University. Essentially, the foundation was trying to prove that tick borne pathogens in Lyme disease were in the ticks in the Bay Area. And they were right. Raising around $60,000 for their first study, the foundation was able to conduct a tick sweep and prove there were indeed ticks in the Bay Area that had Lyme disease.
That day would change Giampa's life. "I reached out to one of the co-founders and said I could be helpful with all the skills I had accumulated over the years in sales & marketing and as CEO of a high-tech startup." To nobody's surprise, she got the job. When Giampa first started at Bay Area Lyme Foundation, she never expected to be involved in the capacity that she is to this day.
I manifested this job for myself. When I got here, I thought I was going to be taking a part-time job to help with local fundraising and awareness campaigns. I quickly found out that this was a big national epidemic that few people understood.
A goal of Giampa's for the future is to arm patients with information and research so they can be advocates for themselves for when they go to the doctors but to also train doctors to be aware that Lyme is very much present.
Serving as Bay Area Lyme Foundation's Executive Director since 2013, Giampa had big plans on how to raise awareness to this issue. In just nine years, Bay Area Lyme Foundation raised 38 million dollars for Lyme disease research. With those donations, they have been able to fund over 100 projects to over 40 different institutions throughout the United States to research for diagnostic and therapeutics. The Bay Area Lyme Foundation is currently the leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the United States. With original focus on just research, over the past three years they have been able to evolve and take 10-15% of donations and allocate those costs towards awareness programs and tick prevention kits for families.
"One of the co-founders gave a large overhead grant, so that when we raise money, 100% of the proceeds go straight to the research and prevention programs like the AJGA. I am extremely fortunate to have a donor that trusts in me."
One of the biggest awareness campaigns executed by the Bay Area Lyme Foundation is with the AJGA. "I just love the organization. The AJGA is so organized and so focused on their goal."
Since partnering with the AJGA, Bay Area Lyme Foundation has sent out 7,750 tick kits to golfers around the country.
Back in March, Bay Area Lyme Foundation sponsored their first AJGA event in Lompoc, California. While on site of the AJGA Preview at The Mission Club presented by Bay Area Lyme Foundation, Giampa shared her experiences with AJGA junior and their families, explaining why it's important to raise awareness.
Only about 20% of the people I spoke to were even aware what Lyme disease was. We want people to enjoy the outdoors and not be afraid, but we also want everyone to be aware and know how to prevent it.
The AJGA agreed to a three-year partnership with Bay Area Lyme Foundation back in 2021 that will last until 2023. The partnership aimed to educate junior golfers about Lyme disease. Bay Area Lyme Foundation will also sponsor the 2022 AJGA Princeton Championship presented by Bay Area Lyme Foundation in July.
For more information on Bay Area Lyme Foundation and Lyme Disease please visit here.