Lidia Sobierajski ’95 is not a woman who sits back and waits for things to happen. She has been turning her dreams into reality all her life.
While double majoring in Piano Performance/Piano Pedagogy and Mathematics at Alverno College, Sobierajski was a WingSpread Fellow and a Harcourt Scholar. After graduation, she became a full-time private piano teacher and accompanist, yet wanted to share music on a larger scale. In 1999, Sobierajski co-founded the Chopin Youth Piano Competition, held annually at Polish Fest in Milwaukee. In its 15 years, hundreds of students have performed on a grand stage each June, earning scholarships and promoting beautiful music.
Since high school, Sobierajski hoped to work directly with the Polish community. Her involvement turned from a volunteer role into a full-time position when, in 2004, the Polish Heritage Alliance in Milwaukee named her Polish Fest Director.
Sobierajski capably served the community she considers family until 2010. It was then she faced a difficult decision: her ailing father was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia and she resigned her position to assume full-time caregiver responsibilities at home. “Life doesn’t always take you where you understand, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t the right path,” said Sobierajski.
Shortly before her father’s passing in 2011, she returned to the world of nonprofits as the manager of Fundraising and Special Events with the American Diabetes Association (ADA), overseeing southeastern Wisconsin events.
One of Sobierajski’s main projects with the ADA is the annual “Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes.” This year, the walk takes place on Saturday, October 19, at Schlitz Park in Milwaukee. Gary Grunau, a Milwaukee developer who is on the Alverno College Board of Trustees, is the Honorary Chair.
The Step Out walk generates awareness for a disease that kills more Americans each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. “Our goal is to make a difference by using the funds we receive to help others. We partner with the Lions Club to send children to camp for educational and outreach purposes, and the ADA also appropriates more than $2 million in state annually for research.”
Sobierajski has proven to be a force in the world of fundraising. She assembled a team of volunteers who are as passionate and caring as their leader. She has built relationships and motivated her helpers by giving them the tools and support to succeed. The results are proven: in just one year, participation in the Step Out walk rose from 695 to 1035, and the donation goals increased from $131,520 in 2012 to $175,000 in 2013.
Sobierajski is confident her walking teams and corporate support donations will again reach and surpass the goals. “Our fundraising stays in Wisconsin, which means our local community is benefiting. We’re encouraging people to participate for their health and for the health of those they love.” Students and faculty can register for Team Alverno by visiting main.diabetes.org/goto/Alverno
Sobierajski embraces her role with ADA and smiles broadly when talking about the differences she is making. “I live off other people’s energy and stories. I’m inspired by others. I hope to turn that around and inspire others to give back to those in need.”