By Bruce Beckham, Tourism Cares founder and executive director emeritus
Bobbie Greene McCarthy – a voice, a smile, a passion that will be missed by many. Sadly, Bobbie passed away suddenly early this summer. I wish I had called her one more time to let her know what she meant to me and to Tourism Cares. Memories fade after you leave a job or a career and life goes on, but the memory of what Bobbie Greene McCarthy meant to me and Tourism Cares is crystal clear.
Bobbie was the founder and executive director of Save American’s Treasures from 1998-2012. She raised millions of dollars to accomplish her task – to save America’s treasures. Because of matching grants from Save America’s Treasures, the Travelers Conservation Foundation (TCF), a precursor to Tourism Cares, was able to raise and donate millions and accomplish twice and more than it could have alone. And it all started with Bobbie Greene McCarthy.
In the late 90’s, Tauck Tours was about to celebrate its 75th anniversary. The company prepared to make a significant donation to an iconic American historical site. They found Bobbie at Save America’s Treasures (or she found them) and the story begins.
In addition to choosing Mesa Verde National Park (a company-wide decision), Tauck, along with several tour operator members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), made contributions to TCF, an organization recently formed by USTOA to save natural, cultural and historic sites around the world. The restoration of Ferry Building at Ellis Island was brought to TCF’s attention by who else, Bobbie Greene. USTOA tour operators pledged more than a quarter millions dollars to the cause. Those dollars were matched by Save America’s Treasures and a beautiful partnership was born and TCF was off and running.
Shortly after came September 11, 2001, which rocked the world and with it the tourism industry. That’s when TCF, by necessity, turned its attention from fundraising to friend-raising. “Volunteer!” became the cry and what better place to begin a volunteer program than iconic Ellis Island across New York Harbor from Ground Zero. Starting off on a project of this size - more than 300 travel industry professionals from all over the U.S. - in a fragile economic environment, with government agencies and another nonprofit (Save Ellis Island) that knew nothing about TCF - the task was daunting. Who did TCF turn to for help? Bobbie Greene McCarthy, of course.
And on and on it went, from there to many more Tourism Cares for America projects and other places where TCF gave grants, ultimately the restoration of the 9 foot tall architect’s model of World Trade Center now on display at the 911 Museum with a plaque recognizing that it was donated by the travel and tourism industry worldwide. All of these projects and grants were the bonding events that brought the world’s travel and tourism industry together to give back and still do.
And it all started with the leadership and foresight of a handful of USTOA tour operators and the joining of hands with NTA, ASTA, IATAN and other travel associations. But, it wouldn’t be what it is today without the hand of a wonderful lady named Bobbie Greene McCarthy. I will miss her smiling face.