Philip Frengs of Racing to End Alzheimer’s: “It’s mentally consuming”

It’s so rewarding. We all don’t get the opportunity to find an audience, to share our vision. I’m constantly grateful that I can connect with people nationwide, and even worldwide, all because we have the same interest. To care for those we love, to remember those who have been our champions, and to create a […]

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It’s so rewarding. We all don’t get the opportunity to find an audience, to share our vision. I’m constantly grateful that I can connect with people nationwide, and even worldwide, all because we have the same interest. To care for those we love, to remember those who have been our champions, and to create a better world, a world without Alzheimer’s. It makes this work so well worth it.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Phil Frengs.

Phil Frengs is an entrepreneur, based in Los Angeles. In 1989, he founded Legistics — professionals at practice support — an international, mid-market company that specializes in providing services to large legal firms to support their practices. In 2017, he founded Racing to End Alzheimer’s to encourage people to add the name and hometown of a loved one affected by Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia to the Legistics-sponsored race cars that compete across the US in sports car racing, raising funds to help fight the disease.

Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

I have loved being a business owner, especially in a business where we have long-term, long-lasting customer relationships. Our customers — large law firms — insource their document services to us. We provide dedicated staff onsite, as well as offsite service centers that process and print the large documents required by litigation.

Our primary assets are the people we employ who live with, work with and service those customer law firms day in and day out.

Today, we provide services in most major cities in the United States and also in cities in Europe and Asia where our customers practice law.

With a more than thirty-year history, Legistics has thrived by responding to opportunity when it presents itself. I think of us as nimble opportunists, looking for ways to expand our services and increase our reach for the benefit of our customers.

Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start your nonprofit?

My wife Mimi began to show some signs of cognitive decline in 2013. We consulted with her physician and a local neurologist and ran a battery of tests. That was followed by a referral to UCLA for more intensive study. And by the end of that year they had determined that, at only age 60, Mimi had been stricken with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

At first, I was so concerned about helping her, keeping her safe and providing her care, that everything else seemed less important. As time passed, though, it became clear that I need help. In 2016, as Mimi’s needs increased, I engaged caregivers to help her at home. I was able to pay more attention to the racing team that Legistics had been sponsoring for a number of years. It was at one of the tracks that year, where we were competing for a national championship with our #17 Porsche Cayman, that a realization struck me. Companies like mine, as a part of their marketing initiative, cover these cars with company names, logos and brands. In a sense these cars are 200-mile-per-hour billboards.

What if, instead, a car was covered with the names of people who are loved by their families or friends — people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s, or who may have passed away because of dementia? Would it work? Could we help families to honor someone they love? Could we raise awareness and funding to fight the disease?

Well, we went on to win that championship in the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge. And I started to think more seriously about my idea. With help, guidance and coaching, I established the Racing to End Alzheimer’s Foundation, which we launched in the 2017 racing season. And we’ve been racing to end Alzheimer’s ever since.

Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?

What I have learned is that, for many years, the fact that a family member was suffering from dementia was often treated the same way other forms mental illness were treated: it was not to be spoken about. Fortunately, that’s changing. Today awareness of all of these diseases including dementia has arrived in public discourse.

Our first mission is to empower those who have someone in their life with dementia — whether it’s a family member, a friend, a coach, a teacher a neighbor — to make a public statement, to honor them, support them or remember them by a simple act: putting their name and hometown out there in the world. Just the idea of adding their name to our race car has a psychological benefit for those families.

Secondarily, we have chosen to support organizations that are doing remarkable work on behalf of those affected and their families.

The Nantz National Alzheimer’s Center at Houston Methodist Hospital is exploring cutting edge strategies in therapy, care and research to find a cure for these dementias. NNAC was founded by well-known CBS Sports broadcaster Jim Nantz and his family in honor of his father, Jim, who passed away after a thirteen-year battle with Alzheimer’s.

The UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program is a grant-funded group that provides social and psychological support to the families of patients at UCLA who are affected by these diseases. Their program has been helpful to my own family.

For our friends in Canada, we give to The Baycrest Foundation, a leading geriatric support organization associated with the University of Toronto.

We send 100% of the funds donated straight to our beneficiaries, and we add a one-to-one match from Legistics, as well as other matching gifts to these organizations. We’re proud that all of the administrative and marketing costs for the Foundation, as well as the entire racing budget, are borne by Legistics. So truly all of the donated funds plus the matches are being put to work. That’s our way of Funding the Care and Funding the Cure.

Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?

We have so many people who have been moved by this initiative. One in particular is a new friend who has put his mother’s name on our car for a few years now. He’s driven hundreds of miles to meet with us at one of our tracks for a race and has become one of our greatest fans. He has referred many people in his circle to us. Recently he emailed me that he has just ordered personalized license plates that read “R2NALZ”, which he plans to frame with a customized Racing to End Alzheimer’s license plate holder.

The fact that our campaign has so moved him, has energized him to be a leader — all in memory of his mother and her experience with Alzheimer’s — encourages me. Collaboration is a wonderful thing. As he influences others, I hope that they, in turn, will influence those around them. The more of us who take the moment to honor and remember our champion, the more we talk, the more funding we raise. This is how we’re going to create a world without Alzheimer’s.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

My fondest hope is that I find another organization or organizations that believe in what we are doing. A company that shares my desire to increase awareness, sees an opportunity to support the families who are affected, and will join me in matching the donations made by those to honor their loved one. We increase the number of names on our race car every year, with 154 on our car last year despite the pandemic, and we have raised and granted $400,000 since 2017. The power to make a difference will come not just from our generous donors who place a name on the car, but from those capable of joining our company as a multiplier, upping the ante, to help us grow our impact.

Second, we can talk about Alzheimer’s out loud. It’s no secret that 6 million Americans are affected and 50 million around the world. It’s a huge problem, but a common one. There should be no shame associated with any health issue, just a lot of support and empathy.

Third, the financial impact on families is overwhelming. I’m lucky enough to be able to hire caregivers. Most people can’t do that. They need a way not to be pulled under by the gravity of their situation. Families have to be aware of the toll this takes on the caregiving members, as well as the sufferers themselves. And I think our government has to help as well. Nobody should be financially destroyed because someone they love is ill.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

The most important facet of leadership to me is commitment. We have so many things in our busy worlds that tug at us, it is through commitment that we identify our priorities, focus our intent, and hone our skills to make a difference. When you grow your business, as I have, it becomes necessary to delegate responsibility. That’s hard to do if you’re entrepreneurial like I am. But, by doing it, you create some additional bandwidth which allows you to commit to other things that can make a real difference. After serving on the boards of other nonprofits, raising funds for such good causes, I am setting up my later years to be full of contact with interesting people who share my commitment. People who intend to make a difference in our understanding of the causes of dementia, in providing care to those affected — patients, family members and caregivers — and in leading others in support of interest, awareness, funding, and action as we continue racing to end Alzheimer’s.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a nonprofit”. Please share a story or example for each.

It’s hard. I had what I thought was a good idea. I thought it would be embraced by everyone I talked to. With starts and stops, I found that while some may like the idea, getting their support, their willingness to partner, their ability to act, doesn’t happen just because you have a good idea. It’s easier to say no than yes.

It’s mentally consuming. Once you get the idea, there is so much to think about. How do I do it? Who will be interested? How do I engage? Who can I partner with? What if nobody else cares? It seems to me that you have to start with the big idea, and then be willing to re-hone it, re-work it, re-imagine it before you get there.

Its lonely. Get partners. Collaboration is a good thing. Different takes, different thoughts, different influences help you redefine your purpose, refine your messaging and keep you focused.

It doesn’t stop. You don’t get days off. Once you commit, it’s on you to keep up. You put the message out there, and you don’t know when someone is going to get it. But when they do, they want your attention. It’s your commitment. You get to live up to it.

It’s so rewarding. We all don’t get the opportunity to find an audience, to share our vision. I’m constantly grateful that I can connect with people nationwide, and even worldwide, all because we have the same interest. To care for those we love, to remember those who have been our champions, and to create a better world, a world without Alzheimer’s. It makes this work so well worth it.

Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your nonprofit?

I would like to have a sit-down, fireside chat with Sanjay Gupta, of CNN. I am continually inspired by his work as an active neurosurgeon and a busy journalist. I greatly admire him. I believe that a discussion with him about what I have learned about Alzheimer’s over the last eight years of Mimi’s journey, and all the things I can learn from him, would be the basis of a good chat.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?

Benjamin Franklin once said that “if you want something done, ask a busy person.”

I find that my interests are broad, but at the same time after nearly 50 years being a worker, that I learn more and more over time how to make more out of each day. I have so much more to learn in this regard, but learning is a lifelong endeavor and I want to do more, even if I am busy.

I admire Roger Penske. That is a busy man. But by all accounts, he’s a master at getting things done. So channeling him, especially as a businessman and motorsports enthusiast, seems to me to be a good thing.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’d suggest they start with, the Foundation’s website.

We’re also on Facebook , Instagram and LinkedIn

Readers can email me at [email protected]

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