Terry Beal’s life is filled by helping others

Terry Beal has been an organizer for the Catfish Classic ALS Golf Tournament and is co-captain of Team on Draft, a bicycling group that raises money for MS.
Terry Beal has been an organizer for the Catfish Classic ALS Golf Tournament and is co-captain of Team on Draft, a bicycling group that raises money for MS. cseward@newsobserver.com

Terry Beal’s office is a bit like her life – packed to the gills with a colorful mixture of the whimsical and the serious, the down-to-business and the downright absurd.

There are waving figurines of the queen of England and a framed USO poster. There’s a mounted box stuffed with concert tickets and a packed old-fashioned Rolodex, as well as countless souvenirs from her varied work as production manager at Capstrat, one of the area’s largest communications companies.

In the hours after work, she’s an avid cyclist, a maker of bottle-top earrings bearing images of Elvis, a NASCAR fan and a doting grandmother. She’s also a serious fundraiser, particularly for area nonprofits devoted to fighting two killer diseases: multiple sclerosis, or MS, and ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

For more than a decade, since her father-in-law died of ALS, Beal has been a key organizer for the Catfish Classic ALS Golf Tournament, which earlier this month netted more than $70,000.

She’s also a co-captain of Team on Draft, a bicycling group that raised more than $90,000 for the Historic New Bern Ride for MS in September. Beal was asked to share her expertise on fundraising through social media at a National MS Society conference earlier this month.

In addition to these major events, she is a longtime supporter of the USO of Raleigh-Durham International Airport and spearheads charity drives within her company. A big music fan, Beal is also active in Band Together, which donates the proceeds of annual concerts to local charities.

Those who know Beal tend to note her boundless energy, and say her larger-than-life personality draws people to the causes she cares about, much as an onlooker might be drawn in to gawk at her overstuffed office.

“Terry is a ball of fire,” says Mandy Wellons, who organizes the annual Historic New Bern Ride for MS. “She has so much energy and so much commitment, and she’s so much fun. At the end of the day, I think that’s why she and her team are so successful. You want to hang out with her.”

Learning from dad

Beal, 58, says her charity work has come to fill the hours she used to spend as soccer games and PTA meetings when her children were young.

“I’m not just going to go home and not do something,” she says.

She credits her father with passing on his outgoing personality, as well as an inclination to put that social energy to use helping others.

He managed hotels and restaurants in Virginia and Florida and was active in charity both through the church and by simply finding ways to help his neighbors.

“It’s built into my DNA,” Beal says. “My dad taught me about taking the time to give back.”

As for her career, her plans were crystal clear by the time she graduated from high school. “Horses were going to be my life,” she says. “But you evolve and change.”

She got her first horse job working for a couple outside of Charlottesville, Va., when she was still in high school. She went on to travel around the country with them, grooming their show horses, and later worked with several other owners.

She went to an equine program at what was then the Southern Seminary for Women. In all, she worked with horses for more than a decade, until she met her husband, Foy, who at the time was a geologist.

Once they were married, she followed him as he traveled to remote locales across the country searching for minerals, including diamonds.

She got a job with the company, and the couple would work 10 days straight and then have five days off, which they would spend camping and fishing. When the mineral business hit a lull, they returned to Foy’s hometown of Raleigh, and he started a new career as an accountant.

‘Heart of gold’

From her first days at Capstrat, she was deeply involved in the company’s charitable giving through an employee group known as the Boomerang Society, which meets once a month to plan charitable activities such as volunteering, raising money for charities, and choosing groups for which they do pro bono communications work.

The Boomerang Society has supported one of Beal’s favorite causes, the USO at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which is the only one on the East Coast that is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. One of Beal’s sons served in Afghanistan; two of her nephews are in the Army.

Her association with ALS arose when her father-in-law died of the disease 15 years ago. She watched the gregarious man experience a painful decline.

“He loved to talk and to be with his family and to eat, and it takes all that away, but your mind is still fine,” she says. “It’s beyond cruel.”

She threw herself into the annual golf tournament, which started the year after he died. Jerry Dawson, who leads the Jim “Catfish” Hunter Chapter of the ALS Association, estimates Beal has given 500 hours to the cause – securing donations of cash and goods, as well as managing volunteers.

“She has a heart of gold and is 100 percent committed to ending ALS,” Dawson says.

Beal got involved with the MS Society after she took up bicycling along area greenways as a hobby. A co-worker talked her into doing longer, more serious rides. She started training, and eventually started riding with a small group of people that would become Team on Draft.

The two founders had connections to MS, and with Beal’s help, the group has expanded quickly, largely through a Meetup.com page that now has 800 members. The first year the group did the New Bern ride, 17 people raised $16,000. This year, 95 riders raised $92,000.

Beal says the group is aiming even higher, with a goal of $100,000 for next year and plans for a new ride in the works. She can’t give details yet, but a piece of that memory will likely find its way to her office walls soon.

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