There is not one specific person who is responsible for Brian P. Walsh, CLU, ChFC, believing in the importance of giving back. Growing up in his neighborhood in Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania, supporting others was just what you did.
“I think there was just always a sense that you helped people out when you could and as much as you could,” said the 26-year MDRT member from Wayne, Pennsylvania. “Everybody just bands together and does what has to be done, whether for a neighbor who lost a spouse or friends who lost a parent or volunteering for the local fire or EMS department.”
In fact, Walsh, who is the 2021 MDRT Foundation President, did work as a volunteer firefighter, putting out more than 300 fires before he was 18. That was also when an accident left him with third-degree burns on his face, an incident whose recovery and lessons in the following years are captured in vivid, sobering detail in “Beyond the Mask: How My Tragedy Sparked an Incredible Life.”
The memoir, released in July by an imprint of mega-publisher Simon & Schuster, has many impactful passages, some moving, some difficult to read. Yet one line in particular stands out.
It’s about Walsh volunteering to aid anyone he could as a firefighter and not engage in second-guessing or lament challenges or mistakes. But it could just as easily be about his work with the MDRT Foundation, or as an advisor:
“You commit to helping,” he writes, “not to keeping score.”
After all, in both his practice and his work with the MDRT Foundation, Walsh says the length and extent of his success was never intentional. “It was just, ‘Do the right thing every day, and good things will happen,’” he said.
It began in the mid-’90s, not long after Walsh first became a member, at the MDRT Annual Meeting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A presenter whose teenage son had died in a skiing accident spoke about how he and his wife had made the decision to donate their child’s organs, and then spoke about gathering as many recipients of those organs as possible for a dinner at his house.
“It was very compelling, very heartfelt, very personal,” Walsh remembered. “That’s when I decided to get involved in the Foundation.”
Yet that involvement didn’t go beyond financial support until a few years later when eventual MDRT Foundation President Mitchell Wm. Ostrove, CLU, ChFC, a 52-year MDRT member from White Plains, New York, encouraged Walsh to do more. Walsh said he wanted to be “as involved as they’ll have me.” That led to committee work, serving on the Board of Trustees, more committee work and then the path to the leadership position he now holds.
“The whole situation is such a great opportunity,” Walsh said of the MDRT Foundation. “Every service project is inspirational, and the camaraderie that’s built — the members working together for a common cause that has nothing to do with anything other than giving back — goes a long way.”
The most impactful service project for Walsh took place at Give Kids the World in Orlando, Florida, in 2017. Working in that community and seeing the resilience, joy and gratitude from kids facing terminal illnesses, he said, left a lasting impression on every member involved.
Of course, being involved is part of who Walsh is. He remains involved with the volunteer firefighter service (though not as a firefighter) and has served as president for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Eastern Pennsylvania. He has also sponsored grants for the Family Support Line of Delaware County Inc., which helps abused women and children in a county that does not have a health department.
Looking back on his time with the MDRT Foundation, Walsh notes the increases in grant money given out, with the goal always being to give more. “I don’t think our impact has changed; if anything, it’s changed to help more people globally than ever before,” he said. “I think we try and increase the amount of money we’re giving away and allow our members to be impactful any way they see fit in their local communities.”
That maximizing is why Walsh does not have an ideal client, instead working strictly by referral to connect with anyone who needs help with insurance, investments and retirement. It’s why all three of his children have volunteered with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as well. And it’s why he at last turned his experience and insights about character, compassion and overcoming adversity into a book to expand the impact made when he shared his story in 2005 on the MDRT Annual Meeting Main Platform in New Orleans, Louisiana.
You may want to track down that presentation on the Resource Zone. Maybe you want to read the book. Or maybe you’ll just finally apply for a grant. Because Walsh, who is nothing if not a representative for continuous growth and gratitude, knows that once you start, you won’t stop:
“As far as getting people involved in the grant program, it’s the same thing we deal with in our business every day: We have to stay persistent,” he said. “Once they get involved, they catch the bug of how awesome it is to give back and help out in their communities and build camaraderie with their fellow members.”