Powerful Men, Positive Impact
For David Ralls, it’s all about family and paying it forward.
Ralls started his advertising and marketing firm, Commit Agency, 21 years ago with his stepmother and mentor, Elaine Ralls. It has grown into one of the largest and most influential agencies in the Valley, garnering a number of accolades over the years including the Chandler Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Business of the Year.
“I wanted to be in a business that allowed me to help other businesses,” David says. “By far the most rewarding thing I do is working with my talented team to make a meaningful difference in support of our clients’ success.”
But more than work interests him. Personally, Ralls dedicates time and resources to various community organizations like ICAN, Chandler Compadres, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix and others. Additionally, his agency supports numerous projects that benefit Chandler nonprofits.
Ralls and his wife, Deborah, moved to Chandler in 2000, searching for a city that was comprised of great schools and neighborhoods that were true communities. They were so pleased that Ralls moved Commit to downtown Chandler in 2015.
The Ralls have two sons, William, 13 and Jackson, 10. By being selfless community contributors, Ralls wants his and his wife’s examples to have a lasting impact on their children.
“Speaking from experience, life is a lot more fulfilling when you live a life of service to your community,” he says. “As a father of two boys, it is important to me that they learn that giving is more rewarding than receiving. My hope is that they lead their life with a commitment to serving their community and they pass that spirit of service on to their children. That would be a great legacy to leave.” —GY
When he was 12, Jon Melby saw professional airshow pilot Bob Hoover perform. It inspired him to pursue a career as a pilot and, ultimately, he became a professional airshow pilot in 2002. He is also a U.S. Air Force veteran and VFW member.
Performing in front of over 3 million people this year, Melby loves meeting fans of all ages, especially kids and young adults.
“The ultimate reward is when they email me or see me in person and thank me for encouraging them to pursue their dreams,” Melby says. “I know that I am making a difference in an often very difficult world.”
Melby also channels his experiences by helping others overcome their fears through his Fear Boss podcasts.
“I believe with my background in Air Force Special Ops and as a pro pilot, I need to help people overcome fears in their lives,” he says. He provides specific training such as “Fear of Flying,” “Fear of Failure” and “Fear of the Unknown” to help people overcome any fear that debilitates them.
When he’s not working on his podcasts, airshows or at his full-time day job as an IT manager, Melby makes sure to spend quality time with his wife and family.
“In my opinion, if the family nucleus is not balanced then everything else becomes unbalanced,” he says. —GY
Jeremy McClymonds was raised in a family that taught three truths: Family first, service second, and proper financial and retirement planning third.
Today, as a financial advisor, McClymonds is proud to meet one of those truths by offering financial and retirement planning for his clients and guiding them to financial prosperity.
He also donates a large portion of his time to serving the Chandler community. This includes serving as a board member of the Chandler Compadres, an organization committed to raising funds for local children’s charities; serving as past president and current board member of the Kiwanis Chandler Young Professionals and the Chandler Chamber of Commerce; and board member of Chandler Parks and Recreation.
“Find a cause you’re passionate about then give your time and energy unconditionally,” he says. “If you truly love the cause it will not feel like work and the outcome will be more rewarding.”
“I have a strong desire for Chandler to be a stellar city for my grandkids to thrive in throughout their lives, so I give back as much as I can. I believe children and commerce are the lifeblood of all communities; children are the key to the future and commerce drives the community.” —AS
To say that Miguel Fernandez has a full plate is an understatement.
For the past five years, Fernandez has served as the volunteer faculty/liaison for student veterans at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, advising military veterans who are starting or returning to college on how to succeed and get the most out of their college experience and GI Bill benefits. He has presented at many conferences and workshops in Chandler and throughout the country on how colleges and faculty can best serve their military connected students and families.
He also volunteers his time extensively in Chandler, including at Chandler’s Operation Backpack, Project Humanities’ Service Saturdays, ICAN’s Stuffed with Love and at Project Hermanas at CGCC, which helps girls in the sixth through 12th grades get exposure to STEM opportunities and choices.
Fernandez says volunteering locally is key. When someone sees the impact of a few hours on their immediate community, they understand the value of being a good citizen.
“A year hasn’t gone by in my 11 years of teaching college in Chandler when some former student hasn’t returned to share some joy with me, or to regroup, seek advice and re-find strength to try something new or go further in their lives,” he says. —AS
Frank Narducci says he was inspired to become an educator because no other profession has a more profound influence on a child’s life.
“We do this through forging quality relationships with our students and families, creating classroom environments that promote integrity and respect, and by providing each student with opportunities to take ownership of their learning while scaffolding their challenges at the point of discovery,” Narducci says.
He also feels strongly that children must “LAFF” every day in school. “Students need to feel Loved, they need to Achieve, they must experience Freedom of choice and they must experience Fun in the environment where they learn,” he says.
Throughout his years working in the field of education, including his current role in the Chandler Unified School District, Narducci has definitely achieved his goal of putting the needs of children first.
In one of his nominations, it states, “He is a tireless advocate for children, always putting their safety, needs, education, concerns before all else—even though it might not be the popular choice.”
Narducci also takes great pride in mentoring teachers that have chosen a career in education and spends a great deal of time outside of his normal work hours to give back to the community.
He committed to continuing the work he is doing to ensure that the children of Chandler have an “amazing home-to-school connection” and to provide children with high-quality learning in classrooms that allow them to become problem solvers and creative thinkers.
“Being in education for the past 36 years has taught me many things. One being that we must built resiliency in our youth while at the same time using strategies and methods that build empathy and social-emotional connections,” he says. —AS
His business may involve maneuvering in the fast lane, but Jason Bondurant understands that life is more about balance than speed.
Following in his famous father Bob’s footsteps, Bondurant dedicates his time and resources to many charitable efforts including Childhelp, Healing Hearts, Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Barrow Neurological Institute—for which Bondurant opens his track up for a day so that paraplegic and quadriplegic patients can drive a car outfitted with hand and food controls.
“You want a good smile and cry? Then come and see what joy those days are filled with,” Bondurant says. “Volunteer work is how to give back to your community with love and energy, not everything has to be where you write a check. For example, helping with local little league sports by coaching, being a referee or just setting up cones does more than you think.”
Bondurant’s family business celebrates its 50th birthday this year and he aims to take it on a spin for another 50. As the premier driver-training destination, the school is for everyone, from racing professionals to daily commuters who want to become more proficient behind the wheel.
“Getting letters and photos of an accident that looks horrible but the driver survived (because of) the skills they learned here at the school is something words cannot describe,” he says. —GY
For Randy Walters, owner of Wimpy’s Paradise, life is all about what’s reflected in three H’s: hamburgers, hot dogs and hugs.
The first two reflect what’s on his restaurant’s menu. The last reflects why he has so many fans.
When Wimpy’s first opened as Pittsburgh Willy’s in 2008, Walters found an opportunity to share his passion for showing love and giving comfort to others with the most basic yet powerful of interactions—a hug! All while realizing his dream of opening a hot dog joint like his father did back in 1939.
In 2013, the tradition continued when Wimpy’s moved into its current spot in Downtown Chandler. A sign outside even advertises the famous free hugs.
Why Chandler? “Because next to my hometown of Monongahela, Pa., it’s the greatest town in America!” he says.
Providing quality food and service while making time to have that human connection with consumers satisfies Walters’ desire to feed their souls and stomachs. He talks about two people who were contemplating suicide. They read about his hugs policy and came to Wimpy’s for one last effort to find that connection. They did.
“Those interactions profoundly validated the power of simple acts of kindness,” Walters says. —GY
When he’s not hard at work at Ginger Monkey, the Chandler bar and restaurant that he co-owns, Jackson Armstrong can be found making a difference throughout Chandler.
“I do a lot with Hamilton High School,” Armstrong says, adding that he was inspired to assist when he learned that one of every four students in the Chandler Unified School District is homeless. “That just blew my mind when I heard that.”
Whether it is hosting fundraisers to benefit Chandler schools, donating catering services to various charitable causes or allowing restaurant space to be used for worthy events, Armstrong rarely says no.
Lately, he has been finding needs in the community and finding creative ways to fill them. When the community noticed there were limited options for mother-son dances on Valentine’s Day, he hosted one. When students were off during the recent teacher strike, Ginger Monkey offered discounted meals and “game days” to help keep parents and children busy.
Described by those who nominated him as someone who is “an incredible guy that strives to make a difference,” Armstrong says he is happy to assist however he can.
“I’m blessed to be able to help,” he says. —AS
In the spring of 1988, Captain Patrick Lynch went to the president of then-America West Airlines, Mike Conway, and asked if he could take some combat veterans to see the new Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day. Conway said yes, and Operation Freedom Bird was launched.
Over the last 30 years, Lynch, a decorated Vietnam veteran and retired American Airlines captain, has helped hundreds of fellow veterans visit the Vietnam Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Iwo Jima Memorial and 9-11 Memorial at the Pentagon. For the past 19 years, Southwest Airlines has donated the needed seats for this healing journey.
“These veterans all suffer from PTSD or grief/loss issues and are currently in counseling,” says Lynch, adding that during the four-day trip, the veterans attend group-counseling sessions.
“As the years go by, we see the need for veterans and their families to heal from the traumas of war. Through the years I’ve seen many vets change their lives and move on,” he says. “When we get off that plane and the families see the difference in their veterans—the hugs, tears and happiness— it’s overwhelming.” —AS
The long hours as the assistant general manager of a large and busy vehicle dealership would keep most people’s schedules packed from sunrise to dusk. But Brett Henkel finds the time to balance his professional obligations with community service contributions inspired by his personal drive to make a difference to those in need.
Henkel’s extensive involvement with ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth was inspired by the association his employer, Chris Hoeye, and his family had with the organization.
ICAN is a free youth center in Chandler that serves at-risk teens, families and the community. Prevention programming teaches disadvantaged youth real-life skills that help them avoid the risky behaviors that are prevalent in today’s society. Parenting classes and substance abuse education are also part of its services.
“Once I became involved with ICAN and saw first-hand what they do day-in and day-out for the youth here in Chandler, I was so impressed that I felt like I needed to help out in any way that I could,” says Henkel, who serves as ICAN’s chair of the board of directors.
Henkel has also been active with the ALS Association Arizona Chapter as a volunteer and donor. After losing his mother to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis five years ago, Henkel has been even more committed to supporting others who struggle with the disease. One of his efforts is a walk that raises thousands of dollars for the cause each year.
A Valley native and University of Arizona graduate, Henkel, his wife CeCe and their three children make it a priority to give back to the community.
“No matter how many you reach, you always want to reach one more and have a positive impact on their lives,” he says. —GY
INTRO AND GROUP SHOT
For the second month in a row, I wish our magazine could be 100 pages! Nominations for our Men of Chandler feature were solicited through the magazine, social media and word-of-mouth because we wanted to feature men our readers thought were special. The nominating criteria remained loose because we were looking for men from a broad cross-section of our community and our editorial committee once again had a difficult task making the selections. I only wish we could have included more!
These guys were found everywhere—on the racetrack, in the skies, in restaurants, in our schools—building businesses. All donating their talents, time and/or money to make a difference in our great community. Every one of these men show great pride for Chandler and work in simple ways to make it a better place.
I’m sure you will run into one of these guys—or several of them—when you are out-and-about. Be sure to say “hello” because, after all, Chandler is the best small town there is!