From the Archives: Summer 2006 Issue of Lupus Now
CIRCLE OF HOPE - Bubbles For Hope
As the president of Master Spas, Bob Lauter is a busy guy. Master Spas is one of the country's largest manufacturers of portable spas and hot tubs. The Fort Wayne, IN-based company has been in business for 80 years. Bob has been the president for the last 10 years, and he worked there for six years before that. In fact, in June 2002 Bob was honored with the prestigious Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year" Award for his contributions to the growth and outreach of Master Spas products.
Little did he know, way back at the beginning, that one day he would be creating a Master Spas fundraising campaign for a disease called lupus.
Lupus struck the Lauter family in 1998 when daughter Lisa, then 22, began having a lot of pain, fatigue, and swelling in her knees. Her general practitioner diagnosed mononucleosis, then strep throat, and finally said it was psychosomatic. Lisa knew that wasn't right. She started keeping a journal of foods she ate, and symptoms she was having: low-grade fevers, spikes in her temperature, unrelenting pain in her fingers, knees, hips and feet, exhausted all the time. Then she read an article in a women's magazine about illnesses doctors commonly misdiagnose in women, and in the part about lupus, she recognized all of her own symptoms.
"I took the article to my doctor," Lisa remembers, "and she said that I couldn't have lupus – I was too young."
After pulling a few strings to get a referral to a rheumatologist, Lisa received her diagnosis. It was an immediate relief to know that there really was something wrong with her.
Several years later, partly because her rheumatologist thought a warm, dry climate might be good for her Raynaud's phenomenon, and also to start a new job, Lisa relocated to Arizona, where she lived for the past seven years. When her job became too stressful, she quit and went back to school, studying music and giving piano lessons. But the lupus remained a constant and two months ago, Lisa and her husband came back to the Indianapolis area to be closer to her parents and other family in Tennessee.
Bubbles for Hope, which began in January of this year, is taking place at nearly three-fourths of the company's 230 domestic dealerships. It is the second lupus awareness campaign that Master Spas has started; they still sell the yellow rubber ducks from their first campaign which was to raise $100,000 in the fight against lupus. With the Bubbles for Hope campaign, dealers are participating by asking customers to make a $10 donation to the lupus research fund at the Lupus Foundation of America. Whether buying a hot tub or spa, a filter or just the purifying chemicals, Master Spas customers are chipping in to show they care.
Says Bob, "As I became more familiar with lupus I realized how serious it can be and how many people suffer from it. Because our dealer network is like a family I felt they would get behind a program to support the LFA."
Lisa has seen this attitude first-hand. "When I meet dealers I don't know, they'll say, 'Oh, you're the daughter with lupus? We've been thinking of you—how are you feeling?'
"My dad is very proactive about making sure the Master Spas dealers are on board with Bubbles for Hope. It's not just because it looks good to raise money for a cause—he's 100 percent behind this, and I'm very appreciative."
Today Lisa lives just a few blocks from her new job as a sales representative at Master Spas. She says her boss, the regional sales manager, understands her need to work just 32 hours per week. In spite of being in a lupus flare after the stress of finding a new house, managing the move, and all the unpacking, Lisa manages to walk to work or home several times a week and practice her yoga every day, and she soaks in her home spa each night. "It really does help tremendously!" she says.
Soaking in spa bubbles may not win the war against lupus, but it's a great way to soothe the aches and pains of the daily battle. And raising money for lupus research may not be the cure-all that Bob would most like for Lisa, but combined with a father's love, it goes a very long way.