Growing up in a selfless family with deep military roots, a commitment to service was instilled in Ray Damm early on. This commitment led him on a journey to find his passion in mission-driven work, bringing him to Arizona, and ultimately ACCEL.
Coming from a family with more than 100 years of combined military service with his grandfather, father and two uncles all serving, Ray Damm lived in about a dozen states growing up, almost exclusively on military bases.
In 2007, he graduated from The University of Virginia-Wise with a degree in business administration. After graduation, he made his way to Miami to pursue a career in the luxury magazine industry that eventually led to a stint in New York City.
While living there, Damm was exposed to the harsh realities of the real world – for the first time.
“I saw so many homeless people living on the street that I found myself becoming desensitized to the fact that people were sleeping on the corner, just trying to survive,” says Damm. “Homelessness like this doesn’t typically exist in this capacity on a military base, so this was really my first experience witnessing people in misfortune.”
In 2008, at just 22-years-old, Damm quit his job in the publishing industry – during the height of the Great Recession.
“I spent the next several months soul-searching, really looking for my true calling,” says Damm. “It may not have been the smartest decision financially, but taking that risk helped propel me into the mission-driven work I was craving.”
In 2009, Damm came across The Doe Fund, a nonprofit and social enterprise that offers transitional work and training programs for men coming out of the prison system and homeless shelters and found his true calling – the nonprofit sector.
“The nonprofit sector was exactly what I had been looking for,” says Damm. “I started working on the business side and applying my experience to create opportunities and programs for these men who wanted a second chance at life.”
In 2015, after completing his MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, Damm took on a new role with a struggling organization, eager to be a part of its turnaround efforts.
In 2016, opportunity came knocking to relocate to Arizona to be a part of a nonprofit educational organization. Damm packed up and moved across the country to Phoenix to work with ACCEL, serving children and adults who have developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, cognitive disabilities and behavioral disorders.
After two years of serving as both the chief financial officer and chief development officer, Damm was chosen in 2018 to lead ACCEL as its chief executive officer, succeeding the previous CEO of 25 years, Connie Laird.
“My driving force in life is to continue finding ways to serve others and raise the standard of care for individuals who have developmental disabilities,” says Damm. “All individuals – regardless of ability level – deserve a life of dignity and self-worth, and ACCEL does everything in our power to help them achieve it.”
For more, visit www.accel.org.