“I think all roads have led me to The RYR-1 Foundation.” – Mr. John Gallo.
Serving as the inaugural Executive Director of The RYR-1 Foundation, John Gallo brings to the organization over 30 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector with master’s degrees in organizational leadership and an MBA. John’s journey to The RYR-1 Foundation began in the early 1990s as a social worker in Pittsburgh working in foster care. John then moved into county government for six years as the Special Services Coordinator for the Beaver County Office on Aging. “I learned quite a bit about how communities are interconnected and how the needs for services are often greater than the care government agencies can provide,” Mr. Gallo said. During this time, John pursued his first master’s degree in organizational leadership and got a taste for wanting to serve in a larger, more administrative capacity. According to John, “I remember walking by the executive director one day and looking in his office as he was pouring over spreadsheets. He told me to come in and showed me the budget for the organization. I began to see how being more behind-the-scenes in an administrative role could allow me to affect more people through the effective use of those resources than the direct care work I had been doing.”
This experience led John to his first executive director role taking over a small nonprofit, Economic Development Corporation, in Beaver Falls, PA, in 1999. “Just spending time seeing how small communities were attempting to rebound in Western Pennsylvania from the steel mill collapse helped impress upon me that working in the nonprofit sector is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time, resources, and commitment to lead community-wide turnarounds.” During this time, John also began teaching at a local college in the evenings. This experience gave John a taste of higher education and ultimately led him to become the Director of Traditional Admissions at Bluefield College in Bluefield, VA, in 2003. Missing family and support in Pennsylvania, John and his family moved back to the area in 2005. John immediately went back into the private nonprofit sector, becoming the Executive Director of Healthy Home Resources Inc., a small nonprofit children’s health and wellness organization in Pittsburgh’s South Side.
According to Mr. Gallo, “There was much to do at Healthy Home Resources. The organization had essentially been idle for about a year and a half, and it needed significant board development, fundraising, strategic planning, and programming. It was the equivalent of a house remodel and gave me great experience in organizational change.”
When John’s alma mater, Geneva College, asked him to serve as a Program Director for Human Resources and Organizational Development in 2007, John couldn’t pass up the opportunity. John said, “Geneva gave me two college degrees; it’s where I met my wife. We even had our wedding reception in the dining hall! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give back to something that had given me so much then.” Over the next 16 years, John would serve Geneva College faithfully, being promoted twice, first to Director of Online Studies in 2011, and then to become the inaugural Dean of Adult and Online Programs in 2014. In John’s tenure, he developed a full-fledged online program, consolidated underperforming departments, and even outsourced enrollment and marketing efforts. In addition to his administrative efforts, John taught in the classroom to such acclaim that he was awarded the distinguished Excellence in Education Award (“Teacher of the Year”) in 2012. “That award means so much to me because traditional students voted on it, and I was the first faculty member that worked in adult and nontraditional education ever to receive it,” Mr. Gallo said.
In 2023, faced with budget deficits and enrollment challenges institution-wide resulting from the pandemic, John’s position was eliminated. “I faced an existential crisis. I knew that higher ed is a declining field, and my history has been to go from higher ed back into more traditional nonprofit organizations. I did it once when I moved back from Virginia. I thought the time was right to do it again.”
It was then that John found The RYR-1 Foundation. “The mission is what compelled me. Pulling from all my different experiences and backgrounds and serving this organization for such a worthy cause reignited a passion and desire once again in me that had probably been dormant for a while.”
John also saw an affinity for RYR-1-related diseases (RYR-1-RD) families with his own experience as a parent of a child with Down Syndrome. Mr. Gallo states, “Even though I know that Down Syndrome is very different from RYR-1-RD, as a parent, I know what it’s like to try to find answers and get the right support for a genetic condition. Down Syndrome research is vast, and still my wife and I sometimes felt alone even with the plethora of resources. Knowing that RYR-1-RD are rarer and with much less visibility and attention, means families affected must feel 100x more isolated and lost than I ever did…that moves me.”
John looks forward to serving The RYR-1 Foundation and helping usher it into a new growth period. “It’s a young organization, but has already funded significant research and development. It has an incredibly committed and capable staff, and I felt I could help this organization propel forward. It feels like all my roads have led me to the RYR-1-RD community!”