Ours is a nation of dreamers. We grow up believing that just about anything is possible. But dreams change along the journey of life, as we discover new opportunities and face unforeseen challenges. That’s where insurance comes into play.
We visited the Zimnys of Lockport, Ill., to hear their compelling story of how Russell Zimny pursued the American Dream of family, home and business. It’s a real-life illustration of how dynamic dreams are … we start out in full pursuit of a dream, only to find our perspectives shift, our dreams change or we encounter obstacles along the way.
Across our 19 operating states, American Family helped preserve our customers’ dreams with anticipated payments of $3.4 billion for claims occurring in 2012. That amount included $840.6 million for damage caused by storms, tornadoes and wildfires.
We also marked our 85th anniversary with the opening of DreamBank, a place dedicated to the inspiration, celebration and protection of dreams for individuals, families and the community in our hometown of Madison, Wis.
Late in the year, we expanded our family with the acquisition of Permanent General, a group of companies that writes direct non-standard auto insurance. Permanent General is successful and growing, and the addition improves our ability to meet our diverse customer needs and preferences.
Our customers like the changes we’ve implemented in recent years – customer satisfaction and customer loyalty measures are at record highs. We will continue to refine our products and services, and we’ll also start serving customers in new parts of the country.
It’s an exciting time in our family, and we’re so grateful you trust us to protect your dreams.
Editor’s note: You can read the stories – and the financial reports – from our 2012 Annual Report on our website.
I’ve known since a very young age that awareness and inclusion are not always easily obtained. I’ve also learned it’s the people you surround yourself with who can make all the difference in the world.
At American Family, I was so excited to see awareness and inclusion as an objective of my work group, and I knew I wanted to take part. What we have accomplished has brought such joy, valuable information and personal fulfillment to me that it’s difficult to put into words.
You see, I have been personally involved with the issue of inclusion. I have an adult son who received a brain injury in 1984, which left him with physical and mental challenges. We have endured many hurdles, as well as triumphs, along the way.
One of those triumphs has been our involvement with Special Olympics. We have a wonderful support system that is like family at home in Sun Prairie, Wis. But I also have my work family here.
On Feb. 9, I was a first-time jumper in Madison’s Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics. While looking at some of the other team members, I found a co-worker, Brandon Gingher, who is a four-time plunger. He told me, “The rewarding feeling of raising money for such a great cause far outweighs the shocking feel of the icy-cold water. It’s a great adrenaline rush, and a great accomplishment to share with others!”
So I sent requests for donations to Special Olympics to family, friends, coworkers, and past and present managers, as part of the Polar Plunge. I was overwhelmed and humbled by their generosity. We have so many caring people with big hearts here at American Family, and I am so grateful to all of them, and so proud to say I work here. I was able to raise $2,200 for Special Olympics Wisconsin!
I can tell you the jump was indeed an amazing and exhilarating adventure and one I will be doing again! (See the photos of Anita on this page – in the gray T-shirt – before the jump with her team and on her way into the icy waters!)
This event proved to me the inclusion and awareness we strive to create at American Family. Brandon and I were proud to be “freezin’ for a reason.”
I brought home a seven-week-old adorable golden retriever puppy about two and a half years ago, and began a volunteer opportunity that would forever change my life. Eli (shown in the photo here), who I named after the quarterback Eli Manning, was one of 11 puppies from a litter who would go on to be trained to live with, and assist, an individual in a wheelchair.
Helping Paws is an organization in Hopkins, Minn. It began 25 years ago and has trained and placed more than 400 dogs. Its mission is to further the independence of people with disabilities through the use of service dogs.
When I decided to pursue becoming a trainer, I was interviewed by Helping Paws and they told me training a future service dog would be a big commitment. I had no experience, but I was sure this was something I wanted to do. I attended classes with Eli at Helping Paws every week and worked with him every day for the next two and a half years.
During the time Eli was with me, he learned to open doors, turn light switches off and on, pick up things that were dropped and even take clothes out of the dryer! We learned how to do these things each week at class. He loved to work, and was always eager to please.
Once a service dog is placed with an individual, it goes everywhere with its new owner. It was important for Eli to start going everywhere with me as part of his training.
I approached American Family about bringing Eli to work with me, and it was agreed I could give it a try, although this was something that had never been done before. I had to go through a process with Human Resources and my manager, Penny Dietz. She and my work group were very supportive, and before long, Eli had become a beloved member of our subrogation department! He was happy to lie under my desk and pick up things I dropped – on purpose – for practice.
Eli has graduated and was placed in October with a man who was injured in a diving accident and attends the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis. They have formed a great bond and are doing really well. The practice Eli had lying under my desk he now uses at college.
One of the things I have learned in talking with people who get service dogs is how much they enhance their lives. Not only are they getting a new best friend but they also feel like they are once again visible in society. Many people have told me that before they had their service dog, people were afraid to approach them or talk to them. With a dog by their side, they were more approachable and felt like a part of society again.
I want to thank American Family for allowing Eli to come to work with me. It was a win-win situation on many levels and I hope others will consider this very rewarding volunteer experience.
In the Midwest, we look forward to the first weekend during the winter when the high temperature reaches 60 degrees. After a cold winter, it’s the first taste of spring.
Feb. 1, 2003, was one of those days. I was 17 years old, the starting quarterback for the football team, my school’s No. 1 golfer and a bench warmer on the varsity basketball team. Life couldn’t get any better. That warm February day, was also the beginning of a long journey for me. That morning I was in a tree-trimming accident that left me paralyzed from the t-9 vertebrate (belly button area) down to my feet.
Lucky for me, that was the only complication I had from the fall. Yes, I was left paralyzed, but it could have been much worse.
As time went on, I got back into my usual routine. I graduated from high school, started college and was hired by American Family as a temporary employee. After graduating from college, I was fortunate enough to get a Personal Lines underwriter position.
For the most part, I lived like I did before I was paralyzed. I had enough energy for two people and nothing could hurt me or slow me down. Eventually, the long days caught up with me and I developed a bed sore from sitting in my wheelchair.
I ended up having two surgeries and had to lie in bed for 106 days before the doctor would let me resume a normal life. From the beginning of April through August of 2010, I was in my parent’s basement in a special bed and thought about all the ways I was going to prevent this setback from happening again.
After six months of being back to work, I needed something different. I was tired of going home and lying down for hours when I spent all day at my desk working at my computer. There had to be a way for me to be pressure-free or close to pressure-free while working.
I talked to my manager, Lee O’Brien, about the possibility of getting a stand-up workstation. I know … you may be thinking, “Tyler, you’re paralyzed. How are you going to stand at work when you haven’t moved your legs in almost nine years?”
The answer is a standing frame. Environment and Safety Analyst Dan Coleman, thought it was a great idea and found one. The frame and workstation work great! The standing frame helps prevent the pressure sores. It also increases blood flow to my legs, reduces back pain and makes the bones in my legs stronger. I went from sitting eight hours a day to standing for six.
Now that I stand most of the day, I am able to do fun recreational activities after work such as hunting, fishing and exercising, activities I had to cut back on drastically while always sitting down at work.
I can’t thank American Family enough for what they have done. The standing frame is truly a life saver and has given me my life back.
Editor’s note: American Family Insurance received an award in October 2012 from Midland Empire Resources for Independent Living in St. Joseph, Mo., for finding a solution that helps Tyler Rohr work in a more comfortable workstation.
I have always liked helping people.
That's one of the main reasons I've enjoyed working for the past 12 years in American Family’s claims area, where we help customers at times when they need it most.
It also has been a big motivating factor in my 14 years of service in the U.S. Army. I've been deployed in Iraq, which was a very dangerous and trying experience, to say the least. I’ve also served in Kuwait. Whether abroad or in the states, I've always made sure I did a good job taking care of my fellow soldiers.
In short, I like the fact that people rely on me, and that I can be there for them.
So, it has meant a lot to me that American Family has been there for me, too, especially in connection with my military service. The company and my colleagues have been very supportive when I’ve gone on military leave, and have welcomed me with open arms when I returned.
But one of the biggest honors came recently, when the company invited me and Alex Barajas, a senior research analyst at American Family (who appears to the left of me in the accompanying picture), to attend the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game, sponsored by American Family. For me, the experience was amazing and eye-opening. We were among thousands of military personnel who watched the nation’s elite high school football players compete in an exciting east-west matchup. American Family also recognized our service in many different ways throughout a warm and welcoming weekend that culminated with on-field recognition during a very moving pre-game ceremony.
Additionally, American Family Executive Vice President Peter Gunder presented a special award to an outstanding defensive player, and another award honoring a family for strongly supporting one of its family members who is a top musician in a high school marching band.
During the past several years, I have had more than a couple people thank me for my service and wish me the best. I smiled and thanked them for their kind words because I didn’t really know how to handle it. I have come to see that what I have done through my service is not just unique and rare, but appreciated and honored.
I am grateful for this incredible opportunity and experience, and proud to work for a company that protects dreams of customers, high school students and other community members, and people like me.
Editors Note: For a closer look at American Family’s support of John Neppl, Alex Barajas and other employees who serve in the military, watch this video from our YouTube channel.
American Family is a past recipient of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserves.