FLORENCE—Samantha Bertini will be a ninth grader at Ludlow High School in the fall. A seasoned wrestler, she weighs in at 97 pounds and is a few inches shy of five feet, yet she frequently champions even in the boy’s division and was the recent title winner in the 40th annual Bay State Games Wrestling Competition.
Samantha excels because she has access to broad athletic opportunity and knows how to overcome barriers with dedication.
Likewise, Emma Boyer-Martinez, a 7-year-old poised to enter a second-grade classroom at E. N. White School in Holyoke in the fall, lives with disabilities that make some activities more difficult for her. She loves horses and riding and takes part in therapeutic lessons that help her build strength and balance, pushing past the fears she sometimes has about falling from on high.
Both Samantha and Emma are featured in a new brand commercial Florence Bank will soon launch to raise awareness about access and inclusion and to inspire and encourage community members to overcome barriers and offer an assist to those who might need one.
Over a dozen local residents are featured in the spot, including a man who relies on a wheelchair and caretakers to access opportunity, and seniors and people of different ethnicities. Also featured in the commercial are several local nonprofits, such as the Therapeutic Riding Center in Holyoke, where Emma takes lessons, and All Out Adventures in Northampton, which promotes community health and independence for people with disabilities through outdoor recreation.
“I think the ad will resonate,” said Lisette Martinez of Holyoke, Emma’s mother. “The theme is something a lot of people can relate to, and I think it’s a great theme to focus on. There’s not just one way to be a strong person. What an important message.”
Florence Bank President and CEO Kevin Day said bank staff homed in on the idea for the ad after seeing so many people in the Valley staying strong, pushing through adversity and overcoming challenges, particularly in the past few years.
“In this year’s brand campaign, we decided to celebrate the overcomers—those who inspire us by their achievements, despite the challenges they face every day,” he said. “The campaign highlights that spirit and reinforces the idea that access and inclusion are essential in a community, and that even when life can be hard, we can be inspired to rise above.”
In addition to the 30-second television commercial, the campaign will be supported by radio, billboards and social media. In keeping with the bank’s brand, the new ad features custom music drawing on elements from the original Florence Bank “Always” score and also incorporates a fresh new style.
“The song is upbeat and happy, just like the people in the Valley,” said Monica Curhan, senior vice president / marketing director at the bank. “Even though life isn’t always easy, we can still experience joy and find something to sing about.”
James Soffen of Ludlow, Samantha’s stepfather, said Samantha has been wrestling since kindergarten and currently trains at five area gyms, including Team Link Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Ludlow, where Samantha’s section of the ad was filmed.
He said Samantha is drawn to learning and “being able to do things that most people can’t.” Taking part in the ad offered an opportunity for her to showcase her drive and ability to overcome the odds.
“I appreciate the theme of the commercial and think it’s great for the community to see what other people are capable of, and, hopefully, it will help others in their personal struggles,” Soffen added.
Martinez said Emma rides with three other children at the equestrian center, and there are volunteers who help offer the mix of physical and occupational therapy.
Emma said, “It’s fun to learn something new, and there’s only a little bit of scariness. One time, I almost fell off my horse, and then I caught myself.” She loves interacting with the horses and agrees with her mother that the lessons help her build confidence.
All Out Adventures is also about building self-assurance, in part by creating access to outdoor activities for people with disabilities and their family members and friends. Karen Foster, executive director, said the nonprofit helps people go cycling, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, snowshoeing, hiking, ice skating and cross-country skiing.
“One of our goals as an organization is to break down barriers to participation and recreation, and one barrier is that people don’t think it’s possible for them because most advertising and imagery we see of people taking part in outdoor recreation features younger and able-bodied people,” Foster said.
She appreciates that the Florence Bank ad portrays roughly a dozen of the organization’s participants cycling through the Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park. “That helps to change the perception of what’s possible,” she said. “Celebrating inclusion is so powerful and so important, and I’m really invested in that.”
To view Florence Bank’s new commercial, visit FlorenceBank.com or search for “Florence Bank” on YouTube after August 22.