SCORE: Karen Dobner, Aurora, approached SCORE in October 2011 for help with her newly formed foundation which needed to be run as a business.
She started To the Maximus Foundation after her son died while using synthetic marijuana for the first time. Max Dobner died June 14, 2011, after he bought a $12 packet of IAroma at the local mall. Within 15 minutes of smoking it, he phoned his older brother saying he was having a panic attack and freaking out. He then got into his car and, driving at speeds over 100 mph, fatally crashed into a house. The drug was legally purchased in Illinois at the time.
Karen’s passion is to educate and bring public attention to the emerging danger of synthetic drugs masquerading as “herbal” or “natural’ highs. Karen also started a blog and newsletter to alert parents and teens to the unpredictable and harrowing effects of smoking or inhaling the chemically sprayed leaves.
"We were lucky enough to be assigned Greg Glassford, Aurora, and Don Mauer, Naperville," Karen said of her SCORE mentors. "Greg has been incredibly resourceful with regard to our social media efforts designed to position ourselves for future funding opportunities. He has continued to help us develop our business plan, which is an ongoing process.
"Don has been very helpful in guiding us through the process of organizing our financial records. His expertise in the subject has helped us to be fiscally responsible and prepared to fulfill our reporting obligations," Karen said.
“The first suggestion we made was to allow us to attend her board of directors meeting,” Greg said. “The Board of Directors was what you would expect from a small grass roots group of friends. We went to work to get more board members who were not connected with Karen.
“With Congressman Randy Hutlgren’s help, Karen’s application for 501c3 status was expedited and she now has that nonprofit designation, which is important for attracting donors."
Meanwhile, Karen Dobner is now considered by many as the advocate who started the movement to make synthetic marijuana illegal. She began at home, and Aurora, Illinois became one of the first cities to outlaw the drug. Surrounding communities followed. Soon Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan became involved and helped pass the Illinois law, which is the toughest in the country.
Karen has achieved national and international exposure. She was on the Today Show after Max’s death and later did a TV show for Japanese TV. She worked with CNBC Crime INC on a show called “A Deadly High”, narrated by Carl Quintanilla. After the CNBC show Karen was contacted by National Geographic’s Drugs, Inc. show and is currently working with them to explain the dangers of the drug. The show is expected to air in late fall 2012 or early spring 2013.
SCORE successes take many forms. But in this case, putting To the Maximus Foundation on a firm business footing has enabled Karen Dobner to work with many states and cities, even members of Congress, to pass legislation outlawing the sale of synthetic marijuana.