NAPLES, Fla. - As a former TV news reporter, Colby Robertson was always looking for a good story — looking to shine light on someone doing positive things for the community.
But it was Robertson, 29, whose community leadership drew attention recently, becoming the first recipient of the Young Professional of the Year award at the 2014 Excellence in Industry Awards held Sept. 12 at the Hilton Naples. The awards have been held for years, but the new category was added to recognize the growing number of young professionals in Southwest Florida.
“The gift that Colby has is that she can be a part of big visions and be very complementary. She does not need to have the spotlight on her. She’s the team player who does not need to be recognized, which is what makes the recognition even more powerful,” said Jill Wheeler, founder of Naples-based Wellfit Institute and a leadership volunteer working with Robertson for nearly a year to offer a new wellness, fitness and empowerment program for at-risk teen girls in Lee and Collier counties.
That’s just one of dozens of nonprofit organizations and endeavors Robertson has contributed to in her short time in Naples, having moved to Collier County in 2011 from a TV station in Wisconsin to become a WINK-TV reporter. Robertson has since left TV and is currently working with MARKIT Group, a Naples-based marketing and public relations firm.
Since moving to Southwest Florida, Robertson has helped raise $16,000 for the David Lawrence Center’s Children’s Crisis Unit. She serves on the board of Girls on the Run of Collier County as the public relations chair; is the silent auction co-chair for the 2014 Love That Dress! Committee benefiting PACE Center for Girls of Immokalee; and is a member of the Impact Initiative of Southwest Florida bringing attention to Lee Memorial Health Systems and the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
She also has supported numerous local charities including the Shelter for Abused Women and Children, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Susan G. Koman Foundation, Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (C’mon), Gulf Coast Runners and the Humane Society Naples.
Trista Meister, a spokeswoman with David Lawrence Center, nominated Robertson for the award, given by the Partnership for Collier’s Future Economy, a partner with the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. Robertson joined the David Lawrence Center Young Executives in 2013, after being introduced to the organization as a reporter.
“Within a short time of getting involved, she has served on the board and became a natural leader and go-getter within the group, bringing her marketing expertise and connections in the community together,” said Meister.
Robertson became known in Southwest Florida through broadcast journalism, but had more opportunities to be involved in the community after leaving TV. Many local nonprofits and particularly the young professionals groups meet in the evenings.
“I worked from 3:30 to 11:30,” Robertson said. “Now, I have a 9 to 5 job and I have an impact on the community.”
The level of commitment she brings to her endeavors is compelling, said Wheeler and others who have worked with Robertson.
“She honors her commitments and follows through gracefully, graciously and kindly,” said Wheeler.
Robertson attributed her passion for community involvement to her mom, Martha Meyers, a C’mon board member. She is passing that passion along to the next generation with her involvement in several organizations serving youth.
As program coordinator for the Peaks Foundation Wellfit Girls Challenge, Robertson described the change she saw in the eighth to 12th grade participants over the course of more than five months in the program that includes fitness, overall wellness and confidence-building.
“You could see the pride and empowerment they felt when they saw they could help other people who had less than them. These are girls who live in trailers here. They learned how empowering it can be to raise money, to know no matter what you have, you can make a difference,” said Robertson.
Robertson is an avid runner. She completed the 2013 Chicago Marathon and the 2014 Big Sur Marathon in California, with plans to complete her third marathon at the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis.
Originally from Minnesota, Robertson attended the University of Miami, frequently visiting Naples where her family maintains a home. She said she intends to make Naples her permanent home after leaving the TV news industry that can keep a young professional moving.
“I always felt attached to Naples,” she said. “This was my happy place.”