2020—a Year I Will Never Forget

The year started as the best of times—Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals had just celebrated the most successful year ever, raising more than $444 million in critical funds for children’s hospitals. We were soaring into 2020 with a massive wind in our sails and high hopes for another great year of changing kids’ health to change the future.

It quickly shifted to the worst of times when, in February 2020, our CEO passed away unexpectedly from a tragic cycling accident. And at that moment, I moved from thinking about the tasks we needed to accomplish to caring for our people. We needed to come together and share our experiences, talk about what had happened, and what our beloved CEO meant to each of us. It turned out to be the beginning of the healing process for everyone. Little did we know what the near future would hold.

A month later, the pandemic began spreading into the United States. The stay-at-home orders started to take hold. Two days into working from home, we experienced a 5.1 magnitude earthquake very close to our corporate headquarters. We had to quickly begin making big decisions that would significantly impact our ability to achieve our mission. I leaned heavily on my colleagues on the executive team, our senior leadership team, and our board and network members. Together we gathered the best information possible to help us make good decisions. We canceled our annual conferences and began planning virtual activities. Many of our major multimillion-dollar fundraising campaigns were canceled or postponed. We quickly moved to virtual or digital platforms for many of our efforts. And we all learned to conduct our work on Zoom.

As I reflect now on how my leadership style changed, I learned to adapt quickly, get comfortable with uncertainty, and still be fully present in the moment. Frequent communication with our organization projected calmness and reassurance for everyone concerned, which in turn, maintained enough stability to keep our organization going during the pandemic year. From the beginning, I shifted from worrying about the pandemic’s impact on our fundraising to the well-being of our employees, hospitals, and partners.

Through all of this, I reaffirmed that caring about others in times of crisis is what really binds us together and, interestingly, moves business forward.