Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Igniting a Spark of Caring

Unconditional kindness moves me.  Random acts of sincere kindness with no ulterior motivation inspires me.  I am fortunate to work at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton where acts of true caring and compassion are a daily occurrence.  It is impossible to work here and not see something that encourages the heart.  I think this is where nonprofit organizations shine their brightest light.  The ability to do good simply because it is the right thing to do is what generates followers.  Yes, I am a passionate advocate of social media, direct mail, digital story-telling, but when it comes right down to it, people support organizations they care about.  Their caring often starts with just that one simple act of kindness that sticks with them forever.  And in just about every case, that comes from a very real, sincere, unconditional demonstration of kindness between two people.

Yesterday, I witnessed something at Dayton Children's that just made me sit back and smile very proudly.  I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to see one of those moments that is so meaningful and inspiring that I've not been able to get it out of my head.  Dayton Children's has an extraordinary corps of volunteers.  More than 600 men and women, from the ages of 15 to 95, come to work at the hospital because they care about this place and our children and their families.  I want to share with you a story about one of our volunteers:  Jamie Hanna.

To begin with, Jamie is one of those women you just like to be around.  She lights up the room with her smile and her laugh. She makes people feel great all the time and she never has an unkind word to say.  (Yes, folks, those people really do exist!).  Jamie has been a long-time member of the TWIG Auxiliary and can always be counted on to step up and help. In fact, this year she is the co-chair of the Gem City Jam Golf Outing -- shameless plug here: the best golf outing in the Dayton area that takes place August 23.  Jamie  has volunteered for years in The Spot Shop, a wonderful gift shop at the hospital.  She is well known at the hospital by our staff, primarily because she goes out of her way to just be an awesome person.  We all love Jamie and appreciate her amazing spirit. Her photo is below with another amazing volunteer, Sue Labatsky. Jamie has the green boa on.

A few weeks ago, Jamie's husband, Jack had emergency quintuple bypass surgery.  It was a fluke that they even found out about the heart blockages.  Jack is just as special as Jamie.  He works hard professionally and he's always there to back Jamie up.  Jack has probably lugged more trees for Sugarplum Festival of Trees, sold more raffle tickets, toted silent auction packages, spotted hole-in-one-contests than any man I  know.  Jamie's the official volunteer but Jack is the extra bonus prize.  We were all devastated to learn of Jack's heart attack but fortunately he is on the mend and he made a foray to Dayton Children's yesterday.

I was eating lunch with several development staff members when Jamie came over to our table to visit. We all had a good laugh and suddenly, Jamie's eyes just lit up even more so than usual.  Up walked Renae Phillips, the Dayton Children's Vice President for Hospital Operations and Chief Nursing Executive.  Renae is everything a pediatric nurse should be: kind, compassionate, capable, organized, friendly, hard working.  She is a role model to our entire institution.  When she saw Jamie, Renae just wrapped her arms around her in a huge hug and they embraced for what seemed like an eternity.  I didn't know they knew each other that well but Renae knows Jamie and knew about Jack's heart attack. It was a really wonderful moment, just seeing these two embrace.  It is an example of the kind of caring we see every day and it is why I love working here.

Renae then followed Jamie over to her table in the cafeteria and Renae gave that same genuine, loving hug to Jack.  There is no doubt that Renae was happy that Jack was getting on his feet.  You can't fake that kind of care and concern for people. 

What I like is that just the week before at a TWIG event, I saw nearly the same episode but with David Kinsaul, the Dayton Children's CEO.  As soon as he saw Jamie, he gave her a huge hug and immediately asked about Jack.  For an institution that has more than 1,500 employees, 600+ volunteers and thousands of community supporters, I was immensely impressed that our CEO knew exactly what was happening to one of our volunteers and reached out to her in a genuine showing of compassion and care.

It's moments like this that makes me realize how special Dayton Children's is that our senior management team is fully aware of things happening in the lives of our "family" and that they reach out to show they care. That is perhaps one of the most important aspects of leadership and it what I believe ignites a chain reaction of caring.  This was a simple act with no expectation of getting something in return. Genuine compassion can easily get lost in a cynical world.  Fortunately, true care and concern beats cynicism every time. It's the Rock-Paper-Scissors game where you always come out on top if you do the right thing because it's the right thing to do.

What does this have to do with philanthropy?  Everything! People want to support an organization they feel connected to.  Strong connections come from people, opening their hearts and doing something that makes ad difference...even if that difference is simply giving someone a hug.  Jamie Hanna is a life loyal volunteer.  I can see why she is so attached.  Then again, Jamie's spirit is what we have to be grateful for in the first place.

I am a lifelong member of Sigma Sigma Sigma and we have a phrase that every member learns from the day they join that helps guide our lives:

"To give much is to receive much."

Jamie, like so many others, gives 110% because that's who she is. It is part of her inherent nature. I know she will be the first to say she receives so much more in return. If we all adopted this attitude to do right by others and give because it is the right thing to do, imagine what kind of change could happen in the world.


  1. I love Jamie, and adore Jack. I was sorry to hear of Jack's heart attack, but so happy to hear he is doing well. It just goes to show that if you're a part of Dayton Children's, you're a part of a family.

  2. You are a great writer. And, Dayton Children's is fortunate to have you, too!

  3. Thanks, Katie and Betsy! I appreciate the kind words. Magic happens here every day. It's just cool to be a part of it.