Interview by Sarah Shumick
It’s not often you meet someone whose genuine passion and joy towards fellow humans and their community can be felt as strongly as when you’re around Mandy Powell. She has turned her life’s work into lifting up those who need it most in Columbus. From supporting and encouraging students in various roles at a local university, to helping low-income women pursue additional education, to serving families who are dealing with pediatric cancer; Mandy’s career path is nothing short of inspirational. Oh, and now that we #SavedTheCrew, she and her family can officially look forward to another soccer season.
Where are you from and what brought you to Columbus? I grew up in Delaware, Ohio. As a kid I remember trips to Columbus being a really big deal. Whether it was going to a show or doing some shopping, Columbus always felt vibrant and exciting. After moving to other parts of Ohio for school and first jobs, my husband, Torrance, and I decided to move to Columbus because we knew it offered so much of what we wanted in our lives and for our family. We love Columbus and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. The community of this city is amazing and inspiring. The culture and opportunities for learning and personal growth are abundant.
Give us a snapshot of your career path: My background is in higher education, specifically student affairs. I’ve had the privilege of working as a graduate assistant at Bowling Green State University and then full time at Miami University and Ohio Dominican University. ODU was an especially exciting time in my life as I was able to take on a variety of roles supporting students and their growth through leadership, involvement, academic success and career development. More recently I served the United Way of Central Ohio’s Women’s Leadership Council as the E3 program manager. This program is dedicated to supporting women in pursuing additional education so they can advance professionally and earn a living wage.
Tell us about your current career role: NC4K serves kids fighting cancer and their families by providing financial support, emotional support and events for play. As executive director, I am responsible for the day-to-day operations to ensure that we are always serving families to the best of our abilities. With the amazing NC4K team and community we are actively in the community engaging with the families we serve and working to raise awareness and funds to provide the families what they need. Each month we review financial requests to support families’ everyday expenses, such as mortgage payments or funds for groceries. We send out care packages to lift the spirits of kids in treatment and host events to bring families together for fun and memory making events.
What’s new and exciting at NC4K? One of our most popular programs is our Grab and Go Snack Bag program. Each Grab and Go bag is filled with treats and we deliver 40 of these bags to Nationwide Children’s Hospital each week. In February we were thrilled to expand our Grab and Go program to support families being treated at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and now we deliver 40 bags a week to those families as well.
We are also looking forward to our annual NC4K Gala: A Night at the Safari. Our Gala is on Friday, May 17 at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Heart of Africa Event Center. This is an incredible evening featuring amazing food, drink, animal encounters and entertainment. This is a remarkable event to support kids fighting cancer and their families. To learn more about the event or to purchase tickets, visit nc4k.org/gala.
What do you want everyone to know about pediatric cancer and NC4K? Kids get cancer, too. People aren’t always aware of how prevalent pediatric cancer is and the toll it takes on the entire family. I really want people to know how brave and strong these kids are. I want others to know that their families are dedicated and persistent. We all need to remember that their journey is complicated, scary and overwhelming. For many, all they want is a sense of normal. The kids want to do what all their friends are doing; the families want to get back to life as normal. We have the ability to create moments of normal, moments of sparkle for them. Every effort to support these kids, to embrace these families, makes a very real difference.
When NC4K was founded in 2007 Nellie Corriveau, our founder, set out to make sure that each kid fighting cancer knew that they were loved and supported. From the very beginning it’s been a priority to care for the entire family – siblings and parents matter too! NC4K has grown and evolved over the years, raising more than $2.5 million to continue this vision, working each day to make life just a little bit easier for kids fighting cancer and their families. Together we work so that No Kid Fights Cancer Alone.
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek? Love is what gets me up in the morning and pushes me to overcome obstacles and hurdles. It’s the love of my family, the love of my friends and the love of my community.
I believe in the power of being in relationships with others and I strive daily to grow in my connectedness with others. It’s through this lens that I am driven to teach my kids to be thoughtful contributors to this world, good friends and passionate learners. It’s through this lens that I seek out adventure and new experiences. It’s through this lens that I engage the NC4K families and community of supporters. These relationships are the fuel to my fire and help me in every moment of every day.
What advice helps to guide you along the way? One of the most powerful pieces of advice I’ve ever received centers on failure. The reminder is that when you mess up, and we all do, you have to fess up and then get up. There is so much growth and opportunity in failure and while I’ve felt in the past a pull to be defensive or closed-off, the magic that happens when I own my mistakes and keep on going can do more for me than an early success might have.
Explain some of your work-life balance challenges. How do you achieve success in spite of the hustle and bustle? Balance is a challenge and something that I recommit to daily. Keys for me include keeping a shared calendar, communication, and being surrounded by friends who are able to help. I’ve found great value in having my family involved in my work and my work connected with my family. I believe in being authentic and real with those around me and I think by showing up as myself it allows for healthy discussion of balance. I believe strongly in having priorities and boundaries that inform when to say yes and when to say no and being clear about that with others. It’s also important to me to have a sounding-board – someone who can, and more importantly will, help me keep balance as a priority and let go of any guilt or second thoughts. Finally, I have to accept that what balance looks like today is not necessarily what balance looks like tomorrow.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind? I love to work out to unwind. It allows me to not only focus on my physical wellness but to mentally relax. My favorite workouts are OrangeTheory Fitness and yoga.
What might someone be surprised to know about you? I am ultra-competitive and love to argue to make my point.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up? As a kid, I really wanted to be a news anchor.
What would your autobiography be called? For you, I will.
What are among the top places you’d recommend to someone who is visiting or new to Columbus? My family loves weekend breakfast at Super Chef’s. North Market is one of my favorite places to visit. Everyone should spend some time at COSI and I highly recommend Picnic with the Pops in the summer.
What other organizations are you involved with in the community, outside of NC4K? I’m involved with the United Way of Central Ohio’s Women’s Leadership Council. I currently serve on their Initiative Committee and am a mentor to an E3 participant.
What’s the most exciting thing about Columbus right now? The Crew is Saved! We love the Columbus Crew and couldn’t be happier that they will continue to call Columbus home! We can’t wait for the new stadium and continued success for the Club.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them? Columbus is dynamic, growing and community-centered.