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Next Up Columbus 2021: Dani Wilkinson

Dani Wilkinson
Dani Wilkinson

Photo by Matt Reese / CityPulse Columbus

Interview by Derek Grosso

Name: Dani Wilkinson
Pronouns: she/her/hers
Age: 33
Profession: Chief Mission Officer & Camp Director at Flying Horse Farms
Neighborhood: Harrison West
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Psychology from The Ohio State University, certified in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention TxT from Cornell University
Community Involvement: I serve as a Criteria Visitor for the SeriousFun Children’s Network, and support volunteer efforts for the Berkshire Triathlon benefiting Flying Horse Farms and the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio.
Personal Quote: “Give yourself permission and trust the integrity of your actions and intuition to take the risks you believe in!”
Connect: LinkedIn | Instagram

After graduating from The Ohio State University, Dani Wilkinson joined Flying Horse Farms’ year-round team in 2012 and served as the Volunteer Coordinator and Assistant Camp Director before assuming the role of Camp Director in 2016. This year, her role evolved into Chief Mission Officer and Camp Director. Dani leads with intention to drive the organizational mission and assist the CEO with casting a vision of creating holistic healing experiences for children with serious illnesses and their families. She leads a team focused on integrating outcome-based programming, leadership development, medical readiness, behavioral health support, and emergency preparedness, all while fostering an environment where children can heal, grow, and thrive.

What gets you up each morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
As well as the mission of providing healing and transformative experiences for children with serious illnesses and their families it’s doing so alongside the most incredible team of staff, volunteers, donors, and board members is what gets me up and excited in the morning. The team is grounded in values, motivated by impact, and eager to elevate the experiences we have been trusted by parents, caregivers, and physicians to provide.

What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
The most encouraging advice I’ve recently received from a mentor is to be accountable for the effort not the outcome. This advice conveys a message that we’re responsible for our actions and our investment, not only the result. Give yourself permission and trust the integrity of your actions and intuition to take the risks you believe in!

What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
My husband and I take daily walks with our toddler around our neighborhood to connect and relax. Many days our stroll takes us through the Short North to grab a juice or coffee and through Goodale Park to meet up with friends and family.

What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus/central Ohio?
Columbus is a hub of fantastic food and sharing a quick bite or meal is one of my most favorite ways to slow down, be present, and connect with others. Our favorite spots include Cherbourg Bakery, One Line Coffee, Katalina’s, Northstar Café and Figlio. Aside from the incredible food, I love exploring trails, parks and visiting the Franklin Park Conservatory and Columbus Museum of Art.

When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an architect. My father was a contractor and always had building plans spread across our living room. I grew up in houses he was renovating and was fascinated by the process of seeing blueprints come to life. In a lot of ways that dream came true by serving as the architect of camp’s mission. I’m highly motivated by making a vision a reality, and instead of building a physical structure I get to build experiences that positively impact the lives of children with serious illnesses and their families.

What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
I’m reading Heart Boss by Regan Walsh. Regan is a local author, incredible human, and champion of women. Heart Boss tells stories and teaches lessons to encourage its readers to get out of their own way and live life on their terms.

What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
I’m thrilled and humbled to be among an incredibly dynamic, talented, kind, and inclusive group of young professionals. I’m hopeful for the future of Columbus with this crew of emerging leaders and I personally dedicate this opportunity to the supportive community of peers, mentors, and leaders who have my back and encourage me to level-up who I am and my path to what’s next.

If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
The pulse of Columbus is an honoring of the great generations that founded our communities and organizations with a trust in the next generation to set the pace to evolve efforts collectively.


The Next Up Columbus Awards highlight emerging leaders who are connectors and ambassadors in central Ohio and who are making a positive impact on the future of Columbus. The Columbus Young Professionals Club would like to offer special thanks to our 2021 co-presenters, Discover Financial, Future Possibilities and Zipline Logistics for their support of this awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2021” »

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