Interview by Sarah Shumick
As Oyauma Garrison will tell you, “Life has a way of pushing you toward the things that matter most.” After all, this is how he ultimately landed his role as CEO of A Kid Again, Inc. after his own daughter fell unexpectedly ill in the fall of 2016. A Kid Again serves to help entire families of children under the age of 20 who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness through adventures that make them feel like they’re “a kid again.”
Give us a brief overview of your organization: A Kid Again provides ongoing recreational therapeutic relief for the entire family, in a group setting, for kids facing a life-threatening illness. A Kid Again is condition agnostic and works with any child under the age of 20 diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or condition.
Tell us what’s innovative about your organization or how you are innovating in the nonprofit space: We are bringing real world business experiences, methodologies, and planning to our growth and expansion. A Kid Again has changed how nonprofits in this niche work with families. It all started by listening to our families – their wants, needs, and desires to help stay together and provide hope, happiness and healing for the entire family. With this backdrop, we have taken aim at keeping the kids/families in the center of everything we do, including some exciting social enterprise ventures coming soon.
How is your organization making an impact in Columbus? We continuously seek to improve the healthy outcomes for families raising a child with a life-threatening illness or condition. As such, we have elevated the status of this work to the national stage with Columbus being the center (the birthplace) of this important approach to a more holistic healing process for the child and entire family. A Kid Again has created employment opportunities, contributed to the economic engine of Columbus via an estimated $10M – $20M revenue impact through adventures and other activities spearheaded by the organization, along with increased awareness around the power of therapeutic recreational relief in the healing process.
What makes your organization thrive? Our families, volunteers and supporters. When people see the smiles on the kids’ faces. When volunteers experience the happiness they help create for a child simply wanting to be normal and be a kid. When donors can see firsthand the impact their contributions make in the lives of others. When our community can feel the difference being made by A Kid Again in helping build strong healthy and happy families, reduce pain associated with raising a child facing a life-threatening illness or condition, and increase the social community engagement/participation of families in what our city has to offer – all of this helps A Kid Again thrive.
As a leader, how do you come up with innovative ideas, and what helps put those ideas into action? Innovation starts by being inclusive. Anyone, from any seat in the organization can bring forth a great idea, concept or improvement that ignites the innovation engine.
Give us a snapshot of your career path—what is your background, and what led you to work in the nonprofit sector? I spent over 20 years in the insurance industry. My path to the nonprofit world started on October 1, 2016 when my daughter unexpectedly fell ill. Life has a way of pushing you towards the things that matter the most. I was imbalanced and focused on the wrong things. A Kid Again matched my purpose and passion. Since September 2017, I have had the honor and privilege to serve as the CEO leading transformational change and growth for the organization as we look to serve the over 1.5 million kids across America facing a life-threatening illness or condition.
What is the one thing you are most passionate about? My family.
Who inspires you? My mother. She endured a lot of hardship. As a child growing up, I witnessed her leadership in action. My mother implanted in me at a very young age a strong sense of purpose and the importance of education. She helped so many people during her life without a need or desire to be thanked – my mother did this because it was the right thing to do. I’m grateful for wisdom, life experiences, and kind heart.
How do you stay motivated? What drives you to take things to the next level? My kids. They are watching.
What struggles or adversities have you had to overcome to get to where you are today? We all learn and grow through our career and personal experiences. In my case, it was both – finding balance (which is a myth) and ensuring I had the right priorities first. I have hit rough patches, overcome various levels of challenges, obstacles and adversities throughout my professional career and personally. All of these moments in time (because that is what they are) helped me get better. Better focus and better discipline in my craft.
Why do you think people should care about innovative nonprofits? Innovation drives new opportunities. As nonprofits explore innovation, we can gain efficiency, new service models that can deliver greater impact, enhanced contributions back to the community, increased economies of scale, new paradigms for thought leadership and action; and creative ways to improve on mission, vision and value execution.
As a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up? A politician or lawyer.
How can others in the Columbus community get involved with your organization? Anyone with a heart for helping others, or an expertise you are willing to lend to the future success of A Kid Again is welcome to enroll as a volunteer online at akidagain.org. We are looking to launch a young professionals advisory council to begin developing future board leaders, and welcome those interested in serving on the inaugural council. We have a number of Adventures throughout the year that volunteers can help put a smile on a child’s face by serving as a roller coaster ride buddy, face painter, greeter, organizer, and so many other roles that contribute to kids having fun. If you enjoy the laughter of kids and seeing them smile, we have an opportunity for you to help.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them? It’s vibrant and dynamic. Columbus has become a destination for those who want to chart their own path or enrich and enhance the path that was laid by others.