Happy Wednesday, everybody!
I hope you all have been having a wonderful week! I’m really looking forward to some exciting things happening this week as Miss Nashville—Vanderbilt’s Dance Marathon is this weekend, and I’ll also be attending the Heart Ball in Chattanooga and heading to Atlanta for another fun surprise. As busy as my job keeps me, I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to have such amazing experiences and getting to know some pretty incredible people. I’m excited to get to introduce you to one of them today!
I first met Karen Hunter-Lowery when I did one of my first appearances as Miss Nashville—volunteering at the River of Hope Radioathon at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital. As a local leader for an organization that means so much to me, I was immediately captivated by her passion for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the way her team was able to mobilize the city of Nashville to make an impact in the lives of the hundreds of thousands of children served at Vanderbilt each year. Karen moved extensively growing up, but would call “home” her family’s farm in East Tennessee, where she would spend the summers with her grandparents. She graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville with a degree in Hospitality Management, and was a member of UT Singers and recipient of the Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award. Karen spent the first part of her career in the hospitality industry, including 20 years at Gaylord Opryland Resort and 6 1/2 years opening some of Walt Disney World’s most well-known hotels. Karen’s work earned her various accolades such as the Outstanding Young Careerist and Gaylord President’s Award. While working at Opryland, she helped to oversee community involvement initiatives, something that helped prepare her for beginning a career in nonprofit management. Currently, Karen is the director of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals program for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, a proud mother of two sons and three wonderful grandchildren. She is such a positive force for change in this community and I’m excited to share part of her story with you!
What is one piece of advice you’ve received that has greatly impacted your life?
My grandmother gave me this Bible verse, Luke 12:48, as I was moving to Nashville after graduation…To those whom much is given, of him shall be much required.” I have always taken that seriously. I feel that I have been given much, and therefore expect much of myself, and know that I need to make others a priority. There are people around us every day hurting and in need of help. I do not know what the end of my story will be but when I get to the end I do not want to regret having been given an opportunity to help and not doing what I could do.
What’s one obstacle that you’ve faced and how were you able to grow from it?
What many would see as an obstacle actually became my greatest success. Raising two boys without much involvement from their father was difficult at times. I was very fortunate to have had a “village” to help – my sister, and people from my church were a tremendous support to me and my boys. I am a very independent, “I can do it myself” kind of girl. Accepting help was not always easy for me, but it was necessary, and provided me with a unique opportunity to see how much better life can be when it is shared with others. I learned that one of the kindest things we can do for others is to allow others to do for us. That’s hard to get our heads around sometimes, but we are at our best when we are “others focused”. People are very generous when given a reasonable and tangible way to help. These lessons have helped me grow by realizing my dependence on someone other than myself.
How is your organization (Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals) making a difference here in Nashville?
One of the most unique things about the CMN Hospitals program is that all funds raised here stay here. There are many wonderful “charities” out there, but sometimes you give your donation and have no idea where the money goes. Or maybe you do know…and it’s going across the state or across the country or across the world. I like the idea of making a donation in this community and knowing the money is staying here to help local kids. Another unique thing about CMN Hospitals is that it is truly a community-wide effort – that isn’t just a buzzword for us. Last year, my team of four, supported 66 fundraising partners in 1,409 locations across 48 counties. These companies run campaigns in their locations, asking their customers to make donations. If the employees from these companies don’t ask, and the customers don’t give, then we are in trouble. Thankfully, these companies, employees, and customers all work together to raise more than $2 million annually, mostly one dollar at a time. These funds help Vanderbilt Children’s continue to provide world-class care to sick and injured children in our local community.
What’s one thing that people can do to contribute to making a difference with CMNH?
I think Edward Everett Hale said it best…“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.”
What’s one of your favorite things about Nashville? What’s one thing you wish you could change about it?
I love that Nashville has a lot going on, but still maintains a small town community atmosphere. If I could make a change, it would be to incorporate some mass transit solutions. I don’t think there is a silver bullet – we need many options and it’s going to take money. And any/all solutions are going to cause some angst because change is traumatic, but if we keep doing what we’ve been doing we are going to keep getting what we’ve been getting – and that is gridlock!
I am so happy that people like Karen have lent their extensive knowledge and expertise towards helping organizations like Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals grow. As her quote from Edward Hale said, sometimes one of the most powerful things you can do is find your part in solving a bigger issue. Karen has certainly found a place where she has thrived in being able to make a difference, and I am incredibly blessed to know her! Learn more about the CMN Hospital at Vanderbilt here and be sure to donate for this month’s #CMNChallenge, where I’ll be creating a rap video featuring everyone who’s donated to make a difference in the lives of the families who need it most!
Go out and do what you can this week to make a difference!