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Jennifer Bolton, Exec. Dir. TeamConnor

Meet Jennifer Koi Bolton, executive director of TeamConnor ChildhoodCancer Foundation, who left a Fortune 500 company in Dallas to pursue her passion for giving back to families in need. Bolton traces her caring spirit back to the early days as a candy striper at a local hospital or picking up trash with her local 4-H group, she was taught to serve others. 

Since joining TeamConnor in 2010, Bolton spearheaded the non-profit's largest fundraising drive in history, the annual celebrity fashion show. We wanted to get to know Bolton a bit better and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions about herself, TeamConnor and the families it serves. 

Dawn Tongish: Can you tell us about your duties at TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation?

Jennifer Bolton: TeamConnor was incorporated in 2008 and created due to the vision of Connor Cruse, then free of cancer that wanted to help children still battling the disease.  Tragically, Connor contracted a second cancer soon after and lost his battle on July 10, 2009.  We’ve taken what he started to the next level and continue to carry out his legacy.  Since 2008, TeamConnor has awarded over $1.6 Million in funding for research grants and patient programs across the country.  TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation purpose is to build awareness, serve families and raise funds for research to help cure childhood cancer.   

DT: What are your duties at TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation? 

JB: I hold the title of Executive Director at TeamConnor, but as with most non-profits, I play many roles.  As Executive Director I oversee the implementation of programs and events, serve as the liaison between the Board and the staff, manage the operations of the organization, as well as responsible for carrying out the vision of the Board of Directors.   Because we keep such a small staff, I also play a role in event planning, volunteer coordination, program management, and development and fundraising.

DT: How did you become involved with TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation, and why are you so passionate about the work being done at the foundation?  

JB: I had the great pleasure of working with the Connor and the Cruse family while I was the development director with another successful childhood cancer non-profit in Dallas.  Joy and I worked hand-in-hand in 2007 when she chaired our largest event of the year and it just happened to be the same year Connor served as one of our stars of the event. 

It was at this organization that I became very close with a little boy named Tre.  Within three months of meeting him, Tre went from a bright and energetic young boy to a boy fighting for his life.  It was a defining moment for me when I got that call that he had passed.  It hit me hard with very raw emotions.  I realized that what I was doing was so much more than planning events, I was helping to save these children.  After that phone call, and hours of tears, I realized this was my calling.  I was here for a reason and I would do everything in my power to help. 

DT: Why do you work in the non profit sector? 

JB: I went straight into the corporate world out of college.  Almost six years into it and four months after a day-long volunteer job at the Salvation Army, I had the realization that I needed something more.  Maybe it was the thought of my parents instilling in me the need to give back.  I made the big, and yet scary, transition into non-profit management.  I managed to land a position managing three non-profit organizations, one with the sole focus of raising funds for childhood cancer research.  After Tre passed, the organization offered me a position as event coordinator, which I happily accepted.

DT: It can be difficult for any non profit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat? 

JB: We rely heavily on the resources available to us at TeamConnor.  We’ve been blessed to have the support of the community, both through in-kind and monetary donations.  While it’s always a challenge for an organization to continue to grow with an unsteady economy, we find ways to keep expenses at a minimum and we utilize all of our resources.  

DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs? 

JB: We encourage everyone first to be aware that childhood cancer does exist and there are still too many children dying from this disease.  Many times I address the subject with a potential support and my message falls on deaf ears.  It’s incredibly difficult for people to think about children being sick or even dying.  I don’t know of anyone that hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way, and it’s difficult for any patient to go through treatment.  Can you imagine it being a child though?  Children are meant to be outside playing, laughing, making friends, thinking about what they want to be when they get big….not thinking “what if my cancer wins.”  First, we’ve got to be aware that childhood cancer is real and it is robbing too many children from their childhoods.  

I also encourage everyone in the community to learn about our Coins for Kids with Cancer program at www.coinsforkidswithcancer.org.  This program allows children to join in the fight by simply collecting coins that will be used to fund childhood cancer research. 

TeamConnor would not be able to continue our life saving work without monetary donations.  No donation is too small or too big.  Together we will find the cure for all childhood cancers.  If someone would like to get involved, but can’t make a donation, we would also be grateful for their time.  The reason TeamConnor is able to run on a two man staff is because of our incredible volunteers from all over the country.

DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation?  

JB: Goodness, that is a tough one because we continue to make a difference in the lives of children every day.  If I were to narrow it down, I would say the most memorable moment would be a smile and a thank you offered by one of the young ladies that was in the Stem Cell Transplant Unit at Children’s Medical Center.  Her mother told me the box was a life saver because they came to the unit ill prepared for such a long stay.  The box helped this young lady pass the time and keep her sanity through her stay.  I’m proud to say this young lady is now cancer free and doing well.  I have hundreds of smiles from kids etched into my memory.  It makes it all worth it.

DT: What is the first thing you do when you walk into work each day? 

JB: After grabbing my morning coffee downstairs, I walk into my office each day  and immediately see my TCCF memory board. This board contains pictures of some of the children that we’ve helped, photos of our volunteers at events, even some of the doctors we’ve funded.  Each morning I look at it, take a deep breath and tell myself, “here we go!”.  This board serves as my morning pep talk and gets me focused on the goals for the day.  Even when I’m having one of those overwhelming days, I just look over at it and it reminds me why I continue to do what I do. 

 

 

 

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