A few weeks ago, I started a blog series called “How He Built This”. Every so often, my hope is to share a story about how God has worked in Maple Tree to help us grow to where we are today. My hope is that these stories will encourage you to see how God is moving in your own life!
Today I’d like to tell you all about how I met my good friend, Barbara.
Anyone who has ever given birth to a baby understands that the best time to meet someone who could have a substantial impact on your business, and by extension, your entire life…is not when you’re 6 days postpartum.
But that is exactly what happened to me.
About 15 minutes after my sixth child, Isabelle Joy, was born into this world, I got an email that I almost threw away.
I had picked up my phone to send an email to all of my family and friends about the birth of our new precious baby girl, when I noticed an incoming message.
The subject of this email was “Introduction and a meeting request”.
Sooooo yeah. Being that I was 15 minutes postpartum, I wasn’t feeling up to meeting anyone new. Doing what any rationally-thinking, just-birthed-a-baby, new mom would do, I immediately swiped right. Without even reading the email. As I was about to hit the “trash” button, something stopped me.
Or, should I say, someONE stopped me!
Suddenly I wondered if it could possibly be a new student wanting information about our Exercise Science program at Wright State. After all, it was the week before finals….so “technically” I was still on the clock.
I decided it wouldn’t be polite to blow a new student off, so I changed my mind and made a mental note to return the email later that day.
(And yes, I do still “work” when I have babies in the hospital. In fact, it is often my most productive time! When else do I get a few days to lay in a bed, snuggle a baby, and have someone else cook and clean up for me??!!)
A few hours later, I finally had a chance to read the email. Turns out, it wasn’t from a prospective student after all. It was from the Executive Director of a new non-profit in town called the Gala of Hope. He explained to me that their mission was to help other similar, Dayton-based organizations in the fight against cancer.
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you here. Only because I want you to see what a total brat I can be, and how – even in spite of that – God is so gracious to help me!!
I didn’t want to take the meeting.
Like, not even a little bit.
I JUST HAD A BABY. But more than that……He said they were a “new” non-profit.
At the time, Maple Tree was only a few years old. So technically not “new”. But in my eyes, we were doing pretty great. We had about 40-50 patients we were working with. We had an office with some awesome exercise equipment that had been donated to us. I had a couple staff members, and was starting to get the hang of grant writing. I was even able to increase my budget from $26,000 the previous year to a mind-blowing $48,000 that year!
I remembered back to when we were a “new” non-profit. When I was selling hair bows at $5 a pop just so I could assemble a few care packages. When I would beg – literally, beg – every single person I knew that had cancer to give us a try. When I presented at Rotary clubs and was told by members of the audience that my idea would “never work”. When I cried over not receiving the $1,000 grant I had taken weeks to write. When my greatest fundraiser was a lemonade stand my kids would run in our front yard. When people would mockingly ask me if I was “trying to cure cancer, or something”.
When Maple Tree was new, times were tough. We struggled through each and every milestone.
I pictured this other “new” non-profit being in the same boat.
And – gosh, I am cringing as I type this – for a minute I thought maybe I might be able to help them. Bless their hearts.
So, I took the meeting.
Six days later, I drove my swollen, sleepy, mess-of-a-self to our office for the meeting. At one point, I actually hoped they wouldn’t show up.
But they did show up. Before I knew it, I was shaking the hand of John, the Executive Director who had reached out to me. He introduced me to Barbara Mills – one of the Founders of the Gala of Hope.
So, picture it. My biggest accomplishment that day was getting a shower. I don’t remember what I was wearing, but I do remember that I had actual spit up on my shirt.
They were both in suits. Polished. Well rested. Hormones completely in tact. The strap on Barbara’s Fitbit even perfectly matched the color of her outfit.
I listened to their story. In just a few short months, they had achieved more success and had garnered more support from the community than I ever dreamed would be possible.
They weren’t sharing it in a braggy sort of way. It was more matter-of-fact. They simply wanted to be good stewards of their resources and help make a difference in the lives of cancer patients.
And – to my complete surprise, they wanted to help Maple Tree.
Of course, my brain was spinning. Suddenly it seemed like all of my dreams for Maple Tree were within reach.
But more than that….in that moment all I could think was that I wanted to know Barbara better. I had never met anyone like her. A hard-working, smart, successful, stylish woman who wanted nothing more than to give back and support others around her.
She was the kind of person I wanted to be when I grew up.
That day, I began praying that God would form a friendship between us. Sheepishly, I asked if I could buy her coffee and get her advice on how to grow Maple Tree. I wanted to know who I should know, what I should do, and when I should do it.
That was four years ago.
Since then, Barbara has grown to become one of my closest friends. She has stood by my side through some of the hardest trials I have ever walked through. Her friendship and support have given me the strength to press on.
In just a short amount of time, Barbara has single-handedly revolutionized Maple Tree. She was personally responsible for helping me make contacts within the hospitals. She helped me develop our system of exercise oncology that can easily be replicated into health systems around the world. She has traveled to Washington DC with me, introduced me to lawmakers, and came with me to meet with Directors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. She has given me confidence to speak up at American Cancer Society meetings. She has introduced me to presidents of insurance companies. She has advocated on our behalf when contract negotiations weren’t going in our favor. She is the one who got us connected at Dayton Children’s Hospital. She has funded my research. She has the discernment to tell me who not to waste my time on…. She even helped me meet my childhood hero.
When she reads this, she will likely try to downplay it.
But to me, and to the thousands of patients she has helped us impact, Barbara is living proof that God hears and answers prayers.
How has God built Maple Tree?
He has done it by personally intervening when I was about to make a huge, careless mistake. He has pointed out my pride and need for humility. He has brought one amazing person into my life that has provided encouragement, support, and friendship along the way.
Remember – God is bigger than our mistakes! Even when we don’t understand what is happening, He is in control, and nothing – not even being postpartum – will thwart His plans!