Oyauma Garrison Of ‘A Kid Again’: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization
Be courageous enough to know when the mission/vision are greater than the individual. Learn to know when to remove yourself so the work can live on.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Oyauma Garrison, President & CEO of A Kid Again.
Oyauma serves as the national President & CEO of A Kid Again, a nonprofit focused on helping families raising children battling life-threatening conditions give their entire family much-needed recreational therapeutic relief through year-round, cost-free, fun-filled Adventures. He is known as a growth-focused and transformational leader, taking A Kid Again, and his prior business lines, companies, and organizations to new heights.
Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
I am originally from Baltimore, Maryland, and attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where I studied communications with a concentration in political sciences. I was very active in high school and college combining my love for business, development, human services, and public policies.
After college, I started my career at State Farm Insurance as an entry-level claims professional, working my way up and eventually joining the ranks as a leader within the industry. I always had a passion for community service, giving back, and helping others — especially families and youth. I served as a volunteer from a very young age and always encouraged my staff, as I moved up in corporate America, to get involved in the local community.
While working in the corporate world, I served on several nonprofit boards, served as a board chair, raised over $20M for nonprofits, and even led a local chapter of a nonprofit as a volunteer while working full time and being a dad. Ultimately, my journey led me to join A Kid Again, where I was named President & CEO in 2017.
Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start or join your nonprofit?
I very transparently say I was pushed into the work I’m doing now.
Prior to a traumatic experience with my family in October 2016, I did not know about A Kid Again. I also did not intend on entering the nonprofit sector as my full-time work. I always saw myself as a volunteer and donor.
Well, that all changed in 2016 when my oldest fell ill, and the events surrounding that radically changed my outlook on life. I witnessed the kids and our community rally to share my family’s story and engage more than 350,000 people worldwide to pray for my daughter and her recovery. I also experienced firsthand the fear and trauma of your child having a serious medical emergency, and all the people involved in helping our family get through that scary time.
Shortly afterward, I knew I needed to do something different in life. I knew I needed to make a real difference and help others as much as the community rallied to support my family through prayer. I felt called and compelled to do GOOD. I wanted to wake up every day knowing what I do is making a meaningful difference in the lives of others who need a voice and advocate.
When I learned about A Kid Again, the mission, and the desired plans for the future, I knew it was a perfect match. A Kid Again was founded in 1995 with the vision of providing Adventures for families of kids battling life-threatening conditions. The average cost of care to raise a child with a life-threatening condition is $400,000-$600,000 a year. A Kid Again provides normalcy, relief, release, and a community for families to engage in fun-filled activities on average once a month.
The experience we went through with my daughter opened my eyes to an opportunity to do GOOD. So, I stepped out on faith and never looked back. It’s been wonderful to be able to help the organization achieve two great outcomes:
- increasing awareness of who we are, and
- growing the organization.
Since I became CEO in 2017, we have gone from 1 state, 3 chapters, and 4,000 families served to as of April 2022, 47 states, 7 chapters, and 31,000 families being served. We are delivering more smiles to more kids facing life-threatening conditions across America.
Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?
There are conservatively 1.5 million kids across America battling some level of a life-threatening condition. We aim to bring the joy of A Kid Again to as many of them as possible.
The mental and behavioral health outcomes associated with A Kid Again, along with the sense of community, fill the cups of the families we serve in a very positive way. Independent children’s hospitals and university research prove the impact A Kid Again is having on families and the child’s outlook on treatment and life in general.
We give families the opportunity to take a break from the condition they are facing — and the treatments, surgeries, and doctor visits that go along with it — and simply allow their child to be a kid again, and their family to be a family again. Social determinants of improved health and wellness substantiate the impact A Kid Again is having on children and communities. Overall, 9 out of 10 kids in the program report a significant increase in hope, their outlook on life, and joy associated with Adventures.
A Kid Again is unique because we include the siblings in the program. Research shows that including siblings in the treatment and healing process boosts their self-esteem and feeling of inclusion, and has shown to have a positive impact in their academic journey. Overall, the A Kid Again program is transforming the way we look at recreational therapeutic relief, focusing on the family cluster by providing mental health relief through localized Adventures.
Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?
A Kid Again has been fortunate to positively touch the lives of more than 500,000 people since 1995, helping many through some difficult times and creating wonderful memories of fun moments that will last a lifetime.
One particular family we serve has six wonderful kids, of which two are considered to have life-threatening conditions. The second child with a life-threatening condition is adopted. This family opened their hearts and home to provide a family for a child who would have otherwise not had the stability of a permanent family.
This family finds joy and resolve in the A Kid Again Adventures provided every month. The mom once shared that A Kid Again thinks of everything to make their experience seamless. Most important to this family, they also get to be a normal family in a community of others who understand what their life is like with children battling medical conditions. A Kid Again touched their lives so much, they have become ambassadors for the organization and help enroll other families to share in the fun.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Many of us are less than six degrees of separation from knowing someone or having someone close to us battling a life-threatening condition.
Three things others can do to help:
- Be kind.
- Demonstrate your support through time, talent, and treasury.
- Commit to making a positive difference in someone else’s life who may never be able to thank you.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is an innate desire, feeling, or ability to rise to the occasion, initiate uncharted paths, galvanize people around an outcome, inspire hope and confidence, be willing to do what others deem impossible, and all the while absorb the heat and radiate joy when things seem tough, insurmountable, or mistakes happen. Leaders never lose sight of the WHY, WHAT, WHO, HOW, and WHEN. Seems easy, yet leadership is hard.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non profit”. Please share a story or example for each.
- Why does this work matter and who cares?
- Is anyone else already doing this work?
- Nonprofits are businesses — period.
- Be courageous enough to know when the mission/vision are greater than the individual. Learn to know when to remove yourself so the work can live on.
- You can’t give away what you don’t have.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non profit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Meghan Trainor and Justin Timberlake. The songs “Better When I’m Dancin” by Meghan Trainor and “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake are very popular with the kids and families we serve.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?
Never get too comfortable or complacent. In business and in life it’s a kiss of death. Stay sharp and ready.
How can our readers follow you online?
The best place to follow me is on LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/in/oyaumagarrison/.
You can learn more about A Kid Again and follow along with our Adventures at:
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your mission.
Oyauma Garrison Of ‘A Kid Again’: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.