I sat down with Casey Baynes, Founder of the Casey Cares Foundation who very candidly spoke about how and why she started the Casey Cares Foundation, work-life balance, career advice for other women, and if it was all worth it.
A little bit about The Casey Cares Foundation
“We know how difficult life can be for families with critically ill children. We help keep families’ spirits high by arranging programming – whether it’s a simple movie night and a fresh pair of pajamas or attending a major sporting event – Casey Cares makes life a lot better by adding a personal touch throughout the year and making lasting memories for families throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and portions of the Midwest..” http://www.caseycares.org/
The conference room covered in thank you notes
Casey and I took seats in the conference room where the walls are covered with hand-drawn pictures and framed thank you notes from grateful parents and children. And I asked Casey:
How and Why did you start Casey Cares?
I was working at Wollenweber’s – a Baltimore-based Global Logistics and Warehousing Solutions provider with my family and volunteering just about all my spare time at local hospitals in the children’s units. Since I spent so much time in the hospitals, I really got to know the families. The parents and the children began to talk to me, and we became friends. I always believed in the power of listening and I began to hear what families needed. I listened to what they were saying…
What I heard and what I saw, was that there was a tremendous need for fun programs and small acts of kindness to bring smiles to sick children. At age 19, I started stepping forward to help. I soon realized that my salary as a 19-year-old was not going to allow me to help as much as I would like, so I just threw it out there and asked others if they would help a special family. People actually said yes and began to step forward with me. I was then advised to begin a foundation, and things just took off from there. We started serving a handful of families in 2000 and now, 17 years later, we will serve more than 900 families this year alone!
How long did it take you to legally establish Casey Cares?
The paperwork took forever- nothing was electronic 17 years ago. But I filled it out as quickly as I could and then the paperwork sat there on my desk for a very LONG time.
Why did the paperwork sit on Casey’s desk?
I couldn’t think of the perfect name for the foundation. Finally, my mother walked by my desk, picked up the application and told me, “Casey, there will never been a perfect name.” Then, she picked up a pen and wrote “Casey Cares” on the forms. She looked at me and said, “There, this is done. Mail it off.”
What career advice do you have for other women?
Find out what it is that you LOVE doing. Figure out what you are passionate about and do it. You can make a career out of your passion. Don’t just pick a career because that is what you SHOULD do or because that is the path that you started to go down. Don’t be afraid to change paths, it’s ok. It builds you as a person and your character. It allows you to continue to build upon your unique set of skills which you will use in whatever career you ultimately end up in.
Choosing your passion is key to success
In my eyes, passion is what makes people successful. I think that a lot of people who look up to successful people are in awe by what they accomplished and all that they are doing. When you boil down why they are successful – it is due to their passion and that they are energized. It is what they would choose to do if they are making $1 or $1 million dollars.
Follow your Gut
Also FOLLOW YOUR GUT! We all know the answers, but we don’t want to listen to them. Don’t overcomplicate things (like me and selecting the perfect name). Educate yourself to gain background and perspective on your idea. Always make sure you are prepared. And don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. Be prepared for criticism. I faced criticism in the early years of Casey Cares because I ran it as a business. We had a Board of Directors, a process, and goals. It however, provided a great foundation for us to spring from.
Work-life balance secrets
Passion is not only the secret to success but also the secret to work-life balance. When you live your passion and your passion is your career, it all just blends together– and it is all fun. You don’t have to worry as much about the balancing act because you are energized. The people around you see how happy you are when you are doing what you love. Your family and kids buy in. They get it.
Is it tough at times? Absolutely. I have 3 amazing children who are so involved and an incredibly supportive husband and I don’t want to let anyone down – but I can only be in 1 place and 1 time.
What qualities helped make you successful
Honesty, loyalty and OVERCOMMUNICATING! Also, a commitment to consistently helping to develop my team has been key.
Was it worth it?
Casey, you are incredibly educated. You were the youngest person to earn a master’s degree (at the age of 20) from Towson University (then Towson State), and are a Defense away from a PhD in Political Communication. You could certainly make a fortune in the paid workforce and then turn around and donate money to a worthy cause. Has all of the work, time, energy and sacrifice that you have put into Casey Cares been worth it?
A career and a passion are very different. You can’t get away from a passion. It is emphatic and transformative. Your entire way of thinking and being are forever changed by a passion. When I look at how far we have come over the past 17 years it is absolutely amazing. In 2001 we started by helping 3 families. Last year (2016) we helped 775 families and provided 10,555 activities. If you break that down into minutes, on average we provide 1 activity to a family every 46 minutes. While it has been a tremendous amount of work the smiles and memories that we have helped to provide is beyond rewarding and continues to motivate me to work harder so we can do more for our families.
Advise for those interested in starting a foundation
It all starts with an idea. Look and see if there is anything else that exists with the same mission. It makes no sense to recreate the wheel. If there is an organization with a similar mission, talk to the executive and see if it makes sense for you to join forces. That is how the Hammy’s Heart program with Casey Cares began. While families with a critically ill child are overwhelmed with so many other financial obligations, Hammy’s Heart helps with the basic need of feeding a family. http://caseycares.org/what-we-do/hammys-heart
What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is that families may not know that we are out there and want to help. Please help us spread the word and donate so that we can continue to provide our programs for critically ill children and their families. https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/caseycares
To make a donation today to help recognize a sick child with a BIRTHDAY BLAST or provide a FAMILY FESTIVITY, it would be so appreciated. Every little bit helps.
What events does Casey Cares have coming up?
8th Annual 5k Run / walk – Saturday, August 5th at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in partnership with OriolesREACH. “Lace up your running shoes and join Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Jill Davis for an incredible cause.” http://caseycares.org/events/baltimore-orioles-5k-runwalk
- 15th Annual Rock “N” Roll Monster Mash Bash Live! – Saturday, October 28th presented by Oxford Risk Management Group, Capitol Securities, Live! Casino & Hotel. This is going to be a great time and fun way to get into the Halloween sprit.
I would love to see you there. Sponsorships are still needed, so please give us a call if you would like to participate. Thank you for supporting our programs. You are a hero to our families.
To learn more about the Casey Cares Foundation and the tremendous work this organization is doing (Family Festivities, Birthday Blasts, Celebration Vacation, Kami’s Jammies, Caring Connections, Hammy’s Heart, Better Together) visit, http://caseycares.org/.
Thank you for a second chance!
A special thank-you to Casey Baynes for this interview and chatting with me again today. When I mentioned the idea for thefemaleforce.com to Casey last year, she was immediately on board in any way that she could help me and granted me an amazing interview. (This is just her nature, she is amazing and wants to help anyone she can…)
I was a terrible interviewer…
I, on the other hand, had no idea what I was doing. I was nervous, I couldn’t write fast enough, I was so worried about asking the perfect questions, that I didn’t ask good questions. I didn’t think to record our interview so I could type it up later (big mistake!). I was a mess… and very embarrassed. So, that is where thefemaleforce.com stayed for a year.
Working up the courage to tell Casey
When I finally worked up the courage to tell Casey about my poor interviewing skills and that I tabled my idea, she immediately opened her
calendar and said “Lauren, when do you have time this week for a redo, I will make myself available. This is important for you, so it is important for me. And it is a great idea.”
Thank you again, Casey! And my advice for today – do a better job with your interviews than I did. There are great apps that allow you to record calls and conversations for playback.
Jeans Day Initiative
I am a very proud to be a volunteer Board Member for the Casey Cares Foundation. I am currently working on Corporate Jeans Day’s initiatives. (See below for me information.) Send me an email for your company to get involved. The Casey Cares Foundation and I will give you a shout-out on social media.
Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment, question or feedback for either Casey or me. We look forward to hearing from you.
Hugs & Handshakes,