Kathy McCracken knows what it’s like to have a chronically ill child and all the stress and work that comes with finding care.
That personal connection to specialty pediatric healthcare, coupled with experience working in community engagement and fundraising, are invaluable to her role as executive director for the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Foundation (CHF).
“There is nothing in life as comforting as a research physician who recognizes the symptoms your child is experiencing when other physicians haven’t,” she says. “I know how these parents with chronically ill children feel – I want to connect with them and tell them they are in good hands with our partners. I want to support them and those kids during their journey.”
The foundation focuses on raising funds to enhance research, educating future pediatricians and caring for Oklahoma’s kids. According to McCracken, most funds secured flow directly to the research physicians working in the labs across from the CHF offices.
“Ultimately, our goal is to keep Oklahoma’s sickest and medically neediest kids here in Oklahoma, near their families, friends and communities of support,” says McCracken. “We are meeting that goal and have been for almost 40 years – kids are seeing respected, talented and dedicated doctors every day.”
CHF supports more than 20 sections of pediatric medicine and research and, in 2021, funded $3.1 million to ensure that doctors stay on track with their critical work.
As executive director, McCracken spends a lot of her time team building and brainstorming with her staff. She also works with volunteer groups to increase visibility in the community and create new ways to reach donors to raise funds and meet goals.
“Most of my day is filled with meetings and phone calls connecting with people who are interested in helping us achieve our goals to help sick and injured kids,” she adds.
McCracken often starts checking emails at 5:30 a.m. to “see what’s on tap for the day” and ends it writing personal notes and thank you letters to donors.
“We are so grateful for all our donors, big and small, for their financial gifts and their time,” she says.
Mentors eventually helped McCracken target her talent, creativity and passion into working in a field that involved making a difference.
“Working in philanthropy has led me to what I consider the epitome of success: doing what you absolutely love and getting paid to do it,” she says.
Kathy McCracken grew up in Lawton, Oklahoma. She went on to earn a degree in Mass Communications from Oklahoma City University. Before joining the foundation, McCracken gained experience in community engagement, fundraising, human resources, public relations, advertising and accounting.
In 1998, after 15 years in development at a local university, McCracken was recruited to the Children’s Hospital Foundation to serve as its executive director.
“When I was hired, I hit the ground running…so my ‘can-do’ spirit jumped into high gear, and I haven’t looked back in 23 years,” she says.