Monday, July 11, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Dr. Thyonne Gordon of CoachArt

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Thyonne Gordon of CoachArt, a non-profit organization aimed at improving the quality of life for chronically ill children through arts and athletics.  I am just amazed at people like Dr. Thyonne Gordon and what they do for chronically ill children, out of the kindness of their hearts.  They look to make these children's lives better or more manageable through art, athletics, wish making, music, etc. Having recently battled cancer myself, I know how important improving a person's quality of life is during treatments, recovery, etc.  And, now with children of my own, I can't imagine what I would do if one of them was sick.  With Dr. Thyonne Gordon's non-profit, chronically ill children and their parents have a place to turn for support and inspiration.

Thank you Dr. Gordon for all that you do!  I know you have made many children's lives better because of your organization and services.

And, now on to my interview with Dr. Gordon of CoachArt.  Enjoy!

Name: Dr. Thyonne Gordon

Company Name/Product/Service: CoachArt

Company Location: Los Angeles, CA

Company Website:

Facebook URL:

Twitter Handle: @coachartorg

Age of Company: 10 years

Favorite Inspirational Quotes:  Bloom where you're planted!

Favorite Book:Children's version = Oh The Places You Will Go, Dr. Seuss; adult version = The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.

A little about me is usually a lot about others (smile). Let's see.... I have one beautiful 16 year old daughter and hundreds of other children through my work with CoachArt. It just so happens my hobby is finding new ways to encourage and empower young people and I love to travel.

Briefly explain your role.  How did it come about?

I'm the Executive Director of CoachArt, a nonprofit that improves the quality of life for children with chronic illness by providing them free lessons in the arts and athletics.  My primary job is to keep the program solvent through finding sources of funding. My secondary job is to find caring mentors for children in all walks of life.

After having my daughter I decided to stay home and became an entrepreneur. Through my work, writing, consulting and growing businesses, I was fulfilled yet, I knew I could do more with leverage of education and some funding behind me.  I returned to school, got my MBA and began working for a major company. Along the way, I was invited to a youth center in South Central and became so engaged, that shortly after I was working for them. I've spent the last years as an Executive Director with nonprofits encouraging and empowering young people.  At CoachArt there is an at-risk population based on their environment, economic conditions and illness. These youth are a marginalized population who's needs are not always understood.  This is why I'm so impassioned about the work we do. To see young people living with conditions like tumors, cancer, sickle cell and kidney failure actually come alive when offered arts and athletics opportunities is all I need to know that expanding my entrepreneur work into nonprofit work was the right thing to do.

What is a typical work day like?

There is no typical day when you're searching for funding. From lunch with board members to writing grants to visiting hospitals and healthcare providers to assure CoachArt can help them service chronically ill youth.  It's always something different.  Yesterday, I had to speak with a parent who just found out her child has an illness that will confine him to the house for a minimum of 6 months. Can you imagine a child not being able to go out and socialize for 6 months! I was called in because the child was 5-1/2 and our program starts at age 6. Tough decisions  to bend the rules for one child verses another but, I'm not so tough -- we began searching for a mentor immediately to help the family keep the child engaged.

What has been a struggle in your company?

It's a struggle with any business to assure the funding is adequate to serve the needs of its' constituents. But, with CoachArt, the struggle is in knowing there are so many people who need help and you can't reach them all.  I've been told "if you just help one person, you've lived a good life," but that doesn't do it for me. There are so many children suffering with chronic illness who need outlets to take their minds off the pain and isolation of their diagnosis.

What did you do in your past work life?

My career focus has always been in Business Communications. I've worked as an Operations Director for streaming and Entertainment companies and I've also acted as Executive support for studio Executives. The consistent theme has been in service for the greater good.

What have been some of your major successes?

When I think of major successes my first thought is to my 16 year old daughter.  We celebrated her birthday in April and I was quite the proud "momma" because she has grown into an intelligent, competent and respectful young woman. In regards to career, I've been able to engage people for securing funding for at-risk youth in a time of crisis and recession. That's no small feat!

What have been some of your major challenges?

The young people I encounter have such tremendous aptitude and spirit I want to hold their hand all the way. But, there comes a time when we have to let go. One of the major challenges is working with terminally ill youth. When it's time to let go ... they are usually ready ... but, I'm never ready. I always think there's something more we can do.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?

The impossible days are the days that motivate me. In the struggle, you see the real need.  Even if the struggle is a child rejecting the service -- then you understand the fear and blockage that's in their life.  The tougher it gets, the more I'm moved to make sure children get what they need -- a caring adult mentor in the arts and athletics.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?

I have not always been good at the balancing act but, my daughter helps me. In short, she just tells me to shut down sometimes because she needs time.  It makes me realize that there must be balance. She's into yoga, so I get to practice yoga. She likes music, so I enjoy music with her. We both love to dance so when it comes to going to the ballet or just dancing around the house -- we both get a little off balance and let our hair down!

What is next for you?

CoachArt is growing organically and we want it to be a national brand.  That is a big "what's next" but, I believe we will grow this brand into something that is recognizable by people everywhere and that benefits sick kids across the globe.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting/running a business?

I went to a show of a friend this past week and it was entitled, "The Time Is Now".  This actor decided not to wait for someone to give him a role but, to cast himself in his own creation. The only person holding you back is you.  So, don't wait to be invited to do something -- just do what you love, what you've thought, what you've created. Tomorrow's not promised so, The Time Is Now.

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