Mara Fortin

Mara Fortin is an attorney, small business owner, political advocate, philanthropist, community leader and, most importantly, a mom.  She has three children, two teenage daughters and a six month old son.  Mara is the first franchisee ever to open a Nothing bundt Cakes bakery, and is now the largest in the nation, with seven.  She gave up her practice of law twelve years ago, moved her family back to her hometown of San Diego when her daughters were two and nine months old, and started on her small business venture.  In addition to building a successful business which now employs more than 130, mostly women, in the San Diego county market, Mara has sat on the boards of several small business advisory councils, including being the co-founder of several within the Nothing bundt Cakes system.  She is very active with the International Franchise Association and also sits on its board of directors.  Mara travels to Washington DC regularly to meet with members of Congress and frequently speaks with members of the press and media on small business related matters.  Mara is an entrepreneur and thought leader and enjoys each and every opportunity to speak on behalf of the hardworking business owners across the country!

Watch Interview With Mara Fortin Here 

2018 Inspiration Awards™

10th Annual Lasting Legacy &

  Inspiration Awards™

Presented By The Center For Wealth & Legacy™

2018 Lasting Legacy Award Recipient and 

Fireside Chat Guest: Randy Jones

Photo of Randy Jones with his wife Marie by Todd LeVeck – Epic Photojournalism.

This year’s Tony & Alicia Gwynn Lasting Legacy Award™ was awarded to Randy Jones for his philanthropic endeavors. Randy was a Padres pitcher in the 1970s and a Cy Young Award Winner. He now gives back to the community through the Randy Jones Foundation. The Foundation seeks to provide new opportunities and resources for kids to participate in local sporting events, programs, and outdoor activities. 

Through his Foundation, Randy spends time with hundreds of kids at baseball games, fishing trips and golf clinics. Randy says, “I’ve spent a lifetime in the game of baseball; I was given an opportunity to get involved in sports early on in my life. Not all kids are given this opportunity. The Randy Jones Foundation has been established to change that.” Click Here to Read more…

2018 Inspiration Awards™ Top Finalists

He has poured himself into several ministries, foster programs and orphan programs worldwide. His God-given calling is to nurture these children, through the collaborative efforts of many, so they thrive and grow up to become successful adults.

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the Inspiration Award™ Honoree.

During the day, she provides food and nourishment to high school students. In her spare time, Debra helps feed the homeless throughout the county by providing them with home-cooked meals.

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Quietly makes a difference in the lives of hundreds of men, women, and children who are transitioning from homelessness each day.

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2018 Inspiration Awards™ Honorable Mentions

Christy Wilson has spent her life building a legacy in the San Diego community by helping nonprofits at all stages in their lifecycle.

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Cindy works hard on educating the community about autoimmune disorders. She is one of the top volunteers and guides veterans on how to apply for disability and provides unique information to help ease the process.

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Don helps students overcome failures and bad habits. His biggest motivation to prevent drug abuse is his experience with a dear friend who struggled with drugs during his teens.

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Jennifer utilizes her God-given talents to share the stories of servant leaders within the San Diego community.

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She raises funds and drives strategic partnerships to win the battle against Parkinson’s disease.

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Nicole is involved with several organizations including the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) – as a Board of Trustees member and most notably as the 2017 Woman of the Year.

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His main interest with San Diego Social Venture Partners is building resources for investees and expanding awareness resources for SDSVP to stimulate partner growth and more support for area nonprofits and their leaders.

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Peter and Mary Ellen Ferrantelli have been benefactors for Noah Homes in Spring Valley and have helped provide permanent housing and care for developmentally disabled adults, including their son, Michael. 

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They provide transportation – every day – for families all over San Diego County who struggled with cancer-related issues.

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Sharlie has spoken to thousands of people throughout the world both before and after her transplant about the miracle of life. Her story has inspired thousands of people with and without CF to never give up.

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Susan’s goal is to protect, heal and empower women, who are victims of sex trafficking so they can transition to a more purposeful and fulfilled life.

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Offers scholarships to Oklahoma high school graduates interested in science, technology, engineering or math so they can attend college and help realize their own potential.

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Tony’s work at STEP impacts the lives of active duty and veteran families who are under financial stress and need help navigating the high cost of Southern California living.

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2015 Honorees & Nominees


September 16th, 2015 proclaimed:

In the City of San Diego by Mayor Kevin Faulconer

Mayor Kevin Faulconer congratulated all of the Inspiration Award nominees as the seal was affixed the to Proclamation and signed on September 16th, 2015. The Proclamation was read at the evening event by Jerry Sanders, President & CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce (Former San Diego Mayor)


Click to view a video of the extraordinary evening

Filmed and produced by Pat Rea
Kingdom Building Media

Click to view the inspirational stories
including the Why? the Obstacles? and the Future?

The 2015 Inspiration Award Recipient

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
*Winston Churchill


Jill McManigal

Jill McManigal & Danielle Gram
Kids for Peace, Inc.

Some people talk about creating a world of peace, others believe it is an unobtainable dream, but the founders of Kids for Peace know that peace is possible! Kids for Peace was founded in 2006 by a concerned mom, Jill McManigal, and a high school honors student, Danielle Gram. What started as a backyard “club” of caring kids in Carlsbad, has grown into a global movement with over 350 interconnected chapters launched in 6 continents. Over 2 million youth are now actively engaged in creating a world of kindness, understanding, unity and respect. With children taking the lead, peace is possible!

The story of Kids for Peace is inspiring as it offers hope for today and for future generations. In an age of pessimism, apathy and fear, Kids for Peace offers optimism, encouragement and joy. Kids for Peace reminds our community that children are the future, and as we support and encourage our young generation, a legacy of peace is created for all.

Kids for Peace has significantly impacted our San Diego community and far beyond. Most notably with The Great Kindness Challenge – Kids for Peace’s bully-prevention program now in its 4th year – was recently implemented in 207 San Diego County schools with 120,118 students engaged in creating a culture of kindness where all students thrive. They are on track to engage over 8 million youth in our 2016 Great Kindness Challenge.

The accomplishments of KfP are extraordinary! In 9 years they’ve addressed the United Nations, presented on the House Floor of Congress, published 3 children’s books, delivered thousands of Peace Packs, traveled to high conflict areas (Pakistan, Uganda, Israel, Palestine, Rwanda, Bolivia, etc.), support a school in Kenya, and inspired 100 million acts of kindness in The Great Kindness Challenge.

Nominated By: Marcus Lara. We Are One Unlimited


A Special Presentation to The Recipient of the:

2015 Tony & Alicia Gwynn

Lasting Legacy Award™

Presented by

Dr. Alicia Gwynn
Philanthropist & widow of the late baseball Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn

Presented to:

Father Joe Carroll &Father Joes Village

Father Joe

Father Joe Carroll retired as chief executive officer of Father Joe’s Villages on April 12, 2011, his 70th birthday, but his legacy will remain vivid and lasting forever.

Born in the Bronx, Joe Carroll came to San Diego at age 22 with only $50. He was ordained in 1974, and in 1982, Bishop Leo T. Maher asked him to lead St. Vincent de Paul. He became known for his TV public-service announcements asking for money. His fundraising success, used to buy more properties for helping the needy, received national attention. At the time of his retirement in 2011, Father Joe’s Villages had 500 employees and a $40 million annual budget.

Inspired by the legacy of much famed Saint Vincent de Paul, what started 65 years ago as a small chapel serving San Diego’s impoverished has grown into a cutting-edge provider of effective housing programs and services. Today, Father Joe’s Villages empowers people to achieve self-sufficiency.

As an industry thought-leader, Father Joe’s Villages offers solutions to address the complex needs of the homeless, regardless of age, race, culture or beliefs. Preparing up to 3,000 meals and working with more than 1,500 individuals every day—from infants and adolescents to adults and seniors, the organization’s primary goal is to transform lives and end the cycle of homelessness.

“The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”
~William James

The 2015 Inspiration Award Top Finalists

Jennifer Ables
Soldiers Who Salsa

April of 2010, Jennifer Ables taught what was supposed to be just a 6 week series of dance classes to 7 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from the USMC and USN. Each had lost one or more limbs during their combat duty tours. The goal was not only a physical therapy challenge, but to bring some fun and laughter to those who had served so honorably and sacrificed so much in service to our country. Seeing the much bigger connection to the veteran and his family, Jennifer asked to continue the project as a volunteer to continue to create magical moments between husbands and wives, many of whom had not danced together since their wedding. She went on to form a non-profit, Soldiers Who Salsa, that now operates 11 weekly classes throughout 7 states and continues to grow and expand at the request of veterans from across the nation who have heard about this unique therapy.

Jennifer moved from the DC area to San Diego with no friends, family or job here. With her strong family connection to the military, she volunteered her time to start an amazing project and has now dedicated her full-time work to reaching as many veterans as she can through her work. She started from scratch and has now built an expanding nationwide charity.

She is teaching our veterans a skill that can last a lifetime and requires no additional equipment or expense to do. Her program teaches weekly classes and hosts quarterly outings to help reintegrate our veterans into their local communities. 22 veterans a day take their own lives due to depression and post-traumatic stress, and her organization reaches this population because they are based at military medical facilities.

Soldiers Who Salsa works with wounded, ill, and injured military veterans from every branch of service. Some veterans have limb amputations, traumatic brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress. It is a unique therapy program that allows patients to participate with their spouses and loved ones in a way that no other program does.

Nominated By: Darren Cecil, San Diego Sales. Inc.

Gordon Brown
San Diego Junior Golf

Growing up as an African American in South Carolina during the 40s was not easy for Gordon Brown. He overcame poverty, discrimination, segregation, and racism. And, it formed him into the man that he is today. Some of his obstacles included traveling over 100 miles to the nearest golf course that allowed colored people on their greens and making tees out of mud. He now has created a non-profit that gives back 100% to the children.

The San Diego Junior Golf Academy and Foundation (SDJGAF) opened its doors in June 1997, with the sole intention of introducing the wonderful game of golf to all children between the ages of 5 to 17, especially in the inner city. Partnering with Children, Youth & Family Network (CYFN), whose mission is to create alternatives to traditional service provision for children and young people with complex social, physical and emotional needs, we can meet our children’s needs, thus, improving their daily life, education, and golf experiences.

San Diego Junior Golf has made the game of golf available to children all across San Diego. Promoting self-esteem, educational skills, and preparing children for the future.

Charlize Sou, the 10 year old student who nominated Gordon Brown, is also one of his junior golf students. In her nomination she wrote, “Mr. Brown has taught me integrity, hard work, respect, and perseverance through the game of golf. He taught me that if you really want something, you need to work for it. Only you can make it happen. Every day I see Mr. Brown I learn something new. All of his stories inspire me to be a better person.”

Nominated By: Charlize Sou, 10 year old student

Philip & Kimberly Cleary
Donate Your Old Shoes

Donate Your Old Shoes’ mission is simple, “Put shoes on the shoeless worldwide.” So many people in different parts or our world walk around barefoot, not by choice, but because they lack the resources to put shoes on their feet. This sad reality became increasingly evident to founder Philip Cleary and his family during a 2006 trip to Nicaragua. Seeing all the adults and children walking around in trash filled streets broke the Cleary family’s heart. It made them think of all the old shoes they had simply tossed in the trash over the years. What a difference those old shoes could have made for these underprivileged people. It was then when Philip and his family had the vision for Donate Your Old Shoes.

The Clearys witnessed extreme despair while overseas and decided they could make a difference in these people’s lives. This family charity runs with hardly any overhead expenses and no payroll.

The Clearys estimate that they have shipped or delivered close to 100,000 pairs of shoes over the past 5 years to the Philippines, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Guinea and Togo. The original goal was just 25,000 pairs. The need remains great and their new goal is to now ship 1,000,000 pairs of donated shoes to the poorest of the poor.

Without proper supervision and procedures, the distribution of these shoes can become extremely dangerous for those involved. The Clearys have seen such chaos and aggression that these desperate people will do almost anything to get a pair of used shoes.

The demand for these old shoes is truly unbelievable. Phil Cleary tries to assist as much as he can in the actual shoe distribution process.

Nominated By: Josh Koehnen. Premier Wealth Management

Jennifer Elizabeth Crone
Brunch Club

Jennifer Crone started the Brunch Club by deciding on her birthday to buy a bag of bagels and pass them out to the homeless.

From there she decided to gather some friends and to start passing out food. A year later hundreds have volunteered their time to help the Brunch Club reaching over 3,000 people in our community. Little notes are included in the paper lunch bags to encourage those receiving them and to pass on a sense of community.

Jennifer’s story is not only selfless but embodies the whole meaning of life, giving back. She gave up her job and hit the ground running when she started this non-profit. It is pretty remarkable what determination and a dream can become.

This is in her words from her site: “To date Brunch Club has provided thousands of meals, blankets, dental and hygiene kits and handwritten notes of inspiration at our monthly outreach days. With your help there is no limit to the good we can do and the lives we can change.”

It started with being selfless on her birthday of all days. Most people are looking forward to getting free things for their special day, Jennifer gave back.

She is touching so many lives not only the people she is giving to but the people who she has recruited to help. She is an inspiring person!

It starts with one, and moves not only people to give but the world to be a kinder place. Butterfly effect.

Nominated By: Aubree Russell, Two 77

James Dunford, M.D.
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department

Dr. James Dunford is a highly acclaimed emergency room physician who has served as the Medical Director for the City of San Diego since 1997. In this capacity he has led the development of nationally recognized EMS programs including Project Heartbeat (public access defibrillation), the Serial Inebriate Program addressing chronically homeless alcoholics, the Clean Syringe Exchange Program to reduce disease transmission among addicts, and the Resource Access Program to help case manage the population of vulnerable frequent users of EMS 9-1-1 services. In doing so, he has improved the health and welfare of many of our community’s most vulnerable members.

Dr. Dunford is an exceptional physician with an extraordinary passion for addressing the health challenges of society’s most difficult to serve members.

His leadership has helped make the case for several programs to improve cardiac arrest and stroke survival rates in San Diego and to provide improved housing, medical and psychological services for our homeless populations.

Dr. Dunford’s story of selfless commitment to the health and welfare of those who society often ignores is an inspiring story that calls others to question whether they are doing all they can to be of service to others who are less fortunate than themselves. And, it serves as a guiding light to others who wonder if they can make a difference.

His true legacy lies in the well-being of the many members of our community whose lives have been saved or improved through his compassionate advocacy on their behalf.

Nominated By: Javier Mainar, Fire Chief San Diego Fire-Rescue Dept.

Deborah Lindholm
Foundation for Women

Deborah Lindholm is the founder and director of San Diego-based Foundation for Women. She has committed her life to dramatic reduction in poverty. Her method, original at the start, is now well known. Through the Foundation for Women, Deborah has provided over 1,000,000 microcredit loans to women in Liberia, India, Zambia, and even home in San Diego.

Through these very small loans, coupled with business coaching and an accountability group, women are able to start small business such as chicken farms, bakeries, markets, or – as is well known at La Jolla Rotary – coffee production.

With the income generated, they repay the loans, provide food and shelter for their families, educate themselves and their children, and end the cycle of poverty in their family.

Deborah has developed a very effective team in Liberia, West Africa, where she has brought great assistance as the country recovers and rebuilds from recent conflict. Through dozens of trips to Liberia, she has crossed not only the Atlantic, but also a similarly wide ocean of social and racial difference.

She has promoted a spirit of tolerance, not expecting the Liberians to be like us, but educating both sides of the pond to accept the differences and work together to solve a problem.

Her actions support her words, and her deeds lead to better lives and peace between our countries and in the region. Above all, Deborah’s strong leadership has built goodwill across the ocean, and peace in the world.

Nominated By: Bill Burch, La Jolla Rotary

Jill McManigal & Danielle Gram
Kids for Peace, Inc.

Some people talk about creating a world of peace, others believe it is an unobtainable dream, but the founders of Kids for Peace know that peace is possible! Kids for Peace was founded in 2006 by a concerned mom, Jill McManigal, and a high school honors student, Danielle Gram. What started as a backyard “club” of caring kids in Carlsbad, has grown into a global movement with over 350 interconnected chapters launched in 6 continents. Over 2 million youth are now actively engaged in creating a world of kindness, understanding, unity and respect. With children taking the lead, peace is possible!

The story of Kids for Peace is inspiring as it offers hope for today and for future generations. In an age of pessimism, apathy and fear, Kids for Peace offers optimism, encouragement and joy. Kids for Peace reminds our community that children are the future, and as we support and encourage our young generation, a legacy of peace is created for all.

Kids for Peace has significantly impacted our San Diego community and far beyond. Most notably with The Great Kindness Challenge – Kids for Peace’s bully-prevention program now in its 4th year – was recently implemented in 207 San Diego County schools with 120,118 students engaged in creating a culture of kindness where all students thrive. They are on track to engage over 8 million youth in our 2016 Great Kindness Challenge.

The accomplishments of KfP are extraordinary! In 9 years they’ve addressed the United Nations, presented on the House Floor of Congress, published 3 children’s books, delivered thousands of Peace Packs, traveled to high conflict areas (Pakistan, Uganda, Israel, Palestine, Rwanda, Bolivia, etc.), support a school in Kenya, and inspired 100 million acts of kindness in The Great Kindness Challenge!

Nominated By: Marcus Lara. We Are One Unlimited

Carol Skiljan
Light for Life Foundation

Carol Skiljan is a founding member of the non-profit Light for Life Foundation of Southern California and their outreach program, Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program, San Diego Chapter. During the past 17+ years over 1,000,000 ASK4HELP lifeline cards have been distributed and nearly 375,000 middle/high school staff, students and parents have received comprehensive suicide prevention education. In April 2006, Carol received a San Diego County HHSA Public Health Regional Champion Award representing North Coastal County

Terry Kaltenbach and his wife Linda, co-founded the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program, San Diego Chapter in October 1997 following the death by suicide of their 14 year old daughter. As the Executive Director, Carol and the Light for Life Foundation has taken their Yellow Ribbon program to a level no one could have imagined in 1997.

The impact of the Light for Life program and the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program on the county’s youth is profound. Over 5,000 lives have been saved worldwide since 1995 when the Yellow Ribbon program was first introduced by Dale and Darlene Emme in Westminster, Colorado.

With Yellow Ribbon Chapters throughout the United States, Canada and Australia, the long-term impact of this program has been felt throughout San Diego County and far beyond.

The fact that this program is a youth reaching youth program gives it legs and the simplicity of the card and its message is what makes it so effective and has sustained it over the past 20 years.

Nominated By: Terry Kaltenbach, KBACH Associates Insurance Services

2015 Inspiration Awards™


Michael Bradshaw
Foundation for Developmental Disabilities

Michael Bradshaw, First Vice President of the Merrill Lynch SD, has spent many years of voluntary service on the Foundation for Developmental Disabilities Board of Directors. He generously donates his time and talents to create and develop housing, education and job opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities. The mission is to provide support and to raise and distribute monies to promote creative and innovative programs, when needed services are not available from other entities such as governmental or private resources.

Nominated by: Wayne L. Schmidt, Canon Solutions America, Inc.

Angela Kretschmar
Heaven’s Windows

Executive Director, Angela Kretschmar, began with a simple request from her pastor. Serve people in the community with food. God has amazingly led Angela to form a non-profit called Heaven’s Windows. Serving hundreds of people in the community every day, Promoting available resources and provides support and emergency services for residents, hunger relief, nutritional educational, advocacy, and community service. Heaven’s Windows works towards building bridges to improve the quality of life in the greater San Diego area by bringing together other charitable organizations for mutual benefit.

Nominated by: Thomas Bush, Vision San Diego

Billy Moore
Any Body Can Youth Foundation

Established more than forty years ago by World Champion Boxer, Archie Moore, the mission of the Any Body Can Youth Foundation remains the same today – “To empower San Diego’s inner city youth to face life’s challenges with courage and dignity.” Billy Moore, Archie’s son, is now running the Foundation started by his father. From its earliest days, the Foundation was concerned with the temptations of gang life, and the challenges of poverty in preventing youngsters from reaching their potential.

Nominated By: Bill Allen

Erin Weidemann
Writer, Author and Five Time Cancer Survivor

Erin Weidemann is a driven and determined individual who is deeply commitment to bettering the lives of children and their families. Her story is compelling and a real, honest, and beautiful encouragement to others. Inspired by God and her daughter, Rooney, Erin wrote Bible Belles, an original children’s book series that presents real heroes like never before! The series highlights the stories of five superhero women of the Bible: Hannah, Esther, Abigail, Ruth and Deborah. Together they show girls what it really means to be truly beautiful.

Nominated By: Gina Manis-Anderson, Savii Group

Pastor Von
Spectrum Ministries

Pastor Von, known by many as the “Father Teresa of Tijuana”, at the age of 86, continues to serve the poorest of the poor in our neighboring community. Ministering to their most basic needs of food, medicine and practical love, he is the truest example of walking the walk that he teaches. He is now on his 4th generation! His emphasis is as the surrogate “grandfather” to hundreds if not thousands just across our border. He is the voice of service, taking thousands to Tijuana and surrounding areas to minister to the poor.

Nominated By: Dan Hare



“You Can Get Mad, Pout, or Do Something About It”


Last month the Center for Wealth and Legacy’s Leadership Insight Forum series hosted another superb guest. CEO and President of Scripps Health, Chris Van Gorder joined us at the Corporate Alliance San Diego Headquarters in the University Town Center area to discuss his life and give insights to success. From his humble beginnings to a very accomplished leader, Chris was very open to his background, how he came to be in his current position, the importance of humble leadership and service to others.

Importance of Strong Beginnings

Chris allowed the audience to learn about his parents who had dropped out of school during the Great Depression and had very little money. “Dad was from Canada. Mom was from Scotland. They loved the US. They instilled in my brother and I that we have to serve the country … to give back for all we have been given.”   His dad delivered milk to door-to-door and his mother worked at a bookstore where Chris first worked when he was 13 years old with his twin brother. No matter that their family lacked significant finances, they had a very strong sense of service. As World War II broke out, his father went to serve in the Military Police which also led Chris to that field after working for Arby’s and attending college (which Chris worked through school to put himself through). He worked as a police cadet full time during the summer and 20 hours a week during college. Finally, he decided to apply to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Academy and went into law enforcement. It would be from one single incident that his entire life would change.

Challenges That Force Us To Excel

“A few years into my law enforcement career I was answering a domestic dispute call. A woman had locked herself in her car with her child. When we answered the call and confronted her she took off in the car. In the course of giving chase, the woman chose to drive her car straight at me. She hit my car at 60 mph. It threw my car back, and even though wearing a seat belt, it threw me into the ceiling of my patrol car. She was unhurt, as was the child, but the impact broke my neck among other injuries. Badly injured, it took over an hour to get me out of the car. While I couldn’t know it at the time, this caused a major change of direction in my life… it was the end of my career in law enforcement. I could barely walk and was diagnosed with anxiety and a psychiatrist was concerned about depression and possible suicide (PTSD).”

At a pivotal moment in his life Chris recognized that he could continue to suffer through depression or do something about it, “I was depressed after losing my career that I loved and was feeling sorry for myself. A doctor gave me a prescription for depression that I promptly tore up, but it got my attention. That day I forced myself to walk for 100 yards. The next day, 200 yards. The next day a little farther. I began to regain mobility a little bit more every day.” After a year in the hospital and physical therapy, he applied for the job as Director of Security at Orthopedic Hospital – the same hospital that had cared for him after the crash. When they were reluctant to do so because of concerns over his health, Chris said to them, “Pay me minimum wage for next 90 days. At the end of that time, if I have not proved myself, then let me go. Let me prove myself.” As head of security at the orthopedic hospital, he watched the administrator there very closely and quickly recognized that he could do that role. Yet while he had job skills, he lacked the professional credentials. The CEO at the time was Bob Sloane and who would become a lifelong mentor of Chris, he brought the realization that he must go back to school. With Bob’s encouragement Chris finished school and received the proper training to aid his useful job skills.

Challenges of Character

Another very interesting story detailed the character of Chris: “I left Anaheim Memorial after about 8 years as a Vice President (VP) and Chief Operations Officer (COO) to become COO at the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance. I often describe the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of that hospital as the best COO I have ever known, but that was my job, the CEO was a micromanager. As he didn’t let me really do my job I eventually left to take the CEO position back at Anaheim Memorial Hospital.” Bob (his mentor who was at a hospital he had previously departed) was struggling as CEO and the Board at the hospital was going to let him go. They approached Chris to assume that role and as much as he desired to be in that position, he did not accept the opportunity as Bob was his mentor, he could not do something like that to his mentor.

Six months later, the Board Chair called Chris back and let him know that Bob (his mentor) had already been terminated. “We would like you to come back.”  Chris stated that “Before I did anything, I called Bob to meet personally first … He was angry with me, and thought that he lost his job because I had been waiting in the wings. After I explained the timetable of events and he understood the whole story, he opened up.”

As it turned out, when the Board Chair called the first time, he was testing Chris. Did Chris have the morals and loyalty to Bob to turn down the job offer? “It was only when I showed that relationships mattered more to me than a job title did they eventually come back when the position really was available. I did take that position … the second time it was offered … and merged that hospital with another hospital at Long Beach. After that, I came to Scripps.”

Remind Your People What is Important

“Companies have to do more than just pay employees a fair wage and benefits. They should provide what workers need to excel at their jobs. Always take care of your people. I tell our front-line team: If you need more resources, come to me. If we don’t take care of our people, we can’t take care of our patients. Making this concept real in the workplace can defuse tension among people and leave employees feeling like they’re part of a family where their voices are heard, their needs are met and their opportunities are plentiful. But how do you create that kind of environment? I can point to number of ways we accomplish this at Scripps.”

The Scripps unique, in-house Employee Assistance Program (EAP) plays a big role. With a team of trained psychologists, the EAP staff is there when employees have personal needs that require attention or when conflict arises.  We call it taking care of the ‘me’ first … providing for our employees and looking out for their needs so intensely that they can be freed up to put others our patients and their colleagues – first. Through our Scripps Leadership Academy alumni, we established what we call the HOPE Fund, which is designed to help employees in financial need employees helping employees. Almost everyone in the organizations donates something and I help in the fund raising campaigns each year.

“I am constantly inspired by the stories of our front-line workers and the patients that they serve.” Scripps has three generations of families working their now.  During a visit to a very bloody emergency room, Chris had a conversation with one of his housekeepers, “If I don’t do my job and get this all cleaned up, the work of saving lives can’t happen. What I do here really matters. It is important work. He gets it … how could you not be inspired by team members like that?”

Tell a Story to Convey Message

When Scripps Health conducts its new employee orientation, they traverse a room to find pictures of people posted on all sides. “We usually have a photo of Claire, a vibrant young girl surrounded by volleyballs. When I ask the new employees what they think happened to her, they respond that she probably sustained a sports injury. They are usually shocked to hear that Claire, at the age of 17, was driving down the freeway when she suffered a massive stroke that completely paralyzed her left side. The ambulance took her to one of our facilities where we happened to have a brand new piece of high-tech imaging equipment. The doctor snaked a catheter up into her brain and was able to break up the clot that had caused the stroke. Just hours later, Claire began to recover feeling on her left side. After a period of rehab, she experienced a full recovery. Six months later she was enrolled in college, having received a volleyball scholarship.”

During one of Scripps Health’s quarterly system-wide management meetings, Claire and her father joined the staff to share their perspectives. Claire got up and told her story just as you would expect a teenager to explain it – in a simple, straightforward way, without a full awareness of her stroke’s seriousness. But when it was her father’s turn to speak, he broke down. The room went silent. Collecting himself, Claire’s father told the group that he had been afraid he would lose his daughter or that she would become an invalid for the rest of her life. “I am so grateful,” he said, “that she happened to show up in your hospital, which had the right technology and the right doctors at the right time.”

At a management meeting, Chris once again started the session with a patient visit and story. The director of the Rehab Center described how this patient, a man in his 30s, had been involved in a bad motorcycle accident and was left paralyzed. He couldn’t walk, and he relied on catheters for some of his critical bodily functions. When first injured, the man received good care elsewhere, but his rehab had left much to be desired. He came to our center and we were able to improve his condition substantially. He still couldn’t walk, but he could now live a better life and even become a father.  The Scripps Rehab Medical Director and Corporate Medical Director introduced this same man to the audience, and he rolled out onto the stage in a wheelchair. He told the audience of 600 people about his accident and his gratitude for the care he had received. And then the fireworks started. “You know what?” the man said, “I’m going to walk again!”

One of the physical therapists came on stage and strapped the man into a groundbreaking new device called an exoskeleton. This device, whose lightweight parts extend over the trunk and legs, allow a person with weakened limbs to stand and even walk. With the exoskeleton helping him, picking up and putting down his legs with each step, this man slowly walked 40 feet across the room. People were up and out of their seats, cheering and clapping. When the emotion simmered down, the man explained how meaningful it was to him that he could get out of his wheelchair and walk. “I never thought this would happen again in my life.”

Humility in Leadership

Chris doesn’t believe in hiding behind the veil of a title. “Yes, I have responsibility, but I am still just an employee like everyone else. At Scripps, we really try to take away the titles. The Head of Human Resources used to work at an Arby’s (similar to Chris). The security people at Scripps like Chris as the CEO (of all the staff groups) because I started as one of them. We are not our title.”

Additionally, Chris wants to be someone that others can approach, intimidation is not the key in leadership. Accessibility is more than an open door policy. Often a new employee will write an email to test me on this like one I got the other day… “I am a new employee in orientation and they say you will respond back right away. Is it true?” Within minutes they got an email back from me, “Yes I do.”

Philanthropy and Giving Back is Important

“Ellen Browning Scripps in her gifts to the community truly taught others to be generous with their time and resources. Mother Mary Michael Cummings (Founder of Scripps Mercy Hospital) probably caught it as part of her religious order.” As Scripps was founded by a $250,000 gift from Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924 the hospital(s) would not exist today if it were not for her philanthropy. Additionally, Scripps would not be able to sustain the mission today if it were not for the generosity of many.

Scripps Health provided $373 million in community benefit in 2014 including approximately $48 million in charity care, $15 million in health research, $22 million in physician and professional education, $2 million in community building activities, $6 million in subsidized health services and $5 million in community health programs. The rest is in reimbursement shortfalls from government payers. 15.5% of our total operating expenses in 2014 were devoted to community benefit services at cost (not charges).

Scripps also encourages volunteering in the community and support of programs like United Way, American Heart Association, Heart Walk, etc. In September 2005, Chris organized and led an 81-member Scripps Medical Response Team to Houston to aid Hurricane Katrina and Rita survivors. Scripps Health was requested by Surgeon General Richard Carmona, marking the first time the federal government called on a private health care system to deploy a medical team to assist the federal government in a national disaster relief effort.

The Scripps Medical Response Team later provided community medical support following the 2007 San Diego County wildfires, and again in January 2010, when Chris had the privilege to lead the Scripps Medical Response Team to Port au Prince, Haiti to aid victims of the devastating earthquake. Today, the Scripps Disaster Preparedness Office provides counsel to local, state and federal disaster efforts.

However amazing what the Scripps Health employees provide the nation, it is also very significant how this global leader dedicates his time. Chris himself donates a very large amount of volunteer time to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department as a Reserve Assistant Sheriff (being a part of the department for the past 13 years donating between 500 and 1,000 hours of service every year). Even more, he is a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT), an instructor for the American Red Cross, an assistant clinical professor in health administration and member of the Healthcare Advisory Board in the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development (SPPD), and on the Editorial Board of the Governance Institute.

A very humble and reflective man, Chris finally noted upon how we would like to be remembered in years to come or even each after each work day: “Would Mother Mary Cummings (who established Mercy Hospital), and Ellen B. Scripps (who gave of her wealth to help start Scripps) – would they be happy with what I did today? Am I helping to create a lasting team that will stay strong in serving the community in the same way as they did?”

Taught with strong family values and a sense of service from a young age, to facing multiple challenges, to continuing to inspire and continue his help to mankind, Chris is an exemplary role model for all. We were fortunate to receive a morning’s worth of mentorship from him and his wife, Rosemary 

Quotes to live by:

  • “Your worst day in your life may lead to the best day of your life.”
  • “A culture of advocacy is like a plant – if you don’t feed and water it almost every day, it will die.”
  • “Every patient has a story. These are people, not just patients.”
  • “Whatever you do – do it at the finest level you can. Understand that there are three legs to every career. The first leg is responsibility. The second is authority. The third is accountability. Those are the three legs. Many want the authority but without the responsibility. Few want accountability. It takes all three legs.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes … as long as it doesn’t kill someone or bankrupt the company.”
  • “I see my role and management’s role as a teacher. How to turn a question that is asked of me into a teaching moment and help to build trust.”
  • “Be kind to everyone; you never know when you might be coming to them for a job.”
  • “One important piece of advice … don’t take yourself too seriously.”


We hope that you can join us at the next Center for Wealth and Legacy function on September 21st as we host the Inspiration Awards and learn of more courageous and motivating persons in our region.

Thanks to R.J. Kelly for scribing these notes for the Leadership Insights Forum and this article.

Accomplishing the Impossible Ahead of Schedule

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The Leadership Insights Forum

Welcome to another blog from our Center for Wealth and Legacy family.  It is hard to believe that it is already March! These past two months have quickly passed but our action teams have been energetic and active in our planning efforts.  Through these groups we have had taken strides focusing not only for 2016, but also for the oncoming years.  Through the mentorship of Timi Gleason and Dominique Langerman we have embraced a collective effort to achieve wildly important goals (WIGs) through engaging talks and brainstorming sessions on developing the Center and pulling in more leaders, or as we call them now “Actionators”.


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The 2014 Inspiration Award Recipient is now also the San Diego Business Journal’s Recipient of the Most Admired CEO Award 2016, Family-Owned Business category!


Damian McKinney
Community Supporter & Advocate

Damian is active in the community, most notably for his work as an advocate for children with disabilities. He was an influential board member for All Kids Inc, a nonprofit for the inclusion of children in after-school activities and anti-bullying. Damian has been on the board of directors for San Diego Center for Children, the Academy of our Lady of Peace, and the San Diego North Economic Development Council. Damian is an active member of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, CEO Roundtable, National Center for Fathering, and San Diego Military Advisory Council. Damian was recognized as an “outstanding contributor” from the San Diego Corporate Alliance Group.

Continue Reading »The 2014 Inspiration Award Recipient is now also the San Diego Business Journal’s Recipient of the Most Admired CEO Award 2016, Family-Owned Business category!

Get to Know The Center for Wealth & Legacy™

CenterForWealthLegacy w tag

Recently, The Center for Wealth & Legacy™, held an annual retreat to help reinvigorate our action team members and focus for efforts in the upcoming year.  Our Center is committed to helping successful business owners and families “pass forward” their success along with their core values and virtues that created their wealth. By bringing together a diverse group of business leaders, elected officials, and military officers, we are able to bring together their experience and professional backgrounds to identify and address the financial and legacy issues facing every business and family today.

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San Diego Food Bank Event Provides Perspective

On June 23, 2010 the Center for Wealth & Legacy organized it’s annual trip to the San Diego Food Bank to provide an opportunity to give back to those in need in our communities.  We often go about our busy lives and don’t realize that many people here in our own back yard are struggling and wondering where their next meal is going to come from. The San Diego Food Bank meets the needs of thousands of people every day and they can’t do it without the help of the community (that is us!).

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Revisiting The Cause For The Center For Wealth & Legacy

The Center for Wealth & Legacy™ is committed to helping successful business owners and families ‘pass forward’ their financial success along with their core values and virtues that created their wealth. The Center brings together a diversity of experience and professional backgrounds to identify and address the financial and legacy issues facing every business and family today. Our goals are to instill hope and provide a specific roadmap for continued success throughout the generations.

Continue Reading »Revisiting The Cause For The Center For Wealth & Legacy