…It’s okay to not be all-knowing in your new space. For me, the nonprofit world is something I have merely volunteered in, or have been part of a board. Founding a nonprofit is a different ballgame. And, it’s okay to go into a space where you are a newbie, a rookie, and the least knowledgeable person in the room. This offers a chance to learn and tackle new challenges. Big leaps into new spaces help you grow.
As a part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachelle McCray.
In 2002, Rachelle McCray’s mother found herself in need of a kidney donor to save her life after her kidney disease had progressed to end-stage renal failure. On April 12, 2005, at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Scottsdale, Mindy’s father-in-law selflessly donated his kidney — giving her a second chance at life. Knowing personally the beauty that can come from organ donation, Rachelle decided to bring public attention to the need for kidney disease education, organ donation awareness, and patient aid through the sale of a stuffed toy named MinMinBears after her mom’s nickname, MinMin.
The Foundation is led by Founder, Rachelle McCray, TV Personality (QVC, Arizona Living.) and former Miss Arizona and Arizona Cardinals NFL cheerleader. She was inspired to start the foundation after a personal experience with her mother’s own need for a kidney donor years ago and her current need for a second transplant.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been in the entertainment industry for more than 15 years, and I can honestly say becoming a Founder of a non-profit is a welcomed journey and not one I intentionally sought out. However, it’s not surprising to those who are closest to me because from the age of a young child, I’ve been drawn to philanthropy. Whether it was feeding those in need by packing boxes at food banks or attending church mission trips, I have been involved in many facets of this space for as long as I can remember. So, when my own family needed the help of others, I turned it into an opportunity to help more than just ourselves, even though it started out as a simple idea with purpose that was “fun”.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
We launched publicly in September of 2020, and we had the unexpected privilege of working with a biomedical company that I believe is changing the way we care for kidney patients. Natera came alongside the MinMinBear Foundation as a partner to help educate the public on kidney disease through our online challenge, the #minminbearchallenge. This relationship happened organically through conversations with others in the community who care passionately about those needing an organ transplant. A conversation between strangers became one of the most significant moments in our infancy. To have such a respected global company care about our mission in its early stages, meant everything to our team. It’s because of opportunities like this that make our goals of helping others possible. Going forward, we welcome the opportunity to work with other companies who share our vision and want to support our missions, as Natera has done.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I initially started the idea of the #minminbearchallenge, it was a fun thought of sending one bear around the country to tell the story about my mom and her need for a living kidney donor. Because of COVID, sending one bear wasn’t an option, and we quickly realized the need to send individual bears one by one. This led to the question of how, followed by the creation of a foundation, which ultimately leads to where we are now, in just a few short months. The funny mistake I made was thinking we could create a cute and fun viral challenge to help my mom find her kidney match, not knowing how fast it would grow, and how many people we could ultimately help. This was more of a happy accident than a mistake, and I am thankful it’s turned into an opportunity to help others beyond my own family. The lesson I learned is to never underestimate one small idea because it can turn into one of the most impactful things you do with your life.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Our Foundation, in its infancy, is making its way to all 50 states to share the story of those impacted by kidney disease that can ultimately lead to organ donation. Our impact has come through the form of social media, health care workers, other kidney patients and their families, and those who just want to get behind a good cause. Our hope is that we can become the place families turn to at diagnosis, through transplant, as a place for comfort and advocacy.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
We’ve been so fortunate that many individuals have been impacted by our cause, so it is hard to name just one person! It was the support of family and friends joining the #minminbearchallenge in the beginning, which resulted in the tagging of their friends within their networks, which expanded our reach. Those tags have led to strangers all over the country participating in something that helps many. Because of this we’ve been able to connect with other families facing organ transplants. It’s a wonderful surprise to watch the challenge grow beyond the people who love, know, and support us from a personal perspective to others who want to help make a difference for kidney patients they’ve never even met.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
There are many ways to get involved. First, consider being tested as a living organ donor. Right now, there are more than 100,000 people on the waiting list, and many die each day. You only need one kidney to live a happy, thriving life, and you could be the perfect match for someone in need. You can find out more information on living donation on our website: www.minminbearfoundation.org.
Living donation is not a choice for everyone, so consider becoming an organ donor at the end of life. You can find out more information and sign up at unos.org.
If neither of those options sounds like ways you’d like to help, consider sharing posts on your social media page from Foundation pages like ours. Your interaction can reach people who may not be aware of the cause, and a simple “share” can go a long way in helping others find the gift of life.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is more than a buzzword. It’s a series of qualities that add value to the overall vision for your company or brand. Many times, I think people get caught up in thinking leaders are only C level executives or those who are in high management roles. However, I believe that leadership transcends rank and can come from any part of a company, regardless of title or pay scale. Being a leader where you are is one of the best lessons I have learned in my career. Influencing others through creativity, having a grand vision to back up those creative ideas, and then having the ability to execute them and deliver in an impactful way is ultimately the key to being a great leader in any organization.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I wish someone had told me when I first started…it’s a marathon, not a sprint. When I start projects or have a new idea, I tend to want to race to get it finished and out into the world. I’ve learned over time that the process of creating is something that should be enjoyed. Learn to find the beauty in what takes time to build, instead of rushing to the finished product. It took us months to get MinMinBear off the ground, and I was so anxious to share this fun, great cause. I found myself getting frustrated in the waiting and the learning, and the “in-between’’ stuff. I look back now at a time frame that flew by, and I wish I would have savored those moments just a little more and took a step back to see how far we had come day by day.
I wish someone told me when I first started…it’s okay to not be all-knowing in your new space. For me, the nonprofit world is something I have merely volunteered in, or have been part of a board. Founding a nonprofit is a different ballgame. And, it’s okay to go into a space where you are a newbie, a rookie, and the least knowledgeable person in the room. This offers a chance to learn and tackle new challenges. Big leaps into new spaces help you grow.
I wish someone had told me when I first started… Finding funding for a nonprofit isn’t easy. It may seem like that’s an obvious statement, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you are the driver and the entire organization depends on your ability to raise money to support your mission and goals. I am learning to understand grant writing, public outreach, and how to maximize gift-giving seasons to reach our goals. This is a part of running the organization that I think I will always be a student at.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I hope our #miminbearchallenge inspires a movement of all ages to tell the stories of people who sign up to save other’s lives through organ donation. I think that something as simple as a cute little teddy bear can save lives, one adventure at a time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters, 204 if you’re in Japan.” Claire Cook, Seven Year Switch
This quote has always resonated with me because my career has never been a straight line. What seemed to come easy to many in my career space in the entertainment industry has been an everyday challenge for me. For some, accomplishing goals happened quickly, and I applaud that. For me, many of my goals took years to accomplish beyond others. For example, I worked for ten years to become Miss Arizona, while some women won on their first try. In my television career, I’ve faced rejection more times than I can count. But one million no’s turned into one yes, and that yes led to the next great thing. I am thankful for any individual who has given me a chance to grow and learn, even if I diverted from “plan a.” And because of those “Plan B and beyond”, I’ve had opportunities like dancing for the NFL for several years, interviewing the biggest names in Hollywood, hosting national entertainment shows, and shopping as a Program Host for QVC and now, becoming the Founder of a non-profit.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Wow, only one? I think it is a difficult task because the world is full of so many interesting people. So, I am going to break the rules a little and name a few. First, I’d love to sit down and chat with Sarah Hyland and Selena Gomez. Both ladies have shared their journeys with kidney donation as recipients, and I admire their strength and courage to share such a personal event in their lives. They are two people who could live their health journey privately but choose to do so publicly so that they can be a voice to others, and that amazes me.
Non-kidney or health-related, I would like to sit down with entrepreneur Robert Herjavec and his wife, Kym. I respect Robert as a business person. It would be a privilege to chat with him about lessons learned in launching businesses, hear about his wins and losses, learn about how he manages success and failure, and chat about a venture my husband and I have been working on. And Kym…well, I’d love to talk dance and motherhood. Although I never learned ballroom dance, I was a professional dancer for years, and I think she is wildly talented. It would be so much fun to hear more about her journey with dance and becoming a mom.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find us on instagram at: @minminbears and on facebook at: @minminbearfoundation
You can also follow our Founder, Rachelle McCray, at @rachellemccray on instagram and facebook. Look for the blue checkmark to ensure it’s the proper account.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!