Episodes of The Sport Clips Haircuts Hall of Fame Podcast - Haircuts with Heart featuring Kathleen Ruddy from St. Baldrick's Foundation

Red Banner with HOF Episode

This episode is with Kathleen Ruddy, CEO of St. Baldrick's Foundation. As the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation believes that kids are special and deserve to be treated that way. In 2016, Sport Clips Haircuts proudly signed on as St. Baldrick’s’ first National Partner, committing to give more than $1 million dollars in support of childhood cancer research over the next three years. In this podcast, Kathleen describes the impact St. Baldrick's Foundation is making on childhood cancer, the difference made through the partnership with Sport Clips and what's to come in the years ahead. For more information, visit: www.sportclips.com/sbf

Kathleen and Chad holding a microphone at St. Baldrick's Headquarters

Episode Air Date Guest Name Guest Title Topic(s)
February 20, 2019 Kathleen Ruddy CEO Stories of inspiration and impact on childhood cancer research

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Transcription:

Chad Jordan: Hey everybody, this is Chad Jordan, director of marketing for the digital serves at Sport Clips. Glad to have you with us today on what I'm really looking forward to, an exciting episode of the Sport Clips Hall of fame podcast, and I think this episode is gonna do a lot of good for a lot of people, so I'm really thrilled to be here.

Chad Jordan: I was getting to say with my guest, but I'm gonna let her introduce herself. So am I here with by the way?

Kathleen Ruddy: Well, hello Chad, thank you for having me, my name is Kathleen Ruddy, I'm the CEO of the St. Baldrick's Foundation, and I'm so thrilled to be here with you and with all of our friends at Sport Clips.

Chad Jordan: Well, we love being a national partner, the first national partner with St. Baldrick Foundation. This is a partnership that began back in 2016. And what we're gonna explore today for our listeners is we're gonna talk about what that partnership had meant over the last three years, what exactly St. Baldrick's is, how in the world did it get named St. Baldrick's? Is there really a Saint up there named Baldrick? And then we're gonna talk about what the future looks like with this partnership.

Chad Jordan: So we got a lot packed in to the next half hour or so, but looking forward to it. So would further ado, can you help me understand, was it 2016? 'Cause it's 2019, right? Minus three years. So 2016 Gordon Logan the CEO and founder of Sport Clips, Martha England, our VP of marketing, you guys at St. Baldrick's all get in a room and decide we need to do something to fund childhood cancer research and to make a difference. So what happened in 2016 that was so monumental?

Kathleen Ruddy: Well, I think for anybody who's ever met or been exposed to Gordon Logan in any way shape or from, which I think is pretty much the entire the Sport Clips family, you know that he's a man who really cares about people. The people in his organization, the people in his communities, the clients that you serve, your customers, and the well-being of the next generation. And I think that carries out in a lot of Sport Clips philanthropic endeavors, and we were really impressed by that.

Kathleen Ruddy: But I think the leadership team at Sport Clips really learned what the situation in the world of childhood cancer is, and the opportunity that existed to really do something profound that not only would save kids lives, but improve the quality of their lives during treatment and then for the rest of their lives.

Kathleen Ruddy: So we were thrilled and so excited that Sport Clips, a company that has a public presence on the street, that people know, that the man and woman on the street know and they talk about in their homes, was willing to embrace this. Because it's kind of the [inaudible 00:02:58] that St. Baldrick's needed to help become better known so that we could better tell the story of children fighting cancer.

Kathleen Ruddy: In the US, and Canada, and well, really all high-income countries, cancer is the number one disease killer of our children. And yet, when we look back over the last 30-40 years when significant progress has been made, we have been able to increase survival of those kids 10 fold. 40 years ago, 50 years ago, gosh, I mean it was very rare for a child to survive at all. And now, kids with the most common form of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, 90% of them can be cured. And so that proves, that research has made that possible.

Kathleen Ruddy: But there are almost 100 type or over 100 types of cancers that specifically attack children. And we need to be able to bring that kind of progress to all of them in addition to saving the other 10% who currently will not survive their battle with leukemia.

Kathleen Ruddy: So we've had tremendous progress and we're seeing progress in some of the other diseases, but we need to accelerate that, and are us, Sport Clips came in at a time that we really needed to amplify that message, reach new people, find a new way to communicate what we do, and the opportunity to play a role in curing cancer.

Kathleen Ruddy: When I was growing up, Chad, I don't know if your parents told you this, but when I was growing up I was really interested in medicine, in helping people, and this was before I learned that I really stink at science myself. But-

Chad Jordan: Yeah, you're preaching to the choir.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... my parents are so excited would say, "Well, maybe you should find the cure for cancer one day." Well, I'm not that scientist in the lab finding a cure, but I am playing a part of that. I'm helping to equip those scientists with the tools they need, and every single person who's part of the St. Baldrick's movement and now everybody who's part of Sport Clips is part of curing cancer.

Kathleen Ruddy: And I don't know a more purposeful way to expend my energy and to invest philanthropic dollars and so forth, because it's not only working to eliminate disease that's a scourge of our time, but protecting generations of kids, and keeping families intact. That's pretty pure. I think that brings people from all different perspectives and walks of life together.

Kathleen Ruddy: And in this day and age, I think we all need things that we can agree on, and that can unite us. We focus so much on what divides us, we need to focus more on what unites us. And I think that ripples through a lot of the culture and the drive that I have seen in my interactions with everybody at Sport Clips. And for us it's a [inaudible 00:05:59], that's what we're trying to deliver.

Chad Jordan: There are going to be two reactions. Now, I'm talking to the Sport Clips team members that are listening to this podcast. There are gonna be two reactions if they involve themselves in like a Brave the Shave event, which we'll talk about. One they will laugh their heads off, they're gonna have a good time as they're shaving heads and as people are interacting with them. And two, they're gonna cry their eyes out eventually at some point, because someone's gonna tell a story on how this is impacting them and there's gonna be a great connection.

Chad Jordan: And stylists, hairdressers, they are some of the most connecting, emotionally connecting people. I mean think about they sit down and they cut hair and they talk and they talk and they talk for 30 minutes a pop to somebody finding out their life story, and they see them every month.

Chad Jordan: And so there is something within a stylist DNA that make them wanna give back and make them wanna connect with people. And so that's why I love the St. Baldrick's Foundation partnership that Sport Clips has, 'cause it's right up our alley, it's right up what every store at a local level is looking to do. And that's connect with the local community and yet make a global impact, make an eternal impact as you were talking about, the chance for people to not necessarily be scientists and doctors, but to contribute and be heroes.

Chad Jordan: So now, that was 2016, and was that the year we did the Brave the Shave event at [Huddle 00:07:32]-

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes.

Chad Jordan: You were there?

Kathleen Ruddy: I was.

Chad Jordan: And so it was hundreds of people getting their heads shaved and was it San Antonio? Was that-

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes, [crosstalk 00:07:39] in-

Chad Jordan: ... Texas here?

Kathleen Ruddy: ... San Antonio.

Chad Jordan: And Gordon, I think even shaved his mustache and beard-

Kathleen Ruddy: Edward shaved as well [crosstalk 00:07:48] it was incredible.

Chad Jordan: ... braved the shave.

Kathleen Ruddy: That was really powerful experience because there was so much energy, and there was so much pride. Pride from ... on that stage. And just you could feel that people just felt like this was good for their soul, and-

Chad Jordan: Therapeutic.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... I ... Yeah, very much so. And it's kinda like that monthly visit to your stylist where you get to talk about what's going on in your life. And it's kind of the form of therapy. And I think people are yearning for ways to make the world a better place, and this is a very ... you can easily connect the dots.

Kathleen Ruddy: And I've heard from people ... So I should probably explain for your audiences benefiting the event ... someone isn't familiar with St. Baldrick's, what we do.

Kathleen Ruddy: We got our start because three gentlemen who had all been really successful in the business world in New York were kinda challenging each other to give back and find a way to do that in a big way.

Kathleen Ruddy: And one of them had kind of a real crazy main of hair that they liked to give them some grief over. So one of them came up with the idea to shave it. And since kids lose their hair during chemo treatments typically that they would get their friends in the industry to sponsor him and donate the money for pediatric cancer research.

Kathleen Ruddy: So he was not one to ever miss an opportunity and he said, "Well, I will if you will." So they decided to hijack their industry Saint Patrick's Day party.

Kathleen Ruddy: So Saint Patrick's Day became St. Baldrick's day because they were shaving their heads bald. And that first year, they wanted 17 guys to shave their heads, they never even thought that women might do it or kids, but 17 guys to do it and raise $1000 each so they could raise 17,000 on the 17th of March.

Chad Jordan: Cool.

Kathleen Ruddy: And at the end of the day they'd raised $104,000-

Chad Jordan: Oh my gosh.

Kathleen Ruddy: And they were scratching their heads saying-

Chad Jordan: Right, their bald [crosstalk 00:09:42] heads at this point, yeah.

Kathleen Ruddy: Right. And so that ... St. Baldrick's is not a real saint but I like to say he's kind of now been invented-

Chad Jordan: Yeah, exactly.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... he exists in all of us, and he's the patron saint of kids with cancer.

Kathleen Ruddy: So I'm so thrilled to tell you that all these years later, the St. Baldrick's Foundation has now been able to because of that signature head shave event fund over $262 million in childhood cancer research grants-

Chad Jordan: Wow.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... We are the largest non-government funder of childhood cancer research grants in the world.

Chad Jordan: Wow.

Kathleen Ruddy: And that is because of volunteers. Like everybody at Sport Clips who have shaved heads for us, who have shaved their own head, who've organized events and it's fantastic, because the event preceded the foundation, but now we have this entity and we can really drive a lot of change through our research program and our advocacy program-

Chad Jordan: We didn't talk about this [inaudible 00:10:40] but aren't stores now able to ... They can do the Brave the Shave event and partner with a local event, but aren't they able to maybe just like to bake sales or something and even contribute on the kiosk-

Kathleen Ruddy: Absolutely.

Chad Jordan: ... and cash register and have a little prompt for clients? Is that where we're at now?

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes, in fact numerous stores are coming up with their own ideas, cash give back days, collecting, selling our little icons, and letting our customers putting their names on it, and then for a donation, and contributing that money forward. So there's numerous ways.

Kathleen Ruddy: We've has Sport Clips locations that've hosted 36 events for St. Baldrick's that welcome the community to shave their heads.

Kathleen Ruddy: There've been over 100 stylists from Sport Clips that have participated at other St. Baldrick's events. And 617 members of the Sport Clips family have shaved their heads for St. Baldrick's.

Kathleen Ruddy: And all totaled, those efforts, plus the in-store promotions and giveaways and things have netted more than $1.1 million for-

Chad Jordan: Wow.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... research, which is phenomenal. And-

Chad Jordan: It's like every little dollar adding up.

Kathleen Ruddy: Oh, absolutely. And so there's so often that you get approached for money and sometimes you question is that ... what's that gonna achieve? But when you look at the fact that we have little kids who're bringing their piggy banks in, and corporations that can write a big cheque, or people doing sales in their business, or what have you, you put it all together and it's the power of us being united that has allowed all the life-saving research to happen.

Kathleen Ruddy: And what's incredible is that you asked me a question what have the last three years been like, it's been since Sport Clips came aborad. And not only has it kind of proven to be a leader and kind of an example for other companies to take a look at us, to say, "Hey, if Sport Clips is doing this, maybe we should look at St. Baldrick's too," and childhood cancer is a cause, it's kinda helped elevate it in the public awareness-

Chad Jordan: If it was good enough for Gordon, it's good enough for us-

Kathleen Ruddy: [crosstalk 00:12:47] There you go, exactly. But in addition, in that time, it's been the most exciting time in research. I've been doing this a lot of years now, it's 18 years now-

Chad Jordan: You've been doing this since you were 10 years old?

Kathleen Ruddy: I wish.

Chad Jordan: That's amazing.

Kathleen Ruddy: You're very diplomatic, Chad, if only that were true. But 18 years, and there were things that were kinda considered true when I started in this work, that were give ...

Kathleen Ruddy: For example, I asked about quality of life for survivors of childhood cancer. And that was one of my early questions, like first couple of days on the job. And the answer was well, that's kind of a luxury. That's considered like a future thing. There is one guy in the country who's really doing a lot on that and he's got a few people kinda catching on and following and trying to catch up with him but that's still kind of a luxury. We just need kids to survive.

Kathleen Ruddy: Well, we still need kids to survive, obviously. But focusing on the quality of that life once someone is considered quote-unquote cured, a lot of people don't realize that when a child survives cancer, more than two-thirds of those kids are gonna have a life-threatening late effect. It's a plate way of saying some devastating scar, something they have to live with for the rest of their live. They're gonna be infertile. They could have brain damage, heart disease, second and third cancers, infertility, stunted growth, lots of organs and vision, and hearing, and all sorts of things that affect every day of your life going forward.

Kathleen Ruddy: When an adult, god forbid, gets diagnosed with cancer, their bodies and minds are already fully developed, so they don't have to worry about late effects to the same degree-

Chad Jordan: Wow.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... But when you're young and your body and mind is still developing, it impairs you forever.

Kathleen Ruddy: And so the ... When we talk about survivorship, we're talking about fixing all of those problems I just mentioned. And I'm thrilled to tell you is that in those 18 years, not only is survivorship kind of ... There are survivorship clinics all over the country, there are specialists now all over the country who just work in that. Almost every grant that is ... that we fund that has a component that's involving kids, it's not something that's just in the lab, this is actually a study that's now being implemented in kids.

Kathleen Ruddy: There's a survivorship component. So it is very much part of the DNA of all research now whereas 18 years ago, it was considered a some day luxury-

Chad Jordan: As long as you keep them alive, that's good enough.

Kathleen Ruddy: Right, right, and so now fast forward to the last three years, what's incredible is the advent of immuno-therapy and genetics and the ability to put those things together. And other accomplishments that have made because of funding that's St. Baldrick's has been investing in, has been incredible.

Kathleen Ruddy: And kids who were literally out of options and whose families were told we're gonna make them comfortable, but basically there's nothing more we can do for them. Your child isn't gonna make it.

Kathleen Ruddy: Now, there are kids who're actually alive and have no evidence of disease because of work that's only happened because of the contributing help of St. Baldrick's.

Kathleen Ruddy: So that's something that every single member of the St. Baldrick's and Sport Clips families can celebrate and take part ...

Kathleen Ruddy: And so it's been an incredibly exciting time in research and we just need to amplify the message to get more people to understand that they can play a role, and it's a powerful one.

Chad Jordan: What are the roles? Walk me through a couple different areas where help is really needed and where common folk like me could step up and give some time and effort.

Kathleen Ruddy: So I always call it time, talent and treasure. Treasure is obviously give whatever you can. Again, no gift is too small or too large, so we can put it all to work and it makes a difference-

Chad Jordan: And that's-

Kathleen Ruddy: ... [crosstalk 00:16:50] so if people-

Chad Jordan: ... I probably should put a link on this podcast to St. Baldrick's-

Kathleen Ruddy: .org.

Chad Jordan: ... they can donate online.

Kathleen Ruddy: Absolutely.

Chad Jordan: I mean are we talking recurring gifts, one-time gifts.

Kathleen Ruddy: They can give recurrent gifts, we expect to be rolling out recurring gifts online in the next year or so, but they can call our office and set up a recurring gift if they'd like to.

Kathleen Ruddy: And time, time is often the hardest and most precious thing for people to part with. But there are a lot of way that they can help in their time. They can promote us on social media, they can help sign up for a St. Baldrick's event near them. This, I'm referring to our signature head-shaving events, where they could attend and volunteer at the event. They could help organize an event or run one if there isn't-

Chad Jordan: Is there-

Kathleen Ruddy: ... one near them where they could shave.

Chad Jordan: Is there a ... I don't wanna interrupt, but is there a map or anything that shows where local events are and how can we find out if there's one near us or-

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes, so if you go to the website, which is StBaldricks.org, and that's S-T Baldricks.O-R-G, if they click get involved, then you can go down and pick out what role interests you, or you could read about the various roles. And then you can search for events near you, there's a search function on the website, you can put-

Chad Jordan: And is there-

Kathleen Ruddy: ... your zip code-

Chad Jordan: ... And these [crosstalk 00:18:11] are-

Kathleen Ruddy: ... or whatever.

Chad Jordan: ... verified ones that have-

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes.

Chad Jordan: ... been set up with your team here.

Kathleen Ruddy: Right.

Chad Jordan: Okay.

Kathleen Ruddy: And they're all official St. Baldrick's events, they're on the website.

Kathleen Ruddy: Say for example that you wanted to shave your head, you could them sign up right there on the website, you create a page where you say I'm gonna shave my head and here's why-

Chad Jordan: Is it a template that I'm just following-

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes.

Chad Jordan: Okay.

Kathleen Ruddy: And it's all there for you, you don't have to know programming. It's all very easy and turn-key, you can upload a before-photo, later you could put your after-photo there. You can personalize a statement as to why you're inspired and motivated to do it.

Kathleen Ruddy: You can then email a link to that page to all your friends and family and ask them to sponsor you. And they can do it either right there through the website using a credit card, they could mail in a cheque, they can give you cash for you to then turn in. All those instructions are provided.

Kathleen Ruddy: So we make it as easy as possible for you to be able to get your questions answered. We have FAQs, we have all sorts of information about the impact St. Baldrick's has made in saving kids' lives, that's on the website, and you can share those facts with your friends.

Kathleen Ruddy: You can start a team and get friends to join you in this activity as well.

Kathleen Ruddy: There're other things too, we now have ... We created a program a few years ago called Do What You Want, because head-shaving was not for everybody. Some people are rather attached to their hair-

Chad Jordan: Amen, yes.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... and we get that. So we created a program called Do What You Want so that people who had different ideas could implement those. So whether it's the spaghetti dinner or the pancake breakfast or joggathon or whatever, they can work with us and use all the tools that we have on-

Chad Jordan: [crosstalk 00:19:43] Oh, that's cool.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... the website to make fundraising easy and to promote the event and so forth or the activity that they're doing.

Kathleen Ruddy: So those things now generate several millions dollars a year for the St. Baldrick's Foundation and for research. So we don't like to say no to people who are willing.

Kathleen Ruddy: There's another way that we don't talk about as much as we should that I wanna share with your audience because we have an advocacy program. We are very much a leader of childhood cancer advocacy at the federal level in Washington DC, and we've helped pass several bills, including one that's a St. Baldrick's Foundation authored called the Childhood Cancer STAR Act, which stands for survivorship, treatment, access, and research.

Kathleen Ruddy: And that was not only passed last year but signed into law. And as a result of it, $30 million in childhood cancer research funding was made available to do all sorts of things, to enable better collaboration, to data sharing and more survivorship work and so forth.

Kathleen Ruddy: So it's a huge step forward for kids with cancer, but we've really made that happen. And we have many families and friends of kids with cancer who will travel to Washington DC each year. This year, it's going to be a March 26th and 27th to participate in Childhood Cancer Action Days, but-

Chad Jordan: There'll be a lot of shaved heads that day?

Kathleen Ruddy: There probably will-

Chad Jordan: [crosstalk 00:21:09] It's right after St. Patrick's Day-

Kathleen Ruddy: ... but these are-

Chad Jordan: ... events-

Kathleen Ruddy: ... childhood organizations from all over the country who come and representatives from hospitals, doctors, etc. And they help educate members of Congress as to why this issue is important, where the opportunities lie, and how we can make a bigger impact with Congress's help.

Kathleen Ruddy: And what most people do who ... because they're not always able to get to Washington DC is they will advocate using our speak up tool which is also on our website under the get involved tab on the nav bar. And they sign up to be a member of the speak up network, so that when there's information and issues before Congress that are relevant to kids with cancer, they can get the background and the rationale for that initiative if you will from us. And contact of the member of Congress, they can do it very easily right there through our website.

Chad Jordan: Is it like a [inaudible 00:22:06] statement like hey, I support this and I want-

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes, we give them suggested text and so forth, but they can personalize it if they wanna spend a minute doing it, and then send the messages to their senators and Congress persons.

Kathleen Ruddy: So it's a very easy way to again make a big impact, because the STAR Act for example just resulted in another $30 million a year for childhood cancer research for the next five years. But that's more than we're able to commit to research every year, so just by sending emails, you can almost double the impact of the St. Baldrick's Foundation.

Kathleen Ruddy: So it's really a powerful tool, and we're so proud of that program, grateful to all the people who've helped make it successful-

Chad Jordan: One of the impacts that I think might not get talked about enough and maybe you could help shed a little light on it. I've got a couple kids, my 12 year old daughter is very initiative-minded. Publicly she wants ... Whether it's someone ... a homeless, she always wants to give back. And I feel like through a lot of these St. Baldrick's events, it's young people that are really leading the charge here, not necessarily old folks like me, but pre-teens, teenagers, and it's really setting them up when they hit society as an adult, they're gonna have momentum, they're gonna hit the ground running.

Chad Jordan: So are you able to speak to kind of what you've seen from your level on young people leading these events, and maybe it could inspire some team members who might also have some pre-teens or teenagers that could really grab the bull by the horns and also do events like this?

Kathleen Ruddy: You've said it so well. For us at the St. Baldrick's Foundation, I always say, obviously the research impact we've made has been achievement number one, because we've been able to ... through these efforts to save so many kids' lives.

Kathleen Ruddy: But I'm really profoundly proud of all the young people who are learning at very early ages that they can be a leader, that they can be a philanthropist, that they have power and a voice.

Kathleen Ruddy: We have hundreds of events that take place at schools all over the country. So from elementary schools, up through high schools, colleges as well.

Kathleen Ruddy: And we have lots of scouting troops, soccer teams and stuff that go to other community events not necessarily at their school, but shave and very much wanna be a part of it.

Kathleen Ruddy: And I know so many people now, I have the great privilege every year of writing letters of recommendation for college for so many young people who I've watched since their elementary school years, grow up with St. Baldrick's.

Kathleen Ruddy: And it's so incredible because at a personal human level, I feel like it's an added benefit that St. Baldrick's can offer the world 'cause we're helping to teach and form young people's character in a way to think not only about themselves, but to think about the needs of society, and that what they can do to help meet them.

Kathleen Ruddy: And look, there is great things to social media these days, but sometimes it makes people think they're a little bit the center of the universe and they're the only one that matters. And this is a great way to teach young people to be mindful of what they have and how they can help others and to be grateful for what they have.

Kathleen Ruddy: And it has been so incredible. I'll tell you one story that just was ... It's a delight for me because there was a young boy who participated in our events in Hong Kong, and his family moved back to the US to Orange County here in California, and he was looking on the website one day right before school started, like a week before his new ... you know the beginning of the school year.

Kathleen Ruddy: And he said, "Mom, there's no St. Baldrick's event in Orange County." This is going back a few years now, so this isn't currently, but ... His mom said, "Oh, well, we'll find one in the LA area for you to go to these." He says, "No mom, I'm gonna start one." And she thought, "Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah." You know?

Kathleen Ruddy: So first day of school comes and Nikki says something that morning going out the door to his mom about how he's going to start an event and she's like, "Huh, wow, he's still thinking about it a week later."

Kathleen Ruddy: So he goes to school that day, comes home, and when they're asking him, "How was your first day at your new school?" All he wanted to talk about is he got a St. Baldrick's event established.

Chad Jordan: Wow.

Kathleen Ruddy: And he got the principal to agree to shave-

Chad Jordan: First day.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... [crosstalk 00:26:28] agreed, first day of school, brand new school, pitched it to his teacher. His teacher and the principal were gonna shave, he had a date, and had school auditorium all lined up.

Kathleen Ruddy: And his mom's like, "Okay, I guess we're doing this." And he grew up with that. He became an Eagle Scout in part because of the-

Chad Jordan: Of course.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... his leadership in St. Baldrick's. And that story has been not exactly in the same way, but that story has replicated in places all over this country. And you better believe, he went through his neighborhood, and he talked at community groups, he got up at church and spoke at church.

Kathleen Ruddy: And this is a young person being an example, and I think for us as adults we want to support a young person who's doing something good.

Kathleen Ruddy: So it just kind of reinforces and you get onboard. And so I think the young people of today, our kids, are probably our most effective leaders.

Chad Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, I see that at a local level as well. The town where I live, it seems to be pre-teen and teenager-driven.

Chad Jordan: We've got great VEOs, I think you call them.

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes.

Chad Jordan: Volunteer event organizers. But it seems like the kiddos are the ones really carrying the baton.

Chad Jordan: So you ... We're almost ... I'm gonna wrap up here in a minute. But I wanna find out a little bit about you and why you're passionate about this, and where you ... I mean how did ... Obviously you didn't just pick up the paper and see that a CEO wanted for St. Baldrick's Foundation. I mean something led you here, there was a path, can you kinda give me a little bit of your background, and how you wound up here?

Kathleen Ruddy: Sure. Well, I had spent my whole career in the philanthropic world, and in fundraising roles. And I've-

Chad Jordan: [crosstalk 00:28:12] Because you're so good at it-

Kathleen Ruddy: ... earlier-

Chad Jordan: ... or because there was ever anything-

Kathleen Ruddy: ... I think-

Chad Jordan: ... that you just wanted to connect with that there was something that was driving you?

Kathleen Ruddy: So I was ... My whole life I was very cause-motivated. I got involved in various things, helping people in like junior high school. And I started volunteering in hospitals in my freshman year of high school. And so I got a lot of exposure to sick kids.

Kathleen Ruddy: But earlier than that, I had wanted to be a doctor, a pediatrician or an [inaudible 00:28:39]. And high school science kind of taught me you need to find a new way to help people, 'cause this isn't it.

Kathleen Ruddy: So it was just kind of a natural for me. In my university environment, I went to Loyola Marymount University, and it was very much serve-oriented and I had a lot opportunities there to be exposed to things.

Kathleen Ruddy: And just found my path and went into the non-profit sector out of college. But I'd never really felt like I truly found my place until one day I got a call from search consultant, a head hunter, who said, "You know I've got a job for you, and it's in childhood cancer research." And I said, "Tell them I'll take the job."

Chad Jordan: Wait, wait you don't know what we're offering you [crosstalk 00:29:25] yet. It doesn't matter.

Kathleen Ruddy: Right, they're like, "You have to interview," and I'm like, "Tell them I'll take the job," because it dove-tailed obviously with my love for children and my desire to see them healthy and strong. But in the interim years, I had had a lot of friends and family members who had fought cancer. And many of them didn't make it. And sadly, since that time, that list has only grown exponentially.

Kathleen Ruddy: So long story short, I got the job, and I was ... I went to the organization to do one thing, and I was on the job an hour, and my boss said to me, "Hey, you're Irish, and you used to do this earlier in your career, and maybe you'd like this thing." And so I said, "Well, I've got a lot of ideas, I think this is sensational and I think there's a lot and I'll help whoever you've got to do it."

Kathleen Ruddy: He goes, "No, I think you're gonna do it." And so it was ... An hour on the job, I kinda had that bait and switch experience-

Chad Jordan: Wow.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... and it has been the biggest blessing of my life that I did. So there are times that life throws you a curve ball and I think that my ... the thing that I would share with your audience is embrace it, 'cause it can be a wild exciting ride and so rewarding.

Kathleen Ruddy: And a couple years later, that organization was going through some changes, and St. Baldrick's had proven so viable that the three founders of St. Baldrick's, the three volunteer leaders, decided to start their own foundation, so it makes sense for me to come over, and I was the executive director. I started it out at my house. And the accounting department was in my dining room, and the-

Chad Jordan: No way.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... events department was in my home office, and my bedroom was [inaudible 00:30:59] department.

Kathleen Ruddy: And it was very lucky that I was able to bring a few people over from the other organization to kinda ... who got it and knew what we needed so we could have shortcut, shorthand discussions.

Kathleen Ruddy: And it was amazing to see the volunteers weekly rally and pick up roles that were not customary in non-profits. In my career, I mentioned that I had done events, special events early in my career. But most non-profits, the staff of an organization plan an event and volunteers get a job the day of, like if [inaudible 00:31:37] they work the auction for you or the golf tournament, they're manning a contest hold or something.

Kathleen Ruddy: But it's staff who really do all that work. At the St. Baldrick's Foundation we turn it around because volunteers truly are planning these events for their community, and it's their achievement. Our staff, we equip them with the tools and the resources they need, and some ideas, but then they make it their own. They adapt it to their community.

Kathleen Ruddy: And it's truly their accomplishment. And I think that's why we've had such longevity because people know that the kids with cancer are counting on them truly. It's not gonna happen if they don't do it.

Chad Jordan: And you couldn't possible go out to all-

Kathleen Ruddy: No.

Chad Jordan: ... the events with your ... I mean ... I'll say this, because I've toured ... This is a ... We're in southern California, you're not ... This is not your house and dining room anymore, we're on the fourth floor of a building here.

Chad Jordan: But you operate much like a franchise system. I could say that. Where you're lean and mean, you don't have millions of people floating around doing jobs that anybody ... So you're using your budget very well, you have different people doing probably more than one task-

Kathleen Ruddy: Oh yeah.

Chad Jordan: ... if you're like a franchiser that I might ... wearing many hats. And yet very responsible with what's coming in. So I can definitely vouch for the fact that just in the time I've been here, I've just seen they're answering phones, they're running around, the chickens with their heads cut off, they're getting work done and with smiles too.

Chad Jordan: And that leads me to my next question is how ... I can't imagine, I can't put myself in the shoes of you or your staff, that death is a reality, especially in your line of work. And you get close to families, you get close to children, and not all of them make it unfortunately. That's why you're so passionate about what you do.

Chad Jordan: So how do you guys cope with the constant balance between there are really high highs but then there's really low lows? How do you get through that as a team?

Kathleen Ruddy: Well, I would say there are a lot of ways. I think the people who come to work here are very naturally empathetic people. And they care so deeply.

Kathleen Ruddy: And so we do have to kind of rally with each other. I will tell you that laughter and tears are in abundance here. It's okay to cry. In a lot of places and cultures that organizations that I've worked in, that would be like a sign of weakness or something. Here we recognize it as a sign of caring.

Kathleen Ruddy: And it kind of inspires us to redouble our efforts and make sure we're being as effective as we can. And I think the trick is to let yourself feel the emotion you're feeling. And we take a lot of walks around the building. We're right connected to a shopping mall over here, shopping center, and we often see people going for a long walk just to ... Because they've had bad news, they gotta get it out.

Chad Jordan: Maybe a little retail therapy-

Kathleen Ruddy: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:34:46], yeah.

Chad Jordan: ... go buy a couple things-

Kathleen Ruddy: That's true. There is a lot of baking here at St. Baldrick's that we are all I think foodies, and so there's always ... someone's always bringing in some kind of tempting comfort food.

Kathleen Ruddy: So I think there is a little of that. But I think humor, we try and focus ... When we experience loss ... And sometimes they come in waves, like it feels like you're getting sucker punched hourly. But we try and double back.

Kathleen Ruddy: We read some of the blogs and we read some of the kid stories on our website, it reminds us of the accomplishments we have made, and the progress that's been made, and what we need to keep doing.

Kathleen Ruddy: There was an event I was at years ago, and I met this little boy named Jeremy who was six, and he was sitting right off the stage on a stool, and he had a mask on, and he was very ... he'd just gotten out of the clinic. And he ... Every time a shavy would start losing his or her hair he would let off these big belly laughs Chad. And I'm like, "Does he think they look funny, like what is it?"

Kathleen Ruddy: So I started talking to him, and he said, "It's not funny, it's exciting. It means I'm gonna get to grow up."

Chad Jordan: Oh wow.

Kathleen Ruddy: And that I think about him still, and I've lost touch with Jeremy, and every day I think about Jeremy and I think, "Where is he now? Is he with us? How is he doing?" And it just keeps me going. He will be alive forever to me.

Kathleen Ruddy: And for all of us, we all have kids like Jeremy who touch us in a moment and we never forget. And they give us ... We know how much we need to keep going.

Chad Jordan: So one of the things that I did notice as I toured this area is every cubicle, every office, has not just one box of kleenex, there's a couple, and you could see under people's desks the ones that ... the backups that are ready. So if Kleenex is listening to this and can kinda be one of the national partners as well-

Kathleen Ruddy: That's a great idea.

Chad Jordan: ... that just by donating their kleenex, their tissues, that would be amazing.

Chad Jordan: I don't wanna take up too much more of your time. I do wanna get one question. We started off this podcast talking about the national partnership with Sport Clips, and what the last three years have meant. And we've recently announced we're gonna continue with another three-year partnership with St. Baldrick's Foundation, so what do you envision happening over those next three years and the impact that that partnership can continue to make?

Kathleen Ruddy: Well, there is so much potential. It's very exciting. So first of all, I wanna say thank you to Sport Clips because that kind of reinvestment is so critical, it's inspiring, it's motivating, it will help us do so much more.

Kathleen Ruddy: In the research realm, I think it's gonna be hugely powerful because there are several big initiatives that we're trying to get off the ground. We have started now and created the capacity for us to do targeted research based on specific diseases.

Kathleen Ruddy: In the past, we always had an open call to researchers to say bring us your ideas, and we wouldn't know what was coming in to us and what various projects were coming until we got the applications, and then we would decide, our scientific advisors would review them all rigorously and then decide which ones were the most meritous of support.

Kathleen Ruddy: But now we can say, "Well, if you have an interest in this particular area, well, we can go create a program to invite applications specific to tackle that specific problem and challenge and research."

Kathleen Ruddy: So that's new, and I think that we've started our first program with that, with the osteo sarcoma collaborative. Osteo sarcomas cancer in the bone that typically attacks adolescents and teens, and it's one of the most deadly cancers of that age group.

Kathleen Ruddy: So that is a huge exciting initiative. And for kids who relapse with that disease, there's really no option for them right now.

Kathleen Ruddy: So we need to create more hope there. And we expect to do more of that in the next three years.

Kathleen Ruddy: We also see that there are huge opportunities. We just announced a partnership with the American Cancer Society where we're going to invest in correlative studies where when you create a research grant or when you are funded, you are supposed to answer specific scientific hypotheses. But in the course of doing that, you gather all this other intel and data that suggests many other promising directions for research. But you don't have the latitude to go in those. So we're gonna pick up on a lot of that now.

Kathleen Ruddy: So we don't have to start at square one, we can start somewhere in the middle of the alphabet and take that.

Kathleen Ruddy: And then immunotherapy is something that I touched on briefly earlier, and that is exciting because for kids ... When you're harnessing the power of your own immune system, you are super-charging it to fight cancer, and to detect cancer, rather than putting harmful chemicals into your body.

Kathleen Ruddy: And so the opportunity to keep playing with that, and help translate it out of the blood cancers where it's now been very effective to solid tumors is an opportunity that we're looking to really push forward in the next three years.

Kathleen Ruddy: And then there are all these different data repositories if you will, that exist all over the world that scientists need access to so that they can fast track their research. And we're working on some projects and trying to work with the government now, the National Cancer Institute, and other interested parties that are involved in this data collection to figure out how could we get it working together and how can we give more access to it to researchers.

Kathleen Ruddy: So those are just a few of the things that I think are gonna really take off in the next few years that will enable us to make more progress more quickly.

Chad Jordan: I love it, and I love that you didn't stumble over. Well, golly, I don't really know what we're gonna do over the next three years with the support the Sport Clips is gonna provide us, but you've got it all figured-

Kathleen Ruddy: Oh, I'm editing-

Chad Jordan: ... out.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... I probably got another dozen things I'd like to say.

Chad Jordan: Yeah, exactly. So that's amazing. I wanna issue a challenge to any Sport Clips support team or team members or stylist or managers. And the challenge is this I want you guys to come up with some creative way to contribute to St. Baldrick's this year.

Chad Jordan: We've already talked about Brave the Shave and other things that you guys can do, but something in your store, and I want to give you ... when I see it, I wanna give a shout out on social media, so make sure you tag me in what you're doing, and I wanna see who comes up with some creative stuff that we can share and replicate and duplicate all over the country.

Chad Jordan: So come up with a winning formula and let's raise even more money, because Kathleen's gonna run out of ideas at some point if we just keep giving her money and she's gonna run out of people to help because cancer is gonna get cured.

Chad Jordan: So let's be a part of that. So that's the challenge I'm issuing. Can I ask you ... I know I'm a little over time, can I ask you if this is hopefully all fun type questions, you don't even know what I'm gonna ask you, this is just how I like to end some podcasts. I have 10 random questions. There will be no followup, no rabbit trails for me. So these are just off the wall questions like this one, number one, which superpower would you most like to have?

Kathleen Ruddy: Oh-

Chad Jordan: See.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... only one, to fly.

Chad Jordan: Fly? Okay. Is that because you have to travel a lot for work or in southern California you bypass all the traffic?

Kathleen Ruddy: If I can be just like Superman and get there faster, that would be great, I could do so much more when I'm there.

Chad Jordan: Number two, what is your personal motto?

Kathleen Ruddy: Life is not a dress rehearsal-

Chad Jordan: Life is not a dress rehearsal.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... so make each moment count.

Chad Jordan: So make each moment count. I like it. Other than where you live now, where else in the world would you most like to live?

Kathleen Ruddy: Probably New Zealand.

Chad Jordan: New Zealand? Have you been?

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes.

Chad Jordan: Okay.

Kathleen Ruddy: Spectacular country.

Chad Jordan: Are a Lord of the Rings fan and you do the tour-

Kathleen Ruddy: I love the movies and the books, I've not done that tour per say, but I've been to probably most of those places.

Chad Jordan: That's a great choice. Number four, we are in southern California, so who is the celebrity you'd most like to meet one day?

Kathleen Ruddy: Well, if I can cheat a little bit, probably the celebrity I met who was the most thrilling for me was Jimmy Stuart-

Chad Jordan: Oh nice.

Kathleen Ruddy: ... many years ago. What a gentleman. And he is exactly what you think he is.

Chad Jordan: Okay, It's a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stuart-

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes.

Chad Jordan: Okay. Number five, which words or phrases do you most overuse? Maybe I should ask your staff this, but ...

Kathleen Ruddy: The reality is ... It's something I've been told I use too much.

Chad Jordan: Okay, we'll go back and check the transcript on this and we'll see how many times you said it. What sound or noise do you love?

Kathleen Ruddy: Baby laughing.

Chad Jordan: And what sound or noise do you hate?

Kathleen Ruddy: Someone in pain, like moaning or in pain.

Chad Jordan: What profession other than your own would you have been good at or at least have wanted to try? I'm glad you didn't, but what profession other than what you're doing now?

Kathleen Ruddy: Maybe teaching.

Chad Jordan: Okay, do you have any teachers in your family or-

Kathleen Ruddy: Yes, my younger brother who I admire. He's the most ... so gifted and most phenomenal teacher-

Chad Jordan: I bet if [crosstalk 00:44:38] we asked him-

Kathleen Ruddy: ... I've known.

Chad Jordan: ... he'd said he admire you too. Number nine, what do you consider your greatest achievement?

Kathleen Ruddy: Well, I think getting out of the way so that lots of volunteers and staff could do good things for this foundation to help kids with cancer. Not being an obstacle for them.

Chad Jordan: Great. Last question, if heaven indeed exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Kathleen Ruddy: Mission accomplished.

Chad Jordan: Ah, that would be awesome.

Kathleen Ruddy: Yeah.

Chad Jordan: And it's a privilege to get to help you and your team accomplish that mission, and we're trying to make Baldrick a real saint. I think that's the thing that we wanna tell god is where is that St. Baldrick when we get up there. So thank you for your time today, thank you for whatever you guys ... everything that you guys are doing. And everybody, I'm gonna put some links to this podcast to the St. Baldrick's Foundation main website, ways to donate, ways to help out with Sport Clips if you're a support ... if you're ... I keep saying support team. But if you're a team member and wanna help out, we want you guys to get involved somehow someway. Thanks again Kathleen.

Kathleen Ruddy: Thank you Chad.

Chad Jordan: All right.