Toni is Passionate about Kids Reaching Their Highest Potential
In 2008 on my way to go diving in Indonesia I met a fellow diver, a very professional lady in an airport in Singapore heading to the same dive spot. She was on a well- deserved vacation. Though on the surface it seemed we were from two different worlds, she took a sincere interest in the work I was doing with kids and the passion I had for it. She had told me that like many professionals she was successful at what she did and loved her clients but she didn’t know what her life’s passion was.
Back in the states she started coming out to the ranch to ride horses and learn rappelling and in a short time was volunteering at a kid’s winter camp. Watching her play, laugh, and connecting with the children I realized she was in her element. That evening she told me in the 1970s when her own children were little she owned a day care for infants and toddlers, when reflecting over the events of that winter camp and the love of working with the children her face lit up. After a few months of volunteering with my afterschool programs and kids camps one evening she had an epiphany that connecting kids to nature and coaching them in their own passions, showing them they could become entrepreneurs was in fact her own passion. My work became our work and she put all of her time and resources into it. Most importantly over the years she has been a part our students growing up. It is heartwarming to see these now young adult men and women that have grown up in our program run up to give her hugs. As I look through photos taken of her over the past ten years you can see the real connection of laughter and hugs. The kids call her Bright Path because she always has a smile for them.
Toni’s Involvement Was a Game Changer
About a year and a half after we met we became business partners. Getting Toni involved was a game changer for what I had been doing because she had brought with her skills, experience, professionalism, entrepreneurialism, most importantly a can do mindset (when still a teen using her own business sense and hard work she bought her first home at age 19). Like many of our generation our fathers had served in combat in WWII hers was a paratrooper with a great sense of humor but with the added caveat her mother served directly under General Eisenhower in France and was a very strong woman with a no nonsense personality. She developed those same traits from her parents. She grew up with the mindset of not only doing your best but making your best better through hard work, continued learning, having solid mentors, and have fun doing it. If someone tells her she can’t do something she will prove them wrong, I have seen this countless times.
Over the years she has developed a depth and breath of skills and talents bringing with her her solid sense of ethics.
When we met she was an owner of a successful real estate brokerage firm brokering opulent homes for executives, so she had a strong entrepreneurial sense and vast experience and had been in leadership in several professional organizations. The number of deep connections she had with professionals throughout the US and Canada was mind boggling to me. In fact this still holds true today.
Before her work in real estate she had managed an international education team for Novell before that she was a corporate travel agent with American Express so to say she had skills in logistics was an understatement. She is a master of pulling all the components together at the right time and the right spot and the rest of the behind the scenes magic to pull all aspects together to ensure superior programming and having to make changes mid-program never phases her.
Her positions of responsibility and leadership on professional and philanthropic organizations bringing those organizations to a much higher plain of service as she has done for Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute.
Toni is a person of great integrity, work ethic, professionalism, when you ask even our youngest students what ethics is you will hear “Doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” She is one that strives for perfection and down to the smallest detail. Most importantly she believes that what we do here truly does make a difference in the lives of those we serve.
She sees the deep benefit for both kids and the elderly being put together, she spearheaded our work with hospice and the VA. She sees that connecting elderly with children helps give them purpose. Through the stories and reflections of elderly she understands more fully how important it is to have a life of purpose and following ones passions and the value of kinship.
She also understands that the most important task for little kids is to learn to play and explore, she is nurturing to the youngest kids, and believes that teens should have the opportunity to have the skills to run a successful business if they so choose. She leads by example and expects a high level of professionalism and ethics from staff and teens alike.
Toni is a professional member of the American Camp Association and for nearly ten years has served as a member of their accreditation visiting team helping other organizations maintain high levels of quality, expertise, and ethics. She continues her education as a business owner, educational professional, and caregiver. In spite of her busy schedule she trained a therapy dog to make volunteer visits at the hospice, palliative, and Alzheimer’s care units at our local VA hospital. Toni has sponsored kids whose families are in need to attend both our school and our camps. We are lucky to have her leading this team.
She is the person you will most likely make all arrangements with; she attends every student interview, as well as every student review. Much of her day is in the office but her heart is in the field with the students, and the animals. She makes a point to engage with the kids daily and connect with the parents often. But if you can’t find her she is most likely on the trail with me on her horse. The kids know her as Bright Path and she always has a hug for everyone.
NOLI is a reality because of her temperament, talents, knowledge, experiences, and vision.
And Oh by the way 5 years after we became good friends, 4 years after being business partners we married in 2014, best thing that ever happened to me.