Employee Impact: Supporting Children and Families Impacted by Grief

By Regence
May 16, 2018
Regence Jim Walton Dougy Center-resize

This post is part of a series that highlights Regence’s unique Executive Board Placement program, which works to match company employees with nonprofit organizations looking to grow their board of directors. A key part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility approach to giving, the board placement program has become one of the most impactful ways Regence strengthens local communities and supports employees in their own volunteerism. Through the board placement program, and the corresponding funding that complements an employee’s board service, Regence supports employees to serve the greater good.

The Dougy Center provides a safe place for children, teens, young adults and their families who are grieving a death or facing an advanced serious illness to share their experiences. For Jim Walton, board member, and Vice President of Sales at Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, the ability to carry on a family legacy of community service and support the needs of children has provided him a greater purpose and improved his overall sense of well-being.  

Why did you get involved with The Dougy Center?

Jim:  In 2016, I was finishing up my second term on the board of the Make a Wish Foundation and had decided it was time to make a change. After six years, I had accomplished most of the objectives I’d set out to do and believed strongly that intentional board turnover was necessary to increase the effectiveness of a board and prevent the potential stagnation of individual board members.

After making this decision, I met with Alison Arella in our corporate social responsibility department to learn more about finding another board on which to serve. Alison worked with me to identify the things I found most important, determined the skills and knowledge that I could bring to a board and looked-for organizations that might be a match. She then narrowed the search to a top few and arranged for us to meet with the executive director of each one to see if it was a good fit. 

During our initial meeting, I really connected with the executive director of The Dougy Center, Brennan Wood. I was also inspired by all the personal contributions made to the center by previous Regence board members and felt honored to become part of a ten-year commitment to this organization and its cause. 

What do you do as a board member?

Jim:  I look to fill specific needs on a board. Board members should not be expected to handle day to day issues. Instead, they should be a sounding board for the executive director, helping that person develop a strategy that is fiscally sound and enables them to achieve their vision. 

Have there been any projects that you’ve been able to help drive?

Jim: As part of board service, the executive director has requested each board member serve on a sub-committee. The committee I selected is the westside expansion project which when completed will be a mirrored replica of the current facility on SE 82nd providing more families across the Portland Metro area access to the centers nationally recognized grief education and peer support groups. 

Have you seen the impact that the organization’s work is having on the community?

Jim: When I became a board member, I witnessed the beginning of the healing process with a group of children who had come to the center for the first time. At the start, all the kids spoke about feeling alone and misunderstood and many were withdrawn. But, as that one-hour group session came to a close, they were all engaged and encouraging each other through the sharing of experiences. It was amazing!

What does it mean to you for Regence to provide this program?

Jim: I am continually impressed with how the leaders of Regence, specifically Mark Ganz, take a responsibility for giving back to our communities. My father showed me firsthand what service can do in a small town by supporting his own employees in helping others and it makes me proud to be part of an organization that encourages its staff to pay it forward.

There are lots of pressures on today’s corporate leaders and all face constraints on their time and resources. However, at Regence, I have found a general acknowledgment that a person’s character is not defined solely by his/her employment. In the end, my efforts to give back and make contributions on a broader level have made me happier and feel more complete.   

For more information about the Executive Board Placement program, please contact Alison Arella at (503) 414-7849 or via email at alison.arella@cambiahealth.com.