Get to Know Jeff Evanson, Children’s HeartLink’s Board Vice Chair

Jeff: It is unimaginable that there are families with no access to the medical care their children need

Jeff and his family

 

Jeff Evanson’s initiatives and enthusiasm inspire others to get involved with Children’s HeartLink. In 2020, he is going to support Children’s HeartLink while competing in an Ironman triathlon! He wants other athletes to “race for a cause” and raise funds for children with heart disease. A champion of the Children’s HeartLink mission, Jeff has been a supporter of ours for almost two decades – first as a donor and fundraiser and in the last two years also as board member. Jeff currently serves as Chief Commercial Officer at a biopharmaceutical company Outlook Therapeutics. His personal story demonstrates why Children’s HeartLink is so special to him.

Tell us a little about your background, and why you became involved with Children’s HeartLink. 

I’m so honored to be part of Children’s HeartLink! By every measure, Children’s HeartLink exceeds what it means to change the world, one surgery at a time. If I had no connection to pediatric congenital heart disease, I would want to be involved with a mission-driven organization, with a history that dates back 50 years as it does for Children’s HeartLink. But my personal circumstances make this organization even more special. My wife Brynn and I have three boys. Our eldest son Nicholas was born with a complex congenital heart disease known as Tricuspid Atresia. This required three open heart surgeries, all before the age of 2. While there are many unknowns and future challenges around long-term health with “Fontan Kids” as they are known, we are grateful for the care he received. (Fontan: open heart surgery used to redirect blood flow from the lower body to the lungs.) There was never a moment we had to worry about diagnosis, surgery or follow-up care and as a result, Nick has been able to lead a fairly normal life. He is a junior at Southern Methodist University this fall, studying chemistry. He intends to do something in the medical field as he also knows how special it is that these life-sustaining surgeries have allowed him to be a normal college-aged kid!

In contrast, it is unimaginable that there are families that have no access to this kind of care and opportunity for their child. I became involved with Children’s HeartLink some 18 years ago with various initiatives but in the last two years, I have joined the board as well as the executive committee of the annual HeartLink Gala.

What makes Children’s HeartLink’s mission meaningful to you?

The mission of Children’s HeartLink is to save the lives of children with heart disease in underserved regions through training and partnerships. This mission is remarkably purposeful and timeless. While there are many wonderful organizations, Children’s HeartLink aims to develop sustainable care in developing countries, so they too can enjoy the benefits of life-sustaining diagnoses and treatments as we do here, in the US. Partnerships with equally driven medical teams and industry allow these transformations to happen. Our motivation in giving back is a clear connection to our son’s background. What is even more amazing is how dedicated the medical teams, Children’s HeartLink staff and industry partners are in advancing this mission!

What do you hope to accomplish as vice chair of the Children’s HeartLink board?

As my involvement with Children’s HeartLink has increased, I really want to make a material difference in advancing its mission. I’ve had the chance to expand my leadership, roll up my sleeves and really feel I’m an extension to the Children’s HeartLink staff, who are outstanding. We have big goals through our strategic planning to further expand our work.

What motivates you in this role and in life in general?

I’m very motivated by people and organizations that have passion and dedication to their work. I’ve personally always felt the biggest gift you can give is to find ways in which you can unlock the “best version” of those you are helping. In so many ways, that gift not only provides a platform for others to do more, with purpose, but as it relates to Children’s HeartLink, it directly impacts the work we do: closing the gap in caring for children who need life-sustaining cardiac care. This is highly motivating to me.

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

With three busy boys (20, 14 and 7), there never seems to be a lot of spare time! I travel a lot for my work, and Brynn’s role also keeps us quite scheduled. But family is our core, and we spend much time at home, at games and traveling together. Personally, I also compete in Ironman triathlons. Triathlon is a fantastic community of generous and charitable athletes.

One of the key initiatives I’ve combined is my love of competing with my work at Children’s HeartLink. To that end, I’m kicking off a fundraising effort within triathlon (and marathons) that  will allow Children’s HeartLink’s team to raise money for a cause. The basic idea is providing a racing kit and fundraising platform to athletes competing in an event for Children’s HeartLink! Stay tuned…we plan to launch this in 2020.

Tell us about your family.  

My wife Brynn and I just celebrated 25 years of marriage this October. We met in college and both grew up in Minnesota. Ten years ago, winter fatigue and jobs took us to Dallas, Texas, where we have lived since then. We have really enjoyed being here and have no plans to leave. Our eldest son Nick is followed by our son Owen who is in eighth grade, very active in the school and in sports (including Texas football!). Our youngest son Andrew (our true Texan) is the light of the family and is in first grade.

What I haven’t shared is that one very special individual will forever be part of our family, even though we are not related. That is Dr. David Overman. Not only has Dr. Overman been a key and critical member of the Children’s HeartLink organization (as a dedicated medical volunteer and medical director on our board), he is also the surgeon of our son Nick. We have gotten to know Dr. Overman and his entire family well, as we were neighbors in Minneapolis. The opportunity to get to know him and now work together advancing the Children’s HeartLink mission is very special, and we are forever grateful for what he has done for us as well as what he is doing for children everywhere.

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