Ep 19 - Conquering Adversity with Lisa LaFontaine, President & CEO, Humane Rescue Alliance
“Don't ever think that your biggest adversity can't be turned into your greatest gift” When Lisa says that anyone can do *anything* she knows this to be true from personal experiences. After a horrific car accident she was told she’d never walk again or have children. Through sheer determination and months of hard work Lisa managed to heal her body and defy her doctor’s dire predictions! Then in her late 30s, as a successful communications executive, Lisa’s life (and career) path took another sudden turn. Her young daughter was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome that seriously affected her daily functions, including sleep. An unexpected healer came to the rescue, persnickety Merlin-the-cat. Witnessing her daughter’s life transform thanks to this incredible bond, Lisa left her corporate job and became an evangelist for helping animals! In this amazing interview you’ll get to know a leader who has conquered extraordinary adversities with grace, grit and determination to become an incredible force for good in the world! You do not want to miss this moving, inspiring episode! What you’ll learn How Lisa went from not even owning a pet until her late 30s to running a leading animal rescue organization Fantastic story of how she fought for her first dream job and won How Lisa’s father’s support and guidance has helped shape her character and leadership path Incredible story of how her quirky cat Merlin helped her daughter cope with Tourette’s Syndrome What being in a debilitating car accident and bedridden for three months taught Lisa about life and the power of determination How Lisa affirms and instills the sense of power and empowerment in her staff Tips for creating an organizational culture that balances growth an new programs with ability to pivot in emergencies Strategies for ensuring a successful organizational merger And so much more! Links & Resources Humane Rescue Alliance – Amazing animal rescue organization Lisa leads in Washington, D.C. About Lisa LaFontaine Lisa LaFontaine is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA), this area’s premier animal welfare organization. HRA was created when two iconic predecessors—the Washington Humane Society (WHS) and the Washington Animal Rescue League (WARL)—came together to form a single more powerful voice for animals. With this historic union, Washington, DC, becomes the only major urban area in the country that has all of its animal protection programs and services—from medical services and adoptions to animal control and humane law enforcement—unified in one organization. Lisa’s experience and accomplishments in the animal welfare field are a testament to her compassion and commitment and have prepared her well for the challenge of heading up such a unique organization. She left a successful career in publishing after having what she describes as a personal epiphany. Her young daughter, who was diagnosed with Turrets syndrome, had trouble sleeping at night. A counselor advised having one of the family cats, to whom Lisa’s daughter was very attached, sleep with her. This cat, who had never been interested in sleeping on anyone’s bed, willingly curled up with her, helping bring her the sense of calm she needed to sleep. Lisa recalls thinking first that there had never been an animal like this cat and then that perhaps other people felt the same sense of connection with their companion animals. Her commitment to animals and their well-being was born. As CEO of New Hampshire’s Monadnock Humane Society, Lisa spearheaded a successful capital campaign that resulted in construction of a new, state-of-the-art animal welfare facility and an expanded endowment fund for the organization. In 2007 she was hired as President and CEO by the Washington Humane Society, where she significantly increased the live release rate for animals from one of the lowest to one of the highest in the country. She also advocated for greater animal protection through innovative programs and changes in law and built critical relationships with DC’s diverse interests and communities on behalf of animals in need. Lisa worked closely with the senior staff and Boards of Directors of both WHS and WARL to lay the groundwork for a new, combined organization that would not just be larger but would also be more powerful, one that could accomplish more for both animals and people. The Humane Rescue Alliance is the result of that collaboration. Given her personal and professional devotion to animals, Lisa is dedicated to the vision of a community where there is a loving home for every unwanted animal, affordable medical care for every sick and injured animal, an end to animal abuse and cruelty, and stronger bonds between animals and people through education and training. She believes that the Humane Rescue Alliance can bring that vision to fruition. When not advocating for the animal community at large, Lisa shares her life and home with her husband, Matt Kayhoe; Sazzy, their pit bull; cats Crystal, Gregory Xavier Pibb, and Harold; and an ever-rotating and always welcomed family of foster animals. She serves as Vice Chairman of the DC Board of Veterinary Examiners and is a proud member of SAWA (the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators).