Q&A: Amanda Winn
Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.
As executive director of the Children’s Healing Center, Amanda Winn said she’s not one to “wait for others to tackle the big stuff” — she “jumps out front” and strives to lead with “passion and graceful determination.”
While going through treatment five years ago for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a life-threatening blood cancer, Winn dreamed of a place where children with weak immune systems who are isolated from friends and family "could come, play and just be kids." That dream is now the Children’s Healing Center in Grand Rapids — a modern facility that's part fitness center, part after-school club and “all kinds of fun and learning.”
Prior to creating the center, Winn served as a project manager for AMDG Architects, a firm that was instrumental in the center’s development.
Biggest career break?
My biggest career break started as an ordinary new architecture project. It began with designing and managing a project with John Kennedy at Autocam Corp. and transformed into a treasured mentorship and friendship. Through his belief in me, John and his wife, Nancy, have been instrumental in launching the Children’s Healing Center. They have given their time, advice and support to help me grow as a person and navigate startup challenges.
Opening day of the Children’s Healing Center. When kids came running into the center to play. The year prior, I walked around our building and prayed for the day kids’ feet would walk through the door. Amidst renovations and raising funds, the joy the center would provide to families was my motivation. When we opened for families, one mom and her daughter came who had never been out in public. It was a blessing to see huge smiles on their faces as they explored the playrooms and met other kids.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
I have a phrase written on my home office whiteboard that author Bob Goff spoke about. Plans sometimes work and sometimes don’t. Love always works. Quit working on a plan and go love people.
How did you make your first dollar?
Babysitting. I have always loved children.
My friendships. They help create and greatly impact the life I get to live.
I am not sure if you can consider it a job, but my professional goal is to help someone achieve a big dream like so many people did for me.
If I were president for a day, I would . . . ?
Create a flash mob-type expression to remind everyone how loved and valuable they are.
Last book you’ve read?
“Road to Character” by David Brooks. I saw David speak at the Calvin College January Series, and his book is great.
Last thing you Googled?
Restaurants in Chicago. I was going on a weekend trip with some friends.
Your worst habit?
Chewing ice. It is a side effect of low iron, which my body has had a harder time producing since treatment.
To unwind, I like to . . . ?
Cook. The chopping and multi-tasking is therapeutic. It’s even better if I am cooking for friends at my house.
A lake-house trip with my good friends. Meaningful conversation and quality time with those I love in a relaxing atmosphere. And a good glass of wine is a must!
Person you most admire?
The kids who come and play at the center. They are fighting for their lives and in so much pain. Yet, they are full of laughter and joy. The light they bring courageously into dark places is inspiring.