Jenny Grifenhagen is working for the company of her dreams as the Regional Manager of Dance Marathon for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Our #WCW puts so much love and passion into what she does, it's hard not to be inspired by her contagious enthusiasm:
1. What's your story? What makes you unique?
My story begins and ends with passion. Whether it was being told as a kid that I show too much emotion on the softball field or somehow managing to appear on the Jumbotron at a Georgia football game, I refuse to halfway do the things I care about most.
Passion is what has moved me from each phase of my life to the next.
My Sophomore year of high school, I decided to quit playing softball. Softball was truly what defined me for the early years of my life. I played competitive travel ball, took lessons, never stopped practicing and then one day I just didn’t want to do it any more. I had no idea what to do to fill my time and the void that for 10 years was filled with a passion for competing.
I speak of this because that decision, the one that seemed minute, is what drove me to get involved, well over my head, for the remainder of my high school career. That decision forced me to find new passions, while allowing me to plan prom, become a student athletic trainer where I was first introduced to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, manage the baseball team, lead the Beta Club and ultimately prepare me to be accepted to the University of Georgia.
Cue my passion for the University of Georgia. Wow. My time at the University of Georgia is so treasured. Saturdays in Athens, long talks over coffee, parking deck dance parties. I could go on and on. Those four years developed me into the person I am today. Without even realizing it, I became someone who is on fire for life. It was truly an honor to attend and graduate from the greatest of the Southland.
The next chapter in my story involves a new passion. One for failing. For having a setback and kicking it in the teeth. Throughout college, I faced the first true hardships of my life, forcing me to fight for the things I was most passionate about. Those setbacks, made me a champion. They made me learn to love myself. To see my resilience and courage. They made me strong. They made me appreciate the true me. The one who refuses complacency, honors transparency, is empathetic and constantly seeks growth.
I attribute the majority of my growth throughout college to UGA Miracle, a Miracle Network Dance Marathon. Dance Marathon is a nationwide movement that benefits local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, for us, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. I was first introduced to this organization when I was in high school and knew I wanted to continue my involvement when I got to UGA. As I progressed through the UGA Miracle, I realized my passion for serving the kids at Children’s wasn’t fleeting. It wasn’t temporary. It was within me for a reason. The families I met through UGA Miracle, the lessons I learned and the joy that burned inside of me, changed my life. They are what prepared me for an even brighter career and future at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Now, I can proudly say I am leading the Dance Marathon movement in the state of Texas on behalf of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals! I live in Austin, champion patients at 16 hospitals and advise ~20 Dance Marathon programs throughout the state. I absolutely love the company I work for, the work I am doing and the people in my life! Now if only the Dawgs could win….
2. What motivates you?
Feedback and intentional conversations. I absolutely love giving and receiving feedback. I mentioned above that complacency is one of my biggest fears and growth is something I am constantly seeking. I want to be the best person, friend, sibling, daughter, employee (praise Jesus eventually wife and mother) that I can be. I want to be a source of joy, consistency and energy. I want to be trustworthy and dependable. The only way to grow is to be receptive to deeper level conversations and the truth about your role in others’ lives.
I am also motivated by people. I am so filled up by hearing people’s stories. There is nothing that puts a smile on my face more than listening to people tell me of their journey. I am so guilty of just jumping into conversations, too. Not just who is your sports team and what is your favorite restaurant (although these are very important questions to ask), but I tend to right off the bat want to know of your greatest strength, something that makes you cry, an experience that made you who you are today. Everyone’s paths to our initial interaction is so unique and I am truly intrigued, especially since moving to Austin where everyone is so new and fresh to the city! I want to know it all!
And finally, faith. I have had a roller coaster ride with God over the past 24 years, more significantly the past 6 years, and knowing He has never abandoned me keeps me focused on growing our relationship. I am beyond appreciative of all the highs and lows, each one so uniquely important in my journey, and know He has been intentional every step of the way. There is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be where I am today if my relationship with God wasn’t growing deeper every day.
3. Who is a hero of yours?
My hero is Marlee Anne Hopkins. For those of you reading this who know her story, you’re blessed. If you haven’t heard it, get ready. Marlee Anne is the third of four children in the Hopkins family. Her oldest sister Mary Elizabeth, passed away at age 21 and her youngest, and only, brother Abe passed away months after his sixth birthday. Marlee Anne had the unfortunate experience of being present during both of her siblings passing, an experience no one, let alone a 13-year-old girl, should have to endure. She has bravely stood up in front of hundreds of people and shared her testimony, as a way to glorify her siblings and their incredible lives.
Her older sister, Michala, has Aicardi Syndrome and seizes regularly. Their family had to completely uproot and move to Colorado over the past year so Michala could legally take her medication. All of this being said, Marlee Anne has not let a day pass without shining her sunlight on her family, friends and even strangers. She constantly is a source of joy and encouragement to everyone around her.
Her future is incredibly bright. It is an honor knowing someone who consistently seeks the Lord first, entrusts in His plan, always, and fights for opportunities to make others feel special. Adore you, MA. I truly cannot wrap my mind around your pure goodness and hope to be like you one day! You inspire me beyond words.
4. What's your future plan? Your goals?
Transparently, I am working for the company of my dreams. Since I was 15 years old, I knew I wanted to work for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or for a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in some capacity. In the role I am in, I have the privilege of watching college students find purpose, growing relationships between our National Office and the local hospitals in Texas and working on a team of the 16 most passionate people I know. I am challenged daily and that is all I have ever wanted in a career. Most importantly, I know every day I wake up, I am fighting for kids across the country to receive the best care possible when they are
faced with illness or disease. I’d love to continue growing within CMN Hospitals and through my work, save more kids’ lives.
5. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Fight for the things you are passionate about. If you love fishing, make time to go fishing. If you are obsessed with coffee, go to a new local coffee house once a week. If you are bored at work, find the courage to ask your boss how you can reignite your passion. This life is so short and happiness is so vital. Think about what makes you jump out of bed in the morning and do that. Often. I love my job. I love exercise. I love college football. I love making new friends. Nothing will come between me and experiencing joy from those things on a daily basis!
Additionally, I will go to my grave fighting for more smiles. This world is changing rapidly. Everyone seems to always be looking down or complaining about something. I would advise that you strive to be the person who is smiling when the world finally looks up. When they need a reason to be happy. Be that source of joy. I promise it is infectious and it will make you feel so good!
6. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?
I am incredibly passionate about fundraising for local CMN Hospitals and college students finding their sense of purpose. When I joined UGA Miracle as a freshman, I knew that I had a found a home. A family. People who had a shared vision for what we were capable of doing to better this world. My best friends to this day are people who stood alongside me for 24 hours, 4 years in a row.
Everyone has an opportunity to find that in college. I have the privilege of creating and growing that opportunity for college students throughout Texas as a CAREER. The best part, in doing so, is knowing that they are raising necessary funds for THEIR local CMN Hospital along the way. Dance Marathon is the total package on college campuses. There is so much energy and impact in this movement. So many opportunities to meet people, become your truest self and find compassion you never knew you had. It is truly an honor to help grow it!
7. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?
Anyone who knows me knows that I am high maintenance about one thing in life… Sporting events. Over the past few years, I have somehow managed to score a handful of opportunities that still give me the chills when I reminisce on them.
On-field batting practice at Turner Field when the Braves played the Nationals. I received 4 tickets and got to stand alongside some of my favorite humans, Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton included.
SEC Championship 2012: Got to sit in the front row which at the time was an incredible experience until the game-losing catch happened right in front of my eyes.
Georgia/Florida 2013: At the end of the game, Hugh Williams and Trigga Trey Matthews jumped into my arms in celebration of beating the dirty Gators. What joy!
I fundraised over $500 for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and as a result was awarded an opportunity to have a luncheon with Freddie Freeman and Kris Medlen. The best part was that I got a second ticket and my brother got to come with me!
Belk Bowl 2014: I tweeted at 680 the Fan 25 times for a contest to win tickets to the game. Ended up wining tickets to the game and sideline passes. #PersistenceIsKey
8. Anything we haven't asked that you'd like to talk about.
Absolutely NEVER doubt your value. Nothing you do or say can change how special you are to this world. Smile often, love yourself, and believe you matter. Find your passions, the things that make you feel worthy. Fight for them. You deserve it.
If you'd like to network with Jenny, you can reach her HERE.