Julie Walker: Turning Tragedy Into A Mission

Last week, I announced the participants of my leadership development program, 10 New Leaders Project, in conjunction with the 2019 Evolution Leadership Conference.

Applicants were asked to complete an essay answering the question, “How would your participation in this program help you achieve purpose?”

Some of our 2019 participants agreed to share their responses here. I’m honored to share the first essay, which was written by Julie Walker who is the Executive Director of The Peyton Walker Foundation.

My new mantra….just because it is YOUR plan…doesn’t mean it is your PLAN. Life took an unexpected turn in 2013 when I lost my beautiful, full-of-life 19 year old daughter to Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Without warning. We were given no time to plan or prepare for this life-changing and forever-altering horrific event. This was NOT my plan. There was no guidebook on how to navigate a new life after child loss.

Our daughter was studying to be a physician assistant and wanted to work in health care. The t-shirt she was wearing on the day she lost her life said, “What we do for ourselves dies with us…What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” Are you kidding me? That was my call to action.

They say the 2 most important days of your life are the day you are born…and the day you find out why. THIS is my why. Increasing awareness and survival rates of Sudden Cardiac Arrest has become my WHY. This was not MY plan. But, this is my PLAN.

Turning tragedy into a mission and motivating and inspiring the community to support our work has become a central focus of my life. Saving other parents from losing a child to a detectable and treatable heart condition – THAT is what helps to get me out of bed each morning, a true purpose to carry on and move forward. I cannot sit back and do “nothing.”

I have learned so much and grown so much – while grieving beyond measure or description – over the past 5 years, 6 months and 1 week. I have seized the opportunity to effect change in the healthcare arena for our youth, to speak in front of thousands of people, made countless media appearances, offered loving guidance to others who have also lost a child without warning, and so much more. These are all roles I never envisioned finding myself in. Yet, here I am.

I have been blessed to be surrounded by an incredible village of supporters – including community businesses, donors, volunteers, friends and family members. I have a message and a mission to share – and I know we can make such a difference and a beneficial impact right here in our community.

And yet, I feel as though I still have SO much to learn, so much growth to be open to. I have never had to make local connections with business leaders and thought-leaders in our community. I know so little about networking and connecting with these folks – I’ve never had to rely on these skills in my “real” job (I run a meeting planning business). I am not engaged with our local leaders and would welcome the opportunity to connect with and learn from these trailblazers. I crave business knowledge and skill development. I struggle with operational skills – I never planned for or learned how to run a nonprofit foundation. Are you kidding me? I’ve had to learn by fire – and I have a long way to go.

We know that if we build relationships locally with business & community leaders, we can have a tremendous impact on fulfilling the mission of saving lives. We have connected with 1 local business in particular who completely embraced our mission. They supported a heart screening for athletes statewide, and they are also offering CPR/AED (defibrillator) training to hundreds of their employees. Now, they are going to be purchasing and placing AEDs throughout their facilities in an effort to save lives. All because of a connection that was made at a luncheon for Breast Cancer Awareness. What? I guess that’s why networking is so important…but to an introverted extrovert…this is tough for me to navigate.

Imagine if I had the knowledge and confidence to go out there and connect with MORE of our local leaders….how much of an impact we could have to save more lives? What an incredible ripple effect this could have.

I would be grateful for an opportunity to learn and grow from a leadership experience like this. Never, ever, did I plan to be in this role. Never, ever did I ask or want to be leading an incredibly successful nonprofit foundation in memory of my daughter. But, I don’t ask why…I accept my fate and work tirelessly to effect change and save others from this heartache.

I have much to learn and would appreciate this door-opening, skill-building, life-changing experience like this.

Thank you so much for your consideration. This work takes a village – and I need that village to continue to rally around me and build me up so that together we can “check hearts, protect hearts and save lives.” The beat goes on…..

You can learn more about Julie and all of our new leaders by clicking here.


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Ilene Sauertieg
Ilene Sauertieg
1 year ago

Julie Walker is an inspiration. She took the tragedy of Peyton’s sudden passing and turned it into a life mission to protect other teenagers and their families from the same experience. She is driven, focused, confident (at least on the outside), dedicated, and one of the MOST wonderful women you will ever have the blessing to cross paths with. To see her pursue this cause with such passion makes you want to aspire to something greater in your own life. She will take this opportunity and grab it with both hands, and I can’t wait to see where it takes… Read more »

Chris Rodell
1 year ago

Bravo, Julie. I am moved by your mission and admire all you’re doing to spread the word on how Peyton’s life — every life — has a meaning that endures.

Nell McCormack Abom
1 year ago

Julie, thank you for transforming your family’s tragedy into a powerful, life-saving cause that will protect and prevent other families from undergoing the unfathomable pain of loss you have suffered. I can only imagine how proud your beloved Peyton must be to look down and see all that you have accomplished in her name. The Beat Goes On. I am proud and blessed to call you a friend and an inspiration.

John, thank you for showcasing individuals in our community who rise above life’s perplexing and often debilitating challenges to find a positive path forward. Slainte, Nell