Julie is a lifesaving difference-maker.
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When life threw Julie a curveball in 2013 with the tragic and unexpected death of her 19 year old daughter, she dusted herself off and immediately launched a highly impactful, results-oriented nonprofit in response to this most devastating loss. In addition to leading the lifesaving work of The Peyton Walker Foundation, Julie also runs a meeting/event planning business – Choice Meetings.
Delivering memorable, well-executed and successful meetings is her core focus. With close to 30 years in the meetings and hospitality industry. She prides herself on being a well-respected and upstanding professional with high integrity and unwavering ethics.
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Hey everybody, this is Umar, the host of the No Limits selling podcast and on this episode, I had the privilege of sitting down with Julie Walker. She’s the executive director of the Peyton Walker Foundation, and I was inspired by this episode. I hope you like it too. And just before we start the episode I just want to tell you about one of my new projects. It’s called neuro boosters. neuro boosters is an app that lets you decide how you want to act or feel in any situation, basically a software for your mind. So you get to take charge of your life enjoy this episode.
Today I have the pleasure of having Julie Walker, the CEO of choice meetings and more importantly, the leader of the Peyton Walker foundation. Julie, welcome to the program.
Good morning. Thanks for having us.
Peyton. I want to take you to November 2 2013. You’re having breakfast with your family. You’ve made friends cake’s you sitting down the world is normal and then you get a phone call.
It gives me goosebumps just thinking about that moment how your life can change on it on a dime. Our phone rang. It was the president of King’s College where Payton was a sophomore student. The President called to tell us that our daughter had just been taken by ambulance to Wilkes Barre hospital. And we were just reeling we were in complete shock. We were kind of paralyzed at the moment so you just never know what’s gonna what’s going to change your world.
Definitely. Did you guys rush to the hospital? What happened next?
Well, we got another phone. We started getting ready. We got another phone call less than 10 minutes later from the wheelchair emergency room telling us because at this point, we had no idea why she was taken to the hospital. So the ER called to tell us that she had just been admitted in full cardiac arrest and we had no idea what that even meant. What is cardiac arrest and a 19 year old kid what is what is happening. They advised us to get to the hospital as quickly and safely as possible. For us. It’s a two hour drive. So I got my son out of bed and said, we’re going to the hospital. Your sister is very ill something is really wrong. So we made that drive in and you want to get there but you don’t want to get there and yeah, it was horrible. I mean, we my husband was driving so fast. We almost hoped we were going to get pulled over so we could get a police escort to be honest. And then the closer we get to Wilkes Barre, the dread just sets in and the panic and we pulled into the hospital. I see two priests standing in the emergency room waiting area and I just I knew immediately that my world was going to be forever changed.
And had Payton past pointed out there.
Yes. So she she actually she actually died in her apartment. They tried to revive her. They didn’t work it worked on or in the emergency room. Just they had absolutely no no success whatsoever. So we did not get to say goodbye. It took them quite a while to figure out what had actually happened. They they found a prescription bottle that had she was on heart medication actually found that called her cardiologist to find out you know what’s going on with this kid? Why Why? Why is she in cardiac arrest? What what what could have possibly gone wrong? So we didn’t get to say goodbye. That was you know, very, very hard and painful for us obviously and just the start of a new life that we never imagined having to live.
Not being able to say goodbye is really, really tough. I had this woman bring in her 11 year old daughter once they didn’t know there was a problem until one day there was a loud banging on the front door. And mom went to answer the door and took care of whatever the issue was. But when she called her daughter, a daughter didn’t answer back, she was 11. So she goes upstairs to a bedroom. Ken Pinder goes into the master bedroom can’t find her and her daughter was hiding in the walking closet off the master bedroom. And she was trembling and she had urinated herself. So the mom knew something was wrong. And if Apparently her. Her dad had died when she was three of heroin overdose. When they brought her in see me it was like, I asked her, you know, do you want to see your dad? And she said yes. And I’m not sure if you know this, but I happened to be a good hypnotist and I had hypnotized, this young lady had to go into a cottage, and there’s an empty chair and all you need to do is see your dad’s name and he will appear when he does lift up your finger and she lifts up her finger. And she got a chance to say goodbye to her dad got the closure she never had in real life. And the reason she had freaked out on the knocking of the door is somehow she had convinced herself that someone was going to come and kill her mom. Oh my goodness, once we got her to reconnect with the dad and and get that closure that thought disappeared. So not being able to say goodbye is huge. How’s that been for you?
Well, you know, other people say wow, I wish I had five more minutes with my loved one who passed away and so I couldn’t say it to say goodbye but honestly, I think that would be more painful to actually have to say goodbye. I don’t even know what I would say. And I feel so blessed in so many ways because I have no regrets with my daughter. I had such a beautiful relationship with her. I had talked to her the night previously. You know, the end of the conversation. I love you and love you too, mom. It’s such a beautiful relationship that there was no need to have a goodbye, thankfully. And I feel so blessed. blessed because of that. Yes.
From that moment to starting your foundation. How long the journey was that getting the idea and actually executing?
Well, you’re in a complete shock and actually just walking around as like a zombie for weeks on end. When we left the hospital that day, the nurse handed me a bag of Payton’s clothing. And that bag sat in our living room for five weeks. I could not even bring myself to look at it, touch it anything and then one night I finally said okay, I’m just I’m going to open the bag up and I reached pulled out a red long sleeve t shirt. And every hair on my body stood on end on this T shirt that Peyton was wearing the day she died. It said it was emblazoned with a quote that said, what we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal. And I read it to my husband who was sitting on the sofa and we looked at each other. We’re like, Oh, my God, what a message that this kid would leave us with the day she passes away. So we said, well, we obviously Peyton was sending us a message. We’ve got to do something with this. And you know, we were talking about it. My husband said we knew paitent had a heart issue because I have it. It’s a genetic heart issue. My dad had it as well. So we knew she had a heart condition and this still happened to us. We were educated. We were proactive. She was on medication. He said Imagine all the families who have kids that have heart issues and have no idea. We have to do something to save other families. So that’s kind of that moment was when the foundation was born
from idea to opening the doors, quote unquote, what was that journey like?
Well, we didn’t really know what this was going to entail or where the journey would lead us. And every day I say, how, okay, I guess we’ll go this direction today. We had our first fundraiser about six months after losing paitent started raising money. We knew we wanted to eventually do some heart screenings, we connected with other foundations similar to ours all over the country, started gathering data information, pulling in our partnerships, and then decided, Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to have a hard screening. So it was February of 2015, which was about 15 or 16 months after losing Payton. We had our very first heart screening. we screened a couple hundred kids, we had some very significant findings. And the found that from that first heart screening we have, you know, we’ve just confirmed Need to grow. And we’ve kind of identified our core services that we want to provide that are most impactful for for the residents in our community.
And what a chart screening is it EKG.
Yes. So what and that that that’s about a half hour discussion right there. So when kids this is where we really want to educate parents when kids get physicals or sports physicals, a doctor will listen to their heart with a murmur. And unfortunately, a stethoscope cannot hear electrical problems, right. And electrical problems in the heart are what lead to cardiac arrest. So sports physicals are failing our children. We’re using 200 year old technology where you know, in spite of all of the advances in healthcare, we’re using these antiquated physicals for the kids so until that changes will provide these heart screenings so when kids register to come to heart screening, we will check their vitals, we will give them an electrocardiogram or EKG with Listen for a murmur. If any of anything comes back abnormal or if they have some family history that’s questionable, we will automatically give them an echocardiogram which is the ultrasound of the heart. We provide this service completely free of charge. We have phenomenal medical partners that make this possible.
In order to get the first screening off the ground. You had to sell this idea, who did you sell it to? And how did you sell it?
Well, like I said, because I had a heart condition I initially reached out to my cardiologist and to Peyton’s cardiologist and said, you know, we need to do something, what can we do? We kind of put our heads together, we approached our major healthcare partner, which is UPMC Pinnacle here in the central Pennsylvania area, approached them said, This is what we want to do. I said, Look, I am a meeting in logistics planner by education and trade. I’ve got this I can do this, but I need medical people to show up and deliver the medical services that I can’t provide. So they were on board. From the minute I walked in that office, they were they were absolutely supportive of it. And that’s what’s made our program so successful. All of the healthcare systems in our region have embraced this program. They see the value and the difference that it’s making
to fund this program, you need to raise funds. How did that start? And what does it look like now?
So, you know, this is like I said before, this is not a journey I envision myself being on and I do not know how to, you know, when I walked into this, I didn’t know how to fundraise or ask people to be sponsors or support our programs and services. So this has definitely been a learning process as we’ve gone along. But the community, the businesses, the healthcare systems have completely embraced this and supported us every time I asked for something. The answer has been Yes. And I think it’s because they recognize the value that we’re bringing here we have we do a heart screening and usually two to 3% of the kids that we screen, we find significant issues that require surgery or some other kind of intervention. So we’ve got we’ve got health care systems that help to fund our services. We’ve got corporations, businesses, private donors, family, friends, all these people that make these donations. In fact, we’ve got a campaign going on right now we’re doing a night in on Payton’s birthday, which is December 19. So it’s a big fundraiser for that. We’re just, you know, telling people take a night off, enjoy it on Payton’s birthday. And all those funds will go to go to support our programs and services.
Brilliant, and it’s going to be in your neck of the woods and where is that? Exactly?
So in Central Pennsylvania, and the midstate area
from Baltimore, it would be how long a drive
to Baltimore to Harrisburg is about an hour and 20 minutes I won’t say
yeah, close by and on the 19th
Yep. So we just say have a night and stay home with your family. Just enjoy a peace and quiet you know, we get inundated with all these invitations and all these things that we have to go do so we’re saying don’t do it. No, stay in, have a night in. You can you can support us you can support us in a way you know you You make a donation to the foundation enjoy a night in and we’re going to do some some social media promotions. We’re going to encourage people to post their pictures of their night in with their family, friends and loved ones.
You reached out to partners and built the team around you, then you have to reach out to lawmakers to really kind of move this forward. What was that process like?
Well, so I never envisioned myself getting involved in in actively advocating for legislation. So this has been a whole new area for me this summer. Earlier this year, friends of ours from the Cody Stevens foundation that’s located in Texas, they also lost their son, big Strapping Young man, you know, six foot seven just muscle, you know, perfect athlete, took a nap one day and never woke up. So the Cody Stevens Foundation was formed. They have worked for six years to get legislation passed in Texas that will help to make heart screenings accessible for kids for all kids. So once they got that passed earlier this year. said you know what, if they can do it, we can do it in Pennsylvania. So let’s give it a shot. So we reached out to our friend Senator Mike Regan got him up to speed on sudden cardiac arrest. And, you know, he was very surprised to learn that kids aren’t getting the proper screenings that they need. So he has been a true advocate and a great champion for us. We got Payton’s law, push through the Pennsylvania Senate was unanimously passed in October. It’s now sitting in this in the house awaiting consideration with the education committee and we’re hoping we can get this legislation push through and what it will do when it’ll become part of the in Pennsylvania we have the poi double A the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and that’s for all the high school athletes. So when parents have to fill out paperwork for their kids to participate in sports, there is a page on there about sudden cardiac arrest and it talks about signs and symptoms were Payton’s law will add language on that form and it will say you have the right to request an electrocardiogram, it may help determine and detect some hidden heart issues, electrical issues in the heart of your child. You know, please be aware that this is an opportunity or an option for you to pursue. So just at least inserts that educational piece into the POW forms. in the hopes that parents will have a little bit better education. Many parents just don’t know the importance of screenings. So hopefully we’ll get this Payton’s law passed and Pennsylvania, although sudden cardiac arrest doesn’t discriminate between athletes and non athletes. But this is an easy way for us to get in touch with at least the parents of the athletes,
like all journeys, you get insights into who you are. So what have you discovered about yourself, Julie, on this on this path?
I am one resilient, determined, unstoppable woman, period. So, yes, and I say every day I am so so proud of the work that we’ve been able to accomplish. But I truly feel our family was chosen for a reason. I you know, the God given talents and skills and connections that I have, because of my real job, have made it possible. For me to I it’s all translated over to the foundation and all the skills I’ve been able to kind of execute and put to good use and make change effectively for the foundation.
What’s next for the foundation and what’s next for Julie.
Next for the foundation, we want to make sure we do get this legislation push through in Pennsylvania. We want to get that passed. We want to help other states get similar legislation passed as well. We’d love to see this go nationwide and get electrocardiogram testing for all kids. We’re also going to be hosting a medical symposium in April at the hotel Hershey. For doctors, we want to educate them about sudden cardiac arrest and youth so they have really have a good understanding and why we should be making EKGs the standard of care for all kids, we want to encourage doctors to include that as part of their their physicals moving forward. So we’ve got some great things on the horizon. We’ve got some some additional heart screenings coming up. And for me, I just continue to grow my successful choice meetings business, trying to manage running the foundation and my business can can prove to be challenging, but like I said, I’m pretty resilient. And I’m the good person at figuring out how to get things done. So we’ll keep charging forward,
this amazing woman on the conversation with me now when you go back to 2013 other things that you learned on this journey that you wish you knew when you started the foundation.
Oh my gosh, every day it one of the biggest things I wish I knew. I wish I understood bookkeeping and accounting. I wish I’d taken that in college.
I’m not good with the operations side of that.
I guess. I’ve just always been so open to Okay, where’s the past? Taking me and I think that’s been the most important thing is just to kind of let let this foundation guide us and show us what needs to be done. So I can’t say it’s been a great learning experience along the way. By far. This is the hardest job I have ever done. Just the emotional toll it takes on me on a daily basis. It is very difficult, but it’s so so important.
When we met We met at a conference put on by john Dame in in your neck of the woods, and I approached you when we met said, you know, hey, we need to meet I’m not sure why. What were your thoughts there? weird guy? Or are you all were just looking for opportunities to share the story? Like what was that? Like?
No, I believe the universe puts people in our path for a reason. So I knew when you approached me I thought this is somebody I need to talk to I can just tell you just have a light about you and this this magnetism about you that I knew we needed to connect as well. so grateful that you started that conversation, by the way. And that’s why I really that that’s been one of the interesting things for me. With the foundation, my business primarily my clients are not in the Harrisburg Central Pennsylvania area. So I had to engage the local business community much. Now that our foundation is here, I’ve got to get to know our business leaders and our business executive. So this has been a challenge for me. I am not comfortable with networking, I am an introverted extrovert. So for me to walk into a room full of strangers, which at john dame’s conference, you know, we’ve got what 500 700 strangers? Yes, little uncomfortable for me way outside of my comfort zone. And I say that every day to paint and I’m like, What are you doing to me today? I mean, I’ve had to speak publicly in front of 1500 people, I never thought I’d have to be doing this. Never thought I’d be doing media interviews, but again, I just feel the universe takes care of us will provide and make it all work. But so yeah, I’m so thankful that you did approach me and we had that conversation. What I’m taking away from our conversation today is if you can just pay attention to what’s going on around you and Ask the reason you know, what’s the universe trying to teach me, it just gives you a better lens to see what’s going on as opposed to being kind of stuck in the middle of it and being a victim of it. That’s so true. That’s so true. You, you can’t be a victim. We cannot live our life as a victim, it would be so easy for me to crawl into bed, circle up in a ball and never move. What what life is that that’s not living, we have to make a choice every single day to live and to make a difference. And I refuse, I refuse to quit and I refuse to give up and I refuse to be defeated and stop living because I lost my daughter. I’m not. I’m not the first parent to lose a child. And I’m certainly not going to be the last parent to lose a child. But I am going to make a difference. And I’m going to try to save other kids from dying.
Julie, thanks so much for spending time with me today in the show notes. We’re going to put all the links so people reach out to you. Thanks so much for the privilege of chatting with you this morning.
Thanks so much Umar. And thanks for saying hello a couple weeks ago. Appreciate it. Cheers.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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