LEADER, ENNEAGRAM 3, VISIONARY, FRIEND TO ALL, WIFE + MOM OF 3.
Hi, I'm Laura. Leader, Speaker + Hope Dealer.
I'm an Athens, Georgia local serving as the CEO of Extra Special People, an organization I became involved with as a freshman at the University of Georgia. It was impossible to know then that at the young age of 19, I would become the organization’s leader. Alongside my team that has grown from just me to 30, I have identified the key, unique differentiators in leadership that translated into millions of dollars in fundraising for an underserved community of all abilities.
Ready to magnify your abilities for the benefit of others? You've come to the right place.
In 2003, I began volunteering at ESP in my free time because of my love for serving others, particularly those with special needs. Martha Wyllie, ESP's Founder and volunteer Executive Director, was diagnosed with cancer less than a year after I got involved. Months following her passing, I received a call that changed my life: I was asked to step up and fill her role. It was a daunting request, but one that I knew even then could be a life calling to leadership, service and learning.
SOMETIMES YOU CHOOSE YOUR JOB. OTHER TIMES, YOUR JOB CHOOSES YOU. I'VE BEEN SERVING AS CEO FOR A NON-PROFIT FOR 18+ YEARS, AND THEY CAN'T SEEM TO GET RID OF ME!
The challenges were seemingly insurmountable: I quickly had to raise more than $50,000 in order to run summer camp, recruit a leadership team, and keep the magic that Martha had created... alone. After many sleepless nights and unsure of my own abilities, I dug deep into my well of strength, and with the help of the community, we raised the funds needed and my first summer camp as Executive Director was a success. Now, 18 years and a new title of CEO later, I can look back over the decades of humble leadership and learning to see the millions of dollars we have raised to expand our facility from 1,200 to 14,000 sq ft, increase the number of families we serve from 150 to over 600, and continue exponentially growing our mission to serve. In 2019, we expanded our services and programs across the country. And we have no plans of slowing down, with a goal in 2022 to serve in 5 states, and in 2025 to be in 10 states.
Along the way I’ve been honored to receive many accolades and leadership awards. But, my favorite part of my job: getting to hug the incredible individuals who walk through ESP's doors. They are the reason I push myself out of my comfort zone every day.
“Laura is one of the finest not-for-profit leaders I have known. She leads with her heart, but all her decisions are grounded in strong business acumen and practices.”
PARTNER AT JACKSON SPALDING
“I would actually go so far as to say that any company or individual would be blessed to work with Laura in any capacity. She is an amazing person, and working with her is a true pleasure.”
COMPENSATION ANALYST AT BREC
“Laura always wears a smile and positive disposition. When
you're working with difficult client and family situations, that is a great asset. She's the reason the organization has grown so much in recent years. She's exceptional.”
REGIONAL DIRECTOR AT AT&T