Tracey Durant G’19
Master of Science in Nonprofit Management & Philanthropy
It takes a strong woman to turn a personal tragedy into a blessing for others, but that’s exactly what Tracey Durant G’19 did. In 2013, Tracey and her family faced the unthinkable; their 14-month old daughter, Callie Rose, suddenly passed away. Two years later, she funneled her grief into action and launched The Callie Rose Foundation.
“While we received a lot of wonderful care at Baystate Hospital, there were some things that could be improved that would have made our time with our daughter less stressful and more comfortable,” Durant shared. “I began looking into how I could make a difference for other families facing the critical illness and/or death of their child and came to the decision to start my own nonprofit, The Callie Rose Foundation (CRF), in my daughter’s honor.”
The mission of CFR is to support parents and families of critically ill children by providing personal care items and facilitating ongoing support. “My goal with CRF is to help fill the gaps in care for the families, from small to large,” Durant shared. “Currently, we provide Callie Care Kits – tote bags filled with personal care items from toothbrushes to a change of clothes – to families facing an extended stay in the PICU at Baystate Children’s Hospital. Seemingly small things can make a big difference to families. It lets them know they are cared for and that they are not alone.”
Familiar with the nonprofit field from her seventeen-plus year career with Longmeadow Community Television, Durant has always felt drawn to the idea of serving the community and making a difference. “I think it is just in my nature to work in service of a mission,” she stated. Starting her own foundation, however, proved to be challenging. “When I started CRF, I knew almost nothing about what it takes to manage a nonprofit,” stated Durant. “I just knew I needed to ‘do something’ to help others. I navigated the entire registration process myself and it was no easy task.”
Shortly thereafter, a woman looking to donate items to CRF introduced Durant to the idea of going back to school to earn her degree in nonprofit management. “After sharing her story of how her son had battled brain cancer, she casually mentioned that she was thinking of going back to school for nonprofit management,” Durant said. “I had not known that such a program even existed anywhere, but I knew that is exactly what I needed to do in order to not only develop the skills to lead The Callie Rose Foundation, but also to inform the work I do at Longmeadow Community Television.”
Having worked in Longmeadow for 17 years, and having worked with Bay Path University through her work at Longmeadow Community Television, Durant checked to see if that degree was something Bay Path offered. To her surprise, “not only did they have a Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy Program, but it had a reputation for being one of the best in the country. On top of that, it was an accelerated 2-year program with a schedule that I could work into my life as a working mom.”
Once enrolled, Durant found comradery with her fellow students, and they pushed her to aim higher for both her career and for her foundation. She also loved that her professors were professionals currently working in the nonprofit industry. Not only did that enrich her learning experience, but it helped her and her fellow students build connections to nonprofits in the Western MA area.
Her education continued to expand far beyond the classroom. “Not only did I learn a lot about the nonprofit field, I learned a lot about myself, what I value, what I’m willing to work for and how I can use my skills to make the changes I want to see in the world,” Durant shared. “One of the greatest advantages to going back to school when you are older is that you know yourself so much better. To take on such an intensive program and try to fit it into your life, it has to be something that holds real meaning and adds tangible value to your life. If you have passion, a calling to do something, then listen to that voice. If it is meaningful to you, then you will find a way to make it work and it will be one of the most rewarding experiences.”
Having graduated this past May with her Master of Science in Nonprofit Management & Philanthropy, Durant’s hard work is paying off, both in her career and in her foundation. She was recently promoted to Longmeadow Community Television’s Executive Director, for which she credits in large part to her Bay Path education for what it taught her and the confidence it inspired in her. And thanks in part to funds raised by The Callie Rose Foundation last year, this summer Baystate is set to install universal charging stations in each of their PICU rooms, which are a critical tool for parents who need to communicate with their support system, but in an emergency did not bring a cell phone charger with them to the hospital.
Looking to the future, Durant now also has a clear understanding of what The Callie Rose Foundation truly needs to thrive, and how to get there. “I have been focusing on building relationships with others working in the care of critically ill children and child loss bereavement to see where CRF can be of the most service,” she said. “I now serve on Baystate Children’s Hospital’s Patient and Family Advocacy Council as well as their Safety Council. I don’t think I would have understood how my skills could benefit those groups without going through the Bay Path Program and gaining expertise in the nonprofit work as well as learning the importance of building relationships and community partnerships.”