A love affair of a career
BROOKFIELD — Nancy Major, CEO and executive director of Variety – The Children’s Charity of Wisconsin, has gone from being a child faced with many adversities to running a nonprofit that helps children overcome their own adversity.
As a child, Major recollected on how she starved due to hunger, was homeless, lived in extreme poverty and was a victim of sexual abuse. Despite her difficult childhood, Major said that it inspires her and has made her the person she is today.
“It gives me a perspective, a level of compassion and just a strong, burning desire to ensure that no other children experience what I’ve been through,” Major said.
At age 19, Major began working in a hospice unit which eventually led to her opening Family Haven Assisted Living in Marshfield around the age of 23. This was the first business she owned and she recalled that there was no other facility that served the elderly population at that time.
Major said this was when she began to work within the disabled population. Then, the United Cerebral Palsy organization recognized and recruited her. Within a year-and-a-half of starting with the organization, she became the youngest executive director of a United Cerebral Palsy location.
“I began a love affair with service work,” Major said. “That’s really what it is, it’s not a job.”
After her first nonprofit experience, Major was recruited by Special Olympics and worked with children for the first time. Major claimed that once she started working with children with disabilities, she knew her life-long calling was to utilize her business expertise for the benefit of nonprofits.
However, Major stopped working with children with disabilities, and Special Olympics specifically, for a while to help a variety of different nonprofits dissolve and flip their organizations.
Although she said that flipping was some of her favorite work, Major soon found herself back at a nonprofit organization that enriches the lives of children with special needs and their families.
This nonprofit is Variety – The Children’s Charity of Wisconsin and Major has been the CEO and executive director for a year now.
“I’m right back to the feeling of it’s a love affair,” Major said. “I don’t see an end for this organization.”
Variety serves all 72 counties of Wisconsin and receives all of their funds from the communities they help, as well as corporations who want to be a part of their mission, said Major.
Major said she would like to see Variety partner with the Department of Health and Human Services in each county to figure out where and how they can best help families with children who have special needs.
“We see ourselves as standing in the gap when insurance won’t and hard working families can’t cover the cost of having a disabled child,” Major added. “That’s when Variety comes in.”
Variety has year-round programs that provide activities, social outings and events to promote inclusivity, diversity and accessibility for lowincome families.
Major said her past has helped her succeed in this nonprofit because she has a deep sense of compassion and understanding for lowincome families because she was in a similar position as a young child.
The nonprofit and Major were recently recognized by Kathy Ireland on her television show “Modern Living with Kathy Ireland”. This feature story, which aired on July 25 and 26, showcased Major’s hard work with Variety.
“I am so grateful to Kathy Ireland,” Major said. “Our cause really touched her heart and I am truly honored.”
Major is also a previous Freeman Citizen of the Year.
For more information about the organization and to see the Kathy Ireland episode, visit Variety’s website at www.varietywi. org.
Nancy Major, CEO and executive director of Variety – The Children’s Charity of Wisconsin, sits in front of pictures of the organization’s history at their office in Elm Grove.