Mums Who Inspire

Meet the powerhouse mum behind Ireland's largest sick kids charity

This week on our Mums Who Inspire series, we sit down with Lisa-Nicole Dunne, CEO of Children's Medical & Research Foundation. If you have a story that you would like to be featured, email mumswhoinspire[at]magicmum[dot]com.

Lisa-Nicole Dunne has always had a keen sense for inequality. Studying English and History in UCD, she specialised in Literature of the American South.

“The main thing I took from my degree was definitely that sense of inequality. That people aren't always treated as they should be,” she said, speaking to Magicmum.

Living in Swords, Dunne embarked on a commercial career, working in banking before moving into corporate sales in BMW and eventually Carphone Warehouse.

But volunteering and social activism was something that remained close to her heart.

“Outside of work, I was always fundraising for something or another. I was helping a lot of friends with events as well.”

After a Carphone Warehouse changed its business model, Dunne was made redundant. But instead of being disappointed, she decided to use it as an opportunity to turn her passion of helping others into a career.

“It was unfortunate, but I decided to take the opportunity to try something different.”

She applied for, and got a position as the Director of Public Fundraising with UNCIEF. She then went on to work with Focus Ireland.

 “NGO’s and charities are really creative places to work. They’re always full of exciting new ideas and challenges.”

But there was one particular area that drew her in over and over again- children’s charities. Her older brother, Gordon, had died as a toddler and his death had always left her with more questions than answers.

 “Growing up I was very aware of his absence. I always had a lot of questions. Because he was older than me I didn’t get to know him, but I was always aware of the loss. My parents were baffled for a long time.

“I couldn’t help but question ‘What went wrong? Why him?’ I saw the impact of his early death on my parents and family. I still wonder how different the outcome might have been now, more than 40 years on. That deep-rooted questioning attracted me to working in an organisation that funded paediatric research and healthcare.”

Now the CEO of Children's Medical & Research Foundation (CMRF), she’s now closer to those questions than ever before.

“That’s why research is so important; it’s asking the questions that could prevent childhood illness.

“When you work in an organisation like CMRF Crumlin, you get to see, hear and feel the benefits of the money our donors invest into research and extraordinary care. Even when you’re walking down the hospital corridors, you see first-hand the parents who have benefited from the wraparound services donations make possible, and the hope that comes with research.

CMRF works with Crumlin Children’s Hospital, providing vital funding for equipment and wraparound services for severely sick children. As well as this, they invest in research for paediatric healthcare.

While nothing touches heart more than the image of an ill child. As a mother of two, 8-year-old Daniel and 2-year-old Sadie,  Dunne can empathise with the parents worrying about their children. Her youngest child, Sadie, was barely a year when Dunne took the role of CEO at CMRF.

“To be honest the timing wasn’t the best, but I thought it could be another five years before a role like it came up so I went for it.

"Everybody can relate to caring for a sick child, and as a parent, you worry about your children all the time, about their welfare, their health, and about their future. You can see the added worry in a parent when their child is sick, or when they have just heard they’ve got a life-long diagnosis or an illness that has no cure. It touches everyone.

"When I see the huge difference CMRF Crumlin helps make possible, it gives me a great sense of pride, knowing we are helping connect wonderful people with the opportunity to give sick children the extraordinary care they need and the best outcomes possible."

However, consistent fundraising comes with its own unique challenges.

“Fundraising is always a challenge. Supporters can drop off if they think there’s not as much need, but there’s always a need. We have to explain to supporters that children’s research is grossly unfunded. Even with the new children’s hospital on the way there’s still a massive need for research and care.

“We’re getting sick children home where they belong.”

Every single donation makes a difference to the life of a child, whether it be getting life-saving treatment today or researching for the cures of tomorrow.

“It’s great to see the impact of donations. We’re talking to parents, looking at the level of need. Dr. Orla Franklin, chief cardiologist recently shared with me the significance of the donations. We’re filling the gaps and it’s extraordinary. You can see the difference the foundation makes.”

Seeing the differences the foundation is making is what motivates Dunne to keep going.

“It’s amazing looking back on what you and your team have made happen. Whether it’s investing in research, advanced equipment, or wrap around support and complimentary therapies, it makes a massive difference.”

When it comes to climbing to the top of a career ladder, Dunne believes that all mums are fully capable of making a difference.

“Mums, and women, have so much to give. I mentor other women during lunch-time network building and discussion. There are loads of networks and supports out there encouraging women to step up. Especially for mums the more control you have the easier it is to work around family life. It’s all about contribution, engaging and encouraging balance in you want to be the best.”

CMRF Crumlin are the funding raising body for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin and the National Children’s Research Centre. More than 150,000 children attend Crumlin each year. CMRF Crumlin aims to provide vital supports to the young patients and their families and provide cutting edge equipment, and paediatric research funding to help save and improve young lives. We need more donors and supporters to help us make this happen, visit to get involved.

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