Interview with Cathy and Danielle Lanyard of ALYN Hospital

Tell us about your organization, it’s purpose, mission, target audience, goals, what makes it unique.

The American Friends of ALYN Hospital is the fundraising and consciousness raising arm for ALYN Hospital – Israel’s premiere rehab center for disabled children.  ALYN’s mission is simple – to provide comprehensive, multidisciplinary rehab so that each child can reach his or her maximum potential of mobility and independence.  It is a one-of-a-kind facility in that absolutely everything needed for rehab – from state of the art equipment used by gifted therapists to specialized clinics fill an array of specialists that includes both social workers and medical clowns – is all under one roof.

How did you come to work together in the first place?

I have to tell you why I even took this job first….I was the Director of Development for another organization when my daughter was 2 weeks away from graduating high school and survived a car accident that killed her passenger.  In addition to all the emotional turmoil, my daughter had some fairly severe injuries that confined her to a wheelchair that entire summer.  Her injuries were temporary but they gave me a very good idea of what life is like for a disabled person.  I worked at home during the months it took for her to recuperate, she could hear me working. I encouraged her to learn to walk again, and she encouraged me to think about moving to an organization that spoke more to my heart and passions.  Six months after the finished her rehab I took this position to help ALYN Hospital.

Please describe your respective roles in the company.

I am the Executive Director.  In a small international nonprofit such as ours that means I oversee everything involved with the local day to day operations and also everything having to do with global fundraising.  I hire, train, fire, prepare materials, make solicitations, run missions….everything.  My daughter’s role is more “project specific.”  She appears when I need her….when I ran into a problem with the huge international bike ride a few years ago she agreed to come in and help out.  One month became several.  Now she works with me offsite…through emails, phone and often sheer mental telepathy!

How has working together affected your relationship outside the “office.”  In other words how do you keep family matters separate from work related issues?

This is very difficult to do because my work is a very large part of who I am.  It does not define me, but rather who I am as a woman, mother and human being defines the quality of my work.  We both push each other to be our very best.  For me, ALYN is full time – every day, every week.  For my daughter it is part-time.  She has become the best consultant I could ever find.  Actually, the shared work helps our relationship because if we hit a rough patch personally we can always come back together because of the work and that usually gets us back to where we want to be.

What are some of the challenges you have faced working together?

The first time Danielle was in the office full time was several years ago and the result was mildly disastrous.  My staff is young – my daughter’s age – and until Danielle was here on a daily basis I did not realize that my “staff” sometimes thought of me as their Mom and there was no way they needed the competition of the real offspring here. 


The triumph is simply that we do work together, not in the office, or on a time clock, but in a symbiotic, natural way.  I get to see how she grows and evolves constantly…how she helps me with my projects and then tackles her own.  Currently, Danielle’s consulting on a new project called Bike for the Green, which will launch this fall just as ALYN celebrates the 10-year anniversary of its annual Wheels of Love charity bike ride. The really miraculous thing is that she gets to see me grow and evolve, and I learn from her the social media and digital next practices that build upon my best practices.  It has always been difficult for me to admit to not knowing something…so to admit that my daughter knows more than me about something…well…what grander triumph could there be?

What do you like best about working together? Least?

I adore seeing her excel and when I see hints of my influence I am thrilled, and the same is true of the opposite.  If I see her lacking or frustrated, it bothers me the same way it did when she was a little girl and came home to say someone hurt her feelings.  There is never a moment I am not her mother, nor she my daughter.

What, if any big challenges or little annoyances have occurred as a result of working together and how have you managed to overcome them?

Danielle meditates…and begs me to learn how.

What tips would you share with our readers for working with a member of the family?

I actually think working with family members is very difficult and very trying.  Even with the best of relationships, it is hard to be together for 8 hours a day and not get on each other’s nerves.  I think you have to be keenly and constantly aware of each other’s space and never forget the contributions each makes to the whole.

What’s been the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of working together (eg. unexpected publicity, obtaining an unexpected client/customer, an emotional moment, etc)?

There are many, but the one that stands out the most happened several years ago.  I took my daughter to Israel with me and she rode in this annual bike ride we do every year called Wheels of Love. In itself, the bike ride is a phenomenon and an enormous undertaking of logistics people managing and fundraising.  Danielle was riding in celebration of and in honor of all the children who cannot and, I like to think, to support me as well.  On one of the last nights during the ride…when it was my turn to address the 400+ tired, spandexed community of riders I told our story — the accident.  The push for me to work for ALYN.  Why my daughter’s riding meant so much.  It was incredibly emotional for me…and more so for Danielle whom I more or less unintentionally forced to let me tell her story publicly.  It is a moment neither of us will ever forget.

What’s next for this mother daughter team?

My daughter has taken her passions for sustainability and is bringing them to new heights.  She is social media and networking and I am the willing student.  She is bringing me kicking and screaming into the world of Twitter and every other media platform.  We are helping each other ride out and conquer the current financial freefall, despite being at opposite stages of our careers and in the face of unprecedented challenges in both our fields.  On the days when it feels like all financial security jumped off the cliff…we are each other’s safety net.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I adore my work and feel blessed to do what I do and be paid for it.  It is a difficult job but it has amazing rewards.  It pales in comparison to being a parent.  For those of you who still have little children and think your parenting will be done soon, the good news is that you are wrong about that.  The best of parenting is ahead of you, when your children grow into adults. My daughter is now truly my best friend, but as I said before…she will always be my daughter and I will always be her mother.  It doesn’t get any better than that!
This article can be read in the Spring/Summer 2009 Issue of WE Magazine for Women