Giving back is heard so often it’s almost a cliché. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of the action.
For Kye Mitchell, chief operating officer at Kforce and chairwoman of the 2020 Heart Walk on November 14, the Tampa Bay area’s version of the yearly American Heart Association’s national fundraiser, it’s more than just words: It’s her life.
Both of Mitchell’s biological children, Morgan and Michael, were diagnosed with congenital heart defects. As Mitchell explains, “We’ve been through the heart experience and it was really tough, traumatic times. Fortunately, because of procedures and surgeries, we now have happy, healthy teenagers. We’ve been given so much as a family and I’m grateful for the diagnosis and early treatment my children were given. For us, it’s personal to give back. When we lived in Washington, D.C., it was natural to support the INOVA Pediatric Cardiology Foundation, as our children’s surgeries were at INOVA under Dr. James Thompson. When we moved, I knew we had to find somewhere local to be active.”
Arriving in Tampa three years ago, it didn’t take long for Mitchell to find Tampa’s chapter of AHA. She first served on the cabinet for the Go Red for Women initiative, a comprehensive AHA platform designed to increase awareness on women’s heart health. Last year, she accepted the leadership role for the annual Heart Walk, Tampa’s, and America’s, most recognized heart-healthy fundraising event.
“Tampa’s Heart Walk is enormous. Usually, 34,000 people attend and our initial goal for 2020 was to raise $4 million,” Mitchell says. “We’ll see how far we get, as this year is particularly challenging.”
Mitchell is, of course, referring to the Heart Walk’s move to a digital launchpad. Mitchell and her team, particularly, focused on keeping the structure and fundamental meaning of a traditional Heart Walk the same: Form teams, raise money and walk.
This year, participants will plot their own course around the Tampa Bay area in families, small groups or solo instead of meeting at a designated location. Everyone is encouraged to broadcast live or share photos throughout the day on social media to garner support and to retain a sense of community involvement.
Luckily for Tampa’s Heart Walk, Mitchell brings digital savvy to her leadership role. Two years ago, under Mitchell’s direction, Kforce launched a drive to refresh its social media connections through LinkedIn, focusing on sharing content most meaningful to its clients.
“We implemented a shareable content program [KContent], which 60 percent of our associates are now using regularly to post, reshare, like and comment on LinkedIn,” Mitchell says. “Our post reach is upwards of 600,000.”
From its inception, Kforce associates drove a 496 percent increase in engagement with KContent in 2019, earning the top spot in the nation for LinkedIn’s content share program, shattering the closest competition. They’ve already leveraged their platform repeatedly this year to support AHA, using KContent to share important news and related stories while promoting posts.
“Kforce’s experience, and my experience, has become an asset in tackling the digital switch for Heart Walk. We are national, we have 2,000 employees all around the country and we send out sharable content every week that our teams can push and share on social media,” Mitchell says. “This is the first time Kforce, as a company, has engaged with the Heart Walk, but it’s given us something really beautiful to gather around and support together.”
Kforce currently leads in all categories for donations, as a company—as a team and for Mitchell personally. They’ve well surpassed the Kforce goal of $200,000 raised in donations, but Mitchell especially emphasizes what’s been given back to the company.
“Because of what we’re facing as a country with COVID, AHA is even more important than ever as they’re contributing so much to COVID research right now and its connections to heart problems and strokes. The Heart Walk digital platform actually makes it more connective and comprehensive,” Mitchell says. “Kforce is using the AHA app to already track daily steps and promote friendly, healthy competition within the company. Everyone today, with the pandemic and the social unrest, we all need something positive to focus on to get outside, to be active, to be part of something bigger. We’re really encouraging our employees to log your steps, log your miles, join together for the next eight weeks because it’s not just about November 14. It’s a way to be healthy, and active, to enhance our feelings and well-being for life.”
And AHA does make a difference, as Mitchell knows personally.
“Children with CHDs today have a 40-percent better survival rate than when my daughter had surgery 14 years ago. That’s because of AHA,” Mitchell concludes. “At the end of the day, there are so many organizations that need support, and even though it’s personal to me, it’s really personal to all of us. Heart disease is the number one killer in America—of men, of women, of different races, across the board.
“It is so important for people to understand what they can do to be heart-healthy. We have to continue to give back to AHA, to advocate for research and technology, to support the wonderful doctors and their teams.”
To learn more about AHA’s upcoming Heart Walk, visit www2.heart.org.