In part two of our interview with Rachelle McCray, Founder/CEO of the MinMinBear Foundation, Rachelle talked to DocWire News about the challenges of running a successful business, the most rewarding aspect of running MinMinBear, her favorite MinMinBear success story, and what people can do to support the foundation.

Also, if you missed it, check out part one.

DocWire News: What is the hardest part about running a successful business?

Rachelle McCray: That’s a really great, great question, and I come from more of what we’ll call the commercial world before I came into nonprofits. And, to me, the nonprofit, we’re an all-volunteer organization right now, which includes myself. And so, all of the funds at this time are going back into buying the bears, and hopefully developing a kidney camp later this year, and helping families. And so, I would say that our biggest challenge comes in from fundraising and support, trying to find those people who want to come alongside our mission and that’s important.

We were very fortunate to have Natera come along for the last two years and sponsor two sets of bears. We created GenieBear, and we created A.C.E.Bear in those two years, and they’ve helped us reach over 8,000 families. But we wouldn’t be able to do it without them, because this was just a family-run initiative started by my husband and myself. And so, I would say that’s probably the biggest challenge. And I don’t really look at it so much as a business, but more of a way to help other people. But I still think the challenges of trying to raise money and find those people is really where the difficulty comes in.

What’s the most rewarding part about running a foundation like MinMinBear?

The most rewarding part, it’s interesting, because I think that there’s a lot of things that are rewarding when you run a nonprofit or are trying to help others. But I think the most rewarding part is actually seeing the impact that we’re making, and seeing, getting the patient stories, hearing the testimonials of what our bears have done and how we’ve come together. And I would say, being in a space where we’re needed and validating that need, is something that I don’t think ever gets old or tiring. And I think that it keeps us going every single day since we are right now volunteers.

What’s your favorite MinMinBear success story?

Yeah, we’ve had some really wonderful stories come in. I have to admit, I get very emotional reading them, because there are real people behind the stories that receive our bears. Most recently, not too long ago, in Instagram I had a message come in from a donor. She’s a young lady who donated her kidney to a little girl. And, she had messaged me because she received a MinMinBear, the donor did. And, she just thought it was a great cause and so she went on our website, and then she purchased another MinMinBear for her recipient. And they met at the park at the playground, and this little girl that was the recipient of her kidney as a living donation, she gifted her with one of our MinMinBears, and so now they each have their own.

And, the reason that it’s so inspiring is that I was told that this little girl went down the slide with her bear. She brings her bear everywhere. It meant something to both the donor and the recipients, so not only now are we exchanging the gift of life, but now there’s this gift that has a lot of meaning behind it. And, it’s really amazing to see the impact that we make. And that’s just one of, honestly, dozens of stories that we get all often, and some of them pull your heartstrings, but that’s the most recent and one of my most favorites.

What differentiates MinMinBear from other non-profits in the kidney space?

Yeah, so one of the things that I think differentiates us the most is our approach to what we’re doing. And what I mean by that is, we created bears to tell the story of the kidney journey. So not only are they used as a comfort piece, but they’re also used as an educational component. So, for example, we started the collection telling the story of the recipient, which is MinMinBear. Then there’s the donor, which is AlbieBear. And then you have WinskyBear. Those are the three that started it. And Winsky is the caregiver and the friend in the situation.

But, when Natera came alongside of us last year and helped us to expand the collection, one of the things that we are missing in this educational piece is talking about genetics. Because for someone like myself who has a genetic condition, a lot of times, a biopsy, for years and years, and years has been the only solution to finding out your disease, the origin of your disease, or even if you have the disease. And so, I never wanted to get a biopsy, it’s invasive and it’s painful, and I found out that I could get it from a blood test. So what we decided to do was we realized that this teaching of genetics was missing when we talk about kidney disease. So that’s when we added GenieBear last year to teach about genetics. And I have recipient, donor, caregiver, and genetics, since it’s all a part of it, and then this year, fast-forward, we added a new bear, A.C.E.Bear, and he encompasses all the things that we talk about: advocacy, comfort, and education, and he comes with a coloring book now.

And so, to sum up the entire thing of it, is that we are an educational piece for patients, but we’re also offering something beyond that, which is filling that gap in that void of comfort that’s needed. And so we like to think of ourself as multifaceted, but doing it in a way that’s fun, and interesting, somewhat entertaining,. And hopefully we keep developing things to intervene in the story as we go.

What is MinMinBear doing to enhance its brand awareness?

So one of the ways that we raise awareness is through our MinMinBear Challenge. And what we do is we challenge patients to live their best life, whatever that looks like. Because at this point everybody’s life is different. We can’t mimic what we see on social media. We have to live what we have and where we’re at. And so, our MinMinBear challenge is a four-step challenge, and you can do it with one of bears, or one of your own bears. And what we do is we encourage patients to use this challenge to live their own life, their best life, post that life on social media with their bear, and then encourage their friends and family to not only follow along, but join in so that we can all raise awareness about not only kidney disease, but the people who are living with kidney disease every single day.

What can people do to support MinMinBear?

We have lots of ways to support. People can go on our website and sign up to do a Bear Packing event in their area. Those are new and they’re rolling out, but we’ve done them in Texas where we had a corporation that came along, and we did a Bear Packing, and then we delivered all of those bears to their local children’s hospitals, with kidney transplant recipients and dialysis patients. We are also looking for more sponsors to help us tell our story and join alongside of us like Natera has done. And then, we are also looking for people who want to be involved and volunteer. And also hospitals. If you are a physician or a nurse in a dialysis center, and you’re seeing this, or your a child life specialist and you’d like donated bears, I’d like to connect with you because we are trying to bring comfort to your patients and to your population, as well as educational resources.

So there’s lots of ways to get involved, you can check it out on our website.