October 21, 2021 By Gabrielle Martin
In March of 2016, Dan and Mary Holleran welcomed their first child, Liam, into the world; Liam was born with Spina Bifida or SB, a defect in the neural tube that impacts the development of the spinal cord.
Avid Anchor readers surely remember our previous profile on Liam, “Laughing with Liam Holleran,” published in 2019, when Liam was two–almost three–at the time. He is now a kindergarten student at South Elementary School. His parents describe him as a “busy and happy boy” who enjoys riding the bus with his friends, going to school, and playing with his brother and friends, in addition to keeping up with his therapies.
As the Hollerans’ firstborn, “not only did [Liam] introduce us to the world of parenting, he introduced us into the world of Spina Bifida as well,” Dan shares, adding, “As we embraced all things ‘Liam,’ we found ourselves connecting with the Spina Bifida community for support and guidance. After a few years of volunteering and getting to know the SB Community, the initial idea to start a foundation was born.”
When Dan, Mary, and Liam began to spend more time with the SB community, it became clear to the couple that there were many gaps and needs in terms of access and care; while they knew they couldn’t address them all, Dan and Mary specifically wanted to focus their efforts on combating mobility-related issues.
“Liam is a wheelchair user and is paralyzed from the waist-down, so we were naturally drawn to channeling our efforts and the foundation towards mobility-related issues,” Dan explains. “Our goal is to support the individuals as well as families in the communities we serve by providing Quality of Life grants to support greater independence; in addition, we are involved in advocacy and awareness initiatives that serve the disabled community.”
And thus, The Lead Out Foundation was established in 2021; the Leadership Team is currently composed of Dan and Mary, who are in the process of rounding out the team. “We have been so fortunate to have access to many successful executives, both in the 501c3 space and in the private sector that have generously donated their time and shared their experiences with us in helping bring this vision to life,” they say.
The couple credits their launch to the coaching and mentoring–specifically from the Travis Roy Foundation, The McCourt foundation, and a handful of other key individuals, saying, “The process has been quite smooth so far. It has taken almost three years to get to this point, but by slowly and methodically working through and redefining our vision, mission, goals, and the necessary mechanics we would need in place to achieve them when it came time to ‘start,’ a lot of the hard work had already been done. It also helped that we had a great legal partner, Sarah Meilia, and website designer, Jason Edmonds of InTouch Website Design.”
Still, the journey was not without its challenges: “The most challenging aspect thus far was staying patient,” Dan says. “I envision, moving forward, it’s going to be carving out the time required to keep things going!”
However, overall, the Hollerans express that the experience developing and launching the Lead Out Foundation has been incredibly rewarding. As for the most rewarding aspect? “It’s very early, so I believe there are a lot of rewarding times ahead of us when we are going to see, first-hand, the impact we have on someone’s day-to-day life, but thus far in the foundation’s infancy, the most rewarding part of the process has been seeing so many people step up and be so generous with their time, experience, and/or funds. It is humbling and invigorating at the same time.”
It’s been a few weeks since the Lead Out Foundation’s launch, but looking ahead, the Hollerans expect 2022 will be an exciting year full of many firsts for the organization. They say, “We are most looking forward to providing our first round of Quality of Life Grants, building a stronger relationship with the Hingham and South Shore community, and hosting some really fun events while raising money for some individuals who could really use it.”
Speaking of the Hingham community, I asked the Hollerans to comment on how the community of Hingham has supported them through the process; in response, they said, “The Hingham community has been amazing. They have supported this process even before we (or they!) knew the process was underway, and over the past 5+ years, we have felt supported by the Hingham community in so many ways.”
For instance, they held “Do It Yourself” fundraisers to support the Spina Bifida Association of Greater New England (SBAGNE), which Dan served as a member of the board for from 2017 to 2019 and Mary has for the past year and a half. The couple describes themselves as “very active and connected to [this] association; they also partnered with other nonprofits (namely The McCourt Foundation) to support SBAGNE–and in the process, the Hollerans say that the Hingham community came out in full force to support those efforts.
“In addition, and most importantly, be it friends in the neighborhood(s), strangers at the Snug, classmates and teachers at East and South, SNAP Camp Counselors & Parents throughout town, they have embraced a little kid in a wheelchair and celebrated his smile, grit, and funny little personality,” they add.
When asked, “Where do you see the nonprofit in 5 years? In 10?,” Dan says, “I see [it] right here in Hingham, and hopefully we are a small part of the social fabric of the community.” And as for 10, Holleran shares, “I hope we are looking back on and celebrating a decade of doing good and having fun. And perhaps in a position to hire an event coordinator!”
Above all else, the Hollerans hope the Lead Out Foundation will leave a legacy of putting others before themselves and of helping making life a little bit better for those who need it most, and they hope to have a lot of fun and make some dear friends along the way.
They say, “There is a lot in life that is out of our control, but some of the simplest things we do have control of (being kind, getting involved, helping a neighbor or stranger, smiling) can have a massive difference.”
Visit the Lead Out Foundation’s website as www.tlofoundation.org for more information.