Hayes Devotes Life to Helping Sick Children

The Southerner

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By William Chapman

Gene Hayes loves to talk about all of the children he has met at his job over the years. He told many stories, including one about a girl named Bell. He said he knows her especially well. Bell was very sick and needed a liver transplant. Hayes said that they found that her mother was a match, and after a successful surgery, Bell survived.

“Those kind of stories … are like gasoline in the tank,” Hayes said. Hayes comes across people like this every day while working as the head of the Foundation board at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Hayes, born in Griffin, Georgia, south of Atlanta, first worked in the trust department of a local bank. Hayes said he worked there for 18 years and loved every second of it. He said he “learned a lot about Atlanta” while working at the bank.

While Hayes was at the bank he started volunteering with Children’s Healthcare along with his wife. Together they stared a young leaders group. This group of about 40 people would regularly visit the hospital to mentor young people.

In 1989 Hayes received a call from the CEO of Scottish Rite Hospital asking him to chair a new fundraising board at the hospital. Hayes thought it would simply take up too much time since the bank was in the middle of a merger. He was then told it would be a full-time position and decided to think over the offer.

Gene went home and talked the decision over with his wife, Pamela. Gene met Pamela when they were both attending Furman University in North Carolina. Pamela said that they made a list of pros and cons about the move and just prayed over it.

Gene eventually decided to follow through with the move and began his work at Scottish Rite. Hayes said that his misgivings were somewhat expelled when he was told by his new boss, “The fundraising will come once you tell the story.”

Pamela Hayes was content on how the whole thing turned out. “We were doing what we were supposed to be doing,” Pamela Hayes said. Pamela, who was working as a full-time CPA at the time, says she was not worried at all about the time commitment of the new job.

Gene has continued to work as the chair for the foundations committee since he joined Scottish Rite in 1989. Scottish Rite merged with Egleston Hospital in 1998 to form what is now known as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Though the Hayes family worked with many children at Children’s Healthcare, they did not have a child of their own until after Gene took the job at Children’s. Soon after starting the job they had a daughter named Jessica.

Gene was busy at the hospital but he said his boss was very accommodating about letting him set aside time to spend with Jessica. Gene made spending time with his child part of his top three priorities.

Coping with seeing sick children all the time and having a child at home who was perfectly fine sometimes weighed on Gene. “I would sometimes think, is this fair,” Hayes said.

He does not let all the sick children weigh down on him to much but instead uses it as a source of motivation.

Hayes said that he loves his job, though there is “not enough time in the day.” He is not sure how long he will continue to work. He is now in his 60s and he thinks that he will retire in the next five to seven years.

Gene Hayes is not sure what he is going to do after he is done with Children’s Healthcare but he thinks that he will continue to volunteer but with other organizations. He wants to move on so that his successor will feel like they are in control.  Hayes does not think it would be a good idea to stay with Children’s Healthcare when he retires, but rather move on to other volunteering efforts.

Hayes is also an active member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta. This group goes out and does volunteer work both in the community and around the world. Hayes said a main focus of the club is to support a charter school in East Lake. The Rotary Club also works with Polio Plus which is a group dedicated to eradicating polio worldwide.

Those who work with Hayes think he does an excellent job as the head of the foundations committee. One of his fellow board members is Chisty Roberts, a volunteer who joined the board after volunteering with the Brookhaven friend’s group. The Brookhaven friends group is one of many friends groups in Atlanta that help fundraise for the hospital.

“He is very good at engaging the board members,” Roberts said. She says he does not ask too much and “he has our best interests at heart.” Though this is her last year on the board, she says she has enjoyed her time on it. “Children’s Healthcare is a great organization,” she said.

 

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