Breaking News
More () »

'Holy cow, this is a miracle': Crusade for Children CEO reflects on life, career

For 15 years, Dawn Lee has led the Crusade to successful year after successful year, raising over $200 million for local kids.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — This year will mark the 70th anniversary of the most successful TV telethon in the country, with every dollar raised staying in the Louisville-area. 

WHAS Crusade for Children CEO Dawn Lee to learn more about her personal ties to the mission, and her future plans for the Crusade.

Her face may be familiar if you've ever been involved with the Crusade for Children. However, her story is one you probably don't know. 

"I grew up in Kenya," Lee said. "East Africa. I met my children's dad in Kenya, many years ago. I had never been to Kentucky, never knew anybody from Kentucky, didn't know anything about Kentucky." 

The daughter of missionaries, a high bar was set in her family for giving back and helping others. 

After more than a decade of fundraising in the athletics department at the University of Louisville, and working with CASA to help local children, Lee was ready for a new challenge.

Her connection to the Crusade started long before she even moved to Kentucky, when she met former Crusade CEO Rebecca Jackson in Kenya. 

"We all knew her in Kenya as Becky Jackson," Lee said. "She never said she was the county judge executive. Reconnecting with Rebecca on this side of the ocean, she was at the Crusade at the time, and had health problems. She said she had some health problems and was going to step away."

Dawn saw the opportunity to join the organization as Jackson stepped away, becoming the CEO 15 years ago. 

Now in it's 70th year, the Crusade for Children has contributed more than $205 million dollars to serve special needs children in all 120 Kentucky counties and more than 50 southern Indiana counties.

"I think the Crusade is a phenomenon that brings the people of this community together year after year, going on 70 years now, that is unique to our community," Lee said. "I don't think it happens anywhere else and that is why we are the longest-running, most successful local telethon."

At the end of the day, the WHAS Crusade for Children is about the kids. It always has been and always will be. Dawn Lee hopes to continue that legacy for as long as she possibly can. 

"Being here 15 years now, the twins I met the first week I was here are now going to be 15," Lee said. "For me, it's just like holy cow, this is a miracle right here that I've watched grow. The kids are always the most incredible part of what we do and the changes that we make."

This year's Crusade is the first weekend in June, on the 3rd and 4th. Click here to find out more.

Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the WHAS11 News app now. For Apple or Android users.

Have a news tip? Email assign@whas11.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Before You Leave, Check This Out