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Patricia Wilson    

Executive Director/CEO of Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area

Patricia Wilson is the CEO of Make-A-Wish, Greater Bay Area. As one of the nation’s largest Make-A-Wish chapters, it grants more than 330 wishes per year for children with life-threatening medical conditions in northern California. A mission-based CEO committed to making the world a better place, she took her most rewarding role in 1998 when the organization had four employees and a $1.6 million budget. Today, she manages a staff of 28, more than 550 volunteers, and a budget of $9 million and is best-known for spearheading the incredible effort to turn San Francisco into Gotham City so that cancer patient Miles could become Batkid for a day. A popular TED speaker, Wilson is a sought after for her inspirational insights on leadership, philanthropy, social media, and public relations. Through uplifting and heart-warming stories, she shares the many lessons she has learned during her tenure in for-profit and non-profit leadership roles, including the importance of building and retaining teams, creating an atmosphere of excellence, and why it’s good to sometimes be affectionately known as the “B.I.C.”

Batkid Saves Gotham (San Francisco). To fulfill a wish for five-year-old leukemia survivor Miles who wanted to be a superhero, Wilson was the mastermind in assembling a gifted team involving thousands of public servants and community supporters. For a day, San Francisco was transformed into Gotham City, complete with a bat signal and Police Chief Greg Suhr’s plea for help. Miles, in full Batgear (and with a grown-up Batman), rescued a damsel in distress tied to cable car tracks, foiled the Riddler’s bank robbery attempt, paused to eat a burger, and then thwarted the Penguin’s attempt to kidnap beloved San Francisco Giants mascot, Lou Seal. To cap the day, Mayor Lee presented Miles with a key to the city (made of chocolate).

The wish became one of the biggest stories of the year. It attracted tens of thousands to attend in person and hundreds of thousands online. Well-wishers included President and First Lady Obama; Batman actors Val Kilmer, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck; celebrities like Britney Spears; the San Francisco Giants and 49ers; and an astronaut at the International Space Station. The wish created billions of social media impressions. Twitter had an unprecedented 96% positive tweets trending worldwide, and an international audience discussed it in 117 countries. The president also congratulated Miles via his first ever Vine video. The phenomenon was studied by a psychologist and is the subject of the documentary, Batkid Begins. Because of Wilson’s efforts, Miles’ life was forever changed and the world saw what a city can do when everyone comes together for good. For her work, her chapter received the Shorty Industry Awards for “Best Social Good Campaign” and “Best Twitter Campaign,” and she received the Producers Guild of America’s Digital V.I.P. Visionary Award and was named one of the San Francisco Times’ “Most Influential Business Women.”

Speech Topics

Batkid Saves San Francisco and Inspires Millions.

Patricia Wilson tells the uplifting story of how she turned five-year-old cancer survivor Miles into Batkid for a day and transformed a city and inspired a nation in the process. From what went on behind the scenes to how Batkid became one of the biggest news stories of the year, she showcases heart-warming video, photos, and other media as she inspires audiences to give back and make a difference in their communities.

Leadership Lessons from an Accidental CEO.

A mission-based CEO committed to making the world a better place, Patricia Wilson shares the many lessons she has learned during her tenure in for-profit and non-profit leadership roles. She believes that the most valuable asset an organization has is its talent and says that her most significant accomplishment wasn’t pulling off the famous Batkid wish but rather assembling the team that made it possible. Told through heart-warming stories from Make-A-Wish, she shares what to look for in the hiring process, the importance of building and retaining great teams, how to set the tone for your group, creating an atmosphere of excellence, and why it’s good to sometimes be affectionately known as the “B.I.C.” With the mantra of “Give credit, don’t take it,” her leadership lessons resonate across business sectors.

Harnessing Social Media for Social Good.

Through Miles (as Batkid), Patricia Wilson and her team created a social media sensation that was so compelling even President Obama had to create his first Vine video as a response. She walks audiences through how she developed Make-A-Wish’s approach to social media and shares the importance of leveraging personal, professional, and community relationships. Believing that the biggest mistake organizations make with their social media platforms is using them as a broadcast tool (not once during the entire campaign did Make-A-Wish ask for donations – however the media attention and goodwill that the straightforward approach generated more than made up for it), she shows audiences how social media’s true power is engagement and offers tips for creating an authentic, engaging, and credible social media presence.

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