HELENA, Mont. – Mick Karls would be hard pressed to think back on a time in his professional career that he wasn't involved with the Children's Miracle Network. Even before he officially joined CMN in 1995, Karls was actively involved with the Oregon League of Credit Union's CMN steering committee. But this spring, Karls closed the book on being vice president of association development at CMN, handed the baton to Riley Smith as director of Credit Unions for Kids, and turned the page on a new chapter of his life, sans CMN – well, almost. These day, Karls can be found working on his new home he's building on five acres in Montana with his wife Tracie who began work on September 4 as the new president/CEO of the Montana Credit Union Network (see story this page.) Instead of spending almost half the year away from home and his family traveling, Karls has deliberately chosen to be a "stay at home" parent for their 15 month old daughter, Kylie. Karls quickly admitted that leaving CMN was a difficult decision to make. "It's a wonderful cause, to walk away from it was tough. But after traveling more than 100 days a year, it got hard on my family and me." Karls life wasn't always so hectic. His first job after he graduated the University of Oregon with a degree in marketing and management, was with Northwest Resource Credit Union, Portland. It was there that he met Tracie. In 1991, Karls went to work for the Oregon League of Credit Unions as the director of marketing and public relations. The position allowed him to get his feet wet on CMN working on the league's steering committee which was responsible for, among other things, setting CMN contribution goals for the league. Karls was the league's representative to CMN. "The league's program was going very well, it was a very well organized program," he recalled. "We'd just made a five-year commitment to CMN." Other CU representatives on the league's steering committee included Tom Sargent, president/CEO, First Technology and Wayne Gaylin, president/CEO, Oregon Telco CU. "Between the two of them, hardly anyone could refuse making a contribution," Karls quipped. Not surprisingly, CMN got wind of just how well the Oregon league's program was going. The Texas and Iowa CU leagues also had successful programs. The organization sent their person Mick Shannon out to find someone who could mirror the Oregon league's efforts on a national level. Shannon came back with Karls. "I saw accepting the positing at CMN as a special opportunity to help children and to take what we knew from working with the program in Oregon, Texas and Iowa and helping other credit union leagues gain success with their CMN programs," said Karls. When he first came to CMN, Karls was strictly responsible for working with credit unions to gear the program up to be a powerful national fundraising force. Karls also worked on getting vendors like CUNA Mutual and CUNA involved. Fast forward to 2001. There are now 40 state credit union leagues involved with CMN. Credit Unions for Kids is the second largest sponsor of the organization. "As recent as five or six years ago there was no credit union activity with CMN. Now Credit Unions for Kids provides vital dollars for the community," said Karls. Six years working with CMN has given Karls a lot of memories under his belt. One of his most memorable, he shared, was when Children's Miracle Network struck up a partnership with the National Credit Union Foundation. "We brought Dan Mica, who was still new to CUNA, out on stage with Marie Osmond. It was a special moment to have these two leaders together on the stage. It was even more humorous when Marie turned to Dan and told him, `You're pretty cute!' It's funny the things you remember," said Karls. Just as memorable, said Karls, is the feedback he received from hospitals across the country on how important the Credit Unions for Kids program was and the similar feedback he heard from credit union leaders involved with CU for Kids on what working with the program meant to them. "Credit Unions for Kids and CMN proved to me that things can happen on a grand scale," said Karls. "It confirmed that there is a heart to the credit union movement, that the `people helping people' philosophy isn't just a slogan. The credit for the success of the program belongs to credit unions and the leagues." – [email protected]

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