Hero on the Runway: Michael H. Stark
Q&A with Michael H. Stark, Esq.
What are you passionate about?
I am most passionate about people. I find them infinitely fascinating and find great joy in getting to know, understand, and work with people from all different walks of life and backgrounds. Everyone has a story to tell and something to contribute, my passion is helping them find it and inspiring them to go after it!
What type of work do you do?
I am a entrepreneur and builder. My job is Executive Producer at Songfinch, a tech company that transforms a customer’s favorite memories and stories with a loved one into a one-of-a-kind custom song made from scratch just for them. I am also the President and Co-Founder of the Chicago Leadership Alliance, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that unites high achieving millennial leaders through a collective commitment to civic and social responsibility. We take action to create the future we wish see by launching social-impact initiatives that benefit the city of Chicago and its citizens. I’m an active angel investor and am very involved in Chicago Tech too. I also sit on the Leadership Council at Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business, am a member of the Forbes Non-Profit Council, and sit on the Board of Directors for Holiday Heroes after serving as its first Executive Director.
Do you have a philanthropic story to tell?
More than I could ever count, ranging from indescribably tragic tounbelievably inspiring. My favorite story is of a young girl named Elena. I met her and her family a couple years ago at a hospital party. She wasn’t in great shape, but really started to bounce back after our party. She got out of the hospital after a long stay and many complications, and is doing much better. However, she came back to that same party the following year and had made a beautifully decorated poster board with pictures of her improvement over the last year and gave it to Stephanie and I to say thank you for all that we did. Her mother told us that Elena had really been struggling in the hospital and that our party helped her laugh again, come out of her shell…that it changed everything and was the catalyst for Elena’s incredible recovery.
Next, she went on to tell me that the experience inspired Elena to help others too. After the party she chose to spend half of $100 gift card we gave her on a new toy, announcing to her mom that they’d use the other half to buy sandwiches for the homeless people in the area around the hospital. Upon hearing this, I asked Elena and her family to join me for our upcoming Giving Tuesday fundraising event. Together, we gave one of the most fun speeches of my life! As we stepped off stage, Elena’s mother pulled me aside and told me that our simple act of kindness is what brought Elena back from the brink. She insisted that this that this beautiful and bubbly young girl was here because of what we had done. I will never forget that moment. That moment is my why.
In one word, how would you describe leadership?
What is you favorite part of living and working in the Midwest?
The spirit and generosity of its people! It is the only place I have been where most people have a sincere willingness to help one another, simply for the sake of doing so.