Women of Influence Past Speakers

February 15, 2011: Sona Mehring, Founder and CEO of CaringBridge

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Sona created the first CaringBridge website during a friend’s high–risk pregnancy. With extensive experience in the information technology industry, Sona’s vision was to build upon that formative and deeply personal experience–combining the capabilities of technology with the personal needs of people facing a significant health challenge.

Sona has received the Health Care Heroes Award from Twin Cities Business magazine, been named one of 25 Women Industry Leaders in the Twin Cities by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community, was recognized and highlighted by MSN.com as one of the nation’s leading Women Working for Change, and was an honoree at Medica’s 2004 Speaking of Women’s Health Conference.

Sona is a member of Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, National Health Council and the National Health Marketing Leadership Roundtable.

March 15, 2011: Tina Wilcox, CEO & Creative Director of Black

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Tina Wilcox leads retail brand agency BLACK with a rare blend of energetic creative talent, experience and insight. She’s been touted by ABC News as “The Jane Goodall of American Retailing” and is an expert in retail trend, consumer behavior, advertising, social media, store design and layout, product development and promotion, events and guerilla marketing.

Wilcox has worked with more than 250 retail chains over her 28-year career, most notably Target Stores, OfficeMax, Starbucks, The Limited, Express, Victoria’s Secret, ToysRUs, The Disney Stores, Nordstrom, Marshall Field’s and Best Buy. She also has worked extensively with top consumer and retail manufacturers, including Estee Lauder, Coca-Cola, Nike, Procter and Gamble, Iams, Hanes, Disney, General Mills, Crayola and Mattel, and with production studios Disney, Universal and DreamWorks Animation SKG, and was responsible for the retail rollout of Shrek 2.

Wilcox co-founded BLACK in 2004. She was previously founder, president and chief creative officer of FAME, A Retail Brand Agency. Wilcox led FAME to $100 million in annuals billings over her 15-year tenure. All proceeds benefited The Humane Society.

April 19: Karen Sorbo, Professional Fundraising Auctioneer

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Karen Sorbo transforms the serious business of raising funds for worthy causes into carefully choreographed and highly entertaining events. Her clients are nonprofit organizations who seek fresh resources of revenue for their programming costs. Karen’s energetic stage personality, coupled with an astute business sense, make her one of the leading fundraising auctioneers across the United States and Mexico. Since 1993, she’s conducted over 1900 auctions with total earnings topping $150 million. Such strong outcomes are due to Karen’s knack for building empathy for the clients’ cause and igniting audience excitement into lively, competitive bidding.

A passionate and outspoken advocate for those in need, Karen also serves as a motivational speaker. She describes her personal triumph over childhood hardships and other traumas as encouragement for audience members to set aside their painful memories, reinvent their lives, and find their “Blessing.” Karen has received numerous honors and recognition. In 1991 she was crowned Mrs. Minnesota International. She has been featured in both local and national publications & TV for her auction specialty. As auctioneer, she has received the counselor of the Year Award and was recognized as one of the Leading Fundraising Auctioneers by the National Auctioneer Association. In 2009, she served as a judge for the prestigious title of International Auctioneer Champion. Karen is also listed in the International Who’s Who of Entrepreneurs.

May 17: Gail Rosenblum, Star Tribune Columnist

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Gail Rosenblum is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, writing two to three columns a week on current issues, trends, and the complexities of human relationships. Gail joined the Star Tribune in 2000 as Variety Team Leader, and returned to full-time writing in 2005, covering the unique “relationships” beat. She was named a columnist in 2009. Before coming to the Star Tribune, Gail worked for nearly 20 years as a reporter, editor, and essayist for many newspapers and national magazines, focusing on family issues and women’s health.

She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New Mexico and a master’s degree in journalism, with a concentration in public health, from the University of Minnesota. She has appeared many times as a guest on the Lori and Julia Show on 107 FM, as well as on KSTP/1500 AM, and KLBB of Stillwater. She has also taught writing at the University of Minnesota and the Loft Literary Center. Gail’s writing has garnered awards from the Associated Press, American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors, and the Society of Professional Journalists in Minnesota and Texas. Her first book, A Hundred Lives Since Then: Essays on Motherhood, Marriage, Mortality and More, will be published this Spring (2011) by Nodin Press. Gail is the mother of three children.

June 21: Heidi Collins, Fox 9 Anchor

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Heidi CollinsHeidi Collins came to KMSP from CNN in Atlanta and New York, where she was a news anchor and correspondent for eight years, three of which were spent as anchor of ‘CNN Newsroom with Heidi Collins.” Before that, she spent three years with KUSA-TV in Denver. Earlier, Collins was the main anchor for KKTV-TV in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She began her broadcast career as a news anchor and reporter for KFDX-TV in Wichita Falls, Texas.
In addition to reporting on and interviewing world leaders and U.S. Presidents for CNN, Collins has several other impressive journalistic accomplishments on her resume. She is the recipient of a Peabody, Alfred I. duPont, Associated Press and three Edward R. Murrow awards. Heidi holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the University of Maryland. She’s a Twin Cities native and Mounds View High School graduate. Proceeds benefitted R.O.C.K. (Raising Our Celiac Kids).


August 16: Jane and Marni, Creators of Hollywood Fashion Tape

Co-owners and Fashion Fairy Godmothers, Jane Dailey and Marni Bumsted are dedicated toward preventing wardrobe malfunctions. It was a hapless gaping sweater in need of clusire that inspired the product that started it all: Hollywood Fashion Tape. Over 10 years, they have expanded the line to 25 fashion solution products and are fortunate enough to be working with wonderful specialty stores and boutiwues as well as larger retailers both domestically and internationally. Proceeds benefited Dress for Success.


September 20, 2011: Patricia Mitchell, CEO of the Ordway Center

Patricia Mitchell joined Ordway Center for the Performing Arts as President and CEO in August 2007. Mitchell began her career as Director of Community Services for The Guthrie Theater, and then joined Minneapolis-based Arts Development Associates, a national consulting firm providing services in research, planning, program development, and marketing to artists, arts organizations, and cultural agencies. She served as Executive Director of San Francisco Opera, and subsequently for Los Angeles Opera. In 2000, she was named Chief Operating Officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where she oversaw Marketing & Communications, Finance & Administration, Education, and Government Relations. In addition, she was responsible for overall management and supervision of the Hollywood Bowl, an 18,000 seat outdoor amphitheater featuring a wide variety of classical, popular, jazz, and world music events each summer. She also managed a construction project resulting in a new $25M shell for the Hollywood Bowl. Mitchell currently serves on the Cultural STAR Board and RiverCentre Convention and Visitors Authority Board. Proceeds benefited the Minnesota Literacy Council.


October 18, 2011: Dr. Jennifer Dankle, Fairview

Jennifer grew up in Iowa, in a family of eight. She is the sixth doctor in her immediate family. She received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Iowa and a medical degree from DesMoines University, completed her internal medicine residency at the U of M, and completed a fellowship in cardiovascular medicine at UW-Milwaukee. Jennifer believes that the current cardiovascular medicine and technologies including better imaging modalities with reduced risk (ie radiation exposure) have contributed to a longer lifespan and better quality of life for those who suffer from heart disease. The mortality rates over the last 20-30 years continue to decline for both men and women. However, there is a gender gap in mortality rates, with more women dying from heart disease than men each year. Jennifer has focused her practice on tackling this issue by improving/providing community education, offering a primary prevention women’s clinic, and starting a support group for young women suffering with heart disease.