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How This Entrepreneur Supports Victims of Natural Disasters

Hannah Hoobyar of Capella University has filled a lot of roles in her life: TV-show host, author, business owner, and leader of three separate disaster-relief organizations.

A now-retired professional dancer, Hannah was named one of the Top 100 Influential People in Reno when she was just 15 years old and Philanthropist of the Year by Flight to Freedom at the age of 18.

Recently, she added “graduate of prestigious public service training initiative” and “newly minted mentor” to her impressive résumé.

“I recently graduated from the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) and now, I’m a mentor to others through that program. Achieving this goal meant that I had to process a considerable amount of material. It also meant that I had to practice some of the leadership skills that the NSLS helped me develop, like organization, time management, creative thinking, planning, collaboration, and communication.”

How Project Bear Hugs Helps the Vulnerable

Hannah’s recent efforts have been focused on planning, developing, and expanding the work of her nonprofit, Project Bear Hugs, which provides support, supplies, and comfort to victims of natural disasters. The organization also helps pets that have been impacted by weather-related crises.

Hannah started Project Bear Hugs in 2013 when she collected almost 3,000 stuffed animals for Oklahoma children whose lives had been impacted by tornadoes that year.

The experience inspired her to broaden her approach to help disaster survivors nationwide. Using trained volunteers and funded by grassroots donations, the group also relies on strategic partnerships with corporations like Idealease and Peterbilt.

Project Bear Hugs also sponsors charity concerts and local events called, “A Day of Fun and Laughter.” These day-out events are designed to give disaster victims a moment of respite and an opportunity to set aside their worries through activities that the entire family can enjoy.


Building on Past Successes for Future Goals

Hannah has accomplished quite a bit, but she doesn’t intend to coast on past successes. In fact, she has some big plans in mind for herself and her organization. 

“By summer of this year, I’ll have an international disaster relief organization and will have released two more books. I’m developing a school shooting relief program and I'm working to develop several more partnerships for Project Bear Hugs, which means there will be even more opportunities for people to participate. I wouldn't be able to do any of this without my team.”

Hannah credits her own role models and mentors for helping her reach her goals and set her community service sights even higher. 

“Leadership means leading by example to help others reach success. I look up to marketing and business expert Dan Kennedy. I met him at a conference when I was 9 years old and since then, I’ve continued to look up to him. His example helps me become the leader I want to be.”

Hannah’s Advice for Future Leaders

As climate change continues to wreak havoc on global communities, the number of people affected by natural disasters will rise, which means groups like Hannah’s will be increasingly important. Hannah has some advice for those who share similar goals and interests. 

“One piece of advice that was instrumental in helping me achieve my goals was recognizing the importance of perseverance. Push through the hard times no matter what’s going on.”

And for any future leader who’s considering following in Hannah’s footsteps, she has another recommendation.

“Be willing to learn and motivate others. That’s one way the NSLS has helped me accomplish my goals and become a stronger leader. It gave me the tools to motivate others and taught me how to lead through connecting with team members and communicating with stakeholders.”

Running a nonprofit requires commitment, focus, communication, and teamwork. Read about the leader of another nonprofit who recognizes the importance of collaboration in her work with veterans and their families.