New YWCA chief headlines Sonoma County fundraiser

  • YWCA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron of Washington D.C., visits from left, YWCA charges Natalie (did not want give last name), Antonio Velasquez, Jazzmyne Gaines, and Camila Salcedo Thursday April 11, 2013 at the YWCA in Santa Rosa. At right is Madeline Keegan O'Connell Santa Rosa YWCA CEO. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

New YWCA CEO Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron didn't want to be an ordinary physician, telling her parents she wanted to be "a doctor with a briefcase."

"I always knew I wanted to impact beyond what I could do in a private practice," said Richardson-Heron, an Oklahoma native. "I knew I wanted to have a greater role to utilize my skills, experience and expertise as a physician to make the world a better place."

A physician by trade and an advocate by choice, Richardson-Heron, 50, will headline today's Sonoma County YWCA fundraiser at 11 a.m. at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. The visit is one of several she is making across the nation to local YWCA chapters.

Richardson-Heron took the helm at the YWCA in December after four years as the head of New York City's chapter of the Susan B. Komen Foundation.

Richardson-Heron, a breast cancer survivor, parted ways with the nation's pre-eminent breast cancer charity after a flap over the organization's withdrawal of support for Planned Parenthood made national news. Richardson-Heron was a staunch Planned Parenthood advocate. The funding eventually was restored.

Richardson-Heron also served as the chief medical officer of the United Cerebral Palsy Association, but her work with the YWCA strikes close to home. Her mother served on the board of the Oklahoma City YWCA during Richardson-Heron's childhood years.

"I remember my mom and several of her very close friends involved in something which they considered very important," said Richardson-Heron. "They wanted to make sure women were empowered."

As CEO, she plans on strengthening the YWCA to ensure the organization's relevance for future generations.

"We've centralized our organization to work as a national movement," she said.

Richardson-Heron praised the Sonoma County YWCA, noting the chapter's work with victims of domestic violence is an essential part of the organization's mission to empower women.

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