The phone rang this morning and I saw Eileen Fisher on the caller ID. I assumed it was Kim Austad, the manager of the Highland Park Eileen Fisher store and one of my favorite people. I had been thinking about Kim recently, and had it on my list to give her a call to catch up.
It wasn’t Kim. Instead, it was somebody else from Eileen Fisher to tell me that Kim had passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, over the weekend.
I first met Kim seven years ago. Girls in the Game had partnered with Eileen Fisher stores in the past, and Kim was new to the Highland Park store so we met to talk about ways we could partner. We hit it off immediately. Anybody who knew Kim knows she was full of life. Kim was funny. She told great stories. She loved to connect with new people, and then connect those people with each other. Girls in the Game was fortunate enough to be the first charitable partner of the Highland Park store. For years afterwards, Kim would always introduce me to people as “her first.”
At Girls in the Game we talk a lot about leadership, and what makes a good leader. Our teens will tell you that a leader is somebody who sets a good example, somebody you can trust, and somebody who inspires you to be your best. Kim was that kind of leader. Girls in the Game may have been Kim’s “first” but we certainly weren’t her last. Kim worked hard to seek out ways to make a difference in her community and she was fortunate enough to work for a company that supported those efforts. But more than just finding new partners, Kim liked to bring those partners together, recognizing that people and organizations are stronger together than we are on our own.
As Girls in the Game works to finalize our new strategic plan for the next three years, those same ideas and principles will guide our efforts. We want to expand our partnerships and deepen our impact on girls and the communities where we work. Unfortunately we’ll be moving toward our future goals without Kim on our team, but the example she set will remain.
One of Kim’s favorite expressions was “If wishes were wishes” and Kim would often propose an idea with that opening when she brought some of us together to make something happen. So if wishes were wishes, Kim would still be bringing us together – for laughs, for stories, for friendship and for ideas. But in her honor, we’ll continue to collaborate and work together to do more, and to turn those wishes into reality.
Rest in peace, friend. You’ll forever be a girl in the game.