Cameron LaHaise

  • Name
  • Cameron LaHaise
  • Title
  • Executive Director
  • Organization
  • Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas (DSACT)
  • Years as Executive Director
  • I started as the Development Director in 2013, but have been the Executive Director of DSACT for a little over 2 years.

  • What does your organization do?
  • Our mission is to provide education, support, and resources to individuals with Down syndrome, their families and professionals and the community while building public awareness and acceptance of the abilities of individuals with Down syndrome.
  • How did you become interested in this work?
  • I have always wanted to work in the nonprofit sector. Even in college, over ten years ago, I studied Public Health Policy because I wanted to someday work in a field that was meaningful and made a difference in the community. As it turned out, I ended up working in the hospitality industry for a number of years, but always knew that someday I wanted to work for a nonprofit.
  • What drives your passion?
  • My passion as an Executive Director and someone working for a nonprofit is a true belief that working together can make a difference. I meet people everyday, other nonprofit employees or volunteers, who are passionate about their nonprofit or charity. It's inspiring. I've always thought of the quote "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart" (Anne Frank) when I think about the nonprofit community. There are so many nonprofits, just in Austin, all with passionate and committed employees and volunteers who work extremely hard because they know in their heart it's the right thing to do. I love to be surrounded by that type of energy. I'm passionate about DSACT because I wholeheartedly believe in the mission. I believe in inclusion and that provided the resources, education, and support - individuals with Down syndrome can live independently and pursue their own individual career paths and passions.
  • Did you have a mentor or role model?
  • I've had many! In the world of DSACT, I have to say that Suzanne Shepherd and Allie McCann (past and current board presidents) have been mentors for me. Suzanne has a teenage son with Down syndrome and has been an extremely active participant in DSACT and a fierce advocate for her son throughout his life, specifically as they navigated the school system. Her drive and passion is contagious. I don't have a child with Down syndrome, but I am a mother. Seeing someone like Suzanne work so hard for her child and then give back to the Down syndrome community at large has been an inspiration. Allie is the first person to volunteer to own a task, to make a change, to take on a project. She has a lot on her plate and doesn't just add more to it, she adds more and owns it and does it exceptionally well. Not only does she lead as board president, but she shows up. She's at the fundraising events, the education seminars, she volunteers. Her drive and attitude of "yes" constantly pushes me to be a better Executive Director. I've learned from both of these women how to lead and how to balance advocacy, work, and motherhood!
  • What's the biggest challenge in your work?
  • My biggest challenge is not getting bogged down in the details. Zooming out. Seeing the big picture. It's easy to get caught up in the event your organization is throwing because you care, a lot, and you want that event to be successful. Then suddenly you find yourself hoisting heavy tents and trying to move a thousand pounds of ice (true story) and you realize that although it's good to get in there and see the event from the ground floor, it's typically better to have that outsourced and well planned and executed (when possible!). I'm here to see DSACT be successful in the long run. To grow, to expand and to always serve our members as best as possible.
  • What's the best advice that you have ever received?
  • Work WITH your Board. (Full disclosure, I have a GREAT Board of Directors so that hasn't been a problem, but I thought it was good advice when leaving a corporate atmosphere and moving to nonprofit).
  • What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?
  • I wouldn't say 2 years make me an expert on being an Executive Director, but since you asked...hire the right people, get out there (join One Voice, AFP, etc) and network and listen to what other nonprofits and ED's are doing, and be a leader!

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