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Christine BrownWhen I was growing up, one of my mentors was my cousin, Sr. Mary Jo Donaldson.  Sr. Mary Jo taught me the importance of service to God and to others and ignited in me a passion for social justice.  She was involved in missionary work in Zimbabwe, and made a real difference in the lives of so many people.  When I arrived at St. Norbert College, this passion grew with the help of my professors and my involvement in student organizations.  By the time I graduated from St. Norbert College with a BS in Global Peace and Justice Studies, I had already spent a summer in South Africa conducting conflict resolution workshops, organized an alternative Spring Break trip to a repopulated community in El Salvador, and co-directed an international youth exchange camp for the Lion's Club.

When I left SNC, I moved to the Washington, DC area and later to New England where I obtained a MS in Organizational Development and Leadership.  For the first fifteen years of my career, I worked for a variety of non-profit organizations in leadership positions on the international, state and local level.  I was very proud of my accomplishments and was always driven by the fact that I was helping to create change and make a difference.  Along the way, I also got married and started a family.  In 2005, when our second son was born, he was diagnosed at birth with a rare genetic disorder called PKU.  Then, our third son was also born with PKU in 2007.  My life-long career goal to make a difference in the lives of people around me suddenly became very personal.

People with PKU cannot process one of the amino acids that makes up protein called phenylalanine, or phe.  Left untreated, PKU causes severe mental retardation.  Luckily, PKU can be treated with a very restricted diet that consists of a medical formula that must be consumed every day and specially modified low-protein food. My sons cannot eat things such as meat, fish, soy, milk, cheese, nuts, chocolate, eggs, flour, etc. In addition, their medical foods and formula are very expensive, and many insurance companies do not provide coverage for them.  While some states, such as Wisconsin, provide their formula and some of their food to us, families in other states are not so lucky.  PKU is rare -- it affects 1 in 14,000 births in the U.S.  It doesn't get a lot of attention, we have no celebrity spokesperson, and it gets little funding.  I am going to change this -- for my sons and for the 15,000 other people in our country that have PKU.

I am now the Executive Director of the National PKU Alliance.  We work to improve the lives of individuals and families associated with PKU through research, support, education and advocacy, while ultimately seeking a cure.

I’ve always been drawn to the non-profit sector because of contributing to the greater good -- it fuels my passion, gives me energy, and gives my life meaning.  My work now at the National PKU Alliance is important to the greater world.  While PKU is rare, 1 in 10 Americans actually have a rare disease.  My story is out there with different families and different diseases hundreds and thousands of times.  A cure for PKU can advance research and cures for other rare metabolic diseases.  Some families are not as lucky as mine.  Their kids have a rare disease that is not currently treatable.  By raising funds for promising PKU research, the National PKU Alliance has the opportunity to literally change the history of this disorder.

I live out my faith and my values every day in my work.  When our children were born with PKU, my saving grace was knowing that because of this disease, God would give them a special talent or a special gift to share with others, and this was how they were going to make their mark in the world.  Never in a million years, did I believe that this was in God's plan for me too.  As I look back at my career in the non-profit sector, every job I had and every skill I learned now makes sense and serves a greater purpose.  My dream has come true -- I am changing the lives and history of this disorder.

Christine Brown '93

Faith, Learning & Vocation

Phone: (920) 403-3155
Fax: (920) 403-4043

St. Norbert College • 100 Grant Street • De Pere, WI 54115-2099 • 920-337-3181