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Saturday, January 19 News

Q&A with ... Brad Irwin, new board chair of Save the Children

NEW CANAAN — Brad Irwin, an 18-year resident of New Canaan, was recently named board chair of international humanitarian organization Save the Children.

Save the Children, a Fairfield-based organization, works to respond to the dire needs of children across the globe.

Irwin first became involved with the group while working as president of the Mott’s Applesauce and Apple Juice company in the early 2000s.

Looking to increase the company’s philanthropic efforts, the company held a town hall to vote to pick an organization to work with.

“Save the Children won in a landslide,” Irwin said.

From there, he would join the board and establish his own relationship with the organization. He steps into his new role as Save the Children celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Irwin recently spoke about his new title.

Q: What was your role when you joined the board?

A: For my first six years on the board, I focused on the education programs within the United States. We try to serve the most disadvantaged and focus on rural communities. Places like Appalachia, Kentucky and South Carolina. That was always my passion early childhood education so it was a chance to have an impact there.

Q: Previously you were CEO of Welch’s. How will your previous experience help in your new role?

A: As a board chair you need to create, attract and retain the board of directors that will help you guide the organization. You also need to help shape the strategy and vision for the organization.

More importantly you need to let the senior leadership team located in Fairfield, Conn., and in D.C. lead the company and run the operation. It’s to be a coach and strategist, but also understand — as I did when I was a CEO — that the board needs to let the CEO run the company.

Q: What inspired the decision to go from your previous position to this new role with Save the Children?

A: I have been in the industry full-time for the last 38 years in various capacities. I decided I was ready to retire from full-time CEO work. Some people like to be involved in five different things with a little commitment in each one. I’m one who likes to be all in on something that is important to me. Save the Children was already a place I had invested time and energy in and I believed in the mission. So I decided it was a good time to devote more of my time to (the organization). I was honored they invited me to be chair.

Q: What continues to motivate you as you move into this new role?

A: There’s just so much need out there for children around the world. We focus at Save the Children on young children usually under 5. We focus on health and preventable deaths before the age of 5. We focus education and particularly early education so these children can go to school and not be behind their peers. Then we also focus on protecting children in conflict zones. It’s really about health, education and child protection.

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Q: What are some of the things Save the Children does for people unaware?

A: We have a big focus on childhood health, particularly focusing in on preventable diseases before the age of 5. Our current focus is on preventing pneumonia, which takes a number of lives around the world and is preventable. We also focus on education, particularly reading. Reading is the gateway to learning. We really try to help as early as ages 2 and 3 because research suggests that’s an important time for kids to start learning to read. We also run programs within major refugee camps within Syria and Bangladesh.

Q: What are some of your goals as you look towards the future?

A: We’re celebrating our 100th anniversary this year. So we’re reflecting on what we accomplished over the last 100 years and it’s giving us a good chance to look forward and say, “How are we going to build on that foundation for the next 100 years?” The needs are so enormous out there. There are so many children we have not yet reached. We reached over 100 million children in 2017 with our programs. There are millions and millions more that could use our help. It’s really about reaching more children, having more impact and doing it as efficiently and effectively as we can.

dj.simmons@

hearstmediact.com, 203-842-2568

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