I am SO thrilled to highlight this week’s amazing Smarty mama – meet Cameron Wagner. She’s the mom of two cute boys, a Charlotte native, and, with a busy career that takes her to the Olympic Games, someone who is SURE to put you into the Olympic spirit (as if you’re not there already – SO excited about the Games!).
I met Cameron through a mutual friend (another uber Smarty mom – love ya, Jolie!), and instantly loved her and her story. I absolutely LOVE my job, but if had to pick another one, this might be it. She gets to see firsthand what drives the Olympic spirit and who is behind those incredible athletes (a LOT of Smarty moms, I can tell you that!). Basically, she sees the Proctor & Gamble “Thank You, Mom” commercial in the flesh. 🙂
I can’t thank Cameron enough for taking time out of her busy Olympic-season schedule to talk to me. Smarties, you’re gonna have such fun getting to know Cameron!
Smarty Mom: Cameron Wagner
Smarty Mom Stats:
Married to: Shane (10 years)
Children: Will (8) and Sam (6)
Years in Charlotte: lifer!
Neighborhood: Foxcroft East
Alma Mater: Appalachian State
Occupation: EVP, Client Services for GMR Marketing
Tell us a little about your job and how you’re involved in the Summer Olympic Games 2016.
I work for an experiential marketing agency that focuses on sports, music and lifestyle marketing. We have eight corporate clients who are Olympic Sponsors and activating programs in Rio during the Olympic Games.
Is this your first Olympic “rodeo” or have you been involved in others?
This will be my 5th Olympic Games.
You interact with a lot of the Olympic families so you see firsthand the dedication it takes from the entire family to have an Olympic athlete. Tell us about that.
The sacrifices that the Olympic families make are tremendous and truly a labor of love. It is hard to believe that years of commitment, not only from the athlete, but from mom, dad, siblings, etc, come down to only a few minutes at the Games. We had a Paralympian speak at our office several weeks ago and she said it best- no one wins an Olympic medal on their own. But, it is easy to forget that there are more than 10,000 athletes that will compete in Rio and less than 25% will come home with a medal. The well-sponsored, nationally known Olympians, like Michael Phelps, are the exception. Most of the Olympians are relatively unknown and their families have had to make significant sacrifices for them to be at the Olympics. To help make things a little easier, one of our clients creates a global home at the Games that is open to the families of all Olympians. It is a place where the athletes and their families can be together, enjoy the fellowship of other Olympic families and have some of the basics taken care of for them, like laundry and meals. GMR runs the operations of the home on behalf of our client and has the great fortune of meeting the families. Hearing their stories is truly inspiring.
What surprises you the most about these families?
Olympic families rarely complain and, after Sochi, that says a lot! They are a tough bunch and they have so much gratitude for being at the Olympics. When you meet them, they welcome you with open arms and invite you to become part of their Olympic experience. It’s amazing. The camaraderie on the ground at the Olympic Games is really special.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from them?
For your child to accomplish great things, they will have to take risks and what they will need most from you is to know they have a safe place to land. When you are with the Olympic families, you realize that every athlete failed at some point before they made it to the Olympic Games. There is no easy journey and the ones who made it persevered. Teaching your child that is is okay to fail is hard to do. No one wants to talk about failure, we want to talk about success. The support and love of family, win or lose, can make all the difference. Of course, it is also fun to see that sibling dynamics have a blind eye when it comes to Olympic medals and moms will still tell their Olympian to stand up straight. I’ve seen athletes walk in the home with a gold medal and still fight with their brother over who gets what seat at the table.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The only thing more amazing than seeing an Olympic athlete on the podium while their national anthem is being played, is to see them reunited with their family after they win that medal. It is as much a celebration of what the family has accomplished as the athlete. I also get to work with an incredible group of people at GMR. Our GMR team is as tight as any family you will meet at the Olympics.
The most challenging?
Long hours and lots of travel.
What are you most looking forward to in Rio?
My favorite part of being at the Olympics is getting to know the culture and people of the host country. I’ve been to Brazil a couple of times and there is something magical about the Brazilian spirit. The people are warm and have a unfailing sense of hospitality. They always start a conversation by asking about your family and truly want to know the answer. It is not a throw-away question to them. If you ask a stranger for direction in Rio, they are just as likely to walk you to your destination instead of pointing the way. I look forward to seeing how their country shines during the Games.
Now for the Smarty lightening round:
Favorite Olympic sport? Track & Field
Favorite Olympic athlete of all time? I’ll age myself by saying Nadia Comanechi. Watching her score a perfect 10 is one of my first Olympic memories
Olympic athlete you most hope to win this summer? Dana Vollmer has an incredible story. In her early teens, she was diagnosed with a heart condition. Long OT Syndrome can cause your heart to stop when there is a surge of adrenaline. Not good for a competitive athlete that relies on adrenaline to perform. Despite this, Dana refused to give up swimming and when further tests revealed that there was minimal risk for her specifically, her mother started carrying a defibrillator to practices just in case. As a mother, I cannot imagine the angst. Since then, Dana’s swimming career has had super highs and super lows. At 16, she won her first gold medal at the 2004 Games in Athens, then missed qualifying for the 2008 Games in Beijing and then came back to win 3 gold medals at the 2012 Games in London. Rio brings a new goal. If she wins, she will be the first mother on a US Swim Team to win a gold medal. Her son was born 16 months ago. Go Dana! She is the definition of resilience, commitment and rock star! There is a great TedX Talk online with Dana that is worth a listen.
First thing you’d do on an unexpected day off? Grab a run and coffee with a willing girlfriend
Secret to work/life balance? Running and red wine? On a more serious note, GMR is great about encouraging us to not miss the important things. I can usually plan my schedule around school events and other cannot-be-missed moments. The boys are finally getting to the age where they think my job is cool so that also helps! On a weekly basis, Sunday is my get-ready day. I create a master schedule for the week so I know who has to be where, when and how they are getting there. If I don’t, someone is definitely going to be sitting in a parking lot waiting to get picked up. My brain is at maximum capacity for storing any more information. I prep most of our meals on Sunday, which is actually relaxing to me. I love being in the kitchen. We try to eat together every night, but the only way it happens is for dinner to be ready to go in the oven when I walk in the door. Most importantly, I am also very thankful to have an amazing husband, fantastic parents who live a mile down the road and a nanny that has been with us since my youngest was 3 months old. It’s a cliche- but it definitely takes a village in our house.
Style crush? Kristen Garnett from edit+style. Our boys are friends from pre-school and I have always loved how Kristen can look stylish in any situation including workout clothes at a soccer game, 9 months pregnant or dressed for a nice dinner out. That girl can make anything look like it came from the runway!
Family’s favorite place to eat out in Charlotte? Does Door Dash on our back patio count? I dine out so much for work that I love to eat in when I am home.
Family’s favorite vacation spot? St. Simons, GA
Last book read? 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. I switch back in forth between non-fiction and mindless fiction depending on my need for escape.
If your life as it is today could be summed up in one word, what would it be? Unpredictable
First thought when you wake up in the morning? If I don’t run now, I won’t run later! I also try to remind myself that I have two happy kids, a great husband and a pretty fun career. If I can remember that when the stress of too many things to do begins to overwhelm, I am a much better person to be around.
Finish this sentence, When my kids watch the Summer Olympic Games 2016, I hope…they realize that hard work and commitment leads to extraordinary accomplishments. There are no shortcuts to the Olympics or to anything else worth having.