By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Aug 15, 2023 at 4:31 PM

OnMilwaukee's The Future Is Female series is brought to you by Alverno College and features some of the most interesting, innovative and intelligent women in the city.

Alverno College, for over 135 years, has strived to educate and empower women to realize their leadership, strength of voice and potential to lead in the working world. Alverno’s support of “The Future is Female” continues to showcase and exemplify these efforts by supporting the stories of grit, resilience and strength of character of present, past and future leading women in the Milwaukee community! #AlvernoStrong

Callie Chiroff is the serves as the President and Co-Founder of Project Bubaloo, an organization with the mission to spread community awareness and advance the quality of care for those affected by congenital heart disease (CHD).

Chiroff, who resides in Oak Creek, is also a Clinical Associate Professor at Marquette University in the College of Nursing, published author and nurse practitioner.

In 2018, Chiroff launched Project Bubaloo with her sister after her son, Theo ("Bubaloo"), passed away from CHD and other complications.

"Even though his life was short, it meant that ours were now dedicated to helping kids just like him," says Chiroff.

In five years, Project Bubaloo has raised over $500,000 and reached millions of patients, families and advocates on its social media platforms.

On Sat., Sept 9 the organization will host its first 5K Run/Walk called The Ultimate Heart Race at American Family Field. The fundraising goal is $50,000. To support or attend the event, go here

"After my son died, the things I value shifted completely, and I realized the things that I used to care about do not matter anymore. He didn’t get a long life, so I am not going to waste mine," says Chiroff.

OnMilwaukee recently had the opportunity to chat with Chiroff and ask her eight questions based on the "8 Abilities" that all students achieve with an Alverno degree: Communication, Analysis, Problem Solving, Valuing in Decision-Making, Social Interaction, Developing a Global Perspective, Aesthetic Engagement and Effective Citizenship.

Here are the 8 questions every female in the series answers:

1. What does active listening mean to you? Do you consider yourself a good listener, and if so, how has this helped you in your personal and professional relationships? 

Active listening comes with a goal of building rapport and trust with another person. It takes an empathetic non-judgmental ear, giving your full undivided attention to the person you are speaking with. 

I have always strived to be someone my friends, family, colleagues, patients and students can count on, and to be someone that they can come to for advice. I’m a firm believer in you get what you put in, and putting effort into my relationships in life has given me many people I can count on when I am the one who needs someone to listen.

2. What was the last subject you were curious about and then pursued to learn more? How did you pursue it? 

After my son passed away, I wanted to learn more about the care of children with congenital heart disease since I previously only had experience working with adults. I trained at Children’s Wisconsin through Marquette’s acute care pediatric nurse practitioner program. I am now dual certified and have the expanded knowledge and experience that I can use both at Marquette and when I am working with families through Project Bubaloo.

3. If you can’t figure something out yourself, what source or person do you turn to first? How long do you wait before you ask for help?

My husband is an analytic and logical thinker, where I am more of the dreamer in our relationship. He gives great advice and is annoyingly right a lot of the time, keeping me realistic about my expectations of people and situations. If he doesn’t know the answer, I like to think I am a “I got a guy” sort of person. I am blessed with a large circle and it is pretty rare if I don’t know someone who could help me with a problem.  

I try not to wait. For me it’s never beneficial. I like to be honest and humble about my own scope and limitations. Asking for help is not a weakness, and I am a strong advocate for a team-based approach. When I was younger, I found myself struggling and being stressed more when I had the “if I want to do it right, I need to do it myself” attitude. I have come a lot farther and have been more successful in life when I allow people in to help me. I am only one person and will never know it all. 

4. What are your personal values? Who and/or what inspired them and how do these values affect your decision-making process? 

I value honesty, integrity, hard-work, humor, knowledge building and my relationships with the people around me. I am a lifelong learner and am still thrilled when I learn new things, which I try to do often. If I am the smartest person in a room, I find a new room. My values have changed with more life experience.

After my son died, the things I value shifted completely, and I realized the things that I used to care about do not matter anymore. He didn’t get a long life, so I am not going to waste mine. Everything I do should be enjoyable and bring goodness to myself and the people around me. Otherwise, why do it? What is the point? If I find myself in that position. I stop and pivot to focus on the big picture and what the end goal is.

5. Technology and on-line communication/meetings/social has definitely changed over the years. Do these things help or hinder your growth – or both? 

In the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself (like most people) hating the online world. Especially with teaching, and it also effected the way we communicated with patients and families at Project Bubaloo. We were unable to host in person events and fundraising was very difficult. Looking back, I have realized it made me more flexible and resilient in times of change. While I believe social media and the online world has its negative aspects, the ability for us to spread awareness, tell people’s stories, promote events, and collaborate with others is unmatched. Online platforms are the reason Project Bubaloo continues to grow, so I look at it as a vital tool that I am still learning how to master.

6. Where is the furthest you’ve traveled and what is a thing or two you learned from the experience? And what surprised you? 

I traveled to New Zealand after I finished grad school and I have never seen such beauty. I was in awe the entire trip. It got me out of the bubble I had been living in for a long time and gave me the realization how big the world really is. It’s humbling. I most definitely got the travel bug after that trip and really enjoy experiencing other cultures so that I can continue to expand my own perspective.

7. What are your favorite art forms? How do you challenge yourself to actively engage in the arts? 

My favorite art form is stand-up comedy. There aren’t a lot of other things in life that I can think of more enjoyable than laughing for over an hour straight. I think it’s an underrated form of performing and the creativity that goes into creating and delivering a show like that is mind blowing to me. I also enjoy other performing arts like plays, musicals and concerts. Anything with music. Milwaukee offers so many ways to enjoy the arts and I try to take advantage of it as often as I can.

8. How do you/your work move Milwaukee forward?   

I truly believe Milwaukee is and can be a hub for academia and philanthropy. We have such a vibrant engaging city and I have seen first-hand how this community can come to together and make such a difference. We will continue to move Project Bubaloo forward and are striving to put ourselves on a national platform as a leader in funding CHD research. Milwaukee is at the heart of that effort.

Follow Project Bubaloo on Facebook and Instagram.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.