Jess Ekstrom, founder and CEO of Headbands of Hope, opened this week’s Leadership Development Workshop, in Grapevine, Texas, with a moving message of hope and inspiration. Speaking before nearly 150 regional association leaders at LDW, a collaborative event hosted by PPAI and the Regional Association Council, Ekstrom drew on the early experiences that shaped her life, taught her not to give into fear and that anything is possible.

While a teenager, she saw her parents lose all their savings in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme but didn’t let that paralyze her; instead it opened her eyes to the possibilities. Reeling from the financial reality, she decided not to let that situation define her; instead she decided to write her own story.

In college, she worked as photographer at Disney World which introduced her to the Make-A-Wish Foundation—and that changed the course for her life. Using humor, stories and a series of eye-catching slides, Ekstrom recounted for LDW attendees how she found a need, and in turn, her passion that became the turning point in her life.

She was so inspired by the needs of the sick children she met through Make-A-Wish Foundation that she persuaded the nonprofit to allow her to be an intern, which led Ekstrom to form Headbands of Hope, a company that makes beautifully decorated headbands; for every one sold, it donates a headband to children undergoing chemotherapy. Since the company was formed in 2012, thousands of headbands have been donated to every children’s hospital in the U.S. and to care facilities in 15 countries.

She challenged listeners to look at their work and decide who they want to serve, and how they can serve them better. “It doesn’t have to be a battle between passion and profit; you don’t have to choose between making a living and making a difference.”

She urged them not to give others the steering wheel to their happiness. “Instead of looking at fear, look at possibility,” she said. “Anything can happen in life but instead of being paralyzed by the uncertainty of our world, be energized by the possibility of it.”