DiscoverLEAVE YOUR MARK: Freshly Brewed Career Advice with Aliza LichtKate Doerge on Choosing Joy and Positivity Even in the Face of Tragedy
Kate Doerge on Choosing Joy and Positivity Even in the Face of Tragedy

Kate Doerge on Choosing Joy and Positivity Even in the Face of Tragedy

Update: 2023-09-10


After decades in marketing and communications and a new role as an operating partner at Traub, Kate Doerge never anticipated that she would also become a CEO. This new job, however, is the one her whole career has prepared her for and the one she was meant to do. 

When Kate's daughter Penny rolled off the bed at four months old, what seemed like a typical tibia fracture uncovered a diagnosis called Neurofibromatosis, also known as NF. One out of 300,000 kids is diagnosed with NF. This genetic disorder causes tumors to grow on nerve pathways anywhere in the body. At the time, doctors encouraged them to focus on healing the leg and not google NF. 

As parents, they were determined to make sure Penny lived a big, beautiful life. Even though she had her first surgery at 15 months old and was in a body cast for four months, she would commando crawl across the room in her bright pink cast bedazzled with gemstones. Nothing stopped Penny.

Throughout her life, Penny was never defined by her ailments. She also didn't hide from them. She knew she was different from most people but never referred to it. Over her short years, Penny endured seven orthopedic surgeries and 11 brain surgeries. She never felt sorry for herself. Penny lived as a typical social and funny teenage girl with a beautiful smile and someone who was always the life of the party. Sadly, NF took Penny at 16. 

Within days of Penny's passing, Penny's Flight was launched in celebration of the extraordinary life of Penny Doerge and the qualities she personified — joy, artistic expression, and humor — while bravely living with Neurofibromatosis (NF) since infancy. The Foundation's mission is to make much-needed advances in medical research on Neurofibromatosis and related disorders — with a lasting impact on altering the course of this disease. There is no cure for NF, and research around the disease remains underfunded despite being one of the most common genetic disorders in the United States. 

Through Penny's story and bright light, the Foundation aims to expand knowledge around NF while inspiring others to find beauty in imperfection, positivity in the face of challenge, and faith over fear. In less than a year, they have raised over $3 million for Penny's Flight, and this is just the beginning. 

There is no greater tragedy than losing a child. Still, Kate Doerge and her husband, Chad Doerge, made a choice: to choose joy and positivity and focus on spreading their daughter Penny's light because living life with joy and optimism came naturally for Penny.

In this episode, Kate shares how she and Chad handle adversity and how their mentality of choosing joy and positivity has led them. Kate shares the steps they took to build this Foundation in a few days and how anyone can model this mindset to push through even the most tragic times. As Kate says, it's not about your lifespan but your wingspan. Penny always spread her wings and shined her light. This episode is about strength, resilience, and the power of positivity, everything Penny embodied. Penny lived her life's purpose and will continue to inspire others. 

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Kate Doerge on Choosing Joy and Positivity Even in the Face of Tragedy

Kate Doerge on Choosing Joy and Positivity Even in the Face of Tragedy

Aliza Licht