Tag Archives: Wendy Townley

Storytelling for Television and Philanthropy

November 21, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

From life-altering surgeries to routine doctor visits, health care in the United States has become increasingly complicated. Regardless of the discourse that this far-reaching industry has produced, one simple truth remains: people get sick; and to get better, they need quality health care close to home. 

Maintaining that level of care for the Greater Omaha area and surrounding states is often only possible by the generosity of private dollars. This is where Tracy Madden-McMahon and her team at Methodist Hospital Foundation get to work.

Madden-McMahon serves as president and CEO of the foundation, which is at the helm of raising private dollars large and small to help fund sizable hospital projects. Since 2001, for example, the foundation has secured nearly $130 million for six capital and renovation projects. This year, the foundation has a $25 million goal, which will go toward renovating and expanding the Methodist Hospital Emergency Department.

Madden-McMahon is well suited to share stories from Methodist Hospital, its clinics, and its programs. Many in Omaha may recognize Madden-McMahon from her nights behind the anchor desk at WOWT. For 15 years she covered a variety of local, regional, and national news events for the station’s viewers. 

The Chicago-area native’s roots in storytelling run deep: her mother worked as a writer and columnist for the Suburban Tribune newspaper. Madden-McMahon says she did not have aspirations of working in broadcast news, but she longed to tell other people’s stories in the same way as her mother.

This is why, after a successful career in television news, it made perfect sense to chart a new path in a profession that tells stories while also making a sizable and tangible impact. By the early 2010s, with a young family to raise, Madden-McMahon was ready to make a transition.

“Changing jobs was a process—not an ‘a ha’ moment,” she says. “When looking at our children’s schedules and their needs, [my professional transition] was an evolution. I became the parent who was saying, ‘I would be there so long as there wasn’t any breaking news or severe weather.’”

The Methodist Hospital Foundation is the philanthropic arm for Methodist Hospital, Methodist Women’s Hospital, Methodist Physicians Clinics, and Nebraska Methodist College. Throughout the year, the foundation works alongside hospital leadership to determine how to best support patients, employees, and the community. 

“We raise the funds, we protect the funds, and we distribute the funds,” Madden-McMahon explains. “We take all three roles very seriously. It’s mission in action.”

Cultivating new donors, maintaining current ones, and telling the Methodist Health System story is all part of a day’s work. One such funder—the Dr. C.C. & Mabel L. Criss Memorial Foundation—is proud to support the Methodist Hospital community.

“I have been fortunate to work with Tracy Madden-McMahon and her team at the Methodist Hospital Foundation for several years,” says Andy Davis, a Criss Foundation trustee. “They are some of the most dedicated and compassionate people I have had the privilege of working with. Their enthusiasm for both Methodist and the Omaha community is inspiring.”

Madden-McMahon says philanthropy is an important part of her work, and home, life.

“[Many believe] only people who have lots money have legacies, but we all do. And it’s the way we live every day, and it’s what is important to us,” she explains. “Living that every day is pretty meaningful.”

Visit methodisthospitalfoundation.org for more information about the foundation.

This article was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

It’s a Weird Life

March 24, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you’ve ever let your DVR run long while recording Saturday Night Live, there’s a good chance you’ve accidentally let Matt Tompkins into your home. His show, Omaha Live, piggybacks SNL on WOWT 6 every week, announcing itself with a bold warning that its views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of NBC or the local affiliate.

Omaha Live takes no prisoners: what follows is an irreverent 30 minutes of sketch comedy where anything and everything Omaha is skewered, from “West Omaha Problems” to “Mayor Stothert’s Greatest Hits” to “Husker Emotional Support Hotlines.” Tompkins and his crew have got your number—and he’s certain the mayor hates it.

It’s local, guerrilla filmmaking at its most raw. Now in its third season, Omaha Live has always been a small operation with a commitment to quality, taking inspiration from productions like Flight of the Concords and Funny or Die. Tompkins’ broadcasting history involves a decade in radio, but Omaha Live is his first foray into television. He started the show with his younger brother, Ben, often filming in front of a green screen in their father’s church basement or on location.

“Sometimes I feel like we’re in an Ocean’s Eleven plot,” Tompkins says, elucidating the hazards in occasionally filming against the will of proprietors—or law enforcement. From modest roots, however, the show has grown exponentially, with ratings quadrupling since inception.

“We soon realized we couldn’t just B.S. every week,” he says. “After the first season wrapped, we knew it had potential.” Tompkins is proud the show has come to reflect the talent in Omaha, but he’s also pleased with the achievement it has represented for his broadcasting career. “It’s been a lot of long nights of editing, writing, and filming, but I’m most proud that we’ve been able to put together a show every week for 18 months straight. You’re gonna have haters, but the more haters you have, the more you’re doing something right.”

The show has had its growing pains, though Omaha Live’s success also coincided with Tompkins’ battle with painkiller addiction, which he hopes to open up about with his audience.

“I had a bunch of major surgeries in a row,” he explains, “so I was on heavy pain meds for years. I was a professional, functional addict, but it was an invisible pain. You don’t see that on TV.”

Tompkins hopes that by addressing his personal battles on the airwaves, he can one day help others with recovery, too. “When I was on the medicine, I felt like I was operating at only 20 percent. After recovery, I feel like I’m at 100 percent, and there’s no limit to what I can do.”

He credits much of his, and the show’s, success to the support of his wife, Wendy Townley, director of the Omaha Public Library Foundation.

“She helped keep us afloat, putting up with the long hours and the insanity that goes with them—even if it frequently meant a home overrun with weirdos in costumes.”

Tompkins also made a return to radio in January as host of the Late Morning show on 1290 KOIL, where he exports Omaha Live’s “no holds barred” humor to the AM dial.

“We’re going up against Rush Limbaugh now,” he jokes, “so I can tell our listeners the two of us have something in common.”

Search Omaha Live! on YouTube to watch episodes.