Aashik Khakoo is a numbers man.
No, not one of those guys working out of a smoky back room, taking bets on ball games and horse races. Aashik lives and breathes numbers. He gets excited about bottom lines and growth charts the way most of us do about chocolate, or Chick-Fil-A.
Until a few years ago, he parked his car in one of those spaces. The ones reserved for folks who parked themselves in a corner office. He worked for an international brand synonymous with luxury (and at times, excess). A “work hard, play hard” kind of place.
He was Finance Director and Regional CFO, brilliant, ambitious, burning the work candle at both ends and in the middle as well. “I missed years of being a father,” he said. “I can never get them back.”
And then, due to a major restructuring, his role was eliminated. For a man used to hard-earned success, it was an interesting time.
“Don't Call Us..."
Aashik spent two years pitching his impressive resume and his efforts yielded nothing. The man who usually received prompt responses to calls wasn’t getting those anymore. Humility forced itself into his daily life. A couple years before all this, his personal spiritual journey had led to a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. His neighbor, an elder at Chase Oaks, spoke to Aashik about his budding faith, about Christianity and the Word. Those conversations made a difference at a critical time.
A man used to dealing with the challenges of a multi-billion dollar global company needed an outlet, and his three sons and wife Jillian were feeling the strain. For everyone’s sake, he had to do something to keep his mind focused. He reached out to Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas. Not because he read the Torah and went to Temple, but because they gave him 75 pages of volunteer opportunities. A list. Numbers.
Numbers made him happy. Researching that list led him to Wipe Out Kids Cancer.
Talent Recognizes Talent
Cindy Brinker Simmons founded Wipe Out Kids Cancer to fulfill a promise she made to her 12-year-old self. She was at the funeral of her mom, tennis legend Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly Brinker, who died of cancer. Standing at her casket she vowed she’d do something to end the disease that stole her mom.
Her father, restauranteur Norman Brinker, was an innovator in the industry, launching restaurant chains worldwide. Cindy says he was also an incredibly humble, hard-working family man who helped those around him. That same tenacity and passion motivated her to establish Wipe Out Kids Cancer in 1980.
She was always looking for talented people who could help the mission. When she met Aashik, she saw ambition and a high IQ, but there was more to him. “Nonprofits are businesses and Aashik brought business savvy to Wipe Out Kids Cancer,” Cindy said. “But he also brought compassion.”
He started off volunteering as a financial consultant. It didn’t take long for him to realize he was exactly where he supposed to be. “I chaired a strategic planning committee and I loved it. It was exhilarating!”
While indulging in his love of planning committees and financial consulting, Aashik was surrounded by folks whose goal was to end cancer or make it 100% curable. They raised funds for research and made Buddy Bags filled with basic necessities a child needs while receiving treatment.
He became a board member and when opportunity presented itself and Cindy asked him to become CEO, he jumped at the chance.
He also began meeting families helped by WOKC. One toddler comes to mind for him. Every year Wipe Out Kids Cancer has a Christmas party. One of the little ones couldn’t make it, so Aashik delivered presents to the family.
He pulled up to a modest apartment in McKinney, hustled up to the door with arms full of gifts and gave a quick knock.
A frazzled mom answered the door, her two-year-old blasting through the apartment behind her, hyped up on Christmas joy and that pent-up energy that toddlers have. But the little guy was racing around with some modifications: a port to feed him and a trach tube so he could breathe. He was battling a brain tumor. Radiation to destroy the cancer had given him a second tumor. Treatment also left him deaf in one ear.
“He was bumbling along with his presents, not a worry in the world, playing, he was just doing him, mom’s doing mom, this is their world,” he recalls, trying not to cry. “It made me want to go out and fight the fight for them.”
Aashik’s ambition isn’t only about metrics now; it’s about people, “numbers” that laugh and cry, survive or…sometimes don’t. “This is about making a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “All my career I kept thinking there has to be more. God led me to it. This grounded my faith in a big way.”
As he does with everything, when Aashik found his faith about four years ago, he dove into Christianity. “At one point I had five bible study classes a week, hours of prayer and journaling,” he said. He’s tapered it back and is feeling more centered than ever.
Right now, his focus at Wipe Out Kids Cancer is to build up the bottom line for the sake of the kids and their families. Covid-19 has devastated corporate donations, so WOKC is running on a much tighter budget than last year.
But he’ll figure out how to make it work.
Because Aashik Khakoo is a numbers man.
Interested in making a difference to others? Find out more about service opportunities within our community, here.