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Changemaker Shines a Light on Our Industry’s Mental-Health Issues

How DMC executive Deana Mitchell, CMP, DMCP, used her coronavirus downtime to create a new foundation focused on mental-health awareness in the meetings and hospitality industries, and beyond.

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 15 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Deana Mitchell, CMP, DMCP

Realize Colorado, a Global DMC Partner

For launching a non-profit focused on mental-health awareness aimed at the meeting and hospitality industry and beyond


Making Change

During the COVID-19 shutdown, I took advantage of the downtime at my destination management company to start The Realize Foundation, a non-profit focused on mental-health awareness, specifically anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. Although anyone can benefit from the organization, the hospitality industry has been hit hard, and the struggles of those in the hotel, restaurant, and meetings industries are close to my heart. I started in housekeeping in 1990 and food & beverage later that year. My whole career has been in this industry.

The main goal of the foundation is to create awareness of mental health issues by sharing personal stories through our website, social media, podcasts, speaking engagements, and other activities. We’ll also support existing non-profits that provide services to people who need mental health assistance. Lastly, we are working on a community support group model that we hope could be replicated around the world, but more to come on that!

What’s Next?

The destination management industry needs to be as creative as possible to come out of this pandemic offering solutions to our clients and support to our vendors. Specifically, I am working with vendors and non-profits to offer custom corporate social responsibility/teambuilding options through the foundation that will support our mission. Everyone can use mental-health support in some form; volunteering is proven to make a difference.


I am one of the founding board members for SITE Mountain West, one of the newest chapters for the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence, covering Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. We launched the group in October 2019 with 75 members, and I’m currently serving as co-chair of events, education and sponsorship. I’m also honored to serve on the board of Destination Colorado, a statewide association of suppliers focused on meetings and incentives. Since 2017, I have served on the DMC Advisory Board for Global DMC Partners.

Managing Change

For me, it is about reflection, coming up with possible solutions, then performing a case study on each solution to find the best outcome. Once you decide on an action plan, stick to it for 30-90 days and evaluate again before making changes. Lastly, make sure to learn all you can from what you have done, good and bad.

Best Business Advice 

My parents owned businesses my whole life, so the lessons are endless. When I was 14, my dad built me a snow cone stand outside of my mother’s nursery school. He said, “if you need something, order it, and if you don’t feel like working, hire someone.” That was my first business during the summers of high school.

Thinking Differently

In my adult life, I am much more inquisitive than I was when I was younger. I’m more driven by creativity and thinking outside of the norm, and more willing to ask, “What is possible?” I have always had confidence in myself and have been super determined to prove myself.

Spare Hour

If I have some free time, I like to get outside in the awesome Colorado weather, read something on leadership or business, or just catch up with a friend or family member.

Role Model 

Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, has principles of success that are the foundation of my beliefs and practices as a business owner. A favorite quote of his is fitting for this pandemic: “Within every adversity is an equal and opposite benefit.” 



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