The Miracle Of Purpose, with Kelli Davis

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Miracles occur every day. Some are major life changes, while others are smaller and may even go unnoticed at first. Learning to recognize life’s miracles and use them to bring purpose in your life can be one of the most efficient paths towards a fulfilled life. In this week’s series of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are joined by Kelli Davis from the Children’s Miracle Network to discuss miracles and giving. This episode focuses on how charity can give your life purpose.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years. Using tools like brain spect imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Hey everybody. Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. This is the Brain on Giving week, and we have a very special guest, Kelli Davis. She's the head of Celebrity Relations for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals where she works closely with some fascinating celebrities to raise funds and awareness for 10 million kids each year at 170 children's hospitals across North America. She's a motivational speaker, author, and host of the Untold Miracles podcast where she interviews celebrities to discuss miracles in their life. Her website,
Also for the past 25 years, she shared that she's lived like... Many of the people listen to the podcast, and many of the people here like you and me with anxiety, depression, addiction, low self-esteem, and to find healing and relief embarked on an incredible journey where she's just immersed herself. We are so grateful, Kelli, to have you with us-
Tana Amen: Yes welcome.
Kelli Davis: Thank you. I'm so honored to be here today, and really look forward to our conversation.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We met at the Paul Mitchell FUNraiser. They have a foundation, Andrew Gomez Dream Foundation, that has actually helped to support our foundation, which is called End Mental Illness Now.
Tana Amen: What they do is very special. It's very cool.
Dr. Daniel Amen: How long have you been with the Children's Miracle Network?
Kelli Davis: It's an interesting story. Actually, when I graduated from college in 1995 I was able to live my dream job to work for the Denver Broncos. In 1996, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals called me up and said, "We want to fly you out for a job interview." I was at my dream job and I'm like, "Do I want [inaudible 00:02:51] people watch a football game or help save kids' lives?" I started 23 years ago, and I have witnessed and been a part of creating miracles for millions and millions of kids. It's the biggest blessing that I have, to work for this organization, because truly we save kids' lives. We raise money, as you mentioned, for 170 children's hospitals. We've raised $7 billion in the last 36 years, and-
Tana Amen: Billion?
Kelli Davis: 7 billion, with a B. We started in 1983, Marie Osmond and John Schneider were our co-founders, and they wanted to start a charity to help all kids, not just kids with cancer, muscular dystrophy. What really makes us unique is all the money we raise stays in the local community. In Orange County, if you donated a dollar at Walmart, it would benefit children's hospital of Orange County.
Tana Amen: Oh, wow.
Kelli Davis: It's [inaudible 00:03:40] fun to be a part of this, and the best part of my job is that I get to meet these amazing kids who shouldn't be alive today, but they are because miracles are real.
Tana Amen: When we saw you at the Paul Mitchell event, you had a couple of those kids with you. Those stories were... I mean, these kids are really just functioning a normal life today. I was mind blown at the transformation, and what they're able to do. How they get to live their lives in a way that they never would be able to. It was just really special to see these kids just transform, and being able to just live, when you know they would not have been able to. It was really crazy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Let me just take a step back and talk about the brain, because that's why people listen to [inaudible 00:04:28]. The brain is ultimately a meaning machine. It looks to create meaning. We've talked many times, on the podcast, about people who are purposeful live longer. If you give the brain something important to develop meaning around, it actually keeps it healthier. We wear out our pleasure centers with all sorts of negative things, whether it's social media or bad food, many different kinds of addiction. But, being purposeful actually brings pleasure to the brain and helps keep it healthy.
Kelli, in looking... I love your story about working at the Denver Broncos. Here at Amen Clinics, we did the world's first and largest study on active and retired NFL players-
Kelli Davis: I read about that. Yeah-
Dr. Daniel Amen: There's just no question, football's a brain damaging sport. From going to support that, to support-
Tana Amen: [crosstalk 00:05:46] fun-
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... miracles. How exciting is that? What are some of the principles, you've learned, of raising awareness to do this really great work? What are some of the important things you can share with our listeners?
Kelli Davis: Oh gosh. Well, I would just say that in my 23 years, I have learned, that the principle is that it's never about you. It's always about others, and what you can do to make a difference in someone's life. Because when we wake up, it should be, "Who can I serve today? Who can I [inaudible 00:06:26] today?" That's what I get to do on a daily basis is, "How many kids lives can we save today?" That's a big principle for me is putting others first. Not all the time, but in this case, it's really about how many kids can we save? How many lives can we save today-
Tana Amen: That's so awesome.
Kelli Davis: For me, I have relationships with celebrities all over the country, and my goal is, "How can I use those celebrity relationships to create a miracle in the life of a sick kid?" That is why I wake up every day. That is my purpose, is, "How can I help a sick child have a better day today?"
Tana Amen: That's amazing.
Kelli Davis: I have a lot of fun doing it because celebrities love giving back. I could tell you story after story after story of different connections that have come together because I want to make people struggle or suffer less because my suffering has been great. As you mentioned about 1998 I got diagnosed with depression, and I have severe anxiety and depression and body dysmorphic disorder and suicidal thoughts. I deal with this on a daily basis, every day. It doesn't go away. But I choose to show up every day. These kids have taught me how to get out of bed no matter what. Even though this is here, right here, every day I focus on, "I can do this, because I'm going to choose to get up today. I'm going to choose to show up because I get to choose that. Even though [inaudible 00:07:48] this going on right here, I choose it every day. Some days [crosstalk 00:07:52]-
Tana Amen: You bring up such a good point. I just have to touch on that. Because we often say one of the best ways to feel better fast is to help other people when you feel terrible. I know there are going to be times in our lives when we need to be on the receiving end of giving, right? There's just going to be times in our lives when we're not in that place to give. We need to actually receive someone's help, and that's okay. It's sort of like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, right? Your needs need to be met.
You can't be in a place of giving if you're desperate, you're not surviving. But once you get to that place, what I really love and what we often teach people is, one of the best ways to feel better fast is if you can reach out. Once we get to that place, once our basic needs are met, there's no more fulfilling thing you can do or something that really makes you feel more complete and whole and just full, than when you give back, and you see that just really making a difference in someone's life, and in the world.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Let me add a piece that you may not know. Maslow's very famous in psychology circles, and he came up with the hierarchy of needs. Viktor Frankl was in disagreement-
Tana Amen: I love Viktor Frankl's work-
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... with Maslow that Viktor Frankl, who is in a Nazi concentration camp, said, "Even when people's basic needs were not met, if they had purpose, they could do incredible things."
Tana Amen: Quite like you were talking about. You don't feel good many times. I've been in that same place. I know depression is a miserable thing. It was the only thing in my life that was worse than cancer, so I get it. But when you show up and help other people, it sort of feeds your soul. It's a bomb.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's medicine. Right. Giving, connection-
Kelli Davis: I will say-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Other people.
Kelli Davis: I feel like it's really how I combat depression on a daily basis, because my whole life is giving, and that's-
Tana Amen: So special-
Kelli Davis: [inaudible 00:09:58] to deal with things [inaudible 00:09:59] depression. I actually gravitate towards the sicker child because I know how deep their suffering can be.
Tana Amen: That's so special. That's really special. I think that's part of why I became a nurse for the sort of similar reasons-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, of course my question is, has anybody looked at your brain to find out why it's torturing you?
Kelli Davis: Right, right. Yeah. Not yet.
Tana Amen: You may need to visit us-
Dr. Daniel Amen: We are going to invite you to come because the end of mental illness is really about, these things aren't mental, they're brain. When you balance your brain, you feel happier, you feel less anxious. Certain circuits in your brain work too hard that you can't control it, and to call it a mental illness is actually wrong because it's brain, and mental illness, the whole concept, shames people-
Kelli Davis: Thank you for correcting that for me. I appreciate that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Anyway, so much for us to talk about. Before we stop our first podcast, you're going to be with us all week, do you have a story that just motivates you, that makes you happy?
Kelli Davis: Yes. I have probably 100 that I could tell you, but can I just share a quick story about Little Boo? My buddy Little Boo is from Louisiana. When he was five years old, he got the H1N1 virus, which is the swine flu. He ended up spending 501 days at his local children's hospital. It just ravaged his entire body. Well, after he was able to get out of the hospital, when doctors said that he wouldn't, he ended up going on dialysis for three years. He would drive four hours to sit in a chair for four hours, and drive back home. That was his childhood. Well, a couple of years ago Little Boo was able to get a successful kidney transplant from his mother. While Little Boo was in the hospital, he kept a journal, all the places he was going to eat from watching the TV show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
When I met Little Boo, I was just so blown away by his courage and his determination and his sweet spirit. I reached out to Meredith Vieira when she had her television show. We brought Boo to New York, and he comes into the studio, and we surprise Little Boo with a cookbook, and he's freaking out because it's Guy Fieri's cookbook. Then Guy Fieri comes on TV and says, "Little Boo, I heard that you love me, and that you're getting on a train right after the show and coming to help me open my new restaurant." Little Boo got to go meet his little hero and, he shouldn't be alive today, but he is.
Little Boo is someone I think about every day. When something is really hard, and you don't think you're going to get through it, you have to believe and know and trust God, and know that miracles are real and they're possible, and they happen every day. But they don't have to be big, they're little. The sun is shining today. That's a miracle. It's been raining here for three weeks in Salt Lake City. It's a miracle that I woke up today. Everything is a miracle. The breath of life is a miracle. Are we looking? Are we paying attention? Are we being present? Because life is miraculous.
Tana Amen: You're going to make me cry-
Kelli Davis: But more importantly, [crosstalk 00:13:13] going to do to create miracles for those around us today?
Tana Amen: That's so special.
Dr. Daniel Amen: How can people learn more about the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals?
Kelli Davis: Well, you can go to and of course you can listen to our podcast, where I interview celebrities and we talk about the miracles in their personal professional life, but a lot of them have worked with CMN Hospitals [crosstalk 00:13:38]-
Tana Amen: I want to repeat that because I want to make sure everyone hears it clearly. CMN, Children's Miracle Network-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Children's Miracle Network-
Tana Amen: ... .org.
Kelli Davis: You can follow us on Facebook at CMN Hospitals, on Instagram-
Tana Amen:
Kelli Davis: CMN Hospitals. But yeah, it's a network that is saving lives every day, and will just continue... Kids need care [crosstalk 00:14:01]-
Tana Amen: So special.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us. We'll be back with Kelli Davis.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying The Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. While you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're interested in coming to Amen Clinics, use the code, podcast 10, to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.