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Real Influencers: Tim Brigham

by Melanie Kalmar

Tim Brigham (center, wearing a Batman T-shirt) with his crew in front of the home they are renovating.

As a young man, Tim Brigham knew if he worked hard enough, someone would take notice and offer him a good job. And that is exactly what happened — and how the former retail computer salesman went to work in the mortgage industry. “I knew that I had to give this every ounce of everything I had, or I was going to fail, and failure was not an option,” he says, looking back on his career.

After four months on the job, Brigham became the top loan officer at the branch, bypassing other top producers. “It was the subprime days, refi-boom,” Brigham notes. “Everyone said, ‘Kid, hang on tight —this isn’t going to last.’”

Of course, it didn’t last, but he sure did. Seventeen years later, Brigham is now an independent mortgage broker and senior vice president of CrossCountry Mortgage. “I truly care about my clients, their future and looking out for their best interests,” says Brigham, who works with all categories of buyers. “A mentor taught me early on that if you don’t do the right job, people make bad investments, and this is the biggest investment of their entire life. It has to be treated with respect.”

Today he lives in Arlington Heights with his wife Melissa and their two sons: Dominick, 7, and Jackson, 3. Grateful for the life his career has afforded him and the mentors who have guided him, Brigham figured out a way to give back during the most unlikely circumstances: a family emergency.

About five years ago, Dominick was hospitalized with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), an illness that can be fatal if not treated quickly. He spent three days in the hospital, receiving treatment every hour on the hour. It happened to be superhero week, and patients were participating in a game of seek and find. “In the end, they all got together and picked out a toy and acted like normal kids for five minutes,” Brigham recalls. Moved by the experience, he launched The Superhero Collective, a not-for-profit organization that sends volunteers dressed in superhero costumes — he’s Batman — to visit children undergoing treatment at hospitals, to distract them from their illnesses and bring them toys.

“When Batman is visiting with his fellow superhero friends, kids forget the reason they are even in the hospital,” says Dora Castro-Ahillen, child services program manager at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “The superheroes are always gracious, letting them know that they are the real superheroes, bravely facing their healthcare challenges.”

While the experience brings a lot of smiles for the kids, parents tend to become emotional. “You expect tests and blood draws to be done,” Ahillen says. “You are not expecting to meet Wonder Woman, Spiderman or Batman. It creates a very positive, memorable image in their minds about that hospital visit.”

Expanding its reach, The Superhero Collective is in the process of renovating a 1,200 square-foot house in Evergreen Park, to give away later this year to the family of a sick child, with the hope of making their lives easier. The home was donated by the Cook County Land Bank; Renovo Financial helped with networking and alignment.

Chicago Agent magazine recently spoke to Brigham about the joys and challenges of running a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to making children who are suffering from life-threatening illnesses happier.

Chicago Agent: What would people be surprised to know about The Superhero Collective?

Tim Brigham: It looks fun, but it’s gut wrenching. I’m the last cool thing that happens for a child fighting a terminal disease they didn’t deserve. I don’t care how much pressure you have in your job — try that.

Read more: Check out our 2017 cover story featuring Tim Brigham here.

CA: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from volunteering?

TB: All of my problems are solvable. I thank the Lord for never giving me anything I cannot handle.

CA: What do you like most about volunteering?

TB: We’re actually making a difference. Also, I love the fact that it’s now tied to my industry. We have tangible real estate that is going to change someone’s life.

CA: What should mortgage professionals look for in a non-profit before making a commitment to volunteer?

TB: Find something you would be honored to be a part of — something you feel like you are meant to do — and make sure you are dedicated to it. If you are going to commit, it’s all or nothing.

CA: How can mortgage professionals contribute to The Superhero Collective?

TB: By picking up a broom or hammer to help me complete this renovation! We’re a collective for a reason. I need every person to help pick up one little piece and I’ll get it done.

CA: Why do you recommend volunteering to others?

TB: One day, I’m going to punch out of this place and all that’s going to be left is what I did when I was here. If you can truly help people — not just throw $10 in a cup — that is more exciting than anything.

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