When Doug Kridler heard the story of the late Jerrie Mock, his imagination took flight.

When Doug Kridler heard the story of the late Jerrie Mock, his imagination took flight.

The president and CEO of The Columbus Foundation was captivated by the tale of the Bexley resident with a passion for flying who in 1964 became the first woman to soar around the globe solo. He was surprised that the region did not tout her achievement and delighted to learn that her plane was named "The Spirit of Columbus."

While some might wonder why the leader of an organization dedicated to assisting donors in their efforts to improve the community decided to breathe life into a decades-old aviation record, the effort made complete sense to Kridler.

He saw an opportunity to use Mock's story to help develop a sense of community and pride in the region that he believes is an intrinsic duty of The Columbus Foundation. "She flew the 'Spirit of Columbus' into world history books," he says. "We brought that story back to life. For us, it's a way to ignite community pride and community engagement, which is hugely important."

Finding unique ways to rally the community to help those in need and those that serve them is at the heart of Kridler's work and leadership philosophy. "My goal is: Build a positive work culture that combines discipline and entrepreneurism," says Kridler, who took the helm of the foundation in 2002.

"I believe-both within the community and an organization-that great ideas can come from anyone. A title or net worth isn't a prerequisite for having the best ideas. The best ideas can come from anywhere. Understanding that is the key to building an organization that continues to regenerate and renew its successes."

He encourages his team to be inventive-to be pioneers like Mock-while knowing it's not something people expect of philanthropic organizations. "We're a hugely innovative foundation," he says. "We're creating initiatives to advance the greater good."

He counts The Big Give and The Big Table-a day of community building that was held for the first time in 2016-as further examples of the organization's commitment to innovation.

The Big Give, which began as Match Day in 2007, is a 24-hour giving marathon where the foundation allows people to use its website to donate money to central Ohio nonprofits. The event, which does not occur every year, has enjoyed enormous success, Kridler says. In 2015, it raised more than $15 million for 587 area charities within that small window of time.

The grassroots giving campaign, which the foundation modeled after a smaller effort in Denver, has sparked cities across the country to hold similar fundraisers, he says. "It's a gift we've given to the nonprofits and donors of this community but also to other communities," he says.

The Big Give has provided amazing opportunities for the foundation and Kridler to achieve their goals. He is focused on offering support to those working to make a difference. "My favorite part of the job is that through our work we have the chance to lift up others who are doing great works and helping others in the progress of this community," he says.

The Big Table brought together more than 5,000 people in libraries, churches, restaurants and other public places to engage in conversations about the community's strengths and challenges. The event garnered lots of positive feedback, Kridler says.

When organizing charity events like The Big Give or The Big Table, Kridler says he often relies on marketing and event-packaging skills that he honed before his current role: working as a tour manager for the Cleveland Orchestra and later as president of the Columbus Association of the Performing Arts. Under his leadership, CAPA went from owning a single theater in Columbus to six, plus one in Chicago and one in Connecticut.

While Kridler could have pursued theater management opportunities in major entertainment cities, he opted to remain in Columbus because of the city's energy and desire to improve. "My mantra is BGTH-Build Great Things Here," he says.

"In my life's journey, from a professional standpoint, there's just nothing as fulfilling as helping make contributions to a community that's breaking new ground every day."

Kridler, who has spent decades running nonprofit organizations, says his desire for success is as great as those who lead major for-profit companies.

"I'm as driven to succeed as any business leader-just because we're in the nonprofit world, it doesn't mean drive or incentive is lacking at all," he says. "If you're motivated by mission, it often leads to greater effort."

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.

Finalist: Charles Gehring, president & CEO, LifeCare Alliance

Fifteen years ago, Charles (Chuck) Gehring became the first man and the first non-nurse to lead LifeCare Alliance, central Ohio's first in-home healthcare agency and one of its oldest and largest nonprofits.

LifeCare Alliance provides health and nutrition services for 15,000 older adults and medically challenged people in 40 Ohio counties with a goal of helping them remain in the comfort of their own homes. Services include Meals-On-Wheels, Senior Dining Centers, Wellness Centers, Help-at-Home, the Columbus Cancer Clinic, Project OpenHand-Columbus, Groceries-to-Go, IMPACT Safety, Senior PetCare, Senior Farmers' Market and Visiting Nurses.

LifeCare Alliance estimates that each person it enables to stay in their own home saves Ohio taxpayers $62,000 annually; its policy of accepting all clients in need remains a point of pride for the nonprofit.

The organization, formed in 1898, serves 5,000 people through its signature program, Meals-On-Wheels, which operates in Franklin, Madison, Marion, Champaign and Logan counties.

Under Gehring's leadership, the nonprofit has also embraced social enterprise with its L.A. Catering service and Carrie's Cafe, which offers a weekday lunch menu and corporate wellness programs. Last year, social entrepreneurship and fundraising represented 36 percent of revenue.

Finalist: Kathy Krendl, president, Otterbein University

In 2009, Kathy Krendl became the first woman to lead Otterbein University since its founding in 1847. As president of the 3,000-student Otterbein, she has overseen several major initiatives.

In September 2014, Otterbein launched its $50 million "Where We Stand Matters" campaign, which has raised over $31 million for campus master planning and facilities updates; resources for faculty, staff and students' research, internships and travel and new scholarships.

Under Krendl's leadership, Otterbein transitioned from a college to a university, added a Department of Engineering, introduced its first doctoral program and several new Master's degrees and diversified its student body.

Most recently, Krendl's championing of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics led to the creation of the STEAM Innovation Center, which brings students and educators together with business and industry professionals. The center, which received $1 million from the city of Westerville and $500,000 in state capital funding, is expected to create 200 jobs in five years, totaling $16 million in payroll and a state and local tax impact of $3.6 million.

Finalist: Doug Ulman, president & CEO, Pelotonia

Doug Ulman leads Pelotonia, a cancer-fighting fundraiser with a signature annual bike tour that, over its eight-year history, has brought in more than $130 million for research at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. Ulman joined Pelotonia in November 2014 as president and CEO; as such, he oversees Pelotonia as well as serves as an advisor to OSUCCC-James.

In 2016, Pelotonia drew 7,750 riders; corporate sponsorships ensureevery rider-raised dollar goes to funding research at OSUCCC-James, whose more than 300 scientists translate research and discovery into diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Three-time cancer survivor Ulman founded the nonprofit Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, serving as its executive director for four years. Twice named to the NonProfit Times Power & Influence Top 50 Executives list, Ulman is on the board of the Ulman Cancer Fund. In addition, Ulman is a member of the Young Presidents' Organization, and previously served on the National Cancer Institute Director's Consumer Liaison Group.