The Mission Grabs You: Millikin alum Amber Kaylor leads the Ronald McDonald House of Central Illinois as CEO

Kaylor also served as CEO of the Decatur-based Children’s Museum of Illinois.

Amber Kaylor

When Millikin University graduate Amber Kaylor ’06, MBA ’16 introduces herself as the Chief Executive Officer of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois, she often finds that a personal story quickly follows.  

  • The Ronald McDonald House Charities provide a place to stay for families with a seriously ill or injured child who is in a hospital. The Central Illinois chapter operates houses in Springfield and Peoria, and their services are provided free of charge to aid those going through some of the most challenging moments of their lives. 

    “When I accepted this position, people would come up to me left and right saying that they had stayed in a Ronald McDonald House. We are talking 30 years ago, and they are talking about it like it was yesterday,” Amber said. “It is an honor to be a part of a family’s story, and to have an impact on a family at that time is a tremendous privilege. The thing about what we do is that people never forget. Nobody forgets that feeling of their child being ill, and it drove home for me what a privilege it is to be a part of that journey. You have a lifelong impact with these families.”

    Growing up in Decatur, Millikin was a part of Amber’s life, and when she attended Millikin, she took part in Millikin’s Flexible Learning, formerly known as PACE, for individuals who are looking for a variety of paths to earn their degree. Classes take place in various formats, including online, in-person, and during the daytime, evenings and weekends.

    • Millikin is a staple in the community. It was something you knew about because you engaged with it. As far back as grade school, I remember going to plays there and taking my ACT on campus
    — Amber Kaylor, ’06, MBA ’16
  • “I was in one of the first cohorts for the PACE Program, and it was a wonderful opportunity. I had a full-time job then, and I was getting involved in the community, so I didn’t want to lose that momentum. I was able to mesh all of those things together, and be part of campus and have the college experience.”

    Before returning as a graduate student, Amber worked as an Admission Counselor & Coordinator for Multicultural Recruitment at Millikin, where she got to share her love of the University with prospective students. 

    Amber Kaylor and Brian Byers


    “I was able to talk about Millikin and advocate for the community. It was an opportunity for me to cheerlead for Decatur, especially being from here,” she said. 

    “In that role, you have to balance a lot of things, and the Admission Counselors are the unsung heroes at many institutions.” 

    As Amber considered her future career path after working for United Way of Decatur & Mid-Illinois as Director of Resource Development, the love of nonprofit work continued to ignite her passion.

    • The mission is what grabs you, that is what I tell people. The mission is what gets you. Everyone has hobbies, and I think that people are my hobby. Being a part of someone’s story and being a part of the solution for what people are going through is hard to walk away from.
    — Amber Kaylor, Class of '06 MBA '16
  • “The mission is what hooked me with nonprofit work, and going through the MBA program, you are immersed in all parts of the business. You come out feeling well-rounded as a leader.”

    After getting her MBA, Amber became the CEO of the Children’s Museum of Illinois. She had previously interviewed there before earning her graduate degree and felt the difference between the experiences was night and day. 

    “I felt so much more confident and prepared. I felt that I was in a different place professionally,” Amber said. “It was interesting to have those two opportunities to interview for the same position and get it the second time. It was exactly how it was supposed to work out.” 

    Amber became the CEO of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois in 2020 and oversees an operation with 30 employees that can serve 700-800 families a year. In 2022 alone, they accommodated 8,300 overnight stays. As she leads the charity into the future, she hopes to expand the group’s in-hospital services and possibly remodel and expand the Springfield location. 

    "My job is to be five years down the road with strategy and vision and building connections. Where are we as an organization today and where do we need to be?,” Amber said. “Our environment changes constantly and the needs of our families change constantly. I’m looking ahead and setting the direction and the path of how we will get there.”