Gene & Sarah

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Gene Woods

President and Chief Executive Officer, Carolinas HealthCare System

Born in Rhode Island, Gene spent much of his youth in Spain, where his father, a Naval aeronautics mechanic, was stationed. Gene’s mother, Maria, was born in a city called Jerez de la Frontera (an area dating back to the 11th century, alive with festivals, sherry and Andalusian horses), and so he and his younger sister, Maria, grew up bilingual and surrounded by a large family. When he was a child, every reunion with his Spanish family included flamenco, singing and the best Spanish food one could possibly imagine. Gene has fond childhood memories of his father coming home each day with the newest blues record and can still recall when his uncle taught him his first song on the guitar.

During his freshman year at the Pennsylvania State University, instead of attending a business-oriented event on career day, Gene accidentally went to a session on healthcare administration. This minor mix-up exposed him to a field that was all about improving the health of people and communities for the better – and right then and there he found his purpose and life’s work.  The very next day he declared a new major and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in health planning and administration, a master’s degree in business administration and then a master’s in health administration – all at Penn State. Gene often jokes that during college, his love for music grew into a more practical purpose, helping him to pay the bills.

Gene has more than 25 years of healthcare leadership experience, having overseen non-profit and for-profit managed hospitals, academic and community-based delivery systems, and rural and urban facilities. Recently he was named among the top 20 most influential healthcare leaders in the nation by Modern Healthcare, and in addition to being President and CEO of Carolinas Healthcare System, he serves as Board Chair of the American Hospital Association, which represents nearly 5,000 hospitals in the country on policy reform and delivery system transformation strategies. Gene’s colleagues describe him as an authentic leader with a powerful work ethic who remains grounded and approachable.

Spending time with family and friends rejuvenate Gene, and he still finds time to write, play and record music.

A few fun facts about Gene:  

Martial Arts enthusiast

Die-hard Nittany Lions fan

Conqueror of Mount Kilimanjaro


  1. John & Sarah: $66,080.00
  2. Patty & Juwan: $19,970.00
  3. Gene & Sarah: $9,240.00
  4. Jennifer & Drew: $9,125.00
  5. Kandi & James: $3,255.00
  6. David & Elizabeth: $2,625.00
Total Raised: $110,295.00

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Sarah Hayes Harkins

Hometown: Waynesville, NC
Seasons with Charlotte Ballet: 10

Sarah’s early training was in Asheville, NC, at the Asheville Center of Performing Arts, after which she attended North Carolina School of the Arts in the High School Program. She performed George Balanchine’s Serenade for theTribute to Melissa Hayden, and at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. In 2005, she performed with Ballet Adriatico in Ascoli Piceno, Italy. Sarah attended summer intensives with Miami City Ballet and Charlotte Ballet. She has performed in seven world premieres by choreographer Dwight Rhoden, and has also performed in works by Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Jirí Bubenícek, Mark Diamond, David Ingram, Sasha Janes, Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe and Jiri Kylian. Some of her favorite roles include, Choleric in Balanchine’s Four Temperaments, Grand Pas Classique, Cinderella, Tinker Bell and the Grey Girl in Jiří Kylián’s Forgotten Land.

A few fun facts about Sarah:

Dancing since: Age 7

Why she dances: I dance because my body and spirit require it

Biggest misconception about professional dancers: The hardest thing in ballet is to look effortless, when in fact that takes the most effort. We kind of create our own biggest misconception.

Biggest pet peeve: Don’t come into a revolving door with me. I need my own wedge.

The Eugene Woods Sr. Multiple Myeloma Fund at Carolinas HealthCare Foundation

In 2001, my father, Eugene Woods Sr., passed away after an ongoing battle with multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is the second-most common blood cancer, and although it is considered incurable, it is more and more becoming a treatable disease, thanks to recent advancements in cancer research. The Eugene Woods Sr. Multiple Myeloma Fund at Carolinas HealthCare Foundation supports ongoing multiple myeloma research at Levine Cancer Institute, part of Carolinas HealthCare System. I am dancing to honor my father, to bring a little bit of health, hope and healing to those suffering from cancer and to support ongoing research to develop better, safer and more effective treatments for multiple myeloma. One day, I’m hopeful we can find a cure.

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