From an acorn the Mighty Oak grows

Written by Joe McCourt

March 18, 2022

Joe McCourt
Mon, January 6, 2022, 1:48 PM


Each year, the Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation hosts a golf tournament to raise funds for families who are dealing with the unthinkable – the news that their child has a congenital heart defect. I was honored to attend on behalf of Uniti to support this cause and spend time with other professionals committed to doing good.

The number of families that face this situation is more than you might think. In the U.S., nearly 1 in 100 babies is born with a heart defect each year. In fact, congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. For families, it can be a devastating experience. Watching your child fight a potentially life-threatening illness is unimaginable, and the cost of care can take an immense toll on a family’s financial wellbeing.

But the Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation is there to support families in their time of need.

The foundation was established in 2011 by Becky and Greg Ortyl, members of our own Uniti family, in honor of their son, Oakes. Through his brief but beautiful life and his legacy, Oakes made and continues to make an immeasurable impact. His story, and the work of the foundation created in his name, has provided care for countless families and inspired countless people to make a difference – including our team at Uniti.

The Ortyls, and the entire Mighty Oakes team, understand that every family with a child suffering is in a unique situation. They need a support infrastructure they can lean on for immediate assistance tailored to their unique needs so they can focus on what matters most – helping their child get well.

Mighty Oakes helps families navigate the financial burden of a health crisis by providing gas cards to assist with travel, assisting with utilities or mortgage expenses, paying for hotel rooms, assisting with car repairs, and even helping families relocate to access the healthcare they need.

And just as importantly, they stand beside families in the midst of the fight to offer their support, love and care. Mighty Oakes delivers meals and care packages to exhausted parents, pampers heart moms who’ve spent hours and days at their child’s bedside, and creates photoshoots and keepsakes to comfort families facing devastating loss and grief.

Watching our team come together again this year to support such an important and noble cause with so much compassion makes me incredibly proud and grateful to be a part of Uniti. My wife Kathy and I know first-hand about this, as we have a daughter who has undergone multiple surgeries for her congenital heart defect. I wish we’d had resources as wonderful as Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation.

This year, a sold-out crowd of 148 golfers hit the links at Isla Del Sol Yacht & Country Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, in support of the foundation. The tournament was made possible by 26 sponsors and featured prizes including a $100k hole-in-one cash prize and top tech.

Instead of trophies, each winner received a cash prize and signature red wooden heart. The heart, a perpetual fundraiser for Mighty Oakes, means something different to everyone, but at their core they represent love. People often hang them on trees or on the wall of their home office.

After the awards ceremony, Becky Ortyl delivered a powerful speech and announced that this year’s tournament raised $206,000 that will provide the support families need to keep fighting in the coming year.

Seeing what the Uniti and Mighty Oakes teams accomplished together through this year’s tournament was a reminder that when we build infrastructure rooted in our values and with the unique needs of our communities at the forefront, there are few challenges we can’t solve. Because compassion and connection are incredibly important not just to the customer experience but to the human experience.

The tournament – and the opportunity to support the foundation as a whole – gives me a sense of appreciation and reminds me of our responsibility to each other and our communities. I’m a huge supporter, not just because it’s a golf tournament, but because of what they do. Mighty Oakes brings to bear a tremendous outpouring of support for the families and communities they serve through their commitment, discipline, compassion and generosity.

Even though Oakes Ortyl couldn’t make it through his ordeal, his impact was an acorn that was planted and now helps to grow new trees that will bear fruit for more families in need.

Support, relief, hope – these are the goals of the Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation. And they are goals we share here at Uniti. We bring the same drive and focus to our charitable efforts in our communities that we do to building infrastructure for our networks.

Mighty Oakes is finishing the year focusing on their current families, but donations are always accepted. For more information on how to contribute to this amazing organization that’s near and dear to us at Uniti, visit


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Kenny Gunderman
President - Chief Executive Officer
Kenny Gunderman

Kenny Gunderman is president and chief executive officer of Uniti Group Inc. He has 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry and is focused on growing Uniti’s real estate portfolio of mission critical communications infrastructure. He has prior experience at Stephens, Lehman Brothers and KPMG. He currently serves on the board of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, the Hendrix College Board of Trustees, and the NAREIT Board of Governors. Gunderman holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College and an MBA from Yale.

Paul Bullington
Treasurer - Chief Financial Officer
Paul Bullington

Paul Bullington is the chief financial officer and treasurer of Uniti Group Inc., previously serving as senior vice president of Strategic Operations for Uniti Fiber. Until its acquisition by Uniti in 2017, he served as the CFO of Southern Light, a position he held since the company began operating in 2001. During his time as CFO, the company was named one of the “5,000 Fastest Growing Companies in America” by Inc. Magazine for nine consecutive years.

Bullington also has prior experience at Accenture and Royal Cup Coffee. He currently serves on the board of Eastern Shore Repertory Theatre and is a former director of First Community Bank in Alabama. Bullington holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Birmingham-Southern College and an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Daniel Heard
EVP - General Counsel and Secretary
Daniel Heard

Daniel Heard is an executive vice president, general counsel and secretary for Uniti. Heard is responsible for the company’s legal affairs and corporate governance.

Heard previously was a partner in the law offices of Kutak Rock LLP in Little Rock, Arkansas.

At Kutak Rock, Heard represented public companies in corporate, securities and merger and acquisition transactions. His clients comprised a wide range of industries, including telecommunications, information technology and food processing. He has extensive experience in negotiating, structuring and consummating mergers and acquisitions, public offerings of debt and equity securities and other corporate finance transactions.

Heard graduated from the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Central Arkansas.

Michael Friloux
EVP - Chief Technology Officer
Michael Friloux

Michael Friloux is an executive vice president and the chief technology officer of Uniti. He has over 30 years of telecommunications and information systems technology experience and is focused on future proofing Uniti’s information technology systems.

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Friloux started his career as a software engineer for Sabre Computer Services (American Airlines.)

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Oklahoma State University.

Jennifer Ragsdale
SVP - Chief Administrative Officer
Jennifer Ragsdale

Jennifer Ragsdale is senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Uniti, a Certified Great Places to Work company. Ragsdale oversees Uniti’s customer experience management, human resource efforts, diversity and inclusion programs, and leads execution strategy to create a culture of high performance.

Prior to joining Uniti, Ragsdale spent more than a decade in the human resources field, building and executing programs to drive operation strategies and organizational transformation.

Ragsdale is a certified professional in Human Resources (PHR), a SHRM certified Human Resources Professional (SHRM-CP) and is certified in Diversity and Inclusion in HR Management. Ragsdale previously served as the president of the Central Arkansas Human Resources Association. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Central Arkansas.

Ric Chura
SVP - Chief Information Officer
Ric Chura

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Ronald J. Mudry
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Mudry serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of INCOMPAS, a telecommunications industry association.

Mudry holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in finance from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the University of Tampa.

Travis Black
VP - Chief Accounting Officer
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Travis has been with Uniti Group since 2015, and previously served as the Director of Financial Reporting. He began his career at FedEx, and he has over 18 years of experience in financial accounting and reporting for public companies. Travis holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee and an MBA from the University of Memphis. He is also a Certified Public Accountant.

Andy Newton
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Bill DiTullio
Vice President - Investor Relations
Bill DiTullio

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Bill holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Temple University and a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and accounting from Villanova University.