They say everything we need to know, we learn in kindergarten. Cindy Hughes Anliker learned even earlier than that.

As a young child, Hughes Anliker had a hearing and speech impediment that required surgery. After the procedure, her parents were told not to expect her to excel in school or higher learning.

To her parents, that was not acceptable, and today, Hughes Anliker is thankful for their tenacity.

“They put me through this intensive preschool environment so I could overcome my speech disability and adapt to my hearing loss,” Hughes Anliker said. “The intent was to be engaged in learning, to be hands on. … I credit those two years as being absolutely integral in my lifelong learning.”

Hughes Anliker moved into her current a role in February 2013. Right away, her skills were challenged as she helped Des Moines Performing Arts introduce a new name and brand identity. Prior to that, she worked for Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the American Heart Association in Des Moines. 

The passion for learning she found so young has never left her. After being diagnosed with adult-onset Still’s disease, an inflammatory disorder, she became particularly passionate about living well. She is the team captain for Cindy’s Pickles, her team for the Arthritis Walk, which has raised nearly $7,000 for the Arthritis Foundation.

“It really changes your perspective on life,” Hughes Anliker said, “and you realize you have two choices -- you can let the disease become you or you can conquer it and let it be a part of your life, but not be all of your life.” 

Hughes Anliker also is passionate about her family and working with young people. She volunteers her time with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa and as a mentor at Drake University, among others.

“I think that just goes back to my beginnings,” she said. “People did that for me so many years ago, and I want to pay it forward and do the same.”

Reasons she’s a Forty:

 • Volunteers for several nonprofits, including the Junior League of Des Moines, the Salvation Army and Kiwanis Miracle League  

• Member of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute and graduate of the 2012 Community Leadership program

• Helped organize the inaugural “Forever Books for Kids” fair for an organizational leadership class she was taking at Drake University, and has continued her involvement each year since

• Volunteers with the Arthritis Foundation, serving as the Arthritis Walk committee chair and spokesperson