Yes, it was quite an adventure. I was at a point in my life where freedom and curiosity collided and I boarded a plane on Valentine’s Day to strike out for Wellington, NZ. While there, I decided to pursue a degree in Architecture. I figured if I was striking out for the unknown, why not cultivate my creative side as well! Prior to New Zealand, I resided in Chicago and spent several years working for a large health focused Non-Profit organization. The relationships that I built with patients and caregivers stayed with me and are at the heart of why I accepted this position with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
What was the biggest difference in the culture in NZ compared to Kansas?
Two things stood out to me and I think in general were the very two things I was looking for when I moved there. First, their pace of life and all that implies is much different. They have a better balance between their personal and professional lives. Second and similar, I was so used to working late and running errands late that when I wanted to go grocery shopping at 10pm, I got quite a few funny looks.
Did you experience any epic adventures?
If you’ve flown into the Wellington airport, you’ve had an epic adventure J New Zealand is such an unique country in that all you have to do is start driving and your day will be filled with mountains, beaches, sand dunes, and forests. Everything is lush and green and the flowers are every bride’s dream come true. I made sure to jump out of few planes and while I was staying at a tribe’s village in Samoa, the chief taught me how to weave coconut palm fronds into a basket. Epic.
What do you miss the most about the natural beauty of NZ?
I miss the purity and the diversity. I saw flowers and plants growing wild that we have to buy. The air is fresh, the water tastes amazing and you don’t feel the heaviness in the environment that we are so used to here. I have to admit though that I was homesick for a good hot Midwestern summer.
Any favorite food in NZ that you can’t get here in KS?
Hokey Pokey Ice Cream and real Tim Tams. One of my official Kiwi rites of passage was how to do a proper Tim Tam Slam. The pure chocolaty bliss of such a thing is something I have been unable to replicate here in Kansas City.
What cell phone do you use? Do you love it? How many days do you think you could go without your cell?
I use a Motorola Triumph and have been pretty loyal to Motorola over the years. I became so spoiled with the freedom of cell phone plans abroad, that then I moved back I couldn’t bring myself to sign another contract. It took me awhile to plug back into our tech heavy world, but now that I have it’s the rare weekend treat when I purposefully abandon it for hours at a time.
Favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor of ice cream?
Do they have vegan ice cream yet? I’m a sucker for Mango sorbet.
Why did you want to join the LLS team, specifically?
I was offered a fantastic opportunity to direct, I feel, one of the most important campaign departments at LLS. I believe heavily that a strong support system is what we all need in our lives to help grow and realize our potential. Whether this is personal or professional, we are at our best when we are surrounded by people who care for and believe in us. This is what Light The Night represents. In Kansas City alone, 7,000 friends, family members, and co-workers come together in support of patients and our mission. I recently spoke to a survivor who comes out to the walk ever year. He said that it is beyond empowering to see all of the balloons and to walk shoulder to shoulder with his family and complete strangers who are outpouring their support for patients and survivors like himself. I joined this team to be a part of this.
Why will you be successful as the LTN campaign manager?
I take the growth of my staff and this department to heart. I see the potential that lies within Kansas City. We are fortunate to live in one of the most philanthropically minded cities in the nation and I work with compassionate individuals everyday who are looking for any opportunity to support our mission. My success is a reflection of the success of my team and together we are working to take our Kansas City event over our $1,000,000 goal.
What can someone do right now to make the biggest impact for families battling cancer?
Most importantly, if you know someone who is battling or has battled, or if you know of a family who has experienced a loss, reach out to them and let them know you are there to support them. Maybe it’s babysitting or taking over a meal, or maybe it’s even a card that says you are there for them but just making an effort to let them know you are still in their lives during a difficult time. Just as important, form a team to fundraise for Light The Night! You will be raising money to support frontline research, patient financial aid and services.
What do you tell someone if they can’t donate money and still want to make a difference?
We are all very talented people and we each have a skill that we can volunteer. Your time is just as valuable, so please consider coming into the office for a call night, help at the Registration Tent, set up a Jeans Day or a Raffle at your office or donate your professional services as a marketing guru.
From a patient perspective, that you are aware of, what have you heard that makes the biggest difference?
A cancer diagnosis isn’t an isolated event. It touches every level of your entire life and everyone in it. A comment I hear often is “I didn’t know how to tell someone about my diagnosis and I was scared that they would pull away from me just because they didn’t know what to say to me.” You don’t have to be a patient to relate to this. Show your support in whatever way that you can. This, in essence is the backbone of Light The Night. Form a team and walk in support or honor of a loved one. Tell your story as a caregiver, participant in our First Connection Program, attend the Corporate Breakfast, or reach out to our staff and volunteer your time. Take that first step in fighting back against cancer and you will make a big difference in the life of a patient.