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There is so much growth, transition, and advancement that can take place over a decade. In 10 years, major life events take place, political leaders change, new loved ones enter our lives while others’ time comes to a close. It’s a beautiful snapshot of the ever-evolving world we live in. And as the saying goes, the only constant is change.

This February marks and important milestone for one of the KCA’s team members, Stephanie Shirley. She first joined the KCA on February 1, 2013, making this month her 10-year anniversary. Stephanie serves as the Director of Advancement Services, but her role has evolved quite a bit over the years as the organization has also grown. Keep reading to learn more about Stephanie’s insight and passion for helping to further the KCA’s mission over the last decade.

What is your connection to the Kidney Cancer Association?

Stephanie: My father in law passed about from kidney cancer before I was able to meet him, but his legacy has been shared with me in so many ways, especially through my children. I know his life – and his fight – had a profound impact on his family, and the KCA was a critical part of their story. In 2013, I was introduced to the KCA through my husband’s relationship with them. At the time, it was a very small team working out of its Chicago office. They had a role open for virtual assistance with a variety of administrative and program needs, and it aligned perfectly with my skills and passion – especially because of the kidney cancer connection.

What are some of your first memories working with the KCA?

Stephanie: I’m based in Pennsylvania, but it was important for me to meet the team and begin my training in person, so I was able to visit the team in Chicago for a few days. As Chicago does in February, it snowed heavily during my visit. I remember it being so beautiful, but so cold! After a great day spent with the team, I wasn’t sure if I would make it back to my hotel since no cars were out on the road. Fortunately, I did and the rest of the training and transition went smoothly. Now when the team gets together at our Houston headquarters, our weather “woes” are much different!

How has your role evolved?

Stephanie: What I do now in the role of Director of Advancement Services is quite different from where I began 10 years ago. That’s because our organization has greatly evolved with its staff, programming, and partnerships. As leadership changed, I was given opportunities to advance and evolve my role to where I am now, which aligns my passion and experience with best serving the KCA’s mission.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

Stephanie: I love interfacing with individuals who have a heart to support our shared mission. Most often in my current role that’s either people who want to run a fundraiser to support the KCA or researchers and medical professionals who are out there doing amazing things to move us toward a cure. On both ends, I am inspired by the level of dedication, creativity, and compassion I experience when I work with people every day. It’s a unique joy to see things come full circle – from the money being raised to support our research funding to awarding research grants that are making an impact.

The KCA team at the Houston office.

Share the highlights of your top 3 “KCA Moments” over the last decade.

Stephanie: When I look back there are really so many! But if I had to limit them to 3 it would be…

#1 – Working with the KCA when kidney cancer graduated from being considered a rare disease. This means we’re doing our job! Enough people are living longer with their diagnosis for the cancer to no longer be classified as rare. More treatments are coming to market and people are being diagnosed earlier.

#2 – Having a medical professional at one of the KCA’s academic conferences once tell me, “The work we do only makes a difference if people know about it.” This was in response to me saying my work mostly focuses on communication and fundraising. The doctor’s encouragement acknowledged that while medical research and discovery is critical to finding a cure, so is the supporting work of non-researchers. We all must work together if we want big things to happen!

#3 – Truly any time we get together as a team. About once a year we make a priority to connect in person so we can get some “face time” and refine our priorities and strategic planning. Even if it’s only for a few days, the amount of growth and connection that takes place fills my cup for the whole year.

Looking to the next 10 years, what do you hope to accomplish through the KCA?

Stephanie: I’m inspired by the trajectory we’re on and the evidence of our impact. I would be so fulfilled to look back in another 10 years and be able to say I have made a difference to those impacted by kidney cancer. Whether that’s through encouragement or a kind conversation with a patient or caregiver, by supporting my team reach our collective goals, or playing a role in awarding a grant that help brings a new treatment to market – this would be 10 years well spent!

Stephanie serves as the Director of Advancement Services for the Kidney Cancer Association where she focuses her time on peer-to-peer fundraising, community outreach, and the awarding of grant funding. Stephanie is a self-proclaimed “outgoing introvert” and passionate communicator. She enjoys running and being outside (in the warmer months) and spending time in nature. Stephanie lives near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where she resides with her husband and two boys.

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