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May 13, 2024

It's #GivingTuesday and we know you're getting a lot of emails asking you to make a donation today. Although, we've decided to do this day...our way! Instead of asking you for donations at all, we are asking you to be bold & GIVE FIRST to someone you know LIVING with breast cancer by nominating them for a KWF gift of FUN.

We know it might seem a little backwards, so read below as Founder, Kent Wellington, explains the #GiveFirst ethos...

A Letter from Kent Wellington

Through 17 years, we've learned from our recipients that WHAT we give them by way of gifts of FUN is less important than WHEN and HOW we give it. As you look at the smiles on the faces of KWF recipients (and their families), it's hard to tell a vacation smile from a spa day smile from a Lemons to Lemonade Box smile. It's not the WHAT.

We Give Now and we Give First. That's the WHEN and the HOW. We don't wait for the financial gifts to come in and then give second. That might be the responsible thing to do, but it's not us. Never has been. Over the past 17 years, we've been aggressive in identifying families mired in the worst year of their lives and we find a way to give them something to look forward to. Right now. That's the WHEN. The money, donated vacation homes or in-kind gifts come second.

As for the HOW, that's important. Our gifts of FUN are delivered personally with the help of our bold nominators who find time to stop their races to help KWF Give First. Our nominators and friends don't wait for the perfect time that fits their own busy schedules. They know we're all busy.

So, for today, stop your race for 5 minutes to nominate someone you know LIVING with breast cancer for some KWF FUN. Give First this Giving Tuesday, let's see those nominations!

- Kent Wellington

Nominate Today

LIVING Through Breast Cancer: Stories of Survivorship

May 13, 2024

Every breast cancer diagnosis is different. As is every treatment plan and life decision to follow. That is why the term “survivorship” is unique to each individual LIVING with, or rather, LIVING through breast cancer and beyond. 

As we embark on our (almost) 17th Pink October as an organization, we are reminded of the heartbeat of this mission - our recipients. Over 2,000 women & families have welcomed KWF into their lives while navigating their own cancer journey, oftentimes helping fellow recipients along the way. 

Alongside grueling treatment plans, surgeries and stress, these ladies have found silver linings through relationships and resounding resilience brought forth through their diagnosis. KWF is honored to share their narratives as they continue to uplift our growing KWF Community this Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

Beth Brubaker: 

On May 21, 2020, the IV machine beeped, and the bags from my final cancer infusion ran dry. I officially crossed the finish line, leaving the cancer patient behind and becoming a cancer survivor.   

Our family waited 20 months for this moment.  For my survivorship day.  Since September 2018, I went through two major surgeries, 16 rounds of chemotherapy, the delivery of our beautiful little girl, 30 rounds of radiation, and a year’s worth of immunotherapy.  

Even in the midst of COVID-19, we celebrated the end of the most strange, difficult, remarkable, and incredible chapter of our lives. A weight had been lifted. 

Within days, it was soon replaced with the weight of a 10,000 pound boulder. 


While undergoing cancer treatment, there is a tremendous safety net of doctors and nurses. However, there is an unsaid expectation (unintentionally but still there) that life gets to return to “normal.” 


About three days after ending treatment, our family sat on our deck, grilling out for dinner. Then our 1-year-old daughter was prancing around the deck, squealing in glee and chasing Scout.

 All of a sudden, I began to cry. I could see my husband was caught off guard. “What’s going on?” The weight of that boulder was crushing my shoulders.

 “What do we do now?” I sobbed.


No one gave us the guidebook of how to navigate life after cancer - this thing called “survivorship.” He said some of the most impactful words I ever heard. 

“Beth, now you get to live. Actually live.” 

Those words, three years ago almost to the day as I write this, drive so much how I (along with my family - cancer is a family diagnosis) have chosen to navigate survivorship.  It stems from the fact that we want to make sure no family ever feels alone through their cancer journey.   

As a family, we have written so many memories - going on vacations, starting pre-school, and adopting two new four-legged friends (we now have a circus of three dogs!).  Every memory weighs on us because we did not know if we would get to this point - a life with cancer in the rearview mirror. 

We wanted to give that hope to other families. My husband and I co-authored a book called 25 Months chronicling our breast cancer journey. From the incredible spa day the Karen Wellington Foundation gifted me, I understood so well how just one day of not being a cancer patient was the elixir I needed to continue through my cancer treatment. 

In October 2021, our family started the Harper Jaye Brubaker LIVING FUNd through KWF named for our miracle daughter.  We wanted to specifically target women going through breast cancer treatment who also had young families.  Being able to help these families has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.  That provides meaning to this story of survivorship that we are writing as a family. 

As my husband said three years ago, this is time to LIVE.

Sherry Hughes:

On July 30, 2019, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), an aggressive form of breast cancer. As difficult as that day was, it was also a day of hope as I became a survivor. Simply put, it means I’m here! I’m alive, and my life’s work is not done. My survivorship journey comes with extreme gratitude to my UC Health team, my family and friends, and a vast community of supporters who helped me get here. It also comes with great responsibility to pay it forward. As with any war, in this case, the war against breast cancer, I operate from a “leave no woman/man behind” philosophy. I’ve had a frontline position on the battlefield. I’ve seen what cancer can do. It causes pain and suffering, and cancer destroys lives. I’ve experienced, though, that it can also bring an awakening. I am in complete remission; however, those like me understand that the fight is still far from over. 

The enemy is still out there waiting to mount another attack. I openly share my experience and amplify my voice to raise more awareness of this awful disease.

I believe God has given me this gift of survivorship to inspire, support and encourage those down in the trenches and to be a voice to help educate and empower people to higher advocacy roles in their healthcare. I spent decades on television, storytelling, forecasting the weather, and building relationships across multi-media platforms. Ironically, from the lens of that role came opportunities to be of greater service in the space of cancer advocacy. My mission is to help save more lives.

Having lost my mother, Lillie, to breast cancer when she was just in her 40s gave rise to my vigilance, asking important questions and exploring advanced screening options that were not offered to me. That is self-advocacy. It led me to the Breast MRI, which detected my cancer at an early stage when other conventional screenings could not see it. This brought me face-to-face with my purpose and passion for helping women learn more about breast cancer, cope with it, and navigate the treatment process.

It’s July 2023. I’m still here! Praise God! I’m living in survivorship, one day at a time. I’m encouraged by the progress in medicine, breast cancer research, and technology-increasing survivorship. I continue to advocate for women, share my story and keep the breast screening conversation front and center so that no woman or man is left behind. In 2021-2022, I was fortunate to be a proponent speaker for Ohio House Bill 371, breast cancer legislation that gives women at higher risk or dense breasts advanced screenings covered by insurance. It also provides a recommendation notification letter for women with dense breasts. This bill is already saving lives. I’m also helping newly diagnosed cancer patients get the best care plan through no-cost second opinion consultation, referral, and genetic counseling services at Cincinnati Cancer Advisors. 

I oversee strategic community engagement and serve as a spokesperson.

Nationally, I serve as a patient ambassador for NERLYNX, a prescription medication for women with HER2+ Breast Cancer that can reduce the chance of recurrence.

My survivorship continues to be a transformative process mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I reverently carry the torch onward to honor those we’ve loved and lost and pray for the day when cancer is no more.

Jenny Jones: 

The worst part of my breast cancer diagnosis was finding a lump & losing my boobs. The best part was losing my relationship & finding myself.

In March 2021 – literally one year after COVID shut the world down – I was diagnosed with stage 0 Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) in my right breast, after my gynecologist found a lump during a routine annual appointment. I was 35 years old. In April 2021 I had a lumpectomy, thinking that would quickly be the end of it. (Note - If anyone is undergoing breast cancer my best advice to them would be to buckle up, it’s gonna be a longggg ride). The good news: the lymph nodes removed tested negative for cancer. The bad news: the DCIS was too extensive, my doctor couldn’t get clean margins, and I was left with a deformed breast and the heavy decision to undergo a mastectomy. The choice for unilateral or bilateral was mine to make (lucky me!) The reasoning 3 different surgeons gave me for needing a mastectomy even at stage 0 were 1) to decrease my odds of recurrence to less than 2% 2) eliminate the need for radiation & drugs (not to mention chemo that could be on the table if this thing decided to become invasive) and 3) remove the need for scary 6 month scans. Seems like a no brainer to most, but to me, my breasts defined who I was. From the age of 14, they have been my favorite asset, part of my personality, my brand. While I felt lucky this was caught early, I felt like I was going to lose a huge part of who I was in the process.

At the time of this diagnosis, I was also in a very unhappy relationship that I saw no future in, but continued to perpetuate because of comfortability & justified as “good enough.” When I told him about my diagnosis, he called it a “massive inconvenience” to him and made me question the credibility of my doctors. On top of the big decisions I had to make about my health, I realized I had another decision to make: to end a relationship that did not serve or support me, and go through cancer alone & single. I was scared to do that. While I had my family & friends to lean on & support me, it just wasn’t the same as having a partner by my side. What if losing this thing that I felt defined me - my breasts - changed dating? What if I was deformed and no one wanted me at the end of this? And at the scariest moment, what if cancer made this bad relationship stronger or could “fix” what didn’t work? What is scariest is that I was almost willing to settle vs. do this on my own. I had recently started reading Glennon Doyle’s book, Untamed, and thought of the line “we can do hard things” and I made the harder choice – to begin my cancer journey single (more about my experience of dating with breast cancer in this Girls Gotta Eat podcast episode).

After four (3 men, 1 woman) consultations and a lot of cry-screaming in my car, I landed on a female reconstruction surgeon, Dr. Theresa Cunningham, who told me “we’ll keep going until you are happy” and offered straight to implant when no other surgeon would. My mastectomy happened on 7/30/21, and my surgeon told me I was cancer-free. I thought that was the end. A month later I was admitted to the emergency room & stayed in the hospital alone for a week after strep bacteria somehow worked its way into my incision and caused a terrible infection. After surgery, my boobs were left rippled and far apart, and my body responded to the trauma & stress by causing my hair to fall out in handfuls. Dating was the last thing on my mind. With cosmetic issues to fix, I decided to have a 4th surgery on 4/15/22. I thought everything went great. Less than two months later my right boob had hardened into a rock, as my body formed a scar tissue capsule over the implant to protect itself. It was painful, keeping me awake at night, and made the right side look & feel completely different than the left. A 5th surgery was decided for 10/31/22, on the right side only, to remove the scar tissue. Three days after that surgery, my boob had swollen to twice its size due to fluid accumulation that they were luckily able to drain out after a scary trip back to the ER. One final procedure in May, using a filler called Renuva, helped fill out the remaining rippling. After a year and a half, it was finally done.

I just celebrated two years of being cancer-free on 7.30.23. I’m happy with my boobs, but they’ll never be what they were. The loss of sensation & Barbie-like (on trend) hardness is a constant reminder of what my body has gone through. Yet I live with guilt. Even though I survived - the diagnosis, the failed lumpectomy, the 10+ consults, the ugly hospital gowns, the doctors who didn’t listen to me, the overwhelming grief I felt about losing my boobs, the mastectomy, the complete loss of sensation, the post surgery infection that hospitalized me for a week, the replacement surgery that made my boobs rippled & far apart, the meds I had to inject into myself for three weeks after, the people who gave me their unsolicited advice, the doctor appointments where I’d scream in my car after, the breakups & having to navigate this single, the medical bills that still keep coming, the stress related hair loss, the times Id look in the mirror & just cry because my boobs won’t ever be what they were - even with all of that, I never felt I could call myself a survivor. Because I didn’t have to do chemo, or take drugs that put my body in menopause, or had my nipples taken from me. Because it didn’t spread to other parts of my body. Because I didn’t die when others did. 

In the process of going through this “alone” I found a partner to lean on – we went on our first date 5 days after my 4th surgery. My boobs were secretly strapped down with an ugly mastectomy bra and while I wouldn’t normally bring up something so serious on a first date, we connected over the fact that his sister had also recently gone through treatment for breast cancer (and who is now thankfully cancer-free, done with chemo and doing great!) He’s someone who sees me for so much more than my boobs, and who loves me for my strength. Someone who can carry the weight on bad days, and remind me that I AM a survivor, even when I don’t feel like I deserve that title. He’s one of many silver linings of my breast cancer diagnosis, including the other incredible breast cancer survivors I’ve met through this experience, the women I’ve helped educate & support through my GGE podcast, and the incredible strength I’ve found in myself through doing this alone. At the time, breast cancer felt like a punishment, in hindsight, it was a blessing. I found myself, and am now stronger & happier than I ever was before.

Christy Runions:

Someone asked the question on Quora recently…why cancer survivors think they are so special. After reading a very insensitive response from a radiologist who was a cancer survivor, first it got me very pissed off and then it really got me thinking.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago and 3 additional times since, on occasion you can’t help but to stop and think about survivorship and what it means to still be here. I certainly feel incredibly blessed to still be here. Beyond that I have met so many amazing people as a result of cancer. I have been able to donate my time to an incredible foundation that believes in putting Fun on the calendar of families dealing with cancer. I found my favorite vacation place and now make it a point to go every year… one way or another. I’ve mended relationships that have been broken that I thought couldn’t be healed. As well as being able to be here to take care of my mom that is battling Alzheimer’s.

Cancer gave me a different perspective about life, forgiveness and loving. I live life thankful for the moments I get to create, grateful for every day that I get to create those moments and blessed to be here sharing my happiness and optimistic attitude with anyone who is willing to listen. So like they say… (and there are many variations of this saying, these are my favorites) drink the wine, eat the cake and take the trip!!

The Power of FUNds

May 13, 2024

When we started this foundation almost 17 years ago, I had just turned 10 years old. I was both simultaneously grieving the monumental loss of my mom while learning to navigate what came next. Although, less than a month before my mom passed, she enlisted some of her incredible friends to facilitate a surprise birthday pool party for me. That was of course in addition to my 2nd party held at The Christ Hospital so my mom could attend. (She could have taught a masterclass on the art of celebrating others.)

Karen & Angeline Wellington celebrating a birthday at the Christ Hospital

Even at her sickest, she still worked her magic, ensuring that my 10th birthday was a full-on celebration. No exceptions. She was, of course, the catalyst for this foundation that bears her name. Because, unlike anyone I’ve ever met, she understood the significance of getting FUN on the calendar during our toughest times. And although she made sure she was having FUN herself, she always seemed to go above and beyond to ensure others were doing the same. She far preferred giving over receiving because it brought her great joy. For that reason alone, like myself, I know her favorite part of KWF would have been our FUNds.


“What is a FUNd?” We get this question a lot! Almost like starting your own foundation, a FUNd allows you to raise money to support our mission through a custom fundraising page on KWF’s website. We have already done the legal work, and provide support in accounting, marketing, fundraising ideas and more! There are no limits to when or how much money you raise. Your campaign can also set parameters to match your FUNd with the perfect recipient! Even thank you notes for all donors to your FUNd- we’ve got you covered.

You can start a LIVING FUNd that celebrates those LIVING with cancer and can be created by anyone passionate about sharing FUN with our recipients. Or you can start a Memorial FUNd to honor the legacy of those LIVING ON through our mission whether diagnosed with cancer or not.

Our FUNds allow KWF to expand the celebration to include all those LIVING ON through our FUN-only mission. At this point, we have over 30 KWF FUNds and counting.

Jen Anderson FUNd

Jen and her daughter swimming during their KWF Vacation

Jen Anderson was a KWF Recipient as well as a loving mother of two beautiful girls, a wife, daughter, an avid writer and a wonderful friend. She left behind quite a legacy for her family to carry-on. When Jen’s family created her FUNd they didn’t kick it off with a fancy party or a packed fundraiser. In fact, at the time, Jen’s 11-year-old daughter kickstarted her mom’s FUNd with a bake sale. Every baked good sold held a special significance for Greta and her family. It's the perfect depiction of how a FUNd should be. It doesn’t matter if you start with $5,000 or simply $5. The beauty lies within starting in the first place.

Becky Pellegrini FUNd

Anna, Joe, Nick & Mia Pellegrini celbrating their 2nd Annual Beckypalooza

Just as Greta continues her mother’s legacy through a FUNd, so has the Pellegrini Family of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Becky and her husband, Joe took a KWF Vacation to Maui back in 2018. Like my own mother, at Becky’s sickest she knew she wanted to ‘give first’ to other families like her own. Just before she passed, Becky herself set up her FUNd that has seemingly grown tenfold. Her husband Joe alongside their kids, Mia, Anna and Nick wasted no time raising money on behalf of Becky and turning those donations into lasting memories for women and families LIVING with breast cancer. On July 24th the Pellegrini Family will be hosting their 3rd Annual Beckypalooza Golf Outing & After-Party for her FUNd. An abundant celebration of life and a testament to the legacy Becky has left behind.

Pi Kappa Alpha LIVING FUNd

UC's Pi Kappa Alpha members pose alongside the Theta Sorority after a KWF Workout Fundraiser this spring

On a slightly different and more irreverent note, the University of Cincinnati's Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity has also embodied our vision and started a KWF LIVING FUNd of their own. If you stop by the PIKE house on fall day in October you may stumble upon a disgustingly charitable cheese-coney eating contest they’ve strategically designed to get more FUN on the calendars of our recipient families. PIKE has mastered the art of turning hot-dog eating contests into mission moments and keggers into fundraising opportunities. And our KWF Team couldn’t be prouder. Just this past April, PIKE raised over $10,000 for their FUNd during the fraternity's ‘KWF Week.’ From donation-based fitness classes and concerts to shaving their own heads in the name of KWF, they noted that it was a week of FUN for a greater cause far bigger than themselves.

As you can see, our KWF Community stretches far and wide which is why we welcome all types of FUNds. From bake sales to keggers, garden parties and golf outings, we’ve seen it all. So why not start one of your own? These FUNds allow each member of our community to own and build upon our vision of getting FUN on the calendars of all women and families LIVING with breast cancer. To learn more about starting your own FUNd today visit the link below!

Learn more about starting a KWF FUNd

-Angeline Wellington

Old Friends & New Beginnings

May 13, 2024

Every year, April seems to be a milestone month for KWF. It is of course important to us as a foundation, but it holds a special significance for those who knew and loved Karen Wellington. April marks the symbolic beginning of spring, which makes Karen’s April 1st birthday a crucial piece to it all. As her daughter, I could go on with stories and little moments that spoke to who she was. I could tell you about her unwavering kindness to strangers or her laugh that seemed to ricochet off the walls and into the bellies of those around her. But today, you won’t be hearing from me. You see, my mom had far too many friends to count, but she had a handful of best friends who were and still very much are instrumental in both of our lives. 

So today, to kick off April & all the beauty that lies within, you’ll hear from them…

-Angeline Wellington 

Dee Dirksing

Although the official start of spring is in March, April has always felt like its a true beginning to me. A month of new beginnings with blossoming flowers and trees everywhere. In yoga lingo, April is like a great big heart opener! So, in my mind, it is very appropriate that Karen was born on April 1st. She was someone with a great big heart that was always open.

Karen and I met through Eastside Moms and around that same time our daughters started dance class together. Our mom’s group had organized a weekend getaway to Chicago around that same time. I was planning on going, very excited to get away and spend time with two of my closest friends. Karen asked me about it at the first dance class and when she realized that there were only three in our room, her response was, “Oh good, I am going with you guys!” I was a little taken back since we had just met and my other two friends hadn’t even met her at all. Karen, being Karen, insisted on driving on the trip. After picking up the last of us, she threw the car in reverse, gunned it and slammed straight into a telephone pole. Three out of the four of us were very certain that our weekend getaway had ended before it even started. Without hesitation and without even getting out to see how bad the damage was (it was pretty bad) Karen straightened out the car, laughed and said, “Oh well!” and we were on our way.

I guess if you are born on April fool’s day, you learn early in life to laugh at yourself, and Karen surely did that. The four of us spent the entire weekend having fun, laughing through many shenanigans, and becoming fast friends. For Karen and me that weekend jumpstarted an amazing friendship between us and then soon to follow, our daughters.

With April 1st being Karen’s birthday, it of course reminds me of how important birthdays were to her. Not her own, but everyone else’s around her. Karen was always the first one to organize the celebration and always the one to bake the birthday cake. And it wasn’t just your average cake…it was four layers, made from scratch and beautifully decorated with flowers, tulle, anything she could find to make it special. I had no idea how much time went into it until I made it for her 40th birthday. (Years prior, I had to swear to her that I would never substitute any healthy ingredients…applesauce for butter, etc. before she finally entrusted me with her recipe.) She made it all the time for all her family and friends, put her heart into it so they would feel special on their special day.

So many heart opening memories with Karen, maybe that is why I love April so much.

Picture from my birthday in June 2002 with Karen’s cake.

Liz Knecht  

Some of us are lucky enough to have a special person in their life that is your “person”. The ONE you run to for anything. Your “ride or die” friend. I was blessed that Karen was that person to me.

We met at the ripe old age of 3 but it was like we already knew each other. Even at age 3 she walked down a long street so she could find “those little girls” living down the road.  My mom asked her what her mother’s name was and Karen said “Mommy”.  My Dad called her “Sugar” and she promptly answered “that is not my name” and tilted her head to the side and looked up at him with those big beautiful eyes.  No fear. She had an agenda. She wanted to play with the girls.  And that was the start of Karen becoming “my person”.

Liz, her sister, Missy, and Karen playing in the backyard pool as kids

We did everything together……play dates, school, soccer, family holidays, graduations, weddings, baby showers, kids…..she was “my person”. She knew where I came from and she knew what I needed at any given moment just by looking at me or hearing my voice over the phone.  Karen supported and encouraged my dreams, made me laugh harder than anyone I’ve ever met and held me as I sobbed when she told me she had breast cancer. After she dried my tears she said “and that is the last time we do that.”  I agreed. She wanted to LIVE and have FUN and cherish the moments she had left.  And that is exactly what she did as I watched in amazement.  She taught me so much about LIVING and I am so grateful for “my person.” Funny thing is, Karen made her friends all feel like they were that special person.  She had that magical ability to be there in the moment and share her love unconditionally. I feel her on every gift delivery, every recipient hug and every gracious thank you that this Foundation receives. “My Person” is KWF’s person and her legacy lives on.

Connie Cook Laug

 Karen…one of a kind friend…there for me for anything and everything, all the time, everyday. So much to say and too little space so as we approach KG16, I wanted to share a special memory of FUN (and there were A LOT of those!).

To Angeline and Robby: 

This is one of my favorite pics of your mom and one of my favorite memories… we planned lots of events together - as room moms at the Villa, on committees for nonprofits, in UD’s studio, for birthdays, Christmases, on vacations and just for FUN! This one happened to be a party I was planning for work and your mom was ALL IN! Lucky me to have a pal to jump in and help!

First, we searched for a venue. Everything seemed to have been “done before.” (Keep in mind this was almost 30 years ago!) We were intent on finding someplace other than a hotel so we scoured a bunch of spots around town and voila! We found Peterloon Estate…so beautiful. Not quite big enough and quite a steep entry fee, BUT, if we added a tent (more $$$) we could fit everyone. It would be perfect for a summer soirée! We loved it and, as you may recall, money was often no object to your mom, so she convinced me that I could persuade those with the “powers of the purse” to go for it.

As part of the “pre-planning,” it was most critical to find just the right band. As we all know, music is key to a great party! This is where we shined! From bar to bar, we traveled to find just the right band. Many cocktails were had and we had to dance a lot to be sure they were good enough! At last we found SOUL POCKET!  The very band that will regale us with the best music in town at KG16!  Of course they were waaaayyy over budget, but your mom convinced me no one else would do!  I really put my job on the line for this one ;)

That party was, by far,  the best party the Firm ever had, thanks to your mom!  Not only because of her part in planning, but because she was, of course, the LIFE OF THE PARTY and made sure every Partner had so much FUN that they wouldn’t care how much it cost!  

Karen and I were quite a party planning team and regardless if it was a party of 400 or just our families, we liked to go “all out!”  BTW, we loved going to parties too :) 

I know your mom has had a guiding hand in the success of all of KWF’s FUN events ! You can feel her joie de vivre the minute you enter the room because it lives in you! 

Cheers to KG16!

With Grace and a Whole Lot of Grit

May 13, 2024

Crystal (left) with KWF Recipient, Tiffany, post Grace + Grit Facial

“I believe that self-care should be affordable and not viewed as a luxury, it is a must in our life’s journey.”

I sat down with Crystal Grace one rainy morning in February to discuss the impact her spa has had on our KWF Mission. I went in assuming I’d leave with a nice, simple story to share with our community. I quickly realized that Crystal is no simple woman and neither is her testimony.

Crystal is an esthetician and owner of Grace + Grit Spa as well as Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse in Cincinnati. She is a woman on a mission to cultivate community through healing. That sentiment is evident and seemingly seeps into every area of her life.

But just several years ago Crystal’s mornings looked vastly different than they do today. She wasn’t waking up early to open her shops, but rather to head into her 9 to 5 at Time Warner Cable where she thought she’d retire. Although, all that changed when Crystal noticed a coworker had uncharacteristically not shown up to work for three days. She found it in herself to go check on him at his home. Upon arrival, she discovered he had passed. In addition to the heartache of losing a friend, Crystal now became riddled with what she calls “the triple threat” - anxiety, depression and PTSD. For the first time in her life, she was at a standstill. But that’s when “God stepped in.”

After working with doctors to move through her triple threat, Crystal decided to lean into healing touch and self-care to find a remedy. This led her to her first-ever facial that sparked something in her she could’ve never imagined. “For the first time, I had an encounter with God that changed my life. I heard his voice saying this is how I want you to serve and showed me a vision of a spa,” notes Crystal.

Crystal (left) and Sha-Kim (right) of Grace &+ Grit. Photos courtesy of the Grace + Grit Website.

Six weeks later, she quit her job of 20 years to answer that call. With grace and a whole lot of grit, Crystal started to build that haven for those who needed to heal just as she had. Through thick and thin and a global pandemic, Grace + Grit has stayed rooted in its mission to serve others through healing touch. Crystal and her team member, Sha-Kim (to whom she credits most of her work) don’t take a cent from cancer patients who show up on their doorstep. This wasn’t something KWF asked of them, in fact, they were already doing it when we arrived. This a testament to the altruistic nature of these women who’ve answered a call far bigger than creating a profitable business.

Crystal & Sha-Kim have welcomed our KWF Recipients with open arms, going above and beyond to care for our ladies when they need it most. Whether they’re providing healing massages & facials or graciously coming in on their off days to pour into our recipients, it’s clear that this is their vocation.

As our conversation came to a close, I asked Crystal what was next for Grace + Grit. We discussed a myriad of plans regarding growth and expansion for her mission. Although it was one dream that stuck with me the most. Crystal has a vision to craft and facilitate a city-wide self-care day for all women LIVING with cancer. A day to open the doors of local spas in town to love on cancer patients and their caregivers free of charge. Just one day to focus on their healing journey… hoping that it too can be the catalyst for life change to take place just as it had for her years prior.

Upon leaving, I reflected on a sentiment Crystal shared with me when I arrived. We discussed no matter one’s beliefs, we all have a calling in life. Sometimes it’s quite evident and other times the path isn’t so linear. Although for Crystal one thing will always ring true, the only reason she stands where she does today “is because of God’s Grace, but it took some grit to stand in his promise.”

Angeline Wellington