Shining a Pink Light in Darkness
Stephanie Vest was the quintessential stay-at-home mom who took pride in caring for her children and husband. She was a woman who embraced life with zeal and passion and loved her family more than could be measured. An authentic, stylish and vivacious woman, she found joy even when completing seemingly mundane tasks such as laundry, which she made more pleasant by having her laundry room painted a striking shade of hot pink.
But, when cancer made a swift and surprising visit in 2008, Vest, her husband Eric, and their three young children, Zach, Cole and Gracie were immersed in months of trials that would challenge their day-to-day lives. The mounting costs of her extended stay at the Mayo Clinic along with the money needed to keep a house functional began to take a toll on the family.
It wasn’t until neighbors, friends and family united together and organized the first Pink Laundry 5K that the Vests were able to focus on Stephanie’s health and not the escalating needs of maintaining a home. One hundred percent of the proceeds from this run went to the family which they were able to use to pay the mortgage, utility and hospital bills, and for food and travel. Vest died in December 2008 but her tribulations birthed a remarkable foundation, the Stephanie Vest Foundation, which emulates her beauty.
According to Kim Casey, volunteer board member and communications manager, the mission of the Stephanie Vest Foundation is clear: “To pay it forward to help those in need, just as friends and strangers helped the Vest family during their crisis,” she says.
“Without the love and support from the community, the Vest family would have faced extreme financial difficulties during Stephanie’s extended illness. We are not curing cancer; our goal is more basic: We are keeping people in their home, with the utilities on, while they go through treatment. Our mission is to bridge the gap when income is adversely affected from an extended leave of absence from work.”
Casey has been an active volunteer board member since 2008 and she explains that what makes this organization unique is that they offer instant financial relief for families in need, which makes a significant impact in the community. Every donation received goes directly to the families.
The foundation is a true not-for-profit agency powered by a volunteer board. It pays no salaries and operates on a minimal overhead budget. Since 2012, they have provided more than $235,000 in assistance to those in the Kansas City area and have helped more than 100 families. People who are in danger of losing a house or a vehicle have found respite within the organization. In turn, there are many testimonies that elucidate the essence of the foundation and how it empowers people.
“When cancer hits, it also destroys you financially. I had not accrued enough time at my job to get any paid time off,” Lori Baerg, a Lee’s Summit resident and breast cancer survivor, says. “Fourteen weeks of surgery and recovery without a paycheck took its toll.
I think I was more worried about making the bills than the trauma my body was going through. That’s where this amazing foundation stepped in. This is not an ordinary nonprofit. This is a group of people who offer a bridge of support and help during a time when life is very unclear and scary. They’ve been there. They get it. It wasn’t just the help with the mortgage—it was their kindness that made the impact of the gift all the more surreal.”
The Stephanie Vest Foundation honors Vest’s love for people by providing hope in a time of need. Casey would like to raise awareness to the fact that many American families are just one major illness away from a financial disaster, which is why the organization’s efforts are so imperative and there are many ways the community can get involved.
The foundation has two major fundraisers: The Pink Laundry 5K, held the first Sunday in October and the Pink Friday Trivia Night. Currently, the foundation is looking for items and services to be donated to the Pink Friday Trivia Night Silent Auction, which will be held Friday, February 23, 2018, at the Stoney Creek Hotel in Independence. Monetary donations, which are tax deductible, can also be made year-round by visiting the website.
Families seeking assistance are asked to complete a grant process. To be eligible for a grant, one must live in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Please visit StephanieVest.com for more information.