Woman Raises Thousands for Cancer Research After Dad’s Diagnosis
Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Caitlin Henry. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.
As a senior manager in the audit practice at KPMG, Caitlin Henry works with numbers. She enjoys auditing public real estate companies because of their unique accounting issues and she has been a loyal employee at KPMG since her college internship over a decade ago.
Caitlin is also a volunteer and fundraising coordinator for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk every October. Here are a few numbers of her own: It’s been ten years since her dad was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and ten years since she started volunteering with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She independently raised around $9,000 last year as part of the organization’s Executive Challenge. Two siblings and six nieces and nephews go to the Light the Night Walk every year to celebrate their dad and uncle for being a survivor.
Her hard work will fund cancer research as well as providing financial support for families going through treatment. As an assistant women’s high school varsity basketball coach at her alma mater in her limited spare time, Caitlin knows that progress, whether in sports, fundraising, research or a difficult period of life, is best reached with a team.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I like seeing the reactions to the volunteerism and the difference that it makes. We do one thing with KPMG Family for Literacy, where we go read at schools, and the excitement of a kid getting a new book that she maybe wouldn’t otherwise have had access to has been really making a difference for me.
What inspired me to get involved and stay involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is that my dad has chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I didn’t know anything about it or what the process would be like, so I started doing research when he was diagnosed. He never wanted to talk about it from an emotional perspective, so I had to really learn the science behind what was happening. When I was researching, I read a lot about the organization and the great things they do.
How has Leukemia and Lymphoma Society affected your family?
The first time my dad got treatment, he had to go through full chemotherapy. Since his diagnosis, there have been treatment advancements with his specific cancer, so there are oral options now rather than chemotherapy. I’m seeing the impact of the treatments up close, and I know the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society helps fund those.
Describe your volunteer role with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night.
In 2018, I started getting more involved. I became the co-lead for KPMG’s local DC-area team and organize the team and everything from bake sales to applying for KPMG local grants.
I also organize walk day activities for my team. I work directly with Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to brainstorm and implement different things in order to raise as much money as possible for the organization. For a couple of years, I was a junior member of the executive committee and got involved in actually planning the event. I’ve met a lot of people who are also very passionate about the cause.
What is the Executive Challenge?
It’s people who are vowing to raise over $5,000 as an individual, but we do that as a team, and every week there’s a different challenge. Last year, I helped organize the challenges and sent out information every week to get everybody to participate.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your work?
I joined the Executive Committee the first year we went virtual, and that had its own challenges. They built a website with different areas that mimicked the areas usually at the in-person event. There’s a survivor circle at the event, so they made a survivor page where you could read all the survivor stories. And there’s always a tent where you can write down who you’re walking in memory or in support of, so there was a page where you could post that.
These weren’t my ideas, but this is how we, as a group, memorialized how we would change the in person into a virtual event. It was pretty well attended. Our fundraising dollars were down, but so were everyone else’s during the pandemic.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
I can see how thankful my dad is that we try to take something that’s terrible and turn it into something positive to help other people. Although he’s not an emotional person, I can see it this makes him proud and excited. My dad has walked every year, and I’ve seen him grow more comfortable in the fact that he’s a cancer survivor.
The first year he wouldn’t even wear the survivor t-shirt. The second year he wore the t-shirt, but he wouldn’t hold the survivor lanterns. Then, he held the lantern the next year. This year, seeing him actually join the survivor circle and hold the lantern up and participate, I cried. Feeling like he is proud of what I do has been really motivating.
What are the survivor lanterns?
At the Light the Night Walk, there are three different colored lanterns: the yellow lanterns are in memory of someone, the red lanterns are for general supporters of the organization and the white lanterns are for the survivors. As the opening ceremonies happen, they ask all the different lanterns to be lit at different times, and then it ends with the survivors. All the supporters hold their lanterns as the survivors light theirs. And it’s a great feeling to know that all of the survivors have so many supporters.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
Even a little bit of time–whatever you can do–it doesn’t even have to be a huge role, but it can make a huge difference. Any time or money you can spend in a charitable way makes a big impact.
Why do you think it’s important for others to get involved with causes they care about?
I think it makes you think about something that’s bigger than yourself. It also can instantly uplift your mood to be doing positive things for other people. It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day issues, but every time I’ve volunteered, it changes my whole perspective about things.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Caitlin? Find local volunteer opportunities.