Leading the Cause: Community Leaders Unite to Fight Cancer and Save Lives 6

“A leader is a dealer in hope.” ―Napoléon Bonaparte

If the strength of a community is measured by its leaders, the Conejo Valley and its surrounding regions represent a mighty force. With a cadre of charitable events occurring on just about every night of the week, opportunities to support worthwhile causes abound.

And, as anyone who has ever been involved behind the scenes of a philanthropic event knows, these benefits do not happen on their own. Putting on a successful program requires a committed group of benevolent individuals to plan, manage and raise funds for a good cause.

Conejo Valley is fortunate to be the home of several generous community leaders, who go above and beyond the call to serve their fellow citizens and support worthy causes.

Realtor Rosemary Allison, Vice President of Patient Experience for Los Robles Hospital Kris Carraway-Bowman and Oncology Nurse Cathy Cole are three local residents who exemplify the spirit of community leadership. The three women are all dedicated to doing their part (and more) in the quest to find a cure for cancer.

As co-chairs of the recent 102nd Birthday Celebration of the American Cancer Society Vineyard Magic Gala 2015 event, Rosemary and Kris donated countless hours rallying the community to help “make cancer disappear” by raising funds to support ongoing research for a cure.

“For nearly 100 years, the American Cancer Society has been fighting to eliminate cancer, save lives and diminish suffering through research, education, advocacy and service. Despite many successes and even with the many, many lives saved, there is still so much to do. It is because of generous support through events like this gala that national research and local programs continue to be funded,” said Rosemary, who also chaired the ACS’s Joie de Vivre event in 2010 and co-chaired its Bugatti Ball in 2011 with Jacqui Irwin (now an assemblywoman).

Rosemary’s commitment to supporting the work of the American Cancer Society is deepened by the fact that she, like so many, has loved ones who have been impacted by cancer.

“Many close friends and members of my family have been diagnosed,” says Rosemary. “Thanks to the research of the American Cancer Society, many of them will be celebrating birthdays this year.”

The Vineyard Magic event, held at the Vineyard Pavilion at the Westlake Village Inn, featured live and silent auctions, musical entertainment, magicians and oncology nurse honorees, who were recognized for their daily contributions they make working in the front lines in the fight against cancer. Hosted by Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, the evening kicked off with a sponsor reception with wine donated by Honorary Chairs Rick Quinn and Dave Nichols of Opolo Vineyards. Live musical performances by the Brandon Ragan Project, Marcella Detroit and Round Trip entertained guests throughout the evening, while magicians Matthew and Stephen Levine, Charlie Mount and Jesse Dee from the famous Magic Castle donated their time to wow guests with their amazing magical talents.

“It was a magical evening,” says Rosemary, noting that the event participants raised $160,000 for the American Cancer Society. The auction items featured incredible trips to Maui, the Opolo Inn in Paso Robles, Ramekins Culinary School and Inn in Sonoma and other popular vacation destinations, an adventure-filled day with Sheriff Dean and the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and waterwise, eco-friendly yard art.

“It was a great success,” Rosemary adds, calling the event a “true testament to the philanthropic support of the community and individuals who are committed to making a difference in the fight against cancer. “I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to co-chair such a wonderful and inspiring celebration that will have a direct impact on the lives of cancer patients and caregivers. We are constantly investing in the world we share, going to great lengths to make things better. It is not a business obligation, it is a family one. Families inspire us.”

With such a strong commitment to community, it’s no surprise Rosemary’s family is also involved in service through leadership. Her son, Joe Markiewicz, serves on the Sheriff’s Foundation as an ambassador, and her daughter, Cristina Markiewicz, chaired the first American Relay for Life event while attending California Lutheran University.

Recognized as Volunteer of the Year for Ventura County, Rosemary was named by Forbes magazine in 2014 as one of the top luxury real estate professionals in the country and was placed in the Top 250 of 1,000 top realtors based on the number of closed transactions by the Wall Street Journal and Real Trends, Inc., and in 2013, she received the esteemed Conejo Valley Board of REALTORS® Community Service of the Year award. Well-known for her hard work and generosity, Rosemary believes it is important for community leaders to help those in need and support charitable endeavors.

“Community leaders need to spotlight the causes that are important to our community and they have the name recognition to attract potential sponsors,” she says. Rosemary is also involved with supporting the Ventura County Sheriff’s Foundation, St. Jude’s and the No Place Like Hope Picnic.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Rosemary started selling real estate in the Conejo Valley in 1975. She says the people are her favorite asset of the area.

“This area is a wonderful melting pot of individuals and families who care about their community,” says Rosemary.

Kris Carraway-Bowman and her family are an excellent example of people passionate about the well-being of their community. A New York City native, Kris moved to Westlake in 1976 to work for the Prudential Insurance Company’s Real Estate Development Office. At the time, they were just beginning to develop North Ranch. “It was an exciting time in the Conejo Valley. There was a feeling of unlimited possibilities,” Kris recalls. Now empty-nesters, Kris and her husband Joe still live in Westlake Village with their border collie, Jake and chocolate lab, Cara.

“We live in such a vibrant community. There are so many opportunities to reach out to help others,” comments Kris. “I always say that a newcomer can never complain that it’s hard to meet people and that there’s nothing to do. Whatever your community passion, there’s a nonprofit just waiting for you to help out.”

Currently the vice president of patient experience for Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, Kris is very involved in a leadership capacity with numerous nonprofit organizations and civic groups.

She served on the executive boards of the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Conejo Future Foundation, Vision 20/20 and as Chairman of the Board of the Westlake Village Chamber of Commerce and cofounded the Westlake Village Meals on Wheels program.

Recognized for her efforts, Kris was named “Woman of the Year, 2001” by the Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village Regional Chamber of Commerce. What’s more, she was also active in city government, serving two terms on the Westlake Village City Council, starting in 1993 and continuing with her re-election in 1997, and serving as the Westlake Mayor in 1998, before retiring from the council in 2001.

As a recent co-chair of the American Cancer Society’s Vineyard Magic Gala event, Kris continues to lead the community in service for a good cause, in this case, the fight to cure cancer.

“Research is the key to finding new treatment modalities and eventually the cure for all cancers,” Kris states. “Eventually, someone in some country will discover a breakthrough, but we have to keep fundraising to insure the research continues. We must never get blasé.”

Her husband, Joe, has also been active in community concerns, serving as the executive director of the Los Angeles and Ventura County chapters of HomeAid, a nonprofit with the mission to end homelessness.

“There are so many worthwhile causes in our community. No matter which one or two or three you choose, just get involved,” encourages Kris. “You’re needed!”

Another community leader active in the battle to cure cancer is Cathy J. F. Cole, NP-BC, MPH, CHES, CN-BP, who serves in the Oncology Nurse Navigator Breast Program at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center. Cathy recently joined thousands of dedicated volunteers in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk to raise funds to end breast cancer.

Community supporters turned out in full force on a September Saturday morning to walk with hundreds and thousands of others in communities throughout the United States to participate in the 5K Walk to celebrate survivors, pay tribute to loved ones lost and fight back against breast cancer, the number two cause of cancer death in women.

As part of her mission to help in the efforts to eradicate cancer, Cathy chaired the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Thousand Oaks — Be Part of the Cure Kickoff Reception held at the Westlake Village Inn about a month before the walk to honor breast cancer survivors and prepare for the Strides Against Cancer walk.

The evening program included a welcome from Community Events Manager Monica Murrietta and an address to the audience by Cathy and Monica, “How the American Cancer Society is Helping to Finish the Fight Against Breast Cancer.” Breast cancer survivor Jackie Slutzke also shared her moving experience of winning the breast cancer war and was honored with a standing ovation by the attendees.

Fundraising strategies and resources, as well as a video, “How You Can Fight Back through Advocacy,” rounded out the event, which inspired Conejo Valley Lifestyle’s Publisher Robin Chesler to join Cathy as one of the team leaders heading up a team of walkers in the event.

Cathy’s tireless work leading a team of volunteers in organizing, planning and coordinating with event sponsors played a huge part in ensuring the event’s stellar success. Many local businesses also added their support to the effort, including Kickoff Host the Westlake Village Inn, Pancake Breakfast sponsor Kiwanis of Thousand Oaks, and the Avenue of Hope & Water Station sponsor O’Gara Coach Bentley Maserati of Westlake Village. The event’s flagship sponsors were Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center, Thousand Oaks Radiology, UCLA Health, Teledyne Technologies and Rolling Oaks Radiology.

A resident of Thousand Oaks, Cathy helps many other community organizations, giving tirelessly of her time and passion. She is an advocate for patients and survivors, helping to navigate patients through their cancer-related appointments, questions and concerns.

The hard work and dedication displayed by these community leaders in service to others improves the quality of life for so many people in need. The fruits of their labor include the example they set for countless others about the importance of getting involved and making a difference. Conejo Valley Lifestyle salutes and thanks our community leaders for their efforts in helping make the Conejo Valley a place we’re proud to call home.