Community//

Kyle Stefanski: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”

We give financial aid and spread awareness to what is considered the forgotten side of cancer care, the day-to-day expenses and living needs. The cancer movement has been dominated by research which is very important. I am fully behind that we need to find a cure somehow, someway. Yet, we have also found that those […]

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We give financial aid and spread awareness to what is considered the forgotten side of cancer care, the day-to-day expenses and living needs. The cancer movement has been dominated by research which is very important. I am fully behind that we need to find a cure somehow, someway. Yet, we have also found that those trials help people decades down the road. We are raising money for people struggling here and now! We raise money for the things you don’t think about until you are struck with cancer and also have to pay the bills. The people who are battling cancer as a single parent with 3 kids, facing an eviction notice with no childcare. We help with expenses like rent, mortgage, childcare, copays, wigs, rides to and from the hospital, utilities and more. Because our advances in cancer treatment have been successful, the downside is people are living longer with cancer and it takes a much higher toll on finances, relationships, emotional and physical status. People need this help. People need this hope!


As part of my series about companies and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Stefanski, Executive director of Rhonda’s Kiss.

Kyle Stefanski (@Kyle_Stefanski) continues to further his family’s charitable legacy through the nonprofit Rhonda’s Kiss. As Executive Director of Rhonda’s Kiss, Stefanski works to further the nonprofit’s mission to help cancer patients and their families with non-medical expenses and support cutting-edge research. The charitable organization was founded by Kyle and his family as a dedication to the memory of his mother Rhonda who passed away from stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and of course, to honor her legacy.

As one of five brothers and sisters, Kyle suffered enormous difficulty when his mother Rhonda was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away two months later in November 2014. Founding the organization in collaboration with his family, has given Kyle an outlet to take their tragedy and parlay it into a positive force.

Rhonda’s Kiss was created to provide financial assistance for those unable to cover the costs of living and non-medical treatments associated with cancer. Through events in Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Palm Beach, Florida, Rhonda’s Kiss provides money for patient social services at nationally recognized hospitals as well as assisting families with living expenses. To date the charity has donated over 1 million dollars to hospitals to support cancer programs and patients. The charity is bringing their mission to New York in 2018. The family’s mission is to help those that cannot afford the expense burden that accumulates with the holistic care, from wigs and rent to oncology massage and more.

Stefanski was raised in a philanthropic family. At an early age, he began learning from his father’s efforts to give back to the community. In addition to the Rhonda’s Kiss, the Stefanski family offers great support and charity in North Eastern Ohio communities and in parts of Florida.

Kyle currently resides in Los Angeles with his girlfriend Julie and baby boy Oliver Kingsley. Aside from his charitable work, and role as dad, Stefanski is an actor and producer, recently seen in the Lionsgate film ​Gotti (​ 2018) starring ​John Travolta​, and the upcoming hyped about film Mob Town hitting theatres Fall of 2019. Kyle has had a supporting role in the Lionsgate film ​Acts of Violence starring Bruce Willis and Mike Epps, which is currently in theatres. He can also be seen with a supporting role in the gritty crime drama ​First We Take Brooklyn from 2018 which had a successful Indie run.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I come from a family that enjoys and understands the importance of giving back. It has always been in my nature. This specific mission actually came to me in the form of my mother dying from pancreatic cancer in 2014. This event shocked my family to our core with it’s unbiased and swift ability to kill as well as its ability to leave support systems helpless. After going through this process, my family created this mission to try to positively impact as many lives as possible through the cancer process. We wanted to make sure there was more hope out there. I then took on the responsibility of Executive Director and have been driving this with heart, passion and purpose ever since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

This path has been eye-opening on so many levels. For me, it’s been the people that I’ve met along the way. From the cancer patients and their beyond touching stories that keep my fire burning to the thought leaders in my space or any space who would like to affect change and have an impact on a larger scale.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In hindsight, it was how I envisioned that our start-up non-profit could pull off at least four Rhonda’s Kiss Galas a year, in order to really grow the brand. I found out very quickly how difficult pulling off just a single event truly is. I was very idealistic and aggressive early on but have gradually slowed down and taken more time. From that initial mindset, I’ve learned the importance of follow up, post-event work and staying in touch with donors throughout the entire year.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

We give financial aid and spread awareness to what is considered the forgotten side of cancer care, the day-to-day expenses and living needs. The cancer movement has been dominated by research which is very important. I am fully behind that we need to find a cure somehow, someway. Yet, we have also found that those trials help people decades down the road. We are raising money for people struggling here and now! We raise money for the things you don’t think about until you are struck with cancer and also have to pay the bills. The people who are battling cancer as a single parent with 3 kids, facing an eviction notice with no childcare. We help with expenses like rent, mortgage, childcare, copays, wigs, rides to and from the hospital, utilities and more. Because our advances in cancer treatment have been successful, the downside is people are living longer with cancer and it takes a much higher toll on finances, relationships, emotional and physical status. People need this help. People need this hope!

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

We helped an individual who was a single mother with two children. She got divorced, went bankrupt and was struck with cancer all at the same time. By the time she sought us out at Cedars-Sinai, she had already been battling for a few years. She had exhausted all her resources but had such an immense will to live that it was infectious, we had to help her. So we honored her at one of our events. It went much better than we could have ever expected. In honoring her we offered to pay her rent for 3 months so that she could finally get the surgery that could rid her of her initial cancer in her body. When doing that, the crowd was so emotionally moved that people stood up and offered to pay for her rent, gas and groceries for a year. She was so appreciative she didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know what to say, it was just so kind to watch all these people pitching in being so emotionally moved by the mission and her story. You can’t write that stuff.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

This problem stems from inequality in general. The main things you can currently do are donate money to our cause and others like ours or bring awareness to the mission. Spread the word! It would be ideal to eventually have a Rhonda’s Kiss program in every region, better yet every city. So that those who need this help, or what I like to call “hope”, have access to it. We can also change the Healthcare system so it’s more affordable for lower to middle-income people to live and fight this fight. In the meantime, we need to knock the stigma of fear off of the “C” word by getting people more educated, talking about preventive measures and getting people more outlets as a support system.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I define leadership as Vision, integrity, responsibility, compassion, courage, a sense of humor, and the ability to endure suffering.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) I wish someone told me that starting this charity would be a daily reminder of my mother’s passing. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t have done it anyway, but I do wish that I could have been prepared.

2) I wish someone told me how much work it was going to take to run an NFP. I had no idea that I would be working around the clock and so often working multiple jobs at once.

3) I was under the impression that it would be easy to raise funds for this beyond worthy cause. And, as it turns out, it is not. I am constantly working to find money for Rhonda’s Kiss and sometimes people bow out last minute.

4) I wish someone told me to build my advisory board sooner. It makes a big difference!

5) I wish someone would have told me that turning such intense grief into a positive experience would introduce me to so many wonderful people…because I would have applied that to other struggles in my life.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I really love movements as change is constant and I always enjoy looking for new ones to embrace. I’m also old school and I don’t think it would hurt us to focus on being more mindful and present in our daily lives. Focus on human connection more than we have been lately.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” -Gandhi. I know this quote is used quite often especially now considering the nature of how crazy things are in the world. Yet it has always been close to me and as I try to affect change I’ve realized how important it truly is, to walk the walk.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Russell Brand. I am really enjoying his podcast at the moment. He does a fantastic job of tackling the difficult intellectual and spiritual subject matter. When I have time to catch an episode I don’t just feel educated, I also feel like my thinking has expanded.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

The website is https://www.rhondaskiss.org/ and can follow me on my Instagram @kyle_stefanski and @rhondaskiss

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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