CEDAR FALLS – When Cedar Rapids native Kevin Kann relocated to the Cedar Valley, he brought his passion and commitment to help others with him.
Born from a mix of personal tragedy and triumph, Kann,39, has carved out a successful career with the American Cancer Society.
Both of Kann’s parents were diagnosed with cancer. His father lost his three-year battle, but his mother is a 25-year survivor of the disease.
Those experiences steered him to his career with the ACS.
“I’ve been involved with Relay for Life since high school,” said Kann, a Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School 2000 graduate.
“I would take my mom. It was amazing to see how much it meant to her and, being newly diagnosed, the hope it gave her to be surrounded by survivors.”
Kann majored in marketing at the University of Northern Iowa, graduating in 2004, and then earned a masters in philanthropy and nonprofit development at the university.
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He has worked with the ACS for 15 years and now serves as the organization’s Iowa development director.
“Kevin has been with the American Cancer Society since 2006 in various roles,” said Kann’s 20 Under 40 nominator Sarah Foster. “His current position has him managing a team of development staff in execution of comprehensive revenue strategy including corporate engagement, major gifts, network fundraising and events. He’s responsible for mulit-million dollar revenue goals, community leadership for the Iowa market and high level volunteer engagement.
“For Kevin, it’s more than a job, it’s personal, and he’s on a mission,” Foster said. “He knows ASC is making a difference in the fight against cancer, and he’s proud to be a part of that mission. Kevin’s passion, dedication and personal commitment to the American Cancer Society is powerful, and the volunteers, staff and community are grateful for that personal commitment.”
“Mom is doing wonderfully,” Kann said. “And though we lost my dad to brain cancer, I’m grateful for those three years we had (following his diagnosis) and the progress that has been made since then. I really feel I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Kann said visiting ACS Hope Lodge locations has been one of the most impactful parts of his job.
“It’s one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It is very rewarding seeing our mission in action.
“We currently have more than 30 lodges around the country, including one right here in Iowa City. They are a sort of home away from home for cancer patients who have to travel a good distance for treatment. They are 100 percent free of charge for patients and a caregiver. It’s one less thing for them to worry about.
“It is a beautiful lodge. To see our volunteers and staff interact with the patients, and the patients interact with each other, it is like a mini support group for people going through a similar journey at a similar time.”
Kann, now lives in Cedar Falls, and his wife, Laura, have two children, a son Henry, 9, and a daughter Lillian, 6.
“In my spare time I enjoy spending time with the family and the kids. I try to be involved with their activities.”
“Kevin is not only an amazing humanitarian that helps raise funds an awareness for cancer research, he also volunteers his time and effort to help shape young athletes through (the Cedar Valley Rec Soccer program),” said Stefanie Carter, who also nominated Kann for 20 Under 40 honors.
“My son was lucky to have him as a coach in soccer for the 2020-2021 season. Kevin shows selflessness in so many ways through his career, volunteering and parenting. He instills values in his own children and the children he coaches to not only help them succeed on the field but also is life. He is a caring human being who is always thinking of others. Kevin is the embodiment of what this award symbolizes.”
“I started to help out with my son’s team,” he said. “This is my fourth year, and I’ve really enjoyed coaching the other kids and meeting other parents. It’s a chance to work on other things that go beyond the score board.”
Kann is passionate about community service.
“We’re very actively involved with ACS and Relay for Life, which is, of course, near and dear to my heart,” he said. “We are Team Carpe Diem, in memory of my dad and in honor of my mom.
“We’ve also been involved with the Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters.”
For years, he and his family participated in the Cedar Valley Jaycees Gift of Giving program, which provides funds for children in need to shop for Christmas presents for family members.
“My wife and I were in charge of wrapping paper every year,” Kann said, with a laugh. “It may seem like a small thing, but we would get our kids involved and make sure that was something we did as a family and something we could do for a great organization in the Cedar Valley that’s doing great things.”
Kann makes an effort to get his children involved.
“We try to include them as much as we can,” he said. “Hopefully they develop that mindset as they grow, and we have passed the torch on to the next generation.”
Kann said both his parents instilled in him the values that are evident in all aspects of his life.
“From an early age they taught me the importance of integrity, the importance of giving back and taking pride in everything you do,” he said. “I really credit them both with being fantastic parents.
“Additionally, throughout my career, I have had some great bosses. They’ve all been absolutely fantastic and have all helped shape me, along with leaders and volunteers in the community and throughout the state.”
Kann encourages others to get involved.
“Start now instead of putting it off,” he said. “Ask yourself what you are passionate about, what you are personally affected by.
“There are so many great causes that need volunteers, that need people to step up.”