A Helping Heart
written by haley ragsdale | photos by studio 1401 & provided by leslie kitto
Leslie, Kevin, Kayleigh & Kyle
I felt like I needed to come back home to Midland,” Kitto said. She began a part time assignment working for Texas Tech on a cancer prevention project in rural areas of West Texas. “That project was six months long. When it was over, the director offered me a position working for the American Cancer Society. She told me that I already knew the volunteers and the communities” Kitto said. In her new role, she traveled to many of the same rural areas explaining the importance of healthy eating, sun safety and cancer prevention screenings. “This was twenty-three years ago, so some of these very small communities didn’t even have grocery stores. Some of the kids had never seen oranges or bananas,” Kitto explained.
“Working in a non-profit, you meet so many different walks of life. It has really changed me. I have met so many who are sick but hopeful. People from all different backgrounds who just want to give back. You get to work with people and truly make a difference. Many of my closest friends have volunteered for ACS.” – Kitto
Around this same time, she began dating a long-time family friend, Kyle Kitto. This November, they will celebrate twenty-one years of marriage. They are the parents of Kayleigh who is 18 and Kevin, 15. Kitto began her work with the American Cancer Society working out of the Odessa office, overseeing 18 rural communities with cancer prevention and fundraising. This led to her starting seven Relay for Life events in two years. She then moved to the Midland office and in 2001 became a manager.
“Working in a non-profit, you meet so many different walks of life. It has really changed me. I have met so many who are sick but hopeful. People from all different backgrounds who just want to give back. You get to work with people and truly make a difference. Many of my closest friends have volunteered for ACS,” she said. Kitto is now the Senior Manager of Distinguished Events and manages the four staff partners that supervise distinguished events. The events are: Midland’s Roundup, Lubbock Cattle Barons Ball, Fort Worth Cowtown Ball and Phoenix’s Gala. “Just out of the Midland office we raise about a million dollars a year for the American Cancer Society,” she said.
According to the website, cancer.org, The American Cancer Society began in 1913, when cancer was a death sentence. Society funded research has contributed to nearly every major cancer research breakthrough in the last seventy years. Some of these breakthroughs include the link between cancer and smoking, the Pap test, the proven safety of mammography and many others. The American Cancer Society’s Mission statement reads: The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. Our Global Headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia, and we have regional and local offices throughout the country to ensure we have a presence in every community.
Lubbock Cattle Barons Ball
In her tenure at the American Cancer Society, Kitto has seen much change within the organization. “As in life, there is always change. We must keep up with what is important. That helps with burnout too because we are always changing. And in all the years I have worked here, I have never felt burned out,” Kitto said. She also explained that the American Cancer Society is changing as society changes, as it has, for example, with the prevalence of social media. “What is not changing is how we are supporting people who are fighting this disease. We really are making a difference,” she said. She also noted that working for a large nationwide nonprofit can have challenges because people often think their money doesn’t stay locally. “I really want people to understand that we are your neighbor. ACS is a nationwide organization, but we do so much locally. We help people get to treatment with our Road to Recovery program, we help people find hotel rooms, we offer support groups, and of course the cancer hotline.”
“As in life, there is always change. We must keep up with what is important. That helps with burnout too because we are always changing. And in all the years I have worked here, I have never felt burned out.” - Kitto
It was hard to not put my guns up at her freshman orientation at UT,” Kitto said. In her spare time, Kitto is more than likely cheering on her son. “I spend all of my free time at sporting events. Kevin plays football and basketball,” she said. For Kitto, her career is not just a job, but truly her passion. Her love for helping others is evident in all aspects of her life. †