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It’s really no use trying to tell Brenda Kastens that one person can’t make a difference.

If one person – or a few one persons – can’t make a difference, then how did her Relay for Life teams raise $15,000 the past two years?

Passion is contagious, Kastens says.

Tackle a cause with a positive attitude and a giving spirit and pretty soon you’re raising money, awareness, spirits and more.

Kastens started leading and volunteering in elementary school. By high school, she was working for youth alcohol awareness and teen outreach programs. When she later became a hospice volunteer it marked her first experience not only supporting a cause, but finding a way to make it better. She developed a program to support hospice volunteers who struggle with the continuous losses in their field; then a grief program to provide follow-up care to patients’ families.

Of all her volunteer organizations, American Cancer Society is closest to her heart. She lost a grandfather to the “C” word. Not long ago, her mother was diagnosed with skin cancer. They fuel her energy.

She has been a captain for Relay For Life teams for six years and counting, worked with eight area Relay For Life organizations and is an active member of the Cancer Action Network.

On her teams, everyone has a story to tell and there’s nothing more important than reaching out to cancer survivors.

It’s a lot of hours on top of her role operating a private counseling practice and teaching for Doane.

It’s a lot of phone calls.

A lot of hugs.




If she ever forgets the importance of one person trying to make a difference, the cure is meeting a lot of people making a difference. Like her trip to Washington D.C. as part of the American Cancer Society’s Celebration on the Hill, surrounded by 10,000 volunteers and cancer survivors.

“Truly humbling…truly an honor,” she recalls.

It was her second best day as a volunteer. Runner-up to the day she watched her mom take the Survivor Lap at Relay For Life.

She knows she’ll be a volunteer forever.

“No matter where my professional life may take me, I will always dedicate part of my time to volunteer.”

Brenda Kastens graduated from Doane in 2002 with a bachelor’s of arts degree in human relations. In 2004, she completed her master of arts in counseling degree.

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