It was 2006, and Keri Christiansen was one of the beautiful cancer survivor models at a “Day of Caring Breast Cancer Luncheon” founded by “Have You Met” Sue Miller.
Keri,’s sister, Channel 9 News anchor/reporter (and Have You Met), Kim Christiansen was the mistress of ceremonies; and the entire room was moved by Kim’s tender words of love for her sister. “Keri is an inspiration to all and is the heart of our family. My sister continues to teach our family how to live every day and how to love one another as if this is our last day. The blessings are many; she is my best friend, my counselor, my role model and my hero!”
This summer, Keri and her family celebrate her life 6 years after cancer came into it in 2005. Keri also overcame heart problems and had surgery when she was a child. So, when it comes to people who can inspire you, add the gracious, competent, strong and classy Keri Christiansen to your list.
Keri is one of the faces behind The Denver Hospice as their Major Gifts Officer and feels blessed and fortunate that she can attend so many nonprofit events in Colorado as a representative of The Denver Hospice. As her sister, Kim, recently said: “I am so proud of her, especially her work with The Denver Hospice… She knows everyone in this city, and they all love her!” And with that radiant smile and the delicate, poised looks of a grown-up Disney princess (think Cinderella even in her sweats), what’s not to love! Keri is a thoroughly modern, brainy blonde who is stylish and elegant no matter what she’s wearing and at what time of the day or night.
It would be hard to find someone who hasn’t been touched by cancer in one way or another, and Keri’s story is a true celebration of life. With her calming presence and sense of compassion, it’s easy to gain strength just being around Keri, and because of her, know there is hope and life beyond illness.
Keri sums it up well: “I have been richly blessed – my contentment comes from my faith as well as the inspiration of family and friends. Personal challenges provide an opportunity to grow stronger, impact the lives of others and share this journey we call life. As they say, life is not a dress rehearsal – so live it to the fullest and be thankful for each day!”
Keri, how did your life change after having breast cancer? I not only appreciate life, I treasure it. I marvel at a sunset, believe in the power of "I love you," and make an effort to live life more on the edge.
How much progress has been made with research since you were first diagnosed? There have been research findings for ALL forms of cancer, and the day that a cure is found for ANY cancer will be a day to celebrate!
How important are family and friends during treatment and recovery? Family and friends are important on many levels - and in different ways for each individual. On an intellectual and spiritual level, I embraced my journey with cancer because I knew that it was a gift from God and there was a reason for it. That being said, on an emotional level, the security that came from the support of my family and friends made an enormous difference! And it is amazing how many new friends you make along the way – especially when you are in the radiation waiting room in your “very attractive” gown.
Besides your work with Denver Hospice, what fundraising activities are you involved with at this time? I have been involved with Komen for many years. My mother had 14 breast biopsies (thankfully all benign) during my childhood; as a result breast health has always been important to me and my sister Kim. Kim got me involved with Buddy Check 9 after she spear-headed the effort to bring it to KUSA. I am also on the committee for the Denver Center Alliance; it keeps my love of the arts alive (I was a talent agent for more than 15 years), and more importantly I have met some of the most incredible people in Denver! I have also been involved with the "Center On Domestic Violence," Penny Parker's "Sense of Security," and of course the "Next Gen" for The Denver Hospice - among others.
What type of event do you think the younger generation likes to attend? Nonprofit events which involve them in the cause, but also ones where they get to have fun and see their friends in a relaxed setting.
The Denver Hospice Mask Project only takes place every other year; is that because of all the work that has to go into it? YES! The Mask Project is unique - it is a 30-day event rather than a one night gala. We have the opportunity to showcase The Denver Hospice to the public for an entire month through the vehicle of the Cherry Creek Shopping Center and wrap up with a fabulous party! We have 400+ masks on display in Center Court of the shopping center as well as on-line. The masks are decorated and signed by celebrities, sports figures, politicians, community leaders, etc. - it is a phenomenal display and it raises a lot of money for The Denver Hospice. We are already gearing up for 2012, and a political year always makes it fun - in 2008 we had masks from all of the Presidential candidates!
How do you balance your life between work, your social life and other commitments? I don't!
What is one of your top priorities right now? To improve my tennis game, make an effort to learn the game of golf, get tickets to the CU football game at UCLA or Arizona State, and produce a video of my mom and dad - chronicling their lives as a remembrance for me and my sister. I would also like to start work on a book.
Keri, you were just adorable in the Threads Theatre Fashion Show put on by the Denver Center Alliance. What clothing lines do you personally like the most? Bebe’ and Cache’. If I win the lottery - Versace, Betsey Johnson, Dolce & Gabbana, Oscar de la Renta (you can always dream, right??)
What would you consider your own “personal style? Girlie, feminine, trendy.
I interviewed your sister, the lovely Kim Christiansen, several years ago, and she talked about how close the two of you are – and how she couldn’t miss a day without talking with you? Have the two of you always been this connected? Yes...and my favorite memories are from the days of living together - through most of college and many years beyond. I remember once I was going to give up wine for Lent and Kim nearly lost her mind...she said she would be depressed for 40 days and nights! She couldn't imagine our outings to Avenue Grill and Racine’s without enjoying the "staples" in our diet - nachos and WINE!
I also met your parents, they are so dear! Do you think every kid would have a better chance in life if they had parents like yours? Absolutely!! I thank God every day for the blessing of my parents, and cannot imagine life without them. Children start out with the same slate: what they become is largely a part of the influence and love of their parents. The example set by parents will last a lifetime. I will never forget my dad telling me and Kim that the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother; And my mom has created some of our favorite family traditions that will last a lifetime! My childhood memories revolve around laughter, togetherness, and love of God.
What is your favorite Denver restaurant? My two favorite foods are steak and sushi, so there are a lot of great restaurants to keep my tummy happy. The Palm, Elway's, Sushi Sasa and Sushi Den are definitely on the list!
What can someone offer to do for a non-profit if they don’t have a lot of money to contribute at the time? People have different gifts, and the most important thing is to become engaged with something that stirs your passion! We have more than 400 volunteers at The Denver Hospice and they are amazing!! Some are involved with events, others volunteer to help our patients and families directly - there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference.
How do we get more young people involved in charitable giving? By example and encouragement.
What qualities do you look for in a friend? Loyalty, fun factor, an optimistic attitude, easy going, a SENSE OF HUMOR!
What can always make you laugh? My Dad and my best friend Jerrie!! After a get-together with Jerrie my cheeks hurt from laughing - and she has a great Dennis Rodman story !!:) And my dad can make anyone smile....and he is FAMOUS for putting his foot in his mouth which is embarrassing for him but entertaining for everyone else! And according to my nephew you extend your life by seven seconds each time you laugh - that certainly beats healthy eating!!
What are your hobbies or other interests – besides your family and charitable involvement? I am decades beyond enjoying my hobbies of the past - gymnastics and cheerleading - and am not talented enough at tennis, golf or skiing to call them "hobbies," so I guess I will borrow my friend Lynn's hobby - "socializing with my friends" - and I really excel at it! :)
If you could go back in time and do something differently, what would it be? I would take more risks - my only regrets are things I did not do. And I would have pursued a law degree and become a sports’ agent.
Besides your family, what is your most treasured possession?Photographs! Outside of that, the rings I was given on my Confirmation Day. My parents gave me a beautiful Alexandrite ring which is my birthstone, and my grandmother gave me a Black Hills gold ring. Another treasured possession are letters from my dad that he has written to me over the years.
What would be your idea of a dream get-a-way? A 30-day sports and fashion extravaganza: two weeks of "sports-mania" - Wimbledon, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, Tour de France, the Masters, Stanley Cup Playoffs, FOLLOWED BY two weeks of "fashionista" - Fashion Week New York, Fashion Week London, Fashion Week Milan, the Academy Awards, the MTV Awards!!! Thus far, in 2011 my favorite day was April 29th - the eve of the NFL draft, followed by the Royal Wedding, and the first official day of the draft - all in 24 hours!!! At 2 a.m. I was wearing a football jersey and a tiara - how does life get better than that?
What is something you would still like to learn to do – like play an instrument, learn a certain language? Become accomplished at tennis and golf. After that, ballroom dancing, skiing, piano, and voice lessons. All in my dreams of course! :)
What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now? Celebrating life!
What would you most like to be remembered for? My smile and my faith.