A Tribute To Skin Of Steel Founder Susan Steel

Susan Steel, of Glenview, died in January from melanoma. Most people diagnosed with late-stage melanoma, like Steel, live for a few months. Steel lived for more than a decade. That is big news in and of itself, but what is extraordinary and inspiring is the way Steel lived and what she accomplished as she endured brain surgery after brain surgery and drug trial after drug trial.

susan steel skin of steel

Susan Steel in 2014.

Steel very intentionally lived “with vengeance”—as an alternative to just “fighting cancer.” She did so by focusing her attention on helping others—her children, friends, future melanoma patients, the world. Her impact grew with each passing month because of this. The nonprofit she founded with others to raise awareness of, education about and research opportunities for melanoma—Skin Of Steel (SOS) —will live on with vengeance, too.

“Susan founded SOS to provoke revolutionary change in the treatment and prevention of melanoma, and by God that is what we are on the cusp of!” Board Chair Steve Sullivan declares. “She strategically partnered with people all over the globe to change the landscape of melanoma, and attitudes toward melanoma, and there will be no ‘end’ to her story. She may well have the most productive afterlife of anyone the world has ever known… Our team is resolute to open the world’s first ever ‘openly collaborative melanoma tissue bank.’” These audacious, laudable plans helped SOS win a 2014 Make It Better Philanthropy Award.

skin of steel make it better philanthropy award winner

Susan Steel (center) receives a Make It Better Philanthropy Award on behalf of Skin of Steel.

In 2005, Steel was a married international real estate fund executive and former competitive skier with two children, 11 and 13, when she was diagnosed with late-stage melanoma and given that dire prognosis. She launched into seek and destroy mode, finding every possible experimental program that could help her fight against the deadly disease at places like the National Cancer Institute in Baltimore.

By 2008, the first time I wrote about her, Steel had already endured seven brain surgeries and clinical trials. She described a Tibetan Medical Monk asking her a question that transformed her thinking from just “fighting” her cancer battle to “living with a vengeance.” This energized her life and got her focused on helping others. Steel giggled and called her determined actions “leveraging cancer.”

Steel traveled with every family member to help them pursue some dream. She launched a crew program as a way to give back to her cadre of gal pals who swooped in to help her and her family during her treatments. She wanted them to focus on learning a new skill and taking better care of themselves. She surprised herself by joining them, too. According to coach Hope Poor, Steel stated: “Rowing was one of my most defiant acts.” It was also a great success. The program blossomed into today’s formidable New Trier Women’s Masters which competes across the country.

Steel started SOS in Glenview, primarily to educate local youth and others about melanoma prevention. She spoke publicly, including to rotaries and PTAs, ran fundraisers, insured that NorthShore University HealthSystem had a robust pool of blood platelet donors. As years passed and she lived on, Steel sought out fellow melanoma warriors nationally, helped rewrite medical protocol, learned that researchers clamor for more tissue to do their work, and so Steel set her sights even higher.

According to Sullivan, Steel’s life work became “helping science unlock genetic biomarkers that may very well hold hidden clues for cures.” With laser focus, Steel built a coalition and a plan to fund four collaborative tissue banks across the United States, including one in Chicago.

In 2014, Pittsburg’s Woiner Foundation hosted a forum announcing that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will be one of the Skin Of Steel tissue banks. This is the legacy that SOS continues to champion with a vengeance. Success insures that Steel’s legacy will transform life for melanoma patients and their families around the world in perpetuity.

By choosing to live with vengeance and help others, rather than just focusing on the fight she was destined to lose, Steel was able to live a decade longer than anticipated, help her children pursue dreams and grow into lovely adults, found a blossoming athletic program for women, inspire others to live courageously and with vengeance, and eventually likely transform melanoma research and outcomes around the world.

Thank you, Susan Steel. God rest.

Top Reasons to be a Not-for-Profit Partner with Make It Better

Not-for-Profits fundraising    I’m sharing a letter I sent out to all of our not-for-profit partners , sharing the great news about our progress. Please read and share with your charitable organization so we can do more for more charities.

Thank you for working with Make It Better in the past. We hope to be even more helpful to your important work going forward. You are important to us.

Since our inception, we’ve been working tirelessly to fulfill our mission to be the most trusted, easiest-to-use community resource – online, in print and in person. We’re delighted to announce that, due to our great success, we are continuing to grow, and this fall, we will launch a spectacular new website.

We’re equally proud of our stats:

  • 60,000+ homes receive our monthly magazine, for an average of 200,000 readers who value and act on the content (subscribe at LINK:[ http://www.makeitbetter.net/print-magazine%5D
  • 115,000+ unique page views per month at makeitbetter.net
  • 27,000+ Better Letter email newsletters delivered semiweekly (please sign up at makeitbetter.net/email-newsletter to receive yours)
  • 70,000 views of MIB TV videos at YouTube
  • 8,000+ total social network followers

Most importantly:

  • $3,589,886 raised for nonprofits as of July, 1, 2014.

We’re also delighted to announce that, in her new role as Advertising Account Executive, Denise Borkowski will continue to work with our not-for-profit partners on media sponsorships, event planning and advertising.

Here’s how we can help your organization grow, too. Start planning now for 2015:

  1. Events calendar, OpEd and You Said It submissions.

We welcome all Events Calendar and OpEd submissions. Comments you send via any channel (email, phone call, social network, letter,) may be included in our You Said It section of the magazine as well. Please Contact Us.

  1. Be included in our annual Guide To Giving.

Our charitably inclined audience particularly focuses on giving near the holidays. Therefore, we publish and highlight our annual Guide To Giving every November and December. To learn more about our Guide to Giving and other advertising opportunities, please call Denise Borkwoski at (847) 256-4642 or email her at Denise@makeitbetter.net.

  1. Apply for a Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award.

Applications accepted online from now through September 15, 2014. Our Philanthropy Awards are presented on November 14, to coincide with National Philanthropy Day. Winners will receive the following:

– Television-production quality four to five minute marketing video

– Editorial inclusion across Make It Better’s multiple platforms:

  • Better Letter email newsletter, sent to 27,000 opt-in subscribers
  • Make It Better magazine, sent to 60,000 homes
  • Make It Better website

– Exclusive training in philanthropic best practices to assist in promoting the new video

– Contributions from Make It Better’s Shop for Good proceeds

  1. Earn a Make It Better media sponsorship for your nonprofit’s next fundraiser by taking our fun and informative “How To Raise More $$ For Your Favorite Nonprofit” class.

Register for our “How To Raise More $$” class and learn how to maximize the fundraising tools embedded in our media sponsorships, while you improve your tech, networking and fundraising skills. That’s a win/win/win for you, your volunteers and potential sponsors.

For more information, contact Denise Borkowski at Denise@makeitbetter.net

  1. Be connected with a significant Make It Better for-profit advertiser.We love creating virtuous circles that connect nonprofits, businesses and our audience; so, we enthusiastically amplify the nonprofit relationships of our best marketing partners. These include event media sponsorships, placement in Shop For Good (launching with our new site in September), Better Makers coverage and many other activities.

6. Be our guests at two fantastic events.

Our Best Of 2014 celebration and concert at the Chicago Botanic Garden on August 26.

Finally, The launch of our new website on October 2 at a location soon to be announced. These will not only be great free parties, they also will be outstanding opportunities for you to network.

Please don’t wait. Send us your upcoming events, join our Guide To Giving, attend our events, take our classes, promote your NFP on our media channels and apply for our Make It Better Foundation Philanthropy Award.

Again, you are important to us. We hope to be even more important to you.

 Warm Regards,  Susan Noyes