Lannia Stenz: Optimism in the face of adversity

By Megan Roessler

Lannia Stenz speaks softly and genuinely. “We’re named after a comedian…we’re about optimism and levity through dark times,” she says of Gilda’s Club, an organization that offers support to people going through a cancer diagnosis and their loved ones.

Stenz has been offering steady and compassionate leadership as the executive director of Gilda’s Club Madison since 2011. But this past year was a challenging one: after Gilda’s Madison celebrated its 10th anniversary in June, the Clubhouse—which hosted much of Gilda’s programming—was hit by August’s historic floods. Gilda’s wasn’t down for long. “Within two weeks, we had our programs back up and running,” Stenz says, crediting its local partners for offering temporary meeting spaces.

Still, the nonprofit is raising funds for repairs, which are estimated at $1.4 million.

Stenz views the new year as a time of healing and describes 2019 as “an opportunity for a grand reopening, a rebirth and a new opportunity.” Focusing less on growing the organization than in previous years, her goals as a leader turn instead to rejuvenation. “I want Gilda’s to reopen its doors this January,” she says, noting that she wants to continue growing relationships with the community and donors by improving her storytelling of resilience in the face of cancer.

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