Coos Bay, Ore. May 22, 2018: The Bay Area Hospital Community Foundation named Stephanie Kilmer the recipient of the 10th annual John Whitty Award for Excellence. The Whitty Award was established nine years ago in honor of Coos Bay attorney John Whitty, who was instrumental in establishing Bay Area Hospital more than 40 years ago. Whitty was the first recipient, followed by longtime local insurance agent Rudy Juul, who campaigned with Whitty to build the hospital.
The Whitty Award honors contributions to the community’s health and well-being. Past winners include Dr. Oded Shulsinger, Lindi Quinn, Dr. Steven and Eva Shimotakahara, retired state Sen. Joanne Verger, Dr. Wayne Murray, Tom and Joan Stamper, and Dr. James Martin.
Kilmer has lived in Coos Bay since she was a young child, and her presence and hard work have made a lasting impact on the community. She’s the manager of KDCQ FM Radio, a Coos Bay City Councilor, and all around humanitarian. Her efforts have helped bring Christmas to thousands of local children in need and have put food on the table for countless families. She has been a role model and mentor to local teens and has dedicated time to more than a dozen charitable clubs, committees, and organizations.
“She doesn’t put the business first; she doesn’t put making money or anything like that first,” says friend and colleague, Michael Chavez, “She puts people first.”
When Kilmer became of manager of KDCQ, she knew that in order to make the station successful, they needed to set themselves apart from the competition.
“We had to do something different, so we just put our focus on our community,” Kilmer says. “To make our community better, because we all lived here.”
For their first big project, Kilmer and her team looked at the current needs in the community and came up with the idea for Bus Jam. Rotary Club stepped up as the first community partner for Bus Jam and in the inaugural year, they collected a bus full of toys and—to everyone’s surprise— 1,600 pounds of food!
“We weren’t even collecting food,” Kilmer says. “It was 100 percent a toy drive.”
The program has grown immensely over the years, and they’ve now reached 300,000 pounds of food and given toys to just under 7,500 kids.
“I just kind of have a passion for people who aren’t as fortunate as others and especially kids, because they don’t choose their situation, they kind of end up in it,” Stephanie says.
Another KDCQ project that has had a sizable impact on local children is Bay Area Teen Idol. To an outsider, Teen Idol may just appear to be a singing competition, but Stephanie and the radio station staff have worked hard to make it more than that. It’s a place for local teens to stay engaged throughout the summer, a place where they can feel safe, and a place where they’re encouraged to make healthy life choices.
“The Bay Area Teen Idol Program for the longest time was one of those programs that would keep kids engaged all summer long that were high risk,” says Chavez. “And she just made sure that the kids that were involved had mentors all around them and people that they could go to and talk to if they needed to.”
While running a successful business, being a mother, and heading up several charitable programs, Stephanie has somehow found time to also be involved in several clubs and committees. She’s involved in everything from Coos Bay City Council, to Rotary Club, to Coos County Friends of Public Health. These connections have given her the resources and do even more good for others. She has volunteered with Relay for Life and for a time even ran a Bone Marrow Registry Program that traveled throughout the state.
“She gives more than she needs to give, but she just wants to,” says friend and fellow Rotary Club member, Eva Shimotakahara. “You know, she’ll take it out of her own pocket if she has to.”
This year’s Whitty Award Ceremony, which took place on Saturday, also kicked off fundraising efforts to renovate and upgrade the Family Housing Unit at Bay Area Cancer Center. This space is used to provide free accommodations to out of town cancer patients receiving daily treatment at the Center. Kilmer is a cancer survivor and received treatment at Bay Area Hospital in 2011.
The Bay Area Hospital Community Foundation is a non-profit organization supporting the hospital’s mission to “improve the health of our community every day.” Tax-deductible gifts to the foundation help provide resources for advanced training, state-of-the-art technology, and safe environments designed for healing.
The foundation also awards grants each year to organizations that enhance the community’s well-being. The publicly owned hospital, overseen by an elected board of directors, receives no local tax support.