Kathy Miller wanted to make a difference in the lives of children with cancer. But she knew she wouldn’t be the one discovering a cure, and she doesn’t have day-to-day interaction with patients.

So Miller, director of operations in the Department of Population & Quantitative Health Sciences, found another way to do her part: organizing the annual Shave It Off event to help raise money for childhood cancer research.

“It makes me feel good that somehow I’m giving back to an important cause and helping to raise money to help fill the funding gap,” she said.

Every year in March, people from across the city come together for Shave It Off, in which individuals shave their heads in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization that raises money for childhood cancer research. This year’s event will be held today (March 16) from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. The goal is to raise $110,000.

Though Miller is steeped in the all of the event details now, just a few years ago, she’d never even heard of Shave it Off. But since starting at the university nearly seven years ago, she has rapidly increased her participation—first just raising money and then by helping plan the event.

Kathy Miller and John Letterio pose for photo

Kathy Miller and John Letterio, professor of pediatrics

Then, four years ago, when the volunteer event organizer position opened, Miller wanted to take on the role—and she’s been doing it ever since.

One of the aspects of the event that stands out most to Miller is the opportunity to hear from an “honored family” who share their experiences. Sometimes the story is one of a child who has overcome cancer, while other times, it’s one of a child who has lost his or her battle.

“Hearing the reality of it is hard sometimes, but it also makes us fight harder to keep doing this and keep pushing to raise more money each year,” Miller said.

And it’s not just through the Shave It Off event that Miller aims to make a difference. She also recently began volunteering with the Make a Wish Foundation. As a volunteer wish granter, Miller meets with families to determine the child’s wish. For example, if a child wants to go to Disney World, Miller and her partner dig to figure out not only why the child wants to go there, but what the perfect visit would look like to get the most out of the experience.

The ability to make a difference also led Miller to at Case Western Reserve University.

While working in pediatrics her first few years at CWRU, Miller took pride in helping the researchers get and manage funds that supported the development of new therapies and cures.

Now, in her current role, she oversees business and strategic planning, educational programs operation management, pre- and post-award management for funded research projects, while ensuring that the department operates smoothly. Miller is driven by process improvement and providing the best customer service possible to both internal and external customers.

“I wanted to go for it and see what kind of a difference I could make here,” Miller said of taking the job in the Department of Population & Quantitative Health Sciences.

And today, she’ll see the difference she can make at the Shave It Off event. Learn more about the event and how you can join the festivities—whether by shaving your head, raising money or just watching—at stbaldricks.org/events/2018ShaveItOff. But first, take a few minutes to get to know more about Miller.

1. What’s your favorite place to grab a bite to eat in Cleveland?

When it’s nice out, I love getting out and going to lunch. If I can get there, it’s L’Albatros. I love going there, sitting on the patio and soaking in some sun. And they’ve got great food.

Outside of that, I’ve really started liking Flip Side a lot, whether it’s me and my kids or my boyfriend—that’s our go-to burger joint.

2. Where would you like to travel that you’ve never been to?

I just got my passport and I would love to leave the country—to Ireland or Australia—but my first thing that I really want to do is see our country. There are plenty of states I haven’t been. We have a beautiful country, so to be able to see the rest of it would be awesome.

3. What is your biggest goal for 2018?

Just keep staying on track, being happy in life and continuing yoga.

4. If you had to pick another field to work in or study, what would it be?

Somewhere where I’m giving back to the community, whether that’s a foundation like St. Baldrick’s or at Make a Wish. It would be somewhere where I can truly feel and see that what I’m doing is making an impact on people.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

I love walking around our beautiful campus and seeing students and others walking around. It’s really awesome to see how diverse our campus is, and to take in the beauty of the old buildings.