Kirstin Litz, vice chair of the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation board and an active volunteer for many other causes, has been honored as the recipient of this year's Pleasanton Mayor's Award.
A longtime Pleasanton resident, Litz was commended for her commitment to breast cancer awareness for more than two decades and for her support of dozens of Tri-Valley and regional nonprofits across the spectrum -- all while thriving professionally as a software engineer and overcoming her own battle with cancer.
"I am often asked why I volunteer as much as I do. The simple answer is because I can," Litz said during an interview after accepting the award earlier this month.
In presenting the recognition, Mayor Jerry Thorne said friends and fellow volunteers lauded Litz "as selfless, as an advocate against injustice, as an advocate for the underdog and as having a heart of gold."
"Whether she is sewing clothes, feeding the hungry, building homes, meeting with patients, serving on a board or helping to organize a fundraiser, Kirstin brings courage and a can-do attitude to everything she does," Thorne added. "Clearly, she is an inspiration to all of us."
Around 250 city officials, current and former elected representatives, community leaders and other residents were on hand in the Casa Real Event Center at Ruby Hill Winery for the evening dinner and award presentation organized by the city of Pleasanton on Nov. 16
The 47th annual Mayor's Award Celebration event also served as an opportunity for the Pleasanton community to recognize and highlight the work done during the past year by city commissions, committees and leaders -- many of whom were in attendance.
Litz said she was stunned to hear Thorne identifying her as the Mayor's Award recipient -- the winner's name is kept a secret until the ceremony.
"While waiting for the program portion of the mayor's dinner, I was reading the names of past Mayor's Award recipients. Many of the names were familiar from attending similar events and volunteering around town," she said. "Little did I know that my name was going to be added to this list of amazing, giving individuals and organizations."
"I am deeply honored to be this year's Mayor Award recipient. Thank you to Mayor Thorne and the city of Pleasanton for believing in me, supporting me and honoring me," Litz said, adding:
"I'm so proud to call myself a Pleasanton resident and to work alongside my community to make our city even better. It brings joy and fulfillment to my life in so many ways. Let's keep up the good work."
Litz, who has worked as a software engineer and developer for more than 25 years, including the last 11 at Franklin Templeton Investments in Dublin, started her passion for breast cancer awareness and support over 20 years ago by participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fundraising walk.
Since then, she has completed two Avon 3-Day Walks, one Komen-3-Day-Walk, and an Avon 39, plus a variety of other 5K and 10K walks for cancer support and other good causes.
Also during that time, Litz faced a battle of her own. She was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer several years ago after a routine mammogram.
"Well, this did not slow her down," Thorne said.
"Instead it energized the courage within her," the mayor added. "With the same positive outlook she brought to promoting the awareness of breast cancer, she confronted her condition by eventually defeating the breast cancer within her."
Next month Litz will mark four years as a cancer survivor.
She also now sits on the Board of Directors for HERS (short for Hope, Empowerment, Renewal and Support), and is currently serving as the board's vice chair.
The foundation supports women who undergo cancer treatment by offering a range of services, regardless of insurance or financial status, including surgical garments, wigs and prosthetic bras for women who have undergone a single or double mastectomy, Thorne noted.
"Kirstin is committed to helping these women feel good about their bodies, to rebuild their self-esteem and to feel whole again," Thorne said.
But her devotion for volunteering doesn't stop at HERS.
Thorne called out some 20 other organizations Litz has donated time to support over the years -- saying his list was just a tip of the iceberg for her resume.
Those charity efforts included Dress a Girl Around the World, Chemo Bag Ministry, Valley Humane Society, Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation, Relay for Life, Bright Pink Ambassadors, Kids Against Hunger, Open Heart Kitchen, Hope Hospice, Alameda County Food Bank, American Cancer Society, Toys for Tots, Blue Star Moms, One Warm Coat, Junior Achievement, Red Cross, National Breast Cancer Coalition, Wreaths Across America, Friends of Faith and Tri-Valley SOCKS.
Volunteering has always been part of Litz's life, a passion instilled in her by her parents, and she has no designs on slowing down.
"A little over 15 years ago my job at PeopleSoft brought me to Pleasanton. At the time I had no idea what this city had in store for me. Until then, most of my volunteering had been focused on more global issues," she said.
"Over the years that changed as I came to realize I live in an amazing and unique community where my skills could really make a difference for my neighbors," Litz added. "There are organizations and events each year that I don't miss and others I learn about along the way. I'm always up for trying something new!"