The Jill Foundation: Formed in the Loving Memory of Jill Etzold Kester
In early 2004, Jill Etzold Kester was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. She continued her fight until that October, when she lost her battle. She left behind two young daughters, extended family members and countless friends. She was just 43 years old.
“I met Jill in the summer of 1984, when she was working at a salon across the street from my work,” explains her best friend, Derek Benson. “I wandered in one day to get a haircut, and Jill happened to be the stylist I got. We talked and laughed while she cut my hair and we seemed to have an immediate bond. When I went back for another haircut a few weeks later, I got Jill again. By the time she finished, I knew our life-long friendship had begun. ”
According to Jill’s brother Jerry Grinstain, “Family and friends were the two most important things in Jill’s life. Jill was happiest when she was spending time with her family. She always looked forward to any time we were all together or just one-on-one with one of her brothers. To her nieces and nephews she was known simply as ‘Auntie,’ a name she loved. It also seemed that everyone was her best friend, and she treated everyone as if they were. Once you met Jill you were part of her life and she would do all she could to make sure you were happy. She had many friends that were friends for life.” Adds Derek, “Jill knew no stranger. She was warm and friendly to everyone she came in contact with. She had a great relationship with her family, her co-workers and her clients. She was caring and giving to everyone in her life.”
Jill spent the last 15 years of her career at Artistic Hair in Orange, California. In 1996, the Artistic Hair family (including Jill and owner Barbara Nolasco) started raising money to fight breast cancer through their annual “Cut-A-Thon,” with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society. “Shortly before she died, Jill and I were together alone in her hospital room. She was adamant about me starting a foundation for hairstylists in her condition. She had been a constant supporter of the Cut-A-Thon, and felt the proceeds could instead be used to benefit hairstylists diagnosed with breast cancer. Our 2004 Cut-A-Thon was our most successful to date, raising $12,000. A week later, Jill lost her battle with the disease.”
“In 2008, I called Derek and Jerry and we got the ball rolling on creating The Jill Foundation,” continues Barbara. “On February 19, 2010, we received our designation as a nonprofit, 501(c) 3 organization. Our annual Cut-A-Thon event, along with other fundraisers coordinated and sponsored by those who loved Jill, is now benefiting local hairstylists battling breast cancer through The Jill Foundation.”