Today’s real-life Wonder Woman has suffered unimaginable loss, becoming a widow at age 28. But in spite of her grief, Kayla Strand chose to find the beauty in life–and in helping others. She followed her purpose and passion to bravely create a foundation in honor of her late husband, Kyle. The INDY Foundation stands for “I’m not done yet,” which were words Kyle used often during his battle with cancer. Kayla lives life to the fullest. Every day. Even on the hard days. She is putting her grief into action, giving love and support to other people going through what she and Kyle did.
I’m honored to introduce you to today’s real-life Wonder Woman…Kayla Strand.
KR: Welcome, Kayla! Can you tell us a little about your story?
KS: I am a small town country girl who loves to travel. A shopping guru. I blame my mom and grandma for my shopping addiction. I’ve become a fitness fanatic. Founder of INDY Foundation, a nonprofit focused on giving back to the cancer warriors of the world. Saleswoman. Bartender. Project Manager. Widow. Blogging and exercise is my stress reliever. I have one fur baby – Maxx, he is my protector. Friends and family are important to me, I strive to spend as much time as possible with them. In the summer you will find me at the lake – fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding and probably basking in the sun with a drink!
After losing my husband, Kyle, to colon cancer in 2017, I became bound and determined to make the most of my time here on earth. I found that even in the midst of grief you can be grateful and have faith in the journey. Being able to give back and support others has become my purpose and passion. I found peace in channeling a lot of my emotion through INDY. I have to give credit for my bravery, drive and success to Kyle’s legacy and the grace of God.
KR: Please tell us about INDY Foundation.
KS: INDY Foundation’s purpose is to provide love, faith and financial support by directly supporting Minnesota’s cancer warriors and their families as they fight the battle at hand.
Every month our selection committee picks two warriors – one over 18 and one under 18. We highlight their story by going to their home and doing a video. We present them with a check and we also give a portion of the proceeds from that months sales back to the warrior as well. To be eligible as a warrior, you must live in MN and be in the midst of your cancer battle. We accept all ages and all types of cancer.
INDY supported 24 warriors and donated more than $18,000 in our first year of existence. We are continuing to grow and expand our reach.
KR: What Does It Mean To Be An Official INDY Warrior?
KS: INDY was built around the philosophy of creating a loving Tribe and sense of community to provide faith-based and financial support to Minnesotan’s battling cancer. Being an Official INDY Warrior means that you have been nominated by the public and have been chosen by committee to serve as a Faith and Love Ambassador for the INDY Nation. It means that your battle with cancer is being recognized by a group of people and you are surrounded by love. It also means that through the online sale of our merchandise, we are able to provide you with a portion of the proceeds. It also means that a professional videographer and a Board Member to visit you at your home and share your story with the world. We understand that cancer is draining and that you may not be up for visitors. Please do not worry. We are laid back and just want to come share some sunshine and love.
We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization. As we enter our 2nd year as a nonprofit, we are growing at unprecedented speeds. We continue to share our passion for supporting our fellow Minnesotans in their battle with cancer. Check us out here – www.im-not-done-yet.com. Also follow us on Facebook & Instagram for all the lastest INDY news!
KR: Don’t you have an event coming up?
KS: Yes! We have our first ever Bowties & Arrows Gala coming up on March 30th at Jack & Jim’s in Duelm.
KR: Let’s talk a little more about you. What brings you joy and fulfillment?
KS: Travel — There is something so fulfilling and soul-cleansing about exploring new areas. It gives me the sense of freedom and allows me to escape from the day to day grind once in a while.
Friends & Family — I would not be where I am today without these people. We all go through things in life that alter or change who we are, both negatively and positively. After losing my husband, I was at a low point in my life. I wasn’t quite sure how to start over. I had a tribe of people who were consistently there to support and build me up. My friends started the Sunday tradition of “Family Dinners” at my house. At least one Sunday every month, we would get together for dinner, talk about our lives and just be present. That meant the world to me.
INDY — Starting a nonprofit was really scary, however the core purpose and passion was clear. So it was easy – the rest was just details that would come together. I had no experience in the nonprofit world and I didn’t have a clue on how to start one. However I do have Bachelor’s in business and I knew people with nonprofit experience, so what did I have to lose? I began by writing down people that I knew, trusted and what I thought they would be good at. This helped me to assemble a board of directors, who unintentionally are all some pretty kick a** ladies. I found my tribe and we are killing it. The amount of joy that I get each day from our warriors is indescribable. However I also get joy from the team of ladies that are volunteering their time, when they have full time careers and families to balance as well.
KR: We all have inner super powers. What are some of yours?
KS: I truly enjoy inspiring and empowering others to go after what they want. I am a very driven individual so when you tell me I can’t do something, I will do everything in my power to make sure I can do it. And being busy – it’s what I do, I rarely have a free day!
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
KS: My mom is an absolute inspiration and a huge influence in so many ways. As a single mom at 19, she worked several jobs to support me, but more importantly, she taught me key values that have made me who I am today. I would not be where I am or who I am without her. I have a lot of other ladies who also inspire and influence me daily. I’m very fortunate to have a tribe that empowers and supports other women.
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
KS: To be able to turn back time. There are people in my life that I wish I could hug just one more time.
KR: Knowing what you know at this stage of your life, what words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?
KS: Be who you are, not who you think the world wants you to be. Follow your dreams and passions early in life. Faith over fear. Fear is a liar and if you let it overcome your thinking it will distract you from the path you are supposed to follow. Be grateful and have faith!