Silicon Slopes Community Hero: Lori Kun
This article appears in the Fall 2018 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine.
Prior to joining Qualtrics in 2017, Kun spent nearly thirteen years at the Huntsman Cancer Foundation as Director of Development. At Huntsman she founded and managed a number of successful fundraisers and events such as the Huntsman 140 bike races and Huntsman Hometown Heroes. While at Huntsman, Kun met Qualtrics founders Jared, Ryan, and Scott Smith, the latter of whom had just finished cancer treatment. Kun invited the Smith family to make cancer research their cause, and although at the time Qualtrics was small and had little money to spare, Kun knew their heart was in the cause and the rest would eventually work itself out. As the company grew, Kun kept Qualtrics involved in Huntsman fundraising efforts and research initiatives. Then, in a meeting with Qualtrics Brand Growth and Global Insights specialist Mike Maughan, the two came up with an initiative to announce at Summit (now X4 Summit), wherein they would ask everyone to donate five dollars toward the fight against cancer — 5 For The Fight was born. Later, when the Jazz patch became available, it was clear that Five For The Fight could be its own charity, and Kun knew she both wanted and needed to be part of the effort full time. So she joined the Qualtrics team.
As Head of Social Impact at Qualtrics, Kun has helped raise millions of dollars for cancer research through 5 For The Fight. “My parents always told me small acts of love are really what are going to make a big difference,” she says. Her parents have been a driving force in Kun’s career, specifically in her passion for cancer research funding. Both her mom and dad have battled cancer, a fight her mom is still fighting with a stage 4 inoperable diagnosis. Kun says of her mother, “I have had her on my shoulder this whole time and she has said things like, ‘This is so important’ and, ‘I think we can really do this.’ She has really been a great advocate. It is unfortunate that everyone probably has someone that has been through it and this is really why 5 For The Fight was born — out of necessity.”
“My role, my purpose on earth is to fund cancer research. I figured that out pretty early, one of my childhood friends passed away from cancer and that was just so staggering to me that could happen,” Kun explains. “It starts with a why. Why do people get cancer? Why does this happen? And how can we prevent it? I just feel like it is the disease of our time, it’s the calling of our time to figure this out.”
In the last twelve months 5 For The Fight has raised $2.4 million toward their goal of $50 million, which they have donated in research grants. One such grant went to Dr. Schiffman, a pediatric oncologist studying the lack of cancer in elephants and how the human body could potentially mimic an elephant’s resilience to cancer. Kun says, “Just last week we had Dr. Schiffman come in and present to the employees. I had people that were chatting with me over Zoom as they were watching it saying, ‘I have tears in my eyes. I feel hopeful.’ I am really just here to connect people with what is going on and connect people with the story. It's just connecting these researchers with the community giving them a platform to tell their story so that people can say that I am a part of that, I am funding that researcher, and I can be a part of the success that he or she has when that research breaks.” Kun explains that most often the researchers themselves have a personal connection to cancer that drives their passion. “Every researcher you'll find in a lab throughout the world, if they are working on cancer, they probably have a personal vested interest and that is what 5 For the Fight kind of teases out. The two things I love asking is what gives you hope and who is your five for? It is kind of like our version of why did you come and why did you stay?”
Qualtrics has pledged to keep the dollars raised in the community where it was raised, so most of the money has gone to researchers in Utah. However they also have a major effort underway in Dublin, another Qualtrics location, and efforts are progressing in the Qualtrics offices in Dallas and Seattle. But most importantly, according to Kun, companies outside of Qualtrics are getting involved with 5 For The Fight. “We are getting the ball rolling, but other companies are really stepping up and saying, ‘Hey, we want to be a part of it,’” Kun says, explaining that employees at various companies are choosing to donate five dollars every pay period to help fund cancer research. “People are personally affected by cancer and motivated but it takes time to see how they can play a role in it. That is what I love about Five For The Fight. Everything you need to know is in its name. It is very simple and the way that we are finding works best is through employee giving, so that everyone at Silicon Slopes (for example) could give five dollars a pay period. The aggregate of that really makes a huge difference and we could really fuel some super important innovative cancer research right here in Utah. So many people here have a story with cancer and I think this is very cathartic for people to be a part of,” Kun adds. “I feel like it is such a gift to work on 5 For the Fight and to know that we’re replicating this in other offices and other communities, and that it’s to a greater purpose — to fuel this important work. I think we have everything to accomplish this goal within reach.”