Cyndie Davila and Michelle Avila have many things in common — even their last names are similar.

They are Latinas, mothers, first-generation college graduates, millennials and leaders of local nonprofits waging a war on cancer. What they also have in common is the realization that our community is more powerful when we work together. This is why they are putting to rest the misconception that businesses in the same field cannot work together.

There is nothing wrong with a little competition and fun while doing so (like Kern County Cancer Fund’s Campout Against Cancer and American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life), but they are both of the mindset that not working together is a disservice to our great community.

Aside from being friends who enjoy working alongside each other, they are both leaders with backgrounds and experiences they are utilizing to make a difference locally and globally.

Davila is the senior manager of community development for the American Cancer Society and is an executive leader for the Tobacco Free Coalition of Kern. She holds an AA from Bakersfield College in Chicano studies and Spanish, a BA in organizational leadership from Fresno Pacific University, a master’s degree in psychology and leadership from Pennsylvania State University and is currently working on her doctorate in strategic leadership and human resources at Regent University.

Avila is the executive director for the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center Foundation/Kern County Cancer Fund. She graduated from Garces High School and was the first in her family to attend a university. She went straight from Garces to the University of Southern California, and as a freshman, was one of 40 students to be accepted automatically into USC’s Marshall School of Business. She also holds a certificate in corporate community involvement from Boston College and a master’s degree in accounting from National University.

Both have felt the effects of cancer. Avila’s father, Ruben, lost his battle to pancreatic cancer in 2008. Davila’s mother, Mary, was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer and is now in remission. Add to these experiences the many family members and friends they have lost to cancer and it becomes clear why they are fueled to continue making a difference in the lives of patients, survivors and caregivers.

What these friends want the community to know is that both organizations have a valuable, necessary place in our community and in the fight against cancer.

The CBCC Foundation provides free shuttle services to assist patients to treatment. The Kern County Cancer Fund provides over half a million dollars each year in financial support for Kern County patients to pay medical bills related to cancer treatment (including paying for surgery bills, chemo, radiation, prescriptions as well health insurance). The CBCC Foundation also sustains over 20 programs each year with one of them being regular cancer screenings in underserved areas of Kern County. In addition, CBCC Foundation offers social services and a full range of classes and support groups for individuals undergoing cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society is second only to the government in funding cancer research. On a local, national and global level, ACS provides free wigs for cancer patients; 24/7 access to resources for patients, survivors and caregivers via the 1-800-227-2345 line; provides free rides to treatment; free lodging for patients with treatment out of town; transportation grants to cancer centers and hospitals; has funded many of the researchers who have made breakthroughs in cancer treatment and early detection; and is proud to have contributed to the work that has resulted in a 27% drop in the overall cancer death rate in the United States.

Both organizations support and celebrate cancer survivors and their caregivers and empower the community to come together to fight cancer. When asked what the friends appreciate about each other’s organizations Davila responded: “Many people don’t know I started my human resources career at CBCC. As an employee, I saw the impact staff, doctors and the foundation have on patient life. I am grateful for the experiences I gained there and will continue to collaborate with CBCC and promote their work.”

“While CBCC Foundation/KCCF focuses on the immediate needs of local patients we appreciate the American Cancer Society’s decades of commitment to finding a cure through research. Their ability to impact patients globally is inspirational and necessary,” Avila added.

Both agree that leaders who collaborate with and learn from other organizations will grow in skill and relevance. Working together benefits our community and reminds us that united we are stronger.

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