We had the good fortune of connecting with Ellie Evans and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ellie, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?

As a soon to be High School graduate and a local titleholder for the Miss Arizona Organization, my “business” is actually my volunteer work for the American Cancer Society. If you’re reading this, chances are you or someone you know has been touched by cancer. For me, there have been several people including a childhood friend, my uncle and most recently my Nana. Over the last several years, I have made a personal commitment to champion the fight against cancer through education, leadership and empowerment. Following the passing of my childhood friend, Maureen, I became involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life in my hometown of Yuma. If you are unfamiliar, Relay For Life is global movement aimed to celebrate survivors, honor those we have lost and raise funds to fight back against cancer.

Over these past five years I have grown “Steps Toward Hope” from a small team of two (me and my mom) to a website www.StepsTowardHope.org and teams across Arizona. In this time I have completed thousands of volunteer hours through attending American Cancer society events, providing community outreach and visiting classrooms. In addition, since 2018 I have assisted in our local event raising over $458,000, of which I have personally raised over $8500. These donations play a key role in advancing cancer research, access to resources and ongoing education.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

As a candidate in the Miss Arizona Scholarship Organization, you select a social impact to work with. Four years ago as a brand new candidate I created “Steps Toward Hope” to encompass all of my volunteer work with the fight against cancer.

I had been introduced to Relay For Life of Yuma County when I was 10 years old, after the sudden diagnosis and death of my friend Maureen. In Fall of 2018 as I was preparing for my first competition I took the initiative to meet with the event coordinator for Relay For Life of Yuma County and created my first Steps Toward Hope team. Initially I was a youth team captain, but as I was able to learn more about the American Cancer Society and Relay For Life I became more involved both on and off the track.

At our event in April of 2019 I was able to assist in many different areas. It was really rewarding to walk the track with survivors and caregivers and hear their stories. Later that year I was able to join the Event Leadership Committee, and at the time I was the youngest member. I was able to speak on behalf of my peers to give valuable insight on how to promote Relay For Life in our community. I was even able to join the American Cancer Society at the Arizona capitol in February of 2020 for “Day at the Capitol,” where I was able to speak directly to State Representatives about cancer-related law reform.

We were in the final stages of preparing for our April 2020 event when the pandemic brought the world to a stand still. Our committee decided that hope wasn’t cancelled and transitioned our event to the first Virtual Relay For Life event in Yuma. We set up luminaria bags at the cancer center, and created interactive posts and videos on our social media pages to engage everyone at home.

The next year our Event Leadership Committee began making plans for a traditional in-person event, but as Covid-19 cases kept spiking in our community the decision was made to create a drive-thru experience. The focus then became to promote our event and use luminarias as a way to honor and remember our loved ones. I recorded PSAs with local media to spread awareness about the event and its beneficiary, the American Cancer Society. It was at this time that I also was able to attend a Relay For Life in East Valley and experience a Relay For Life event in another community.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
After picking up my best friend at the Yuma International Airport, our first stop would be to check in at the AirBNB – The Dandy House. It is like a home away from home and the perfect home base to travel around Yuma County. For lunch our first day it would have to be at The Garden Cafe. No trip to Yuma is ever complete without a bowl of tortilla soup, a glass of spiced iced tea and slice of killer cake. Located right next door is the Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens. Having just reopened to the public, the museum is nestled among the gardens and is an oasis in this desert city. From there it is just a short walk to explore the historic Main Street for some retail therapy at the many local shops. She is sure to find the perfect Arizona souvenir at Rebel and Rove or the Visit Yuma shop and can’t forget to grab a new outfit at CaliLove Boutique. After walking around downtown, it would be time for some caffeine at one of the local Dutch Bros Coffee Stands. Luckily the stand that I work at is close by. We would end the picturesque day with dinner at another local restaurant, River City Grill.

The next day would start bright and early before the heat of the day to hike Telegraph. The view from the top allows you to really take in all of the beauty that is Yuma County. To recharge after our hike we would stop in at Wheezy’s for some breakfast. Then head to a spa day at Laser Gals. Then head back to the AirBNB to have a light dinner in with some fresh produce, locally grown of course.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
In my freshman year of high school, while listening to the radio I heard a commercial about becoming Miss Yuma County’s Outstanding Teen. My mom turned and asked if I would want to compete for the Yuma Scholarship Program. I don’t know what came over me when I shrugged my shoulders and said, “why not.” Because of those 2 simple words, I was filling out a candidate packet for the competition. Even though I had very little experience, I had a community of new people around me who truly wanted nothing but the best for me, and worked tirelessly to make sure I was prepared enough for the competition.

I went on to lose that competition, but I gained something more than a crown. I gained a fire inside me, one that burned for the opportunity to represent my community while volunteering and creating an impact in an organization I was so passionate about. So I continued to compete at another local competition and won a different title that allowed me to continue my path in the Miss Arizona Scholarship Organization. The Miss Arizona Scholarship Organization gave me a voice to impact those around me and has provided me with valuable life skills for my future.

Website: www.stepstowardhope.org

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/desertrosesot/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ellieevans0324/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/desertrosesot/

Other: https://www.instagram.com/stepstowardhopeaz https://www.facebook.com/stepstowardhopeaz/

Image Credits
Jenn Cady Doten Photography Andrea Hauck Photography

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