Jody Skonieczny is the new Executive Director at Sky Foundation. Jody is succeeding Sheila Sky Kasselman, Sky’s recently deceased Founder, beginning July 6th, 2023.
With more than 20 years of nonprofit leadership experience, Jody Skonieczny specializes in bringing people and resources together for the greater good. She has worked in nonprofit organizations of all sizes, from her small-town chamber of commerce to large national charitable organizations. From fundraising and event planning to membership and strategy, working with volunteers has always been her favorite part of the job. Most recently she was Senior Vice President, Member Engagement, Volunteer Development & Chief Strategy Officer with MICPA, and previously held related positions with St. Clair County Community College and Detroit Red Wings – Little Caesars Amateur Hockey.
Skonieczny holds a B.A. in Communication from Oakland University and an M.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Michigan – Flint. She is pursuing her doctorate in Leadership Studies at LSU – Shreveport.
“I am excited and honored to work alongside the dedicated board members, staff, volunteers, and supporters of Sky Foundation. With their passion and hope as a catalyst, I know we will make great strides in our mission of raising awareness and funding innovative research for the early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.” Stated Jody as she was welcomed by Sky Foundation’s Governing Board.
Sky Foundation is a nonprofit based in Michigan that raises awareness and funds innovative research for the early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer. This organization was founded by Sheila Sky Kasselman, a 16-year survivor of pancreatic cancer.
Sheila’s son Geoffrey Kasselman, a member of Sky’s Governing Board and its Search Committee noted: “Selecting someone special to take the reins of Sky Foundation was a thorough and thoughtful process. We have every confidence that Jody is the one to take Sky to the next level. On behalf of the Kasselman family, I welcome Jody and know that my mom would be elated to have Jody leading Sky Foundation.”
About Our Founder
Sky Foundation was established by Sheila Sky Kasselman in 2008 while she was recovering from surgery for cancer of the pancreas. One of her doctors suggested she create a foundation dedicated to raising awareness and funding medical research for the early detection and treatment of the disease.
“Our goal is to find an early detection method to increase survival rates and save lives.”
Sheila was diagnosed with the most common form of pancreatic cancer in the fall of 2007. She completed chemotherapy, radiation and had “Whipple” surgery to remove her tumor.
She used her energy and positive attitude to provide hope and knowledge when people face the challenges of a disease that they never anticipated. “When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know one person who had the disease,” she said. “Throughout the whole ordeal of treatment, I thought, ‘I wish I had someone to talk to other than my doctors.’ But there was no one for me to reach out to.”
“I decided, when I founded Sky, that I needed to become the person who people could reach out to – and that is who I have become. I want to give those diagnosed with the disease and those who have lost loved ones great hope. Through awareness and research we are helping to save lives.”
“Our attendees and financial contributors represent an ever-growing community of people who have lost a loved one to the disease,” Sheila adds. “Like me, they believe they are funding hope through research.”
Sheila was diagnosed with a recurrence of pancreatic cancer in her lung in May 2020. After almost 3 years of battling this second diagnosis, Sheila passed away peacefully from complications of pancreatic cancer on Saturday, February 25, 2023. Sky Foundation will continue its very important mission of raising awareness and funding pancreatic cancer research for years to come, as her legacy.
Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Sky Foundation awards seed-money grants to scientists and clinicians from coast to coast who are pursuing research of great promise in the areas of early detection, prevention or treatment.
This start-up funding helps researchers get to the point in their work where they can successfully attract financial support from the National Institutes of Health and other national funding sources.
Sky Foundation hosts three events to raise public awareness and to be a listening ear to those recently diagnosed. The gatherings, which are both educational and entertaining, are designed to get participants thinking about their pancreas, an organ seldom talked about or understood. Genetic counseling also is introduced as a proactive measure for those with the disease in their family. The events also bring participants in contact with medical researchers who share their latest findings and insights.
The foundation is led by a Governing Board and a Scientific Advisory Committee.
The Governing Board is an all-volunteer board and has fiduciary responsibility for the philanthropic entity. Board members assist with fundraising and also with events to raise awareness.
The Scientific Advisory Committee reviews grant applications and makes recommendations on funding to Sky’s Governing Board. All Scientific Advisory Committee members are researchers or doctors best in their field.
The Sky Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization located in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Its 990 tax returns are available through GuideStar, the nonprofit entity that collects, organizes and presents tax and other information for all IRS-registered nonprofit organizations.