Koss Family

Steve Koss, left, poses for a photo with his wife, Becky, and son Tyler at an August fundraising event organized by family friend Tammy Jansen. More than 900 people attended, inspiring Becky Koss to found a nonprofit to assist families affected by cancer. 

Photo courtesy of Becky Koss

RACINE — The cost of medical bills is tough to manage, and a new nonprofit is attempting to help those in Racine County affected by cancer.

The Koss Family Foundation started in December and received 501©(3) status in May. The nonprofit’s goal is to provide nonmedical financial assistance to families in Racine County dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

Money for the families will go toward items such as groceries, utility bills and mortgage payments, costs which become tougher to manage with the addition of medical bills.

“Your socioeconomic status doesn’t matter until the bills start coming in,” said Becky Koss, 41, of Racine, founder of the foundation. “We want to help with those day-to-day expenses people can’t afford, due to loss of income or medical costs, so people can maintain their families.”

Koss has big plans for the foundation. There are still a few hurdles to go before it is up and running, but she sees a bright future for a nonprofit with a personal connection.

Close to home

Steve Koss, 60, of Racine was having health problems in late 2014. Becky, a diabetes educator, saw he had high blood pressure. His family did not have a history of diabetes so when he had a CT scan in January 2015, her stomach churned.

“Too much knowledge is sometimes scary,” Becky said. “I had a feeling it was pancreatic cancer.”

That fear became reality 6 hours later when Steve was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A type of cancer with a low survival rate.

“We were in a state of shock,” Becky said. “Everything just changes in the blink of an eye. Then you realize life is short and you just have to live.”

They lived their lives with their now 8-year-old son. Steve continued to enjoy fishing while the cancer spread to his lungs, liver and small intestines. He is receiving chemotherapy and is in stage four.

Last August, Tammy Jensen, a family friend, set up a fundraiser to support Steve. His close friends flew in and his local friends and family attended, but they never expected more than 900 people to show up, she said.

“There was this huge outpouring of support from people in the community we didn’t even know,” Becky said. “To see that support from strangers was amazing.”

From that event, an idea was hatched. Becky wanted to help families affected by cancer in some way.

Becky recruited two business-minded friends who had to reign her in from trying to jump to a national scale; she settled on helping those in Racine county.

“I want to help people in the county no matter where people were getting treatment,” Becky said.

With help from her friends and the Marquette University’s nonprofit law clinic, she created the foundation.

For Christmas 2015, she gave the foundation to Steve. Though he thought it was something else, he was happy to see his wife create the nonprofit.

“I know he thought it was a fishing trip,” Becky said. “It was a complete surprise and now he is 100 percent on board.”

Almost off the ground

The majority of paperwork for the foundation is complete, but there are still a few administrative tasks left.

The foundation is working with Marquette to ensure its application does not violate HIPAA laws. Once completed, applicants can apply to receive support from the foundation. While the application is being finished, the foundation will continue to raise money and bring awareness to it.

“We’re still working on the boring stuff,” Becky said. “We really want to get into the community and want to raise a little bit of money for when we get started.”

Becky said her plan for the next fiscal year is to help five families, with a cap of $1,000 per family.

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