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The Hope Lives! organization was founded in 2001 by breast cancer survivor, Lydia Dody, a Ft. Collins businesswoman.  Today, Hope Lives! continues to offer free, supportive services & products to breast cancer patients in active treatment in Larimer and Weld Counties. 

Board of Directors
PHOTOS Courtesy of Julie Ulstrup Photography

Lydia Dody, Founder & Board Member

Starting a new organization was my creative vision but making it a reality took a village. 


While fighting an arduous battle with breast cancer in 2001, my experiences and struggles during treatment led me to reach out to many complementary care providers to ease my Chemotherapy side effects and help me endure my treatments physically, psychologically and emotionally. These services improved my recovery and quality of life so much that it moved me to start The Lydia Dody Breast Cancer Foundation non-profit to help other women in treatment. 

My mission was to support and strengthen those affected by breast cancer by providing care, guidance and education. We serve as a partner as they heal in mind, body and spirit.

The organization started providing services in January 2002 and since then Hope Lives! has provided services and improved the lives of thousands of women. The name has changed to Hope Lives! The Lydia Dody Breast Cancer Support Center to better describe who we are now. 


The need for services continues as statistically 400 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Weld and Larimer Counties each year.  According to Lydia, “We want to provide free post diagnosis services to all women in northern Colorado. We are committed to continuing our important work with the supportive help of our professional providers, generous donors, committed board members, staff and volunteers.”

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Mark Koepsell, Board President

Mark is the owner/operator of Xanadu Med Spa in Fort Collins which he purchased in 2015.  He takes great pride in managing a team that is client focused with phenomenal results.  Prior to that, Mark was the CEO of a non-profit management company with offices in Fort Collins and St. Paul, MN.  He and his staff provided overall leadership, board, financial, marketing, and event management for 18 different national and regional non-profit organizations. 


Mark began his career in Higher Education.  It was a position at Colorado State University that brought him to Fort Collins from Saint Louis University in Missouri.  Mark received his bachelor's degree at Carroll University in Wisconsin and a master's degree in educational psychology and counseling from Eastern Illinois University.  He is the father to two beautiful college aged daughters. 


Mark says, “I am proud to have this opportunity to serve on the Hope Lives Board of Directors.  I am inspired to do this work on behalf of the important women in my life.  Hope Lives! plays such an important role in our community and I am pleased to be able to play a small part in its success!”

Melissa Venable, Vice President


Melissa Venable is a Fort Collins nonprofit executive and community leader who currently serves as board vice-president of Hope Lives!


Melissa is also a published author and certified Life Coach. She resides in Fort Collins with her husband and is mother to two young-adult sons. Melissa served as the Executive Director of Hope Lives from 2010-2015 and is still passionate about the vital mission of the organization.


Melissa says, “No one battling cancer should have to face that battle alone. Hope Lives is here to make sure that breast cancer patients in Larimer & Weld counties receive the tangible support and  guidance that they need as they navigate their recovery.”


Jill Rickards, Board Member

Jill Rickards is deeply rooted in our local Fort Collins community for 40 years and now serves as a board member for Hope Lives!. Jill has continually owned and operated an accounting practice where she has provided accounting, management and tax services to non-profits.


Jill has served on numerous non-profit boards in the community and understands the unique challenges nonprofits face each day.  Hope Lives! truly CARES about the people they serve and provides amazing support for a healing environment. 


Jill says, “It is my pleasure and privilege to be on the board.”

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Kay Schranz, Board Member

Kay is our new board member at Hope Lives!  After attending the 20th Anniversary Gala 2022 she was very touched with the stories of women going through and recovering from breast cancer and decided she wanted to be a part of this outstanding and worthwhile organization.

Kay’s background is financial in nature, after having been a financial advisor/insurance agent, and previously employed as marketing/training director for a local bank for many years.

Kay and her husband are recently retired and enjoy traveling to see all their children and (22) grandchildren across the country.  They enjoy ballroom dance and golf, as well as gardening and landscaping in the summer months.

Kay is very proud to be affiliated with Hope Lives, and is inspired by all the women receiving services. To be involved in helping other women when they are going through some of their most challenging times is a privilege and an honor.

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Gretchen Johnson, Board Member

Gretchen was born and raised in Duluth, MN where she spent most weekends at her cabin in the Northwoods, exploring, canoeing, hiking, roasting s'mores, and showing up for supper when the dinner bell rang. Her childhood home was the "Kool-Aid" house. She and her two kids relocated to Fort Collins about 6 years ago when her daughter chose CSU.  As outdoor enthusiasts, they all love everything Fort Collins and Colorado has to offer and they’re thrilled to call Colorado home!

Her professional career began as an RN in the OR at The Mayo Clinic in the GYN Oncology department. During this time, she was presented with an opportunity to enter the Surgical Device industry for post operative pain management. She grew her career into the Director of Strategic Alliance, creating many educational opportunities for surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses caring for surgical patients. She was fortunate to travel and explore our country during her medical career. That is when she fell in love with the West! You can often find her hiking, camping, skiing, and enjoying a bunch of outdoor activities. Serving her community has always been important to her. She has volunteered at Loveland Habitat for Humanity, Colorado Youth Outdoors and the Susan G Komen Foundation. She’s always looking for opportunities to help out and is looking forward to serving on the board for Hope Lives!


Carol Lacert, Board Member

Carol retired in 2001 from a hospital and clinic.  She was the Director of Resource Management and Patient advocate.   Carol says, "Was a great experience."


After she retired, she became an ambassador of a nonprofit in 2014, Inheritance of Hope.  She did this to send Northern Colorado families to a retreat to help families handle the changes in their lives with one parent that had a terminal illness.  She did this for 7 years and sent 19 families to the retreats.  Every family that went, let her know how great the retreat was. 


She has since retired from Inheritance of Hope and has now joined Hope Lives!  Her daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 33 years old. In 2006, she helped Hope Lives! with fundraising. 


Carol says, "Hope Lives! helped Marci deal with the challenges and she was happy to have some of the services to help her. Marci was excited to help Lydia raise funds too.  I am excited to be part of the board".

Exciting Changes to the Hope Lives! Board and Staff

Hope Lives! The Lydia Dody Breast Cancer Support Center is excited to announce recent changes to the organization that will position Hope Lives! for growth and success in 2023.  If you are interested in joining our Board of Directors, please reach out to us today!


Hope Lives! was founded in 2001 by local Fort Collins businesswoman and breast cancer survivor, Lydia Dody, after she experienced the benefits of complementary care support during her treatment.  Since its founding, Hope Lives! has offered complementary care products and services free of charge to local patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer.


Hope Lives! is pleased to announce we are expanding our services into Weld County and look forward to now supporting patients in both Larimer and Weld counties. Our services are also extended to Wyoming residents that are receiving treatment in Larimer or Weld counties. 

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