Courtney Stevens, an Arnold resident and Severna Park native, always looked up to her sister growing up. In 2014, her sister, Stefanie Ashdown, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and inspired the community, remaining positive and determined. In 2017, Ashdown lost her battle. Stevens, still inspired by her big sister, works as the vice president of Stef Ripple to honor her legacy.
Stef Ripple is an organization founded in memory of Ashdown, affectionately referred to as an ovarian cancer warrior, that spreads awareness about ovarian cancer and supports patients and families during their journeys.
“To me, it's a way of keeping my sister close in my heart and in my family's hearts,” Stevens said. “It's a way to make her proud and to keep her spirit alive.”
Stevens called the organization a family project. Together with Ashdown’s husband, Bob; her parents, Greg and Deb Petr; and honorary family member Wendy Preslan, the family works together to make Ashdown proud.
“We are a family,” Stevens said. “It's not one person. We each shine so we make this happen. We each do our best to be able to keep Stef Ripple going.”
Stevens, who works full-time as a web developer at Anne Arundel Community College, uses her expertise in graphic design to create graphics for the web and social media. She also works closely with a team at Johns Hopkins to manage the Stephanie Ashdown Cancer Family Support Fund and helps with many other administrative tasks.
The fifth annual Stefanie Ashdown Memorial "Do Your Best" 5K Run & 1 Mile Walk will take place September 25 in Arnold. The event is the organization’s top fundraiser each year.
“Besides just raising funds, it was really helpful to spread awareness,” Stevens said, “whether it's the yard signs on the side of the road or the social media that we put on different community websites. It's really good for them to know what ovarian cancer is and to raise awareness.”
In addition to assisting with planning the fundraiser, Stevens spends the day of the event coordinating with vendors and sponsors. When the event is over, Stevens said she usually feels a sense of relief, followed by a strong burst of emotion.
“The whole month of September is full of emotions,” Stevens said. “My sister's birthday is in September, as well. September hits and the emotions come.”
At the same time, however, Stevens said this gives her the push she needs to keep going.
“It's empowering,” she said. “It makes you want to brainstorm and get those creative juices flowing on how we can use our mission.”
The community was supportive during Ashdown’s battle, and it is great to be able to host an event that gives back to the community and simultaneously honors her sister’s legacy.
“I know that if she were here, she would be doing this,” Stevens said. “She might not have a nonprofit, but she would be supporting other warriors. She would be just sharing her three principles of being thankful, helpful and kind.”
To learn more about Stef Ripple or participating in the run, visit www.stefripple.org.