The Catalyst

Teaming Up for Maximum Impact

Kohl’s and the American Cancer Society – a focus on wellbeing


Employers have long realized the benefits of demonstrating responsible corporate citizenship through partnering with nonprofits. The special alliance Business Health Care Group (BHCG) member employer Kohl’s has forged with the American Cancer Society (ACS) is proving to be valuable in many ways – for the community, Kohl’s and its associates and their families.

ACS, with Kohl’s support, is working to make an outsized impact on the rate of cancer, while improving health equity in communities, as well as the health of its associates. Recently Spotlight on Success had an opportunity to speak with representatives from both Kohl’s and ACS who were eager to talk about the many successes resulting from their partnership and the advice they have for other employers seeking the same synergies by working with nonprofits like ACS and others.

A multi-pronged partnership

Kohl's Annette Adams and American Cancer Society's Laurie Bertand at a previous Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.

Kohl's Annette Adams and American Cancer Society's Laurie Bertand at a previous Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.

Kohl’s and Kohl’s Cares have funded programs around the country and donated hundreds of thousands of staff volunteer hours through a vast array of nonprofits. Kohl’s has partnered with ACS for more than ten years on its community efforts to help fight cancer.

For example, Kohl’s is a longtime presenting sponsor of the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Milwaukee in May (now postponed until October due to the COVID-19 crisis, date to be announced on May 9) and has provided donations to ACS to support its cancer research and education.

Kohl’s formal relationship with ACS began 11 years ago and continues to evolve. Kohl’s senior vice president of human resources, Annette Adams, described their collaboration as having two areas of focus – community and employee wellbeing – that are demonstrated through three major endeavors:

  • Kohl’s Healthy Families program (including Kohl’s recent $2.25 million commitment over three years to ACS) that promotes family health and wellness to reduce the risk of cancer in southeast Wisconsin
  • A grant to ACS from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to address issues of health disparity in underserved communities in Milwaukee, work which is influenced and supported by the Kohl’s Healthy Families program
  • Promoting employee wellbeing through the many resources ACS offers employers (health and wellness and treatment and support programs, communication and promotional tools and local resources).

“In addition to our strong support of ACS’s fight against cancer in the community and beyond, Kohl’s is currently drawing attention to ACS resources for our associates and where their needs intersect. We are also looking to gain traction with other employers to educate them on the breadth and depth of health and wellness resources available through ACS,” said Adams.


How should an employer choose a nonprofit partner?

Today’s employers have a multitude of choices when looking to partner with a nonprofit. Kohl’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources Annette Adams offered this advice for finding the right nonprofit partnership:

“A nonprofit should be truly committed to advancing the cause that is important for the employer. Our ACS partnership plays directly into how we view ourselves and our mission and how we want to support the work that is happening in the community.”


American Cancer Society Executive Director (Wisconsin) Laurie Bertand explained ACS’s unique relationship with Kohl’s goes beyond mere financial support. “We definitely have a partnership – this is not about Kohl’s just making a donation and the American Cancer Society doing what we need to do with it. There’s a lot of really great discussion around needs and impact, and good trackability on everything we’re doing to make sure that we are achieving not only the mission goals of the American Cancer Society, but also getting to the mission of what Kohl’s wants to accomplish with their dollars.”

Making a positive difference in the lives of families

In 2015, Kohl’s and the American Cancer Society established the Kohl’s Healthy Families program with the aim to reduce the risk of cancer by encouraging families in southeast Wisconsin to adopt active lifestyles and make healthy choices.

Kohl’s support will be used to continue ACS’s work with community organizations and schools in the Greater Milwaukee area to educate families about healthy eating and active living. It will also support educational opportunities at ACS-sponsored community events.

Andrew Moser, Director of Corporate Relations, American Cancer Society in Wisconsin

Andrew Moser, Director of Corporate Relations, American Cancer Society in Wisconsin

Said Andrew Moser, director of corporate relations for the American Cancer Society in Wisconsin, “The Healthy Families program is very grassroots. For example, there’s a lot of education that takes place in schools.

“Kohl’s support is around healthy eating and active living and its overall impact on health and cancer risks. We believe starting kids early with education on how to stay active and healthy and what foods to eat will reap benefits down the road. A major priority for Kohl’s is promoting the health of families, and that can take the form of many different things.”

Moser cited one of his favorite examples of engaging young children in healthy activities. “The program helps teach kids in Milwaukee Public Schools how to ride bikes. They realized some of them don’t know how to ride bikes, so they’re teaching them as part of the physical education curriculum.”

Bridging the gap – hometown health disparities

The Kohl’s Healthy Families program is also helping to combat health disparities in underserved communities by supporting a wide variety of community and health organizations throughout the Milwaukee area. One recent benefactor has been the BHCG 2019 Leading Change, Creating Value Award recipient, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers. BHCG also supports the Sixteenth Street Clinic through its annual golf outing and presenting sponsorship of its 2019 Celebrity Roast.

The Kohl’s Healthy Families program has touched many underserved populations. “The program seeks to equip community health workers that are already trusted by the communities in which they work. It provides them with funding and resources to educate and work with more families,” explained Moser.

It should be mentioned the COVID-19 crisis is having a particular impact on the communities served by the Sixteenth Street Clinic and other health systems and provider groups. For example, preventive cancer screenings are being missed during Wisconsin’s Safer-at-Home directives and the medically homeless population (those without primary care relationships) are finding it difficult to be diagnosed and treated for the virus.

It is expected the Kohl’s Healthy Families program will play a significant role in supporting organizations that are helping those affected by the current crisis. “We will need to look at the impact of COVID-19 on the community and what we learned during this time period,” said Moser.

Laying the groundwork to address health equity

The ongoing Kohl’s Healthy Families program has also helped to set the course for the work of ACS’s community grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to look at health equity in Milwaukee. “Kohl’s has been really honored to support work on health equity, especially given that the company is headquartered here in the Milwaukee area and services this particular community,” said Adams.

Milwaukee was among the first of 12 communities identified by the Foundation as having a high prevalence of health disparities (lack of access to health care, healthy food and nutritional support) that affect the ability of people to take care of themselves, thus impacting the rate of cancer.

Said Bertrand, “The work that we’re doing really runs parallel to the work with the Kohl’s Healthy Families program. A lot of what we already set up and started implementing through the program helped us choose how we were going to move the Foundation dollars through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant in Milwaukee.

“That work is going to continue through 2021 and we’ve involved a lot of community partners that already were in the space of healthy communities, healthy eating and active living. Those doors were easily opened because we had already started building those relationships.”

Making the most of ACS resources

On the employee wellbeing front, Kohl’s is making intentional steps to ensure they are taking full advantage of ACS’s cancer resources and solutions for their associates. For example, they include the ACS weblink in their associate communications and campaigns and make sure to reference ACS in appropriate areas as a reminder to associates, as well as sharing survivor and success stories.

Said Bertrand, “Our mission is to make sure we are available for cancer patients and families all day, every day and that they know they have a place to turn. We are incredibly grateful to Kohl’s for taking our partnership a step further and making sure their associates know that.”

Kohl’s is also interested in working with BHCG to undertake an education, communication and awareness push of the value proposition of what ACS has to offer employers. They are hoping it might also lead to employer support for ACS in other areas such as volunteerism and financial funding, however, it’s not their first priority. Kohl’s believes their ACS partnership is the type of shared effort that can benefit everyone.

Kohl’s/ACS partnership

Relevant observations for other employers:
Kohl’s Annette Adams:

“Cancer is very common within our population and touches so many different people. We all have a vested interest in our people’s health, safety and productivity, so showcasing the readily available, free ACS resources should be a natural fit with most employers’ health programs.”

“Kohl’s was very conscious about strategies to bring ACS into the fold as we look at ways for our associates and their families to access more connected and valuable health care resources. Employers can easily integrate ACS into their program – not as a replacement, but to augment what they are already doing.

“Kohl’s has multiple onsite wellness centers and bringing ACS resources to our people using the wellness centers is an excellent fit. This is especially true in our more rural settings where our health centers find challenges with people needing access to care and help for everything from ride programs to tobacco cessation support. Employers that have made investments in on-site clinics can use resources from organizations like ACS to make a good thing even better.”


More information

The Kohl’s/ACS partnership will be the subject of BHCG’s Delivering Value Series July symposium. Watch for more information about the date, time and format coming soon. If you have questions or would like more information about the American Cancer Society or the highly successful Kohl’s/ACS partnership, you are encouraged to contact Laurie Bertrand ( or Andrew Moser ( from ACS or Annette Adams ( from Kohl’s.

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