Cheryl Steinholt

Stepping Up

An outgoing Auxiliary president had planned to stay "behind the scenes"

The moment Cheryl Steinholt walked into her first Rady Children's Hospital Auxiliary new member meeting 14 years ago, she knew she was among friends. “I must have known half the people in that room,” she says. “It was like a secret society that I finally discovered, and it was full of some of the greatest people I knew.”

Cheryl immediately immersed herself in Auxiliary activities, mostly assembling gift baskets and crafting decorations for special events. “I preferred to be behind the scenes,” she says, “but I slowly got more and more involved.”

She was asked to co-chair the Scripps Ranch Unit of the Auxiliary and accepted apprehensively. “I just assumed everybody knew more than me—more about the Hospital and certainly more about the Auxilary.” But she eased into the role and formed lifelong friendships. New responsibilities continued to present themselves. Each time, Cheryl was hesitant to step up, but decided to take on new challenges with vigor. She joined the Miracle Makers committee, twice chaired Kids’ NewsDay, and became vice president of the unit council, helping support and mentor leaders to advocate and fundraise for the Hospital.

Her dedication and penchant for raising money didn’t go unnoticed. Two years ago, Cheryl was asked to serve as president of the Auxiliary. “In a short amount of time, I went from tying bows to being the person with the answers,” she says shyly. “I really don’t know how that even happened!”

Under Cheryl’s leadership, the Auxiliary did something unprecedented when it voted unanimously to pledge $2.5 million to establish the Auxiliary Endowment for Neuroscience at the Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine. The Auxiliary has historically supported services and facilities and continues to do so; endowment funds are now being raised in addition to Auxiliary units’ ongoing fundraising efforts.

As the first chair holder of the Auxiliary Endowment for Neuroscience, Joseph Gleeson, MD, and his team of researchers and clinicians are improving patient care by providing clinical genetics, DNA sequencing, bioinformatics, clinical trials, and cutting-edge research for children with neurological diseases and disorders. Cheryl is thrilled to see his work already taking shape. “In just about a year’s time, we have seen our idea come to fruition. Dr. Gleeson came on board and things are starting to happen. It’s so crucial for him to have this support—and it was the Auxiliary’s philanthropy that made it possible.”

Philanthropy is personal for Cheryl, and not just because of her role in the Auxiliary. She and her husband, Bjorn, have personally supported multiple causes for the Hospital, including the Autism Discovery Institute, the Healing Arts Program, and the Audiology Department. It’s also rubbed off on her 25-year-old son, Erik, who attends Auxiliary events and participates in other fundraisers. “He really understands the importance of the Hospital and its role in the community,” she says.

As her term comes to an end, Cheryl wonders if she just got lucky during her presidency. “Everyone has stepped up and made my term as president incredibly rewarding. I think the science and unbelievable potential that our endowment is making possible is so fascinating, and our members are really excited.” She’s seen growth in the number of volunteers, events, and overall visibility for the Auxiliary, and that has translated into record fundraising. “That’s what we’re here for,” she says. “We are all part of the Rady Children’s family, and we are doing everything we can to support it.”