As some of you may already know, the Wildlife In Need Center is grieving a tremendous loss today. Leslie Kiehl, our education coordinator of over 12 years lost her battle with cancer early this morning.
Leslie Kiehl joined Wildlife In Need Center in 2001 as an animal care volunteer. In October 2003 Leslie was hired as our Education Coordinator. Leslie’s background in corporate training in the financial industry was a strong asset to her and her communication skills a good match for the task of developing education programs and growing our education program. When Leslie became staff we had Dakota, the Great Horned Owl, and Slither, the Western Fox Snake, as our only Education Ambassadors. WINC added 21 other Educational Ambassadors over the years and Leslie trained and worked with all of them to develop the relationship of trust needed to work with the animals on programs. She could adapt any programs to any age group, tailoring the education experience individually. Staff all loved when Leslie shared the thank you cards she got from kids with their drawings of Leslie and the education animals. And Leslie enjoyed encountering new questions she could research and share with staff. In addition to her main job of Education, Leslie helped staff in the office answering phone questions and admitting patients. She also assisted animal care staff handling patients and our educational ambassadors for their quarterly in-house health exams.
Problems with Leslie’s sight and a pain in her leg led her through a series of doctor visits, tests, and finally the diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer back in October of 2014. October consisted of many rounds of radiation attempting to halt the progress of the lesions on the bones and brain. A CT scan in January showed that the main tumor was starting to shrink. The hope of that news and the return of her appetite and strength were all very encouraging. This good news allowed her to be able to return to work, where she could see and be with friends. Sadly, however, on Thursday, April 2nd she received the devastating news that the cancer had spread to the tissue lining the brain. Since Leslie had already received so much radiation, it was not a treatment option.
Leslie has literally touched the lives of thousands of people in our community while doing over 1,060 programs with Wildlife In Need. She has instilled a love and respect for animals with people from pre-kindergarten through seniors that will be left as her beautiful legacy. Whether you were an acquaintance from seeing a WINC program, a friend, a co-worker, or could recognize her at the grocery store as “the lady with the owl”, Leslie’s warm, and caring personality made you feel like you were family.
Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and two children, today and everyday moving forward. We can take some comfort in knowing that Leslie is in a place “where turtles don’t have broken shells, birds don’t have broken wings, and there is no such thing as cancer.”