Kristina Maher’s energetic spirit and warm sense of humor come across as she tells about her first “real” job at Ace Hardware. “I liked interacting with people. I also liked proving to the guys that I could do what they were doing,” she said.
One time, Maher asked a male customer how she could help. She continued, “He goes right to the guy behind me and asks his question. He answers, ‘You’ll have to talk to her’.”
As a student, Maher was active in drama and dance.
“I started at a dance studio in Madison. It was what I wanted to do. My parents made me spend my babysitting money on it,” she recalled.
She was co-captain of the Verona High School dance team and inspired by an excellent coach. Maher explained, “She’s been in the back of my mind to this day about how I want to be like coach Kuehl. She was very positive, enthusiastic and just made it really fun.”
Maher attended UW-Platteville.
“I was super involved in college. I was the treasurer of the service club. I was copy editor for the newspaper for a little bit. I joined dance team. I branched out and joined a sorority.”
Maher helped found United Greek Council to unite and portray positive aspects of the Greek community. “United Greek Council still exists today, which I think is so cool,” beamed Maher.
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and minors in public relations and psychology.
“I was undecided until the very last minute. I just liked everything. I didn’t want to have to pick,” she said.
She considered accounting until taking a part-time job during tax season.
“I was way too social a person. I couldn’t just sit and number crunch. That’s why I turned to HR,” she said.
She followed that path right out of college and worked in the field for over 10 years. “I was always an HR generalist and I knew if I were to niche, the things in HR that I enjoyed most out of HR were benefits,” she added.
Last December, Maher joined BenefitWorks. The Madison firm brokers benefits for employers and individuals. She is “helping people who may be diagnosed with something or having a bill they are overwhelmed with.”
For many years, Maher volunteered on behalf of food pantries and the March of Dimes through the Middleton Jaycees. She was seeking her niche, a cause she could be excited about. Instead, in 2009, she met husband, Trent. He was also volunteering while stationed to a desk job in Madison by the US Navy.
Their courtship later included a visit to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was stationed as a prison guard. After their marriage in 2012, he went on reserve duty. He now works as a Service Account Manager at CDW. They moved Waunakee in 2013.
She coached “Girls on the Run” for two seasons at Heritage Elementary and ran a half-marathon in California to benefit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
“I was looking for something that I could be passionate about,” she said.
On the first anniversary of her own mom’s passing from breast cancer, a friend contacted her about helping to form the Beyond Pink Foundation. Maher said, “It was like, this is a sign. This is something that I should say yes to.”
The foundation addresses unmet needs of patients battling breast cancer. It has already rolled out a training program at the Carbone Cancer Center that pairs those who have survived breast cancer with someone newly diagnosed. There are also plans to focus on education and insurance barriers to some aspects of treatment.
“My mom definitely influences me to want to help folks with the challenges they face,” Maher said.
The foundation’s first fundraising event hopes to spread awareness of the organization. It will take place Oct. 23 at North and South Seafood & Smokehouse in DeForest.
More can be found on Facebook @BeyondPinkFoundation.
On the lighter side, Maher has joined Madi Smith and Cole Ripp to help coach Waunakee Middle School’s first-ever dance team. As it was for her, she sees dance team providing an opportunity for youngsters who aren’t geared to organized sports. First tryouts are next week.
The Mahers hosted a holiday gathering for their Centennial Park neighborhood, then decided to “kick it up a notch” with a block party in August. An hour into that event, one of the children asked about doing it again next year. With a gleaming smile, Maher said hers is a “very full life, with things I love doing.”