Stephen (Sven) Johnson

YSC's 15 Volunteers Making a Difference

Stephen (Sven) Johnson, Co-founder and Leader of YSC Champaign-Urbana Face 2 Face Network

Sven's wife Leslie Hammersmith.

Sven’s wife Leslie Hammersmith.

When Sven’s wife, Leslie Hammersmith, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36, they were both shocked.

As Leslie’s cancer journey moved ahead, she wanted to start giving back to Young Survival Coalition (YSC) and those who had been a lifeline to her. Though neither of them had ever run a marathon, they discovered the charity runner program for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and the couple embraced the challenge.

Sven completed several races across the country raising over $15,000 for YSC from 2007–2010, but he didn’t stop there. When Leslie and Jennifer Arnold Smith began YSC awareness and support events in 2009, he quickly became involved.

Being part of his wife’s cancer experience spurred Sven into a lifetime dedicated to improving support and education for all people affected by cancer. From working with YSC to ensure a presence in local hospitals, at health fairs and community events, to being a welcoming and understanding presence at the YSC Face 2 Face (#YSCF2F) network meetings, Sven is dedicated to making sure no one has to go through cancer alone.

But he wanted to do more … so, being a musician, he utilized his ties to Champaign-Urbana’s music scene and started a live music fest called Beneath the Skin in 2010. This annual event raised nearly $5,000 over three years for YSC. During the fundraiser, local musicians perform and provide a platform for the YSC F2F to share information.

Sven says, “Speaking openly about the challenges Leslie and I faced connects me to other young couples dealing with breast cancer and lets them know they are not alone.”


Sven and wife Leslie at Beneath the Skin.

Thank you Sven for making both caregivers and survivors in Champaign-Urbana feel recognized and appreciated!

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Comments (2)

2 Responses to Stephen (Sven) Johnson

  1. Andrea says:

    Sven and Leslie are the local presence here. I am so thankful they do what they do! As one of the ladies they have helped, I can say they allowed me to have real hope. Seeing a real face at our meetings at Jupiter II every last Tuesday of the month in the basement from 7-9 pm. Getting to know Leslie, I found that she had survived my type of cancer! Before her, everyone I’d known with that type had passed.I can’t describe what that fact alone meant to me. Add in that Leslie and Sven are great people and I met tons of other survivors through YSC. I. Have. Hope!

  2. Joyce says:

    Sven and Leslie are incredible people! I am so fortunate to have met them at our local YSC meetings at Jupiter’s II. They made me feel welcome and not alone in my fight against breast cancer. And I have met several friends through them. What a great group of people!!! Thanks for everything you do!

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