Meet the Team

Ashley Owen, Purple Community Senior Event Coordinator

Ashley has made a career of fundraising and helping others to achieve philanthropic success. After graduating with a degree in Organizational Communication from Western Michigan University, Ashley started her career working as an Event Coordinator with Bankmark, which provided logistics for the IPO of Grand River Bank in Grandville, MI. She later served as Development Associate for the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids and as Event Coordinator and Senior Event Coordinator for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. There she oversaw a $2.1 million event budget and over 200 committee members which produced a variety of events annually, including galas, golf outings, a Chicago Marathon running team and the Spirit of Saint Nicholas Ball. After several years, she returned to Grand Rapids and served as Event & Corporate Relations Manager for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids and Gilda’s LaughFest. In her current role with Purple Community, Ashley is thrilled to be able to use her years of fundraising experience to provide support to individuals and organizations that want to raise funds and have a passion for cancer and Parkinson’s disease research. Having lost a grandfather to prostate cancer, an aunt who is a 20 year breast cancer survivor, a 10 year old cousin recently diagnosed with Leukemia and countless friends on cancer or neurodegenerative disease journeys, raising funds for Van Andel Institute provides her with the opportunity to be proactive in the fight against these devastating diseases. Ashley is ready to help YOU join the fight today!

Contact Ashley at or 616.234.5390.

McKenzie Hollern, Event Coordinator

McKenzie is a graduate of Western Michigan University where she earned a degree in public relations and a minor in sociology. She is excited to work with a mission driven organization like Van Andel Institute (VAI). McKenzie will work as an event coordinator with Purple Community and bring people together to help directly fund ground breaking research at VAI. She will use her personality, organization, and compassion to create and assist with events. She has seen firsthand how a cancer diagnosis can affect loved ones and is passionate about the work that she is doing with Van Andel Institute’s Purple Community.

Contact McKenzie at or 616.234.5598.

Abbie Hollern, Purple Community Intern

Abbie is a senior at Grand Valley State University with plans to graduate in December of 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Nonprofit and Public Administration. Her focus is in Community Development with a minor in Psychology. She has volunteered with Van Andel Institute many times before along with organizations such as Kids Food Basket, Make a Wish Foundation, and Habitat for Humanity. Abbie is ecstatic to be a part of an organization that brings hope to all those impacted by cancer and Parkinson’s. Abbie’s uncle was diagnosed with colon cancer when she was a sophomore in high school. At the time of his diagnosis she felt as though she could be of no help during his battle, but now that she works with Van Andel Institute’s Purple Community, she feels like she has joined in on the fight against cancer and Parkinson’s! We are so excited to have Abbie be a part of our team!

Haley Swagler, Purple Community Intern

Haley is a senior at Grand Valley State University with plans to graduate in December of 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration. Her focus is in Public Personnel Management with minors in Business and Spanish. Previously she has worked with Habitat for Humanity as a special events and marketing intern, and she volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Laker Traditions Team at Grand Valley. With her passion to make a positive impact in her community, Haley is very excited to be part of an organization that works towards better treatments and ultimately cures for heartbreaking diseases. The mission of Van Andel Institute is one that is close to her heart, as she has seen the amazing strength of her loved ones that have been diagnosed with cancer. Van Andel Institute and Purple Community give HOPE to those fighting, while also setting the stage for a strong support system for those affected and their families.