Living Life To The Fullest
Role Models, Challenges Shape Lori Kizner
By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News-Record 12/31/18
HARRISONBURG — Everything is different in Lori Kizner’s world.
To her, it’s about mentoring college students and helping young kids reach their full potential. But it’s also about living.
Living her life to its fullest potential.
Kizner is known to most people in the community for two things: being the executive director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, and being the wife of Scott Kizner, former Harrisonburg City Public Schools superintendent.
“I know this sounds cliché, but my husband has been a huge role model in my life,” she said. “As the superintendent, he was so engaged with the schools and accessible and hands- on, so I modeled my career after him.”
Lori Kizner, 59, has been the director of the local Boys & Girls Club for more than three years, and has served on the nonprofit’s board of directors for over eight years. In addition to the club’s headquarters at the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center in Harrisonburg, it also has satellite programs at Stone Spring and Spotswood elementary schools and in Elkton, Grottoes and Timberville.
When her husband left Harrisonburg in August to take the superintendent’s post in Stafford County, she had plans to leave her job in June to move there as well.
But her attachment to the club, which offers after-school, summer, mentoring and athletic programs for kids, has made leaving difficult.
“I absolutely love what I do so it makes it hard to walk away,” she said. “We have a terrific team and that’s also what makes it hard to leave, and as long as my husband and I continue to see each other every weekend, it’ll be fine.”
Melissa Cave, Boys and Girls Club’s finance director, said when Kizner told her she was going to leave, she cried for days. “When she leaves, we will be losing a big part of this organization,” Cave said. “Her personality and love for the kids and community is unreal. She gives 100 percent for them.”
Kizner, a native to Long Island, N. Y., met her husband at Camp Cummings in Brewster, N. Y., where they were counselors for kids with disabilities. In high school, she volunteered at a Cerebral Palsy Center in New York and baby-sat two disabled children.
“I knew in high school that I wanted to work with kids with disabilities,” she said. “I really enjoy being able to help them and be a source of positivity in their life.” She received a bachelor’s degree in social work from Stony Brook University, a master’s in counseling from James Madison University and a master’s from Radford University in school administration.
Her success didn’t come easy, though. Around 15 years, ago, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. “A lot of people don’t know I’m a cancer survivor,” she said. “People think that cancer is a death sentence, but it’s not. There can be a healthy life after.”
What got her through was every letter, phone call and visit from family and friends. “You know who your true friends are when you have something like this happen,” she said. Her paternal twin sister, Linda Riefberg, and her children were among those people that made a difference.
The Kizners have three daughters: Shannon, 25, who was adopted from foster care and will soon be an elementary school teacher,
Korinne, 32, an attorney in Richmond, and Rachel, 29, a special education teacher in Arlington.
“I always told my kids to treat others the way you would want to be treated. It ties into what you do for a living,” Lori Kizner said, who added that she also lives by that motto in her work and personal life.
“I’ve made even more of an effort to keep in touch with the important people in my life because they’ve been there for me and have treated me well, during the tough times,” she said.
With the worst behind her, she spends every day going to the gym and is involved in a book club that she began three years ago called “Girls with Glasses.”
“I also love to bake,” she said, adding that her grandmother was an avid baker. “But I have to give many of my baked sweets away because otherwise I’d be 500 pounds.”
Kizner’s grandmother also played a significant role in her life, and not just because she showed her the world of baked goods.
Her grandma was a high school biology teacher who always had dinner on the table at the end of the day.
“In a time where most were solely stay- at- home moms, she was able to juggle work and family,” Kizner said.
“My life in Harrisonburg and the role models who helped me get to where I am has really shaped who I am now,” she said.