Cailen Gersch, who prefers the name Kat, is a walking testimony to the phrase “change is possible.” Three years ago, she made the decision to leave a toxic relationship of 16 years and move to Reno. She drove to Reno with all her possessions loaded in her car. When someone stole her car, she lost everything.

Along with battling substance abuse, she didn’t know what resources were available in the city. She resorted to living on the streets. Then, one of her children was taken into Child Protective Services.

Desperate to change her habits and lifestyle, Kat applied for the Crossroads Program. The program provides living arrangements, counseling and other supportive services for men and women. There, she met a group of women participating in the Rise and Grind program that helps women in recovery through fitness and nutrition.

This sisterhood was just what she needed. She got in touch with one of the creators of Rise and Grind, Grant Denton, and joined the 90-day program. Through this program, Kat discovered her passion for fitness and weightlifting.

“It develops that relationship with my body that I didn’t know I was capable of,” Kat said.

Now, one year sober, Kat is giving back and improving the lives of others.

“If you change your mindset, you can change your life,” she said.

Kat’s life struggles have made her the resilient person she is today, and with her background and life experiences, she has become one of the best Downtown Reno Partnership ambassadors in our community.

She prides herself on contributing to making downtown Reno safer, cleaner and friendlier. Kat goes above and beyond by using her connections as an ambassador to help people.

Recently, she did a routine “hotspot check” at the downtown Reno’s train station where a man approached her in desperate need to get on a departing train.

“Because I know the ins and outs of the Amtrak, I was able to talk to the employee and the conductor, hold the train and get him on it,” Kat said.

Thanks to Kat, the man was able to reunite with his family in Chicago and meet his five grandchildren.

Kat came across a family touring downtown and noticed them staring at the climbing wall connected to the Whitney Peak Hotel.

“Because of the experience of our tours with the ambassadors, I was able to take the family directly up to BaseCamp and they were climbing the wall an hour later,” she said.

The community continues to recognize Kat’s dedication to her job.

“She really is an amazing person,” Della Starke said. “Her compassion for the people and ability to get her job done needs to be recognized.”

Her actions help people engage directly with our city and enjoy the great experiences downtown Reno has to offer. Kat is a gem and a gift to many of those who live here, those on an extended visit and those passing through. She cares and her passion shines through every day making downtown Reno bright.