Photo by Barbara Ries
Given that she’s a mover and a shaker, it makes some sort of cosmic—or at least seismic—sense that Judi Shils moved to Marin on October 17, 1989, the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake. While known for her unrelenting work with the Marin Cancer Project (now Search for the Cause), Shils has a track record of meaningful and enviable projects. Her 20-year stint as an Emmy-award-winning television producer started in her hometown of Philadelphia and took her around the globe.
In 1995, Shils founded the still-thriving Diary Project, an online forum aimed at teens that has since inspired a play, The Diary Project, which showed here in Marin and is bound for New York this winter. In 2002, Shils attended a meeting, hosted by the Northern California Cancer Center, with a friend who had just finished treatment for radical breast cancer. They learned that breast cancer rates in Marin had risen 60 percent in just eight years. “I had to do something in her honor to try and reverse that trend,” Shils says.
Thus began the next chapter of her life. “For me, the greatest part of this [Search for the Cause] work is the opportunity to gather information and educate people about potential risk factors in our lives that can be changed and/or mitigated.” Shils is especially proud to work with her 16-year-old daughter—her “true inspiration”—on the Teens for Safe Cosmetics campaign, which she describes as “teens teaching teens and the community about toxic chemicals in our cosmetics and daily-use products and encouraging them to seek greener alternatives.”
You could live anywhere. Why Marin? Marin is magic. It’s a place where I am inspired to make a positive impact and it enables me to do things that I can’t imagine doing in any other urban area.
What makes you happy in Marin? Waking up and looking at the mountains. Embracing the splendor of our home with my daughter and Kasie, our dog. Hiking Phoenix Lake with my gal pals. Going through the Rainbow Tunnel and knowing I am home. Working with so many fantastic local shopkeepers, business owners, political leaders, and residents. Having the gift of living in a small community with a huge heart.
What bothers you here? I wish there were fewer cars or more hybrids. We live in a community that has great capacity to make a difference and I look forward to the residents of Marin taking on that responsibility in a big way.
What do you value every day? My life with my daughter, happiness, fulfillment and making a difference in our world.
What is your personal idea of luxury? Spending a week at Calistoga Ranch with my daughter, being well looked after, and spending hours in the spa! A dream come true…
What person has influenced you the most? My parents gave me my wings and let me journey forward to a life filled with so many incredible experiences. My daughter inspired me the day she was born. I am blessed with doing what I love every day of my life, working with her to achieve some lofty goals that will impact our small place on this earth.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your work? The day that we did the Marin Cancer Project door-to-door campaign in November 2002. To see thousands of volunteers reach out to their neighbors to help make our community a healthier place to live was magnificent. The spirit, camaraderie and goodness that came out of the day forever touched my core.
What’s your desert-island favorite book or album? Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is a book about a woman’s journey that we can all identify with. I loved reading it.
What’s your favorite place to unwind? Phoenix Lake or on a tennis court with my daughter.
Do you have a favorite Marin view? Looking out over Phoenix Lake or looking down from the hills above the lake.
How do you want to be remembered? As a person with vision and compassion. As a good mom and inspiration to my magnificent daughter.