KRISTYN JO BENEDYK is an award-winning filmmaker, director, and writer who uses her gifts to spread cancer awareness through her films and projects. Born in Wheaton, Benedyk has traveled around the world most of her adult life. Even though she didn’t see herself moving back to the Chicago area permanently, she couldn’t be happier in the Hinsdale area: “For someone who always imagined I’d be bouncing from country to country living in different parts of the world at this point in my life, it’s been a real blessing to realize how much happiness I get from being here near all the people that matter so much to me. I do not take for granted what an abundance of love I have in my life.” While losing her sister, Kim, to cancer in 2020, Kristyn and her family started A Pint For Kim. This blood drive donates all of its proceeds to cancer patients in need of transfusions and strives to pay that kindness forward. The nonprofit’s first blood drive in March 2020 brought in over 500 donors, which helped them secure the record for the single-day, single-location blood drive in the state of Illinois. In addition to her successful blood drive, Benedyk has helped launch film and media programs at DePaul University, University of Cincinnati, and Elmhurst University. When she isn’t traveling, running A Pint For Kim, or working on a production, she enjoys spending time with her family and loved ones.
Mantra? I know I can’t wake up and change the whole world, so I try to do one deliberate action a day to “move the needle.” Every day, I make the choice to do something that adds kindness, compassion, and love to our world. Guilty pleasure? Spontaneous travel. Music you love? My current obsession is The Cinematic Orchestra. Best advice ever given to you? There have been many times in my life where I have felt like I don’t fit in, and I used to go to Kim really upset about it. She would look at me with excitement and say, ‘of course you don’t fit in … you’re different, and you’re going to do amazing things!’ She could just flip it from something that made me feel alone to something that made me feel empowered. Earliest memory? Setting up an “art school” in my basement when I was 5 for the neighborhood kids. Making films when I got my first video camera when I was 6. Writing a “children’s novel” on Kim’s computer when I was 7. What’s on your bookshelf? Everything. Tons of nonfiction. Carl Jung. Soren Kierkegaard. Henry David Thoreau. A copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays signed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Love to escape to? Stockholm. Advice you would give to your younger self? Life is absolutely not going to go as planned, but if you lead with kindness, compassion, authenticity, and love, you’re going to be OK.
WHEN IN THE COUNTRY
Your style is? Cozy. Can’t leave the house without? My phone, and my puppy if it’s somewhere I can take her. Transportation? Hyundai SUV. Driving music? Whatever my latest obsession is but Sufjan Stevens is always good. Or Bowie, depending on the mood. Best thing about the country? Access to nature, parks, trees. The fresh air. Worst thing about the country? I have an abnormally high phobia of ticks. The perfect day is? Good sleep, coffee, writing, yoga, nature, family, great food, laughter, connection, and love.
WHEN IN TOWN
Your style is? A bit edgier. I will wear my combat boots with as many outfits as possible. Transportation? If it’s not pouring or a snowstorm, walking. It’s one of the things I love about cities in Europe. Place to eat? Somewhere I have never tried before. Best thing about town? The Music Box Theater. The perfect day is? Good sleep, coffee, museums, the lakefront, loved ones, great food, live music, connection, and love.