Meet the compassionate and hard-working team at Jacob’s Heart — we’re a committed and inspired group.
I’m the one who inspires our team to improve the quality of life for each child and family.
Lori started Jacob’s Heart in 1998 at her kitchen table when her friends’ son Jacob was diagnosed with leukemia, and has since built the organization from the ground up. Under Lori’s leadership, Jacob’s Heart has grown from serving one child with cancer 19 years ago, to now serving hundreds of children and thousands of family members each year.
In 2002, in response to a crisis in public health services for children with serious illnesses, Lori co-founded the Children’s Hospice and Palliative Care Coalition and served as Co-Executive Director for eight years. There, she built a state-wide coalition dedicated to improving care for children with life-threatening conditions, spearheading several healthcare policy initiatives including the enactment of the Nick Snow Children’s Hospice and Palliative Care Act of 2006. Lori was instrumental in the enactment of Provision 2302 of the Affordable Care Act, which allows children to receive hospice care concurrently with curative therapies. These provisions allow for an entirely new hospice and palliative care service delivery model for children with cancer and other life-threatening conditions. The service delivery model created by Jacob’s Heart was key to the design of these public policy initiatives.
Lori’s awards include Oprah Winfrey’s “Use Your Life Award,” California Association of Nonprofits “Achievement in Innovation” for development of creative, successful program strategies (2007), the End of Life Nursing Education Consortium Palliative Care Award for “outstanding leadership, commitment, and advocacy in improving end-of-life and palliative care for children and their families” (2007), and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation “Award of Excellence” for the Western United States for an organization that has best “identified community needs for better care near the end of life, advocated for health system changes to bring about better care and developed and effectively implemented specific projects to do so” (2004). In 2008, Lori was named Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year. In 2014 , she received a “Community Hero” award for the Community Assessment Project of Santa Cruz County and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Red Cross.
Lori is currently studying at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education Program with emphasis in Strategic Frameworks for Nonprofit Organizations and Exponential Fundraising. She earned two Bachelors Degrees from the University of California at Los Angeles and a post-graduate degree in Bilingual Education from the University of Maryland and the Univerisidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain.
I’m the one who brings the model of our vision to life: providing the resources and support necessary to ensure that every child with cancer in our community has a strong, supported and informed family empowered to fully participate in their care.
Liz Garcia is a graduate from the School of Social Work from San Jose State University and an End of Life Nursing Education Consortium trained trainer in bicultural pediatric palliative care. Liz’s philosophy of family support is to serve as a guide, accompanying families through the medical system, helping each family member find power and strength within themselves.
Liz has interned with the Community Action Board, is a member of the South Monterey County Regional Collaborative. Since joining Jacob’s Heart in 2013, she has performed nearly every family service function at the organization from coordinating transportation, family gatherings and celebration events, support groups, counseling and case management, “Art from the Heart” and the “Heart to Heart” programs, grocery deliveries and supervising volunteers. Most importantly, Liz ensures that monolingual Spanish-speaking families have the information and support they need.
I’m the one who holds the memories of those we’ve lost, and creates hope for our community of families.
Norma Anaya serves Jacob’s Heart families who lose a precious child to cancer or other circumstances in memory of beloved, Cecilia Anaya, who died at age 11 from cancer. Now, Norma and her entire family organize support groups, individual and family counseling, family celebrations, remembrances and legacies. In addition to organizing the grief support program, Norma is the Family Support Specialist for children with cancer and their families living in San Benito and South Santa Clara Counties, providing home visits, case management, resources and support.
As a bereaved family member herself, Norma brings her experience, strength of character and love for children and families to her work. Norma is certified as in bicultural pediatric palliative care and bereavement support through the End of Life Nursing Education Consortium.
I’m the one who brings love, good vibes and personal experience to the Jacob’s Heart teen group.
One week before her 14th birthday, Mariela Medina was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Throughout the many years of treatment, three relapses and a stem-cell transplant, Mariela and her family received essential support from Jacob’s Heart. It is with a spirit of gratitude and a desire to share her own experience that Mariela (now 27), returned to Jacob’s Heart as a happy, healthy 25 year-old. According to Mariela, “Knowing the challenges of a child with cancer, because I have lived it first hand, has helped me help families with the daily challenges of an ongoing treatment and life after it. ”
Mariela provides support and mentor-ship to teens with cancer and organizes fun, meaningful teen activities. “Being a teen with cancer is very different than it is for little kids, we know what’s going on – we need honest conversations and information from people like Mariela who understand what we are going through.” (from a Jacob’s Heart teen).
Like her colleagues at Jacob’s Heart, Mariela is a bicultural “trained trainer” in the art and practice of pediatric palliative care and bereavement through the End of Life Nursing Education Consortium.
I’m the one who takes on the immense responsibilities of accompanying our families to treatment and putting healthy foods in their cupboards. My motto is: I will tackle any challenge with a strong and open heart.
Antonio holds a dual position at Jacob’s Heart: As a driver, Antonio provides more than just door-to-door transportation; he provides support, interpretation and shared experience on the journey. He specializes in working with newly diagnosed children, using his expertise in navigating the complex hospital systems to make an unbearable time just a little easier for families.
As the manager of the Full Hearts grocery program, Antonio uses his background in the culinary arts as a trained chef to provide healthy, fresh groceries and bilingual nutrition education. His culinary skills also support our teen program. He caters each teen event, and food acts as an ice breaker that helps to create a warm atmosphere for group discussions.
I’m the one who creates and develops events and opportunities so that our ever-growing community of support can express their generosity.
Maureen is responsible for creating and managing fundraising events that align with the infrastructure of Jacob’s Heart, which is based off of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. She creates meaningful events that produce retention among our very supportive community. She also manages all major donor gifts, corporate donations and in-kind resources. She oversees and promotes Jacob’s Heart programs and events via radio, television, social media and print.
Maureen holds a B.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from SJSU with a A.A. in Philosophy. She has worked in Human Resources and Account Management for AOL and eBay, Inc. Maureen is also an entrepreneur, she owned and operated her own business for 10 years (2004-2014). She is a loving mother of two teenage boys (15 & 13) and a devoted wife. Maureen and her family love their community living in Pasatiempo, Santa Cruz. She instructs once a week at Pure Power Yoga in Capitola, where she fulfills one of her passions….fitness!
I’m the one who creates love through pixels on a page.
Sue volunteered in the summer of 2016 by producing materials for September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Sue felt an immediate connection with Jacob’s Heart’s mission, having experienced the effect cancer has on a family, (Sue’s mom had breast cancer when she was a young teenager). With a desire to give back to her community and help others experiencing the challenges cancer creates, she joined the team in December 2016.
A Santa Cruz native, Sue earned two Associate degrees from Cabrillo College—Fine Art and Digital Publishing,—as well as a certificate in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. She’s held positions in marketing, design, and catalog publishing for O’Neill, Montbell and Awe Sum Organics
She lives in Soquel with her photographer husband Danny, their two college-aged children (Elena and Leo), and their sweet cat, Octavian.