Meet the compassionate and hard-working team at Jacob’s Heart — we’re a committed and inspired group.
Lori Butterworth, M.Ed. — Founder and Executive Director *
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, a Masters Degree in Bilingual Education and studied at the University of Maryland and the Univerisidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain.
Adriana Jerez Moody, M.A.— Director of Family Services*
I’m the one who will lend a helping hand, an advocating voice, an encouraging smile, a shoulder to cry on, and an empathetic heart to our families; striving to offer them practical and emotional support and the resources necessary to make their lives a little bit easier in this difficult time.
Adriana brings to Jacob’s Heart a passion for helping children and their families, as well as a variety of professional experience, as well as a personal understanding of cancer and loss. From a young age she knew she wanted to help others, and over the years she has done so by working with children and families in both the mental health and education fields.
Adriana has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UC Berkeley and a Master’s degree in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology from the Instituto Superior de Estudios Psicológicos in Madrid, Spain. Adriana has worked as a Mental Health Counselor and Treatment Facility Supervisor at Fred Finch Youth Center in Oakland. In Madrid, Spain she taught English to children in various bilingual elementary schools and worked as a home-based psychologist for Apoyo Psicológico y Educativo en Casa.
Adriana was also an editor and writer for Vaughan Systems in Spain, publishing books that teach English to Spanish-speakers. She combined her knowledge of child development and bilingualism to write “My First Dictionary” and “Step By Step – English for Kids” in 2016.
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 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.
Dr. Lily Rich, PsyD — Director of Clinical Counseling Services
I’m the one who listens.
“My passion comes from connecting with my clients and watching them move from loneliness and fear to hope, connection and confidence through the work that we do.”
Lily Rich volunteered at Jacob’s Heart during her first year of college and helped grow our programs back in 1999. Inspired by what she learned at Jacob’s Heart, Dr. Rich went on to receive her doctorate in clinical psychology from Argosy University in 2008 and has been working with clients in the San Francisco and Santa Cruz areas since 2009. In 2012 she transitioned from a position at Mills Hospital where she worked with seniors, adults and adolescents through her program, Healing at Home. Dr. Rich returned to Jacob’s Heart in 2015 to serve as a clinical psychologist and direct our counseling services.
I’m the one who . . . stands watch: ensuring our program activities adhere to best practices; implementing procedures and conducting analyses that verify and safeguard the integrity of our data; protecting confidential data by acting as the privacy and security officer; and providing staff with the mentoring and support they need to fulfill our mission.
Robyn is a writer with more than fifteen years of experience in technical and grant writing. As a Henry Luce Fellow, Robyn received two years of in-depth mentoring and hands-on training on the techniques of writing for and presenting to an audience of policy makers, media, non-governmental organizations and resource managers. Her graduate field and course work focused on research design, statistical analysis, program evaluation, cross-disciplinary teamwork and public policy. As a research intern at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, she specialized in supporting collaborative research teams with data analysis and informatics.
Robyn has a bachelor’s (2003, Summa Cum Laude, with distinction in major) and a master’s degree (2005) in Geography from San Diego State University. She is a member of the American Grant Writers’ Association. Robyn’s Italian Greyhound, Oliver, is the inspiration behind the pet program at Jacob’s Heart.
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 with the warm voice on the other end of the phone, who assists families with accessing support services and resource referrals, as they navigate their journey through pediatric cancer.
Anabel is a Watsonville native, and is driven by a desire to give back to her community. She is a student at Cabrillo College, majoring in Economics, with plans to transfer to UCSC in Fall of 2017. Anabel began volunteering in high school, and was presented with the Cesar Chavez award from the City of Watsonville in recognition of her community service. She served as Vice Mayor and as Mayor for the Youth City Council in Watsonville, and participated in the Youth Violence Prevention Task Force for Santa Cruz County. She interned at the United Way of Monterey County, assisting low-income families with preparing their taxes, and with the Senior Analyst for the City of Watsonville, helping minority-owned businesses with marketing and financial services.
In addition to her studies and internships, Anabel is a program manager at Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services. She coordinates the logistics for the transportation and grocery delivery programs, and assists with the volunteer program. Most importantly, Anabel makes sure families have all of the information they need about their appointments, schedules and services.
Antonio Martinez — Full Hearts Grocery Program Manager | Driver—Transportation to Treatment *
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 motivates and inspires our amazing team of volunteers, while managing all of the details and logistics that go with running our family events!
Daisy came to work at Jacob’s Heart as a driver, and was touched and overwhelmed as she witnessed firsthand the struggles of families as they face the waves of obstacles that come with pediatric cancer. At every turn, when asked if she would like to do more, Daisy’s answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!” She now coordinates two key aspects of our programs: Family Events, and our Volunteer program. Daisy’s favorite part of working at Jacob’s Heart is seeing the smiles when a family feels connected, loved and supported.
As a Communications major (San Jose State, class of 2016), Daisy deeply appreciates our model of open and clear communication with families.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn
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!
Darcy Swisher, RN, BSN, CCRN — Program Director for Camp Heart + Hands
I’m the one who’s responsible for ensuring we provide a relaxing and renewing weekend for the families of Jacob’s Heart.
Darcy Swisher is Jacob’s Heart program director for Camp Heart and Hands. Camp isa new program that provides families a life-changing weekend. The Camp provides children or adolescents with cancer and their families a unique experience to forget about their disease and create bonds with other families enduring pediatric cancer.
The Camp is staffed by pediatric nurses and physicians from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. The weekend provides support groups, movie night, camp fires, family carnival, crafts, massage for parents, swimming, and a dance!
Darcy brings nineteen years of experience from American Cancer Society’s Camp Reach for the Stars. A similar Camp where she grew up in San Luis Obispo county. After finishing her degree in nursing she started at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford as a Pediatric ICU nurse. Over the past nine years working as a pediatric nurse she has had a goal of bringing the special experience Camp provides to the patients and families at Lucile Packard. After having a very successful first Camp last year Darcy joined the Jacob’s Heart team and is working on creating another wonderful Camp for 2017!
Awarded American Cancer Society’s Silicon Coastal Region “Excellence in Community Volunteerism” for her work with the pediatric cancer program Camp Reach for the Stars.
2012 awarded Dr. Larry Mathers PICU Achievement Award at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.
Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz- “Be the Difference Award” 2016- Individual award recipient.
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.
Gabriela Medrano-Contreras, BS — Director of Superheroes Against Childhood Cancer
I’m the one who helps children with cancer build the strength and resilience they need to become SuperHeroes.
Warrior mom Gabriella has a BS from SJSU in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing. After working 10 years in the Marketing field in corporate America, she decided to start her own business and tap into her passion for fashion. Gabriella had a very successful bridal boutique in the Bay Area for ten years when her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Getting her daughter Giselle, through treatment was her only concern, Gabriella closed the bridal boutique.
Gabriella quickly became aware of the need in Pediatric oncology and decided that she could make a difference. Joining Forces with Jacobs Heart, Gabriella will run Superheroes Against Childhood Cancer to bring nutrition education, physical training and full body wellness to Pediatric patients during and after treatment.
Bailey PhD ♥ * — Director of Smiles, Play and Happiness
Bailey is a key member of the Jacob’s Heart team, ready to cheer us up, make us smile and give love and happiness to everyone she meets.
She has earned her PhD: Profoundly Happy Doggie Degree.
♥members of our board and staff who are family members of a child with cancer, are bereaved by loss of child or have survived childhood cancer or a life-threatening condition themselves.
* indicates bilingual or bicultural
Watch Videos About The Jacob's Heart Staff
This TEDxSantaCruz talk is part of over 2 dozen surrounding our theme of “Engage!” This inaugural TEDxSantaCruz event was held June 11, 2011 at the Cabrillo College Music Recital Hall in Aptos, CA (Santa Cruz County)
Five staff members from Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services will be attending the End of Life Nursing Education Consortium – Pediatric Palliative Care (ELNEC – PPC) in January. Three of the trainees are former Jacob’s Heart family members, each with a unique perspective and experience with childhood cancer. Four of the five are bilingual/bicultural.