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 a nationally recognized model of community-based pediatric palliative care 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 along with Devon Dabbs. There, they 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, which paved the way for the Partners for Children pediatric palliative care program in California. 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, along with Devon Dabbs. In 2014 , Lori 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.
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 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 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.
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 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 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.
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.