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Meet Our Staff2019-11-07T18:37:57+00:00

A Committed and Inspired Team

Lori Butterworth, Founder and Executive Director at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Vision

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 20+ 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 NonprofitsAchievement 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 pursuing her second Masters Degree in Psychology from Harvard University. She earned her Bachelors Degree from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a Masters Degree in Education through the University of Maryland. She also studied at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain and Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education Program with emphasis in Strategic Frameworks for Nonprofit Organizations and Exponential Fundraising.

Mary Smith, Family Support Specialist at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Empathy

Maria “Mary” Smith
Director of Family Services *

I’m the one who supports Jacob’s Heart families with warmth, compassion and a smile.

Mary’s passionate about kids…that’s why she’s committed her life work to improving the lives of children. Before bringing her compassion to Jacob’s Heart, Mary worked directly with children and families in the foster care system of the Department of Children and Family Services as a Social Worker (for twenty years). As a volunteer in her community, she’s brought love to special needs kids, foster children and orphans.

Mary has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from San Jose State University, and is bilingual in English and Spanish. She’s a mother of three and resides in Watsonville with her husband Fred, her teenagers Anthony and Jessica, and their dog Toby.

Mariela Medina, Teen and Family Support Specialist at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Purpose

Mariela Medina
Family Support Specialist ♥*

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.

Mary Smith, Family Support Specialist at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Kindness

Daniela Ramirez
Family Support Specialist

I’m the one who shares kindness with everyone who comes into Jacob’s Heart, so they feel welcomed, loved, and cared for.

Daniela started at Jacob’s Heart as an intern from California State University, Monterey Bay. Daniela loved her experience at Jacob’s Heart so much that when she was offered a position, she couldn’t let the opportunity go.

Daniela completed her Bachelors of Arts in Human Development & Family Studies, where she learned how family and community dynamics affect human development throughout a diverse range of environments, cultures, and life experiences. Inspired by her work at Jacob’s Heart and her education, she is ready to foster a safe, and comfortable environment for our families and community members.

Alex Dami, Director of External Programs at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Connection

Alex Dami
Director of Operations

I’m the one who cultivates connections with our community and finds the passion in each individual to give back to local families and children.

Alex has always had a passion for connecting people. She started working at the Student Volunteer Center on the UC Santa Cruz campus, connecting students to non-profits who were in need of creative and hard working volunteers. During her time there, she oversaw several large events including volunteer fairs, an adopt-a-family program, and an alternative spring break program. After she graduated from UC Santa Cruz, Alex knew she wanted to continue to be a part of the Santa Cruz community. That’s when she found Jacob’s Heart.

Alex started working at Jacob’s Heart as their Volunteer Coordinator. Connecting with people and hearing about what brought them to volunteer at Jacob’s Heart was always one of Alex’s favorite parts of her job. As she made connections with volunteers, Alex realized a greater desire to work with connecting more people to Jacob’s Heart. As the Director of External Programs, Alex now oversees all outward facing programs that involve the greater community of Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, and South Santa Clara Counties. Alex has a lot of fun working with a team to plan events such as the Kidrageous Carnival, the Golden Gallop, the Super Fun Run, and the Holiday Hearts program. She can’t wait to connect with you!

Ishtar Carter, Community Education and Outreach Manager at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Intention

Kymberly Lacrosse
Director of Connection and Transportation

I’m the one who organizes (and gets it done with fun), so children and families will get the best care and support possible!

Born and raised in Watsonville, Kymberly Lacrosse has been an advocate, organizer, and leader for over thirty years. Advocacy and community service started at the young age of 15, when Kymberly was the first youth to serve on the Youth Services Board of Directors. Working at Jacob’s Heart is an opportunity to give back to the community she loves, especially young people. Kymberly’s heart for children and youth has been modeled through her many years of volunteering and organizing.

Before working at Jacob’s Heart, she was the Project Director of Jovenes SANOS, a youth leadership and advocacy group. The project earned both local and national recognition. Kymberly brings a heartfelt passion to social justice and community engagement that is rooted in an undeniable commitment to see individuals (and communities) be inspired, be powerful and thrive. Her curriculum, Growing Greatness models transformative practices that she intentionally brings to her work at Jacob’s Heart. Her commitment to equity and justice drive her to relentlessly change systems and policies for a more equitable and thriving world.

Working at Jacob’s Heart is an opportunity to support and contribute to an organization with love and kindness at it’s core—values near and dear to Kymberly. Her formal education includes a BA from UCSC and MA from SJSU, both in Sociology.

Mary Smith, Family Support Specialist at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Reliability

Fatima Alabbad
Family Resource Manager

I’m one who our families can rely on when they nutrition, interpretation, transportation and compassion.

Since the age of four, Fatima has dreamed of becoming a doctor and caring for underserved, disenfranchised populations in her community. Weaving her tri-cultural perspective and bi-literate skills into her education, she began her journey into medicine, first by earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz, then completing a Masters of Science in Medical Physiology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. During school, she volunteered extensively in support of causes she cares about. That’s when she found Jacob’s Heart. Fatima brings her skills as a translator of both medical terminology, cultural medicine and navigating systems of care to the Jacob’s Heart families.

Fatima lives with her parents, brother, and cat in Watsonville.
Mary Smith, Family Support Specialist at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Courage

Sandy Montes
Program Coordinator

I’m one who encourages and supports Jacob’s Heart families as they find the courage from within to overcome the challenges they face. Through positive and uplifting interactions, I help families remember that they are strong and capable, and that they have the support of our entire team behind them.

Sandra Montes has an Associate’s degree in Sociology from Cabrillo College and is currently a student at CSUMB, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Collaborative Health and Human Services with a concentration in Social Work. As part of her Capstone project, Sandy interned at Jacob’s Heart, where she knew immediately Jacob’s Heart was where she needed to be.

Because of her strong work ethic and eagerness to expand her abilities and knowledge Sandy stood out, and it wasn’t long before she was a part of the Jacob’s Heart family. Sandy’s passion to work within her community has grown—she’s experienced first-hand how community resources can help achieve goals, and she plans to be the positive outcome these resources have to offer. She believes children are the future and that it’s crucial to ensure they have the correct support and resources to obtain their goals. Sandy’s greatest dream is to impact others positively while spreading compassion within our community.

Dr. Lily Rich, Director of Clinical Counseling Services at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Connection

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.

Sue Quijano, Family Creative Director at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Creativity

Sue Quijano
Creative Director

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. While volunteering she 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.

Darcy Swisher, Director of Camp Heart + Hands at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Community

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 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.

Ishtar Carter, Community Education and Outreach Manager at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Humor

Ishtar Carter
Community Education and Outreach Manager

I’m the one who connects the community with Jacob’s Heart—through education and awareness—all with a dash of fun.

Ishtar—a Santa Cruz native—studied Visual Communications at Hawaii Pacific University. Her passion for Jacob’s Heart is rooted by personal experience, as well the experiences of family and friends navigating the cancer journey. Her professional experience in marketing includes community outreach, events, sponsorships and partnerships while at New Leaf Community Markets, founded by her stepfather Scott Roseman…also a cancer survivor.

Ishtar’s love for children began when she was a young adult and nanny. Compassionate about her work in the community, she strives in providing knowledge, understanding and resources to support those who suffer the effects of childhood cancer.

Ishtar lives in Soquel with her husband and three young children.

Ishtar Carter, Community Education and Outreach Manager at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Accountability

Kelli Cook
Bookkeeper

I am the one who . . . ensures our insides looks like our outsides; executing our financial controls and daily bookkeeping in partnership with our Executive Director making certain our financial health remains in excellent working order to benefit the families we serve.

Kelli brings her positive energy, love of numbers and her passion to serve those that need help the most . . . the children with cancer and their families. Kelli has lost two family members and knows first-hand the loneliness that accompanies this time, which is what drives her working for an organization that comes along side families at the hardest time in their life, giving them hope, assistance and a shoulder to lean on.

Kelli lives in Scotts Valley with her husband Dan and their two dogs.

Danny Guzman, Director of Support at Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services

Director of Generosity

Andrew Perez
Peer Mentor | Family Support Coordinator ♥

Andrew Perez was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer, in his left tibia in April of 2018. Inspired by Jacob’s Heart Teen Support Specialist Mariela Medina’s personal story of cancer, he gained the strength he needed to fight and beat cancer. Out of gratitude to Jacob’s Heart, Andrew became a philanthropist himself raising $50,000 in 2018 for other children and teens with cancer. Andrew currently shares his personal experience serving as a Peer Mentor and Family Support Coordinator at Jacob’s Heart.

Now cancer-free Andrew lives at home in Aromas with his dog, two older sisters, and his parents. Upon graduating next year from high school, Andrew hopes to study medicine at Stanford.

♥ 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