A Committed and Inspired Team
Director of Endurance
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 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. Most recently, she was named 2019 Woman of the Year for the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.
Lori is a life-long learner. Inspired by her grandfather who earned a PhD at age 73, Lori is currently pursuing a second Masters Degree, this time in Psychology from Harvard University. She earned her Bachelors Degree from the University of California at Los Angeles, a post-graduate teaching certification and Masters in Education through the University of Maryland and Cal State Long Beach. 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.
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.
Director of Hope
Brittany Maldonado-Gosline ♥*
Forever Sibling Program Director
First and foremost, Brittany Maldonado-Gosline is an advocate for grieving children. Although she brings eight years of experience starting and raising $42M in private capital for businesses focused on sustainability and well-being, Brittany’s most treasured asset is her willingness to share the experience of loving and losing her little brother, Corbin to cancer with other bereaved siblings at Jacob’s Heart. Brittany gives the team at Jacob’s Heart the best of her mind and heart, a truly compassionate melding of business with heart.
Brittany has joined Jacob’s Heart as Deputy Director to work closely with the board, staff, volunteers, and most importantly, her tribe of forever siblings, to forge a sustainable path for Jacob’s Heart families now and in the future.
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.
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.
Director of Gratitude
Family Support Specialist
I’m the one who assists families as they navigate through a maze of challenges.
On his path to medical school, Benito arrived at Jacob’s Heart as an intern with a desire to build his skills in caring for patients. Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Microbiology with a minor biochemistry, Benito knows the science well. But to Benito, being a doctor is more than biology, it’s about caring.
While Benito was in high school his grandmother became seriously ill; this changed his initial thought of pursuing a career in business to a career in medicine. Two years later, his cousin experienced organ failure, cementing Benito’s career choice. Then, as Benito was finishing his undergraduate degree, his cousin became seriously ill a second time, and Benito stepped in as his cousin’s primary caregiver. It was then that Benito discovered his passion for supporting families who are disenfranchised by social, language or economic barriers, a passion shared at Jacob’s Heart.
As an intern at Jacob’s Heart, Benito’s love for children and families was immediately evident, and he decided to join the staff as a Family Support Specialist until entering medical school.
Benito strives to create a loving environment so his families feel supported on every level. One day in the not too distant future, Dr. Benito Salazar will share the same level of caring support to the patients fortunate enough to be in his care.
Director of Courage
Sandy Montes *
Family Needs 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.
Director of Unity
Esmeralda Rivera Luna *
Family Center Coordinator
I’m the one who gives the warm reminder, “you are not alone.”
In Esmeralda’s last year at Hartnell Community College, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through her family’s journey with this illness, their social worker made a huge positive impact in their lives. This is when Esmeralda knew that she wanted to become a Medical Social Worker; to be there for others who are facing challenging times.
Esmeralda is now pursuing a B.A. at California State University, Monterey Bay with a concentration in Social Work. Knowing the strong positive impact Jacob’s Heart has on children with cancer and their families, Esmeralda has happily joined the team.
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.
Director of Expression
I’m the one who uses the power of words to inspire hope, love and joy.
Growing up, Haley always had a passion for writing. Her love for the craft deepened as she earned her degree in journalism from Appalachian State University. As a born and bred east-coaster, the Jacob’s Heart family became Haley’s home away from home. Her love for children, wellness and community aligned beautifully with the culture at Jacob’s Heart.
Haley writes grants, press releases, social media posts, and general copy for the organization. She also assists with community events and outreach.
Haley lives in Santa Cruz with her pet bunny Mr. Pancake.
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.
Director of Accountability
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.
♥ 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