Volunteer Spotlight: Lori Yaverbaum

ImageLori Yaverbaum has been a part of the Commonwealth community since 2001 and is currently the director of our Web Services & Usability team. In this role, Lori oversees all aspects of the layout and navigation for our web-based products and services and ensures the best possible user experience on an ongoing basis. She is one of a select few who were elected to a year-long appointment on the Commonwealth Cares board for a 2013–2014 term.

Q: What inspired you to get involved in Giving Back?
A: Seven years ago, I felt a lump on my neck and was diagnosed with what is generally considered a “non-curable” cancer. I had never felt so lonely or so helpless, and the fear was just about paralyzing. Something I thought could never happen to me did happen to me, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I never truly understood feelings of loneliness and helplessness until then. It’s something I wish no one else in the world would ever have to experience. But I know they do—and they will—and I know it happens for many different reasons, not just health-related.

So, to answer the question, I want to do anything and everything I can to give others a moment in time where they can feel less lonely or less helpless because they are getting support. A moment in time where they will be able to smile, forgetting for even just one second what got them to that place where they needed that support.

Q: What has been one of your favorite Giving Back initiatives at Commonwealth?
A: Far and away, my favorite has been Chemo Caps for Kids. I know how it feels to hear the words, “you have cancer,” so I have a personal connection to those kids. They are so brave and so inspirational. We built up a grassroots effort to provide thousands of kids across the country with these spectacular hand-knit hats. I have been lucky enough to see some of the kids pick out a hat they love with such a big smile, and then to see the gleam of tears in their parents’ eyes. There is absolutely no way to convey how it feels knowing you have brought a few moments of joy to their lives during such a horrible time.

Q: Can you share with us a story about how you know you’ve made a difference?
A: A few months ago, I learned about a boy in a family services program who was really struggling: broken home, abused, transgender, and living in a residential treatment facility. In spite of all he was going through, he was dreaming about owning a pair of rollerblades—something so simple that would bring him happiness.

I posted a notice on our company intranet site asking if anyone had rollerblades to donate, and I received replies from six employees offering to buy him a new pair, as well as four pairs of used rollerblades (plus some other miscellaneous equipment people offered to donate). We ended up buying him a new pair and donating the other pairs to kids in the same program. We received the most heartfelt e-mail from the director of the program telling us about how excited he was, how his face was glowing as he rollerbladed into her office, and how it was so touching to the staff there who witnessed it because they rarely see such happiness in the children they work with. Such a small effort on my part made such a big difference in that boy’s life.

Q: Tell us about some of the charitable work you do outside of the office.
A: I am pretty active with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society®. I speak at a number of their events and participate in Team in Training (TNT), which raises a lot of money for LLS through endurance events. I also run an annual bake sale, with proceeds benefiting a number of nonprofits. And I serve lunches/hang out with patients at Dana-Farber during their infusion sessions. Most of my volunteer work is related to cancer causes, but I guess we tend toward what we have been impacted by most. My second love is animal causes, so I am hoping to one day volunteer at Boston Children’s Hospital, visiting the kids there with one of my dogs.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to get involved in Giving Back?
A: We all think we’re too busy to find the time to participate. I would tell someone who’s interested in Giving Back that there’s always an option that will fit your schedule and your lifestyle. There is so much need in the world and so many options. My advice would be to stop making excuses, find something you feel passion for, and figure out how you can work it in.

Giving back is not supposed to be about how you feel, but there is no better feeling.

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