Volunteer Hero of the Month - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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August & September Heroes of the Month

Elsa A. Rivera, Hero

"I volunteer because I enjoy educating people with MS, along with their family and friends, through peer counseling and leading a monthly bilingual self-help group.  I also enjoy being a member of the Government Relations Committee where we advocate the Society’s legislative programs to local and state representatives.

"At the MS Walk in April a Society staff member brought a newly diagnosed woman to speak with me.  Within minutes of our conversation, she asked if she could hug me.  I am often told I’m very positive, but I will never forget the fear and depression I felt when I was newly diagnosed 15 years ago.  It helped her to hear that the emotions she was feeling were not uncommon so early in her diagnosis and that the physical symptoms she was experiencing were common in MS.  Volunteering since 2003 and meeting and speaking with hundreds of people during that time have brought me the peace I feel today.  Being able to help people is wonderful. I have enjoyed being able to help people as a volunteer."


Cheryl Mellor, Hero

"At university I studied Biological Sciences and my dissertation was on the causes of MS. Throughout my career as a Clinical Scientist in the organ transplantation unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the UK I studied immunology which included subjects in autoimmune diseases. For a long time I have been interested in MS and I became intimately involved with MS when I diagnosed in 2009.

"In 2011, my husband and I moved to the US. I wanted to contribute to furthering our knowledge of this debilitating disease and volunteering at the National MS Society Northern California Chapter was one small way in which I could help. It's been great getting to know the people there and their passion for helping the community. Great progress has been made in developing treatments to manage the disease and insight into the causes may soon lead to a cure, crossed fingers."

Linda Cotter, Hero

"I am an RN and former EMT who has served as a 'medic' at Bike MS: Waves to Wine. I’ve been involved with the MS Society since 1998.  It is an easy decision to associate with an organization run by excellent people and to be surrounded by dedicated volunteers and riders all working together to find a lasting cure for MS. The MS Society has become my 'favorite charity' as a way of honoring my hero, my sister, Joany, who had MS for 10 years. 

Although there were many setbacks in Joany’s fight with MS, she fought on with the courage of a champion.  I gave her the analogy of the tortoise and the hare and told her she was the tortoise.  I kept reminding her that the tortoise eventually prevailed over the hare and of the motto, 'slow and steady wins the race.'  She may not have bought my fables and analogies, but she pretended to."

July Heroes of the Month

Marie Hansen, Hero

Marie is a leader for the Santa Teresa Self-Help Group and a Team Captain for Team Marie of Walk MS: Monterey Bay and Silicon Valley. She is an incredible advocate for the Society's programs, resources, fundraising events and the support people can receive. Marie lives and breathes the National MS Society. She will help out however and whenever she can with a gleeful heart.

"Volunteering makes me feel needed as a person," said Marie. "Being a positive person has helped me and I want to help others have that positive feeling, too. By helping others I forget about my problems. We help each other in that way."

Isabel Santos, Hero

Isabel is a regular volunteer in the San Francisco Office and at many fundraising events. She asks complete strangers for money to help our cause and raised over $900 for Walk MS this year! Isabel is always willing to come in and help whenever needed and is an amazing volunteer!



Francesca Smith, Hero

Francesca has been a very committed volunteer for the for over five years, helping with Bike MS and Walk MS events. She is always willing to lend a hand with our fundraising endeavors, and goes above and beyond the call of duty when serving on the Santa Rosa Walk MS Committee. Her passion for the Society and commitment to the Chapter shines brightly for all to see.

"When our daughter developed [MS] symptoms just days after her 19th birthday, I started on a journey to discover, learn, support and educate," said Francesca. "Six Walks, five Waves to Wines, two Lagunitas Brews & Blues and lots of hours spent organizing, planning and supporting MS events, I’m still at it and I know there’s still more work to be done! I’m honored to be chosen as a Volunteer Hero in support of the Chapter and will continue to do my part and encourage others to do theirs so that together we will conquer MS."

June Heroes of the Month

Cliff Nunes, Hero

Cliff was nominated by Sheila Doberenz, Community Development Coordinator. Cliff is a member of the Walk MS: Modesto Committee where he has served for several years. In addition, he attends Self Help Group meetings and programs to lend a hand.

A Hero Because: Cliff goes above the call of duty on a continuous basis, always willling to help, even if not asked, and can be counted on to do what he says he will do.

"I volunteer with the [Society] so no one has to navigate through their MS journey alone, especially the newly diagnosed," said Cliff.

Karen Gaetano, Hero

Karen was nominated by Will Telfer, Development Manager for Walk MS. Karen leads a Walk MS team from Walmart in Vacaville and leads popcorn and cotton candy sales at the store. She is constantly asking her store manager how she can further the store's involvement with the walk. Karen is also a member of the Walk MS: Solano County Committee.

A Hero Because: Karen gives the Society and Walk MS so much publicity in the Vacaville area. She encourages fundraising from individuals as well as staff members, which leads to more volunteers and more fundraising dollars for Walk MS. Karen always a smile on her face.

"I volunteer for the National MS Society because I really want to raise enough money to help researchers find a cure for this awful disease," said Karen. "I do not like what it has done to my son and friends who have MS and I want to do everything I can to help them. When they are just too tired to get up and do something I am glad that I am able to do it for them."

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