Hector is well-known to the Imerman Angels organization having served as a Cancer Support Specialist volunteer for over a year after beating his fight with head and neck cancer.
Hector’s diagnosis was a life changing experience not only on a deep emotional and personal level but also on a professional and philanthropic level. Hector now serves on the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center Patient & Family Advisory Council, and also sits on the Board for Northwestern Hospital. Livestrong and Twist Out Cancer are other organizations that Hector is involved with as a volunteer.
As a food and beverage professional for more than 20 years, Hector’s specific battle with head and neck cancer represented a real challenge to some of his personal life preferences, including a deep appreciation for the culinary experience. Having fought to win back his enjoyment of this, as well as his athletic capabilities, makes him keenly aware of how the mentor matching concept of Imerman Angels is what makes the difference in 1-on-1 cancer support. Today, his passion of food and drink- as well as running the Chicago Marathon with his medical oncologist 18 months after ending his treatment- has proven that passion and dedication go a long way.
Hector has Bachelor of Science degrees in both Sociology and Economics.
Erin Leyden, a Chicago native, with a Master’s Degree in Information Systems, got her start in the nonprofit world after starting her own organization back in 2006 after her young son started having seizures, over 200 a day at times. Erin and her family soon started the American Epilepsy Outreach Foundation, a national organization created to raise epilepsy awareness and provide support to those affected by epilepsy and their families. Erin was recognized by People Magazine and Major League Baseball in 2009 as an All Star Among Us for her work in nonprofit and her community.
In 2010, Erin merged the organization with the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago to better serve the 130,000 individuals living with epilepsy throughout Illinois. As the Vice President of Development, Erin oversaw all of development including events, volunteers, outreach, and all aspects of marketing and communications.
Erin lives in Norwood Park with her three children and her husband, Patrick who is an instructor and sniper for the Chicago SWAT team.
Amy Overby was honored to join Imerman Angels as Cancer Support Program Lead at the beginning of 2013, and has now transitioned to Cancer Support Program Manager. In recent years, Amy has been an active volunteer peer counselor and staff hotline manager at Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, and volunteer committee member for the American Cancer Society’s Strides Against Breast Cancer. She is a twelve-year breast cancer survivor, and recognizes the critical need for cancer support from someone who truly understands. She has a strong commitment to providing the very best in mentoring through caring, active listening, validation of feelings, knowledge sharing, and empowering support seekers to make decisions and formulate plans for next steps.
Amy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota with a focus on International Studies and Religion. She has an extensive background in client service, project management, problem solving, process improvement, and both on-site and remote team leadership.
Meredith Novak is a cancer survivor of Stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and works at Imerman Angels as a Cancer Support Specialist.
Her first experience with cancer came long before her initial diagnosis when her grandparents were both diagnosed. Meredith was diagnosed in high school on the eve of her senior night soccer game, which forced her to put her soccer career on hold. Having a childhood dream of playing soccer in college, she was not going to let cancer get in the way of living her dream. Despite all the struggles, Meredith achieved her goal and accepted a college scholarship at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and received many honors, including NCAA All-American. She coaches young athletes and encourages players to never give up on their dreams.
Meredith graduated from UW-Parkside in 2010 with a B.A. in English. She loves helping others and giving back to those in need. Meredith has been actively involved in American Cancer Society's event, Relay for Life, since 2005 and is a regular participant in Chicago’s Live to Support charity driven sports organization.
Jackie has been a caregiver to multiple loved ones, including her mother, who lost her battle with lung cancer in 2004. These experiences have shaped her to care passionately about our mission. She has been a part of the Cancer Support Team since 2012, assisting those who are fighting cancer themselves or helping caregivers become better armed to help their loved ones in their battle. She has helped train many new mentors and strengthen the partnerships we have with other cancer support organizations. She and her daughter have been volunteering with American Cancer Society’s event, Relay for Life, since 2005. Both as a team captain and a committee member, she sees this as another way of spreading the word and helping others so that they do not have to face cancer alone.
Jackie graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a B.A in Psychology and a minor in Biology. Her work experiences include animal training, customer service and teaching. Her diverse background has proven to be beneficial in this position.
Vanessa Villagomez started volunteering at Imerman Angels as a Mentor Angel in 2011. She was diagnosed with advance stage Hodgkin's Lymphoma when she was 24. Noticing how different her experience was from her uncle's experience fighting pancreatic cancer, she realized how vital it was for everyone to have someone to talk to that truly understood, someone with a similar cancer; someone with a similar situation. This is always in her mind as she connects people to their matches.
Vanessa attended the University of Iowa where she double majored in Business and Spanish. Prior to working at Imerman Angels, her employers ranged from national banks to city politicians. Her difficult experience with late stage cancer inspired her to change trajectories and follow a more meaningful path. She's presently a Certified Nurse Assistant.
Melissa's passion for the fight against cancer began in college. A good friend's mother lost her battle with breast cancer after the completion of their freshman year. Since then she has participated in numerous walks and volunteered with many organizations hoping to make a difference. In 2010, she interned with Susan G. Komen on the Go, a breast cancer awareness tour that led her to working full-time for the organization as a part of their 14 city, Susan G. Komen 3-Day Tour.
She graduated from DeVry University with her bachelors degree in Hospitality Management. She is very excited to use all that she has learned while developing and implementing events with Susan G. Komen and before that, the American Red Cross of Chicago in her new role with Imerman Angels.