Volunteerism is Close to her Heart

Olivia Bonevento is a featured guest blogger for Komen CSNJ.  She lives at the Jersey Shore and is currently a student at a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.  Read more about Olivia on her personal blog – oliviabonevento.wordpress.com.

The Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure Series is the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for Breast Cancer. The event does not only raise a significant amount of money for Breast Cancer research, but also raises awareness, celebrates survivors, and honors those who have lost their battle with the disease. This event is extremely special because 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Komen mission- up to 75 percent of that 100 stays in our specific CSNJ community- the remaining 25 supports research through the Komen grant program. Race day, taking place this year on November 6, is a very special, empowering day for everyone involved- volunteers and participants alike.


Jessica, center, with Komen CSNJ Volunteers Kim & Vikki

Jessica Lewis is one of the head volunteers of Race For The Cure, and someone who is worth talking about. She has done so much for Komen CSNJ, and we are very grateful to have her on our team.

When I asked Jessica when she started volunteering for Komen, she said she truly did not remember, but believes that she started walking in 2005 and volunteering in 2007. She was an officer in Mu Beta Psi (formerly Mu Upilson Alpha) and she started fundraising for Susan Komen Central and South Jersey through there. Additionally, her mother was a guiding force for her in terms of volunteers: she always said it was very important to help others and be involved in your community.

She first really learned about Komen at Rutgers University, since her sorority had Susan G. Komen as their philanthropy and they would have events around school. She went to her first race and was in awe that so many people showed up to support a cause… She only walked that year, but then unfortunately had a family friend lose her fight… then another. This sparked within Jessica an increased awareness of Breast Cancer. This wasn’t just something that happened to other people- people she knew, people she loved were being impacted. She wanted to help, so she started volunteering. The rest is history.

Since she has started at Komen CSNJ, Jessica has assisted at numerous events: Race for the Cure, Rutgers University, L’Oreal Your Dog Is Worth It Too, health fairs, the annual gala, Simon Malls… and of course, Race for The Cure.

One of Jessica’s biggest inspirations is one of her best friends- she’s been one of Jessica’s main cheerleaders… and she is glad to be able to celebrate her with her involvement in Komen CSNJ. Jessica says that she has met so many other survivors in volunteering for Komen, and there are so many amazing stories to hear… and so many wonderful people to be inspired by. Going to the race, she says, is an amazing experience. Communities come together in ways that you would never think possible, and there is truly nothing like it.

Jessica says her favorite thing about Komen CSNJ is the people. She has met so many amazing individuals and has cultivated lasting relationships. She says it is great to have people who are genuinely in your corner, people who make an effort to check in and see how you are. She feels valued at Susan G. Komen Central and South Jersey, and that alone has impacted her positively. The people at Komen have also challenged Jessica- she has a fear of public speaking. And though that hasn’t completely subsided, the staff at Komen CSNJ would bring her to events where they knew she would have to go out of her comfort zone and talk. “When you know people are counting on you,” she says, “You really have to try your best”. The encouragement Jessica has gotten from Komen, just as a volunteer, is extremely overwhelming and she is very grateful. Being involved in the Susan G. Komen mission has taught her how to face fears and overcome obstacles- things that she hopes to pass on herself.

For the past 2 years, Jessica has been volunteer chair for Race for the Cure. It has helped her get comfortable with new people, learn how to successfully perform community outreach,  become a leader, and plan events efficiently. She has evolved into a better person by volunteering at Komen CSNJ, and she aims to help others do that as well. She is always so excited for race weekend- she gets to see many familiar faces, along with meeting completely new ones.

Jessica would also like to thank Jeanine Henry, her Komen CSNJ Mentor. She impacted every person that she met. According to Jessica, “Jeanine could change your day just by hearing the sound of her voice… who wouldn’t want to be like that? I can never thank her enough for all of the knowledge and advice she gave. She was the most influential person…”

Come and meet Jessica, along with the rest of the other amazing Komen CSNJ Volunteers, on November 6th!