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.
Her love of the stage, as a theater major at Syracuse University, evolved into a 38-year association with St. Dunstan’s Theater Guild of Cranbrook, as a volunteer, performer and fundraiser. A lifelong avocation of fine-scaled miniatures led her to the International Guild of Miniature Artisans, where she served as the Guild Show Director for eight years, managing the annual international trade show, as well as classes, educational tours and auctions. She currently serves as auctioneer for Guild auctions throughout the year, following years of experience as an appraiser and phone bid coordinator at a local auction house.
Most recently, she was Special Events Coordinator at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Duffy was personally touched by cancer when she became the primary caregiver to her husband when he was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma in 1998. Following his death in 2000, her family established the John Wineman Education and Research Fund in Radiation Oncology the University of Michigan, a cause for which she has staged many fundraising events.
Recognizing the tremendous impact of one-on-one cancer support, she is now a Mentor Angel and the first regional director of Imerman Angels, bringing the message and the mission to Michigan.
Vanessa Villagomez was diagnosed with late stage Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was 24 years old. Noticing how different her experience was from her uncle’s battle with terminal cancer, she realized how vital it was for everyone to have someone to talk to that truly understood, someone with a similar cancer; someone in a similar situation. This is what inspired her to start volunteering with Imerman Angels as a Mentor Angel in 2011, then a Cancer Support Specialist in 2013. She has since been hired and promoted to Office Manager. She has thus far enjoyed every moment of her journey with Imerman Angels from meeting and working with passionate volunteers, to helping with the organization’s strategic growth and planning, to most importantly, making quality connections between fighters, survivors, and caregivers.
Vanessa is an alumna of 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 struggle with cancer and rehabilitation afterwards influenced her to change trajectories and follow a more meaningful path.
Dave comes to Imerman Angels after heading the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Charity Program where he worked with the over 150 not-for-profit organizations that fielded teams for this event raising over $15 million dollars for these charities each year. He has been involved in the event planning arena through his work at the Chicago Marathon as well as through consulting on other Chicago area events including numerous 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons as well as stair climbs and golf tournaments. As an endurance athlete himself and a proud “middle of the packer”, Dave will be managing Team Imerman Angels. Dave is excited to be working with the many Team Imerman Angels athletes as they look to reach their goals and help Imerman Angels in connecting more and more individuals.
Dave graduated from Marquette University with a B.A. in History and Political Science and is an avid college basketball fan cheering on his Golden Eagles each winter (and, hopefully, into the spring). Dave also received his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School and an LL.M. in healthcare law from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Dave and his family live in Chicago’s Smith Park neighborhood.
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.
Meredith joined Imerman Angels in April 2013 as a Cancer Support Specialist and has since then taken on an additional role as Social Media Editor. An athlete all her life, Meredith was introduced to a new ball game when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on the eve of her senior night soccer game in high school. Her ambitious nature turned this setback into a comeback and inspired her to give back and help others who are touched by cancer, which ultimately led her to Imerman Angels. Since joining the organization, Meredith has played a critical role in improving the lives of cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers through one-on-one cancer support and has implemented strategies to increase awareness through Social Media.
The Batavia, Illinois native graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside with a B.A. in English and a Professional Writing Certificate. She was a member of the UWP women’s soccer team and achieved many athletic accomplishments post-cancer, including NCAA All-American. Meredith is a Team Imerman Angels participant and represents the organization in Chicago’s ‘Live to Support’ charity driven soccer leagues.
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.
Megan joined Imerman Angels as a cancer support specialist in April of 2013. She maintains an active role in the matching program and also coordinates with the Livestrong Foundation, cancer partner organizations, and volunteers. Her strong will and determination to assist those in need of support stems from her long association with childhood cancer. Megan was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma at birth that metastasized and recurred 3 times. She has now been cancer free for 21 years.
Megan is a 2012 graduate of DePaul University and holds a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Psychology. She has participated in a number of charity events, such as Wings of Mercy and Make A Wish Foundation. Megan is an active advocate for volunteering, mentoring teens and young children who are facing cancer struggles at summer camps. She has also interned as a volunteer coordinator and assisted physician services at Illinois Masonic Medical Center. Her positive energy and perseverance to achieve the best quality of life is present in her everyday life. In addition, Megan has a strong compassion for animals and has adopted a four-year-old husky/beagle mixed breed dog named Blue, who serves in official capacity as the mascot for Imerman Angels.
Khitam Masoud was born and raised in Northern California. She was first diagnosed with vulvar cancer at the age of twenty-six in 2007. Shortly after remission, Khitam moved to Chicago to begin a new chapter in her life. She started making a difference in the cancer community by using her legs. She registered for races, raising money and awareness for charities. She ran her first half-marathon in September 2011, raising thousands of dollars for LIVESTRONG. She later learned about Imerman Angels and became involved with Team Imerman Angels as a recruiter. In August 2012, she was diagnosed with Stage I melanoma on her right leg. She insisted that she continue to complete her first Olympic triathlon – she had surgery the next day. She has completed almost 50 different types of races for charity while spreading awareness and individually raising over $30,000 in the past three years so no one faces cancer alone.
Khitam loves motivating people and teaching others how to make a difference.
Blue is a four-year-old husky/beagle mixed breed dog and is a companion and service dog to Megan Alexander, cancer support specialist at Imerman Angels. Blue is the official mascot for Imerman Angels and her main duty is to inspire joy and happiness throughout the organization. While employees are busy with their duties, Blue is there to lend comfort and unconditional love.
Always ready for a hug or a treat, Blue is a constant reminder of how animals can bring out the best in everyone. Her beautiful blue eyes and vibrant personality bring a quick smile to all who meet her. Blue is very gentle and respectful of anyone, especially with a disability, and is strongly capable and protective in her role as a guide dog.
In her free time, Blue is very active in the Chicago area; playing at the dog beach, running alongside Megan on the bike paths on Lake Michigan, and making friends in her neighborhood.
Two of Blue’s favorite things are leftover chicken and squeaky toys.