To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we wanted to celebrate those who have helped get us to where we are today. Those who help our participants thrive and live without limits. During this week you will see several of our volunteers featured in our blog, but you’ll also see our participants as they join in on volunteer projects to help their community. You will hear from past and present Hand in Hand connections as they tell us their favorite memories of Hand in Hand and how the Hand in Hand family has impacted their life.
Heather Hartley’s involvement with Hand in Hand started before Hand in Hand was just a twinkle in someone’s eye. Heather attended elementary school with Tessa, Joanie and Dave Steil’s daughter and the inspiration for Hand in Hand. “I attended elementary school with Tessa and volunteered in the lunch buddies program where we could come into the classroom one day a week and eat lunch with our pair,” said Heather.
She was once again connected to us during her senior year in college as her capstone project in college was selected to be done on Hand in Hand. She was able to learn more about us, meet Mark, and tour Tessa’s Place. In 2013, she was asked by former Board President John Byrne to join the board and bring her marketing perspective to the organization. In 2021 she became Board President.
Being connected to Hand in Hand for so long she has several great memories but says she will never forget her first Chili Cook-Off. “The attendance and support from the community blew me away, and when the Pleasant Valley Sparkle Cheerleaders performed, I will never forget the smiles I saw on faces,” she said. Heather says her time on the board has helped her connect with many passionate leaders in the community who are stewards for inclusion and getting to know some of the Hand in Hand families and participants has been the connection she values most.
“My husband Alan is a principal in the Davenport Community School District, and has a background in Special Education, so our family is a big advocate for quality and inclusive education and childcare. Being involved with this organization has made me a better parent, helped me to be a more patient person, and taught me to slow down in those key moments and appreciate the friendships in simple moments with others.”
“It’s been such an honor to have one of the front seats over the last decade to see how much we’ve grown. There are so many opportunities before us that I can’t wait to see who we become in another 20 years and all the families we will have served.”