Volunteer Portrait: Marisa Velez
Family can shape the course of our lives, and no one knows this better than Marisa Velez. As a young girl, she watched her mom make casseroles for homebound elderly members of their church. Shuffling friends back and forth to medical appointments and to the grocery store fit seamlessly into her mother’s day. As a hospital volunteer, she spent time with pediatric patients as doctors discussed treatment options with their parents.
“My parents would never walk by a lacrosse team collecting money for a trip or Girl Scouts selling cookies, without donating to their cause,” says Mrs. Velez. “They’ve always been very big philanthropists. As kids, they taught us that the more you have, the more you give.”
Now Mrs. Velez and her husband, Paul, are imparting the same lessons to their four children. Along with her parents, Frank and Marisa Martire, they recently gave $100,000 to Goryeb Children’s Hospital, earmarked for the expansion of the Valerie Fund Children’s Center and the Joan and Edward Foley Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
Taking after her mom, Mrs. Velez also has a heart for helping children in need. She donates time to the hospital as a member of the Goryeb Philanthropy Council, tasked with evangelizing the merits of Goryeb throughout her community and encouraging her circle of friends to contribute. Asking for donations from friends is an easy sell. When her own kids needed medical attention, she recalls rushing through Goryeb’s doors in a panic, only to be impressed – every time – by the expert treatment and compassion she found on the other side.
“I tell my friends with kids, this is where you need to be,” says Mrs. Velez. “Anyone you come in contact with at the hospital, they all know how to interact with kids. Even as simple as a child size IV or letting my 15-month walk around instead of feeling like I needed to keep him contained, they are always so accommodating.”
And just like her mom, Mrs. Velez is quick to teach her own children – Kyle, 13, Griffin, 12, Drake, 10 and Sofia, 8 – how easy it is to be a giver. She knows the lessons can be simple: Hold the door open for the person behind you, give up your seat on the subway or let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line. “I tell them to look around and be aware,” she says. “There are a lot of people who need that seat more than you do. Get your head out of the electronics and see what’s going on around you.”
Mrs. Velez hopes to leave a lasting legacy with her clan when it comes to giving time to worthy causes. When not helping out at the hospital, she leads her daughter’s Succasunna-based Girl Scout Troop 97224. Filling bags for a food bank and assembling cookie sale drives puts her right where she wants to be – mirroring her mom and reflecting it to Sofia. The lesson? Loving others in this life is as good as it gets.