The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides financial and emotional support to families of children with cancer. Its tenacious and optimistic executive director is Lindsey Leonard, who has a long history in our community for looking after the well-being of young children. In 2008, for instance, she was named one of The Santa Barbara Independent’s Local Heroes for her hard work at the Westside Santa Barbara Boys and Girls Club.
On June 3, the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation will host its inaugural Little Heroes Breakfast at the Montecito Country Club, where the keynote speaker will be Melinda Marchiano, a former TBCF recipient and nationally recognized cancer awareness advocate.
Here Lindsey answers the Proust questionnaire.
What is your motto?
Attitude is everything! When you work for an organization that supports kids with cancer, you become acutely aware of how unfair this disease is. No child should ever have to endure battling cancer. But many of our kids are so brave and continue to wear a big smile on their face even in the midst of treatments, you can’t help but constantly see how attitude influences everything. I think the sky is the limit if you have the right attitude. Jimmy Buffet’s “Changes In Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” is a great song to listen to you when you’re having a bad day.
What do you like most about your job?
The people! Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation has the most amazing families, supporters, and staff you will ever meet. I am especially constantly in awe of the families we support that elect to “pay-it-forward” by helping out other families in need by raising funds, securing in-kind donations, sharing their personal story at speaking engagements, and being an ambassador of our cause.
What is the most difficult part about your job?
It is very difficult to learn of the hardships that families that have a child with cancer face. At times, it is emotionally draining for me. I am grateful Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation provides families critical support to help alleviate their financial and emotional burden, but it never becomes easier to hear about a child being diagnosed or a child passing from this tragic disease. We supported 649 individuals last year. There are a lot of people that need our help and, until there is a cure for cancer, the demand for our services continues to grow. I admire Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s program staff and all the nurses, doctors, and social workers that are working in the field every day to support these families.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
When everyone I love is healthy. Ultimately, that is perfect happiness. My other idea of perfect happiness would be relaxing on a tropical island on a stunning white sand beach dancing to a good live reggae band.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is war. I’m also afraid of spiders!
Who do you most admire?
Animal rights advocates and environmentalists because the planet belongs to all plants and animals. I fell in love with the movie Gorillas In The Mist and scientist Dian Fossey’s mission to protect gorillas. If my bank account had several additional zeros, I’ve always thought I’d give of my financial resources to animal rights and environmental causes, but give of my time to child welfare and family support organizations.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Sushi. I crave it! For better or worse, I live a block away from Kyoto Restaurant and I know all their rolls by heart. I recommend the 911 roll and Hawaiian roll. But travel and concerts are most definitely my other extravagance. I was bit by the travel bug a long time ago and have been fortunate to have explored some amazing places and have met wonderful people from all over the world. I’m considering a trip to Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador next!
What is your current state of mind?
I have a lot of gratitude for where I am in my life. Every one of us has the ability to influence positive change. I try not to forget that every personal interaction, no matter how inconsequential it might seem, can make a difference in someone’s life.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Positivity and integrity. There is nothing better than being around someone that is positive and who makes you smile!
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
I don’t like people that patronize others or engage in mind games. And I don’t play well with narcissistic, apathetic, or self-centered people.
What do you most value in friends?
Commitment through good times and bad times. Understanding and compassion.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’d like to think optimism. Perhaps also that I’m not afraid of hard work or a challenge.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Favorite and awesome. I use both words to describe everything! I have a million favorite songs and food dishes and there are a billion people, activities, places, and things that I think are awesome.
Which talent would you most like to have?
In my next life I think it would be a riot to be both a rock-star and a comedian. Perhaps Stevie Nicks crossed with Chelsea Handler.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes me to get to a meeting or do a project and I regularly pack too many things into my days. Must be a type A personality problem! I’d like to learn how to better relax and stop racing around.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Choosing to focus on positive aspects of life rather than the negative.
Where would you most like to live?
I’m already in paradise! But I would love to spend more time living in other countries. I think we can all learn a lot from people of other cultures.
What is your most treasured possession?
The first thing I thought of was my swimming googles as I swim nearly every day! But really I’d have to say the relationships I have with people. Life would not be nearly as colorful, special, or enjoyable without others to share it with. The relationships we build — whether with people that come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime — are all treasures.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My dog, Apache, is my most loyal companion and is seemingly always doing something humorous. Yesterday, he ate half of a great sandwich I bought at Panino that I was so looking forward to eating. But I couldn’t be mad at him because immediately after he ate it he scolded himself by cowering down on the floor like he had done something despicably and terribly wrong.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Olympians and star athletes: Pele, Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, to name a few. The level of athleticism that is required at that caliber of competition is sometimes more an exercise in mind over matter. Many of us are gifted a similar physical blue print when we are born, but physical competition becomes in part about mental toughness. Being a star athlete takes a lot of heart, stamina, and endurance.
On what occasion do you lie?
I like to be transparent in my personal and professional life. But, if my family was starving or in a life-threatening circumstance, I wouldn’t hesitate to lie, cheat, and steal for them.