We’re so proud of our Pandas! HEART Award Recipients donate to local charity of choice

We're so proud of our Pandas! HEART Award Recipients donate to local charity of choice

Each year, we recognize a handful of Pandas that truly went above and beyond to demonstrate BigPanda values in their every day. This year, BigPanda selected 13 recipients to be able to give back to a local organization of their choice. Many of the charities selected are close to these Pandas’ hearts and communities. As a Panda Award Winner, each team member was tasked with choosing an organization to which we would donate on their behalf, and some pretty stellar non-profits received funds as a result. Here are our Pandas’ own words on why they selected these particular charities, and what they mean to them.

Lauren Distler, Employee Experience and Employer Brand Manager, donated to Love & Second Chances
Love & Second Chances is dedicated to helping death-row, abused, and neglected dogs find forever homes. Founded in 2012, the organization hoped to connect the public to the rescue community with two rescue programs—local and international. The group is based out of Northern California with adoptions throughout the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Canada.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for animals, and think it’s important to take care of and stand up for them since they aren’t able to do it for themselves. They are sweet and defenseless animals that constantly get abused by their owners and deserve a loving home.” – Lauren Distler

Precious Martinez, Technical Support Engineer, donated to The Cerebral Palsy Foundation
The Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s mission is to be a catalyst for creating positive change for people with cerebral palsy. By collaborating with influential organizations, researchers, and thinkers to drive significant change, the Foundation brings real impact to people with cerebral palsy who rarely get the interventions and support they need at the moments they need them.

“I chose The Cerebral Palsy Foundation because their work is near and dear to my heart. My youngest sister has CP, and I’m always in awe of her strength and perseverance whenever she has to overcome an obstacle. Whether it’s school, therapy, or even dancing, Elsabella’s disability never gets in her way. Visiting her school for those with CP was always a highlight of my week, I am constantly reminded of the spirit and true grit these incredible individuals have. Seeing the technology advancements throughout the years, combined with amazing organizations like this, can help make impossible obstacles possible to overcome.” – Precious Martine

Shannon French, Senior Accountant, donated to Bay Area Rescue Mission
Bay Area Rescue Mission provides daily essentials such as food, shelter, clothing, and critical care to homeless neighbors. A Christian faith organization, the Mission offers job-skills training in a variety of areas, practical life-skills classes, and counseling. With their basic needs taken care of, homeless men, women, and families can rebuild their lives and transition to housing and employment.

“I would like to donate to the Bay Area Rescue Mission. I chose this organization because homelessness in California has become such an epidemic, and it’s getting harder to look away. They are not on the streets by choice—they usually have severe mental illnesses stemming from childhood that leads them there, and I don’t think we do enough as a society to help rehabilitate them.” – Shannon French

Josh Sigler, Regional VP of Professional Services, donated to the St. Joseph’s Health Foundation
The St. Joseph’s Health Foundation is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of the communities it serves, and works to offer the best medical specialties, cutting-edge technology, and mission-based services to families. Focused on the needs of New Jersey residents, the foundation uses donations for a multitude of projects including patient care facilities and medical breakthroughs.

“My wife and I selected St. Joseph’s Health Foundation as our charity to donate to. We’ve been involved in the Young Professionals Committee in fundraising to support the hospital in Paterson, NJ. We are very excited to partner with BigPanda on this generous gift to support hospital operations and healthcare, especially in the COVID world.” – Josh Sigler

Sara Rezaeian, Enterprise Business Development Manager, donated to Helen Keller International and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
Founded in 1915, Helen Keller International has evolved from providing assistance to soldiers blinded during service in World War I to creating programs preventing and treating vision loss and blindness. The organization also addresses major global health problems such as malnutrition and neglected diseases that threaten sight, productivity, and well-being.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda. It is committed to accelerating the next generation of Parkinson’s disease treatments and ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s.

“Both of these organizations are extremely important to me. Helen Keller is a beacon of true human potential. She had to overcome so many obstacles in life as a blind, deaf, and mute person, but she was fortunate enough to have opportunities that so many do not have. This foundation helps impoverished communities have access to good health, nutrition, and vision care. It was her life goal to help others, and her legacy continues to live on today through this foundation.

As for The Michael J Fox Foundation—my grandfather suffered from Parkinson’s while he was living, and I saw how it impacted his quality of life. I am so hopeful that this foundation will be able to uncover the necessary research to one day find a cure for Parkinson’s so that no one suffers from it again. My grandfather was such a wonderful and kind human who loved life. I know it would’ve made him so happy to see a world free of PD.” – Sara Rezaeian

Idan Shabi, UX Design Lead, donated to Latet and the Medical Cannabis Association
Latet is the largest NGO combating poverty and food insecurity in Israel. It was established in order to reduce poverty by providing assistance to needy populations, operating the leading national food bank, and mobilizing Israeli society toward mutual responsibility.

The Medical Cannabis Association was established in 2016 by patients treated with medical cannabis to advance the rights of patients and those in need of medical cannabis treatment. The volunteer-based organization provides counseling, guidance, and community assistance.

Elderly people should not suffer in a reformed country. I can’t even imagine how it feels to be cold with nothing to do about it. And my donation to the MCA is because they need fuel for their tough journey fighting our conservative government on that issue.” – Idan Shabi

Sapir Zariel, Engineering Team Lead, donated to Our Brothers
Our Brothers was founded in 2017 by bereaved brothers and volunteers with the aim of creating a supportive and empowering community for bereaving brothers and sisters in the State of Israel. Out of the desire to make Remembrance Day personal and meaningful, the organization aims to continue telling the stories of the fallen.

“Our Brothers is a social initiative which brings the Israeli society together during the Remembrance Day for Israel’s Fallen IDF Soldiers and Victims of Hostilities. The stories are told by the bereaved brothers and sisters of the fallen. I would like to pick them because one of the founders, Noy Perry, is a sister of a fallen IDF soldier (״Tal Ifrah” RIP) and is a good friend of mine. I think that it is really important to hear the brothers and sisters of the fallen.”

Omri Telem, Full Stack Web Developer, donated to The Foundation for the Welfare of Holocaust Victims
The Foundation for the Welfare of Holocaust Victims is a non-profit organization established by Holocaust survivors for Holocaust survivors. Established in 1994, it aims to help those who were saved from the horrors of war but could not rebuild their lives. In their advanced years, some lack the means to buy basic items or live in dignity. The Foundation’s goal is to provide diverse programs and services to Holocaust survivors who require assistance and to raise awareness to improve their welfare.

“There are currently 187,500 Holocaust survivors in Israel, of whom about 25% live below the poverty line and have difficulty living in dignity. Donating to this charity will help the survivors in a variety of areas and can help them live their rest of their lives exactly like every person wishes for.” – Omri Telem