UW Health Honors Employees for Community Service

2011 UW Health Community Service Award recipients Rebeca Liebl, Sherri Zelazny and Darlene Helming

Madison, Wisconsin - Rebeca Liebl, Sherri Zelazny and Darlene Helming are recipients of the second annual UW Health Community Service Award.


The award was created to recognize faculty and staff from throughout UW Health who demonstrate exceptional commitment and leadership as a volunteer for a community organization that promotes a community health priority.


At the ceremony held Monday, October 3, 2011, the three recipients were each presented with the award in recognition of their volunteer service.


Representatives from each recipient's volunteer organizations were presented with a $500 donation in honor of their UW Health volunteer and to support their important work.


All award nominees and winners served a minimum of 50 volunteer hours within the past fiscal year at an organization that effectively addresses a community health priority, directly helps or benefits our patients and families, or supports community health research.


"Having read the nominations, the 'at least' really needs to be underlined," said Juli Aulik, Director of Community Relations for UW Health. "These are people who have dedicated substantial portion of their lives to these organizations and their great missions."


Darlene Helming, HOPES


Some might know Darlene as one of the talented recruiters in our Human Resources department here at UWMF. What you might not know is the story of how she has turned a close family friend's tragedy into something positive.


Darlene shares her story: "Several years ago, one morning, my daughter's best friend called me sobbing to tell me that she found her sister, Natalie, hanging in the garage and EMS has taken her to the hospital. After 10 days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, this young woman was taken off of life support. It was devastating to both my family and our community in McFarland."


Soon after the tragic news, Darlene heard about an annual HOPES Walk. HOPES: Helping Others Prevent and Educate about Suicide is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping others through education and advocacy about suicide prevention.


With the support of the community, Darlene was able to help recruit more than 100 walkers from McFarland to participate in the walk, most whom were students.


After learning more about HOPES, Darlene decided to get further involved with the organization.


"Darlene came to our organization about five years ago with such a passion for educating others on suicide prevention and has since been a leading force in so many of our events," remarked Patricia Derer, a co-founder of HOPES. "She single-handedly was able to get high school students to become involved in our fundraising events, and she has accepted any task that needs to be done with kindness and efficiency."


Today, Darlene serves as a board member and volunteer coordinator. She is responsible for enlisting volunteers for the organization’s annual events. All proceeds from these events go toward educational materials, conferences and educational speaking events and trainings on how to prevent suicide.


Rebeca Liebl, Badger Childhood Cancer Network


Rebeca Liebl is a Spanish Medical Interpreter with UWHC. She has also been a devoted volunteer for the Badger Childhood Cancer Network for over four years.


The Badger Childhood Cancer Network, formerly known as the Capital Candlelighters, is a local non-profit organization that serves children currently on treatment for cancer. They provide informational materials and comfort items at diagnosis, host a monthly support group, offer transportation assistance and award limited emergency financial support for things like groceries, utilities, car repairs and rent for families in need.


Rebeca was inspired to get involved with the Badger Childhood Cancer Network after experiencing firsthand at UW Health the challenges faced by our patients and families, especially when a child is first diagnosed with cancer.


"Seeing our patients and families live through the childhood cancer experience has inspired me to give my time and knowledge to such an outstanding organization with a mission to support our patients and families during extremely challenging times."


Rebeca volunteers countless hours each year to assist with creating and updating Badger Childhood Cancer Network's website. She takes a leadership role in the marketing realm for the Badger Childhood Cancer Network's annual fundraiser, the Suzy Favor Hamilton Run/Walk, designing marketing materials such as save-the-date cards, brochures, posters and flyers.


Her peers at Badger Childhood Cancer Network appreciate how Rebeca can photograph children in a way that tells these children's story better than words ever could. They add, "Clearly, we are very lucky to have Rebeca and her many talents as a part of our organization."


Sherri Zelazny, American Parkinson Disease Association Wisconsin Chapter


Sherri Zelazny has been a clinical speech language pathologist at the UW Health Voice and Swallow Clinics since 2002 and began volunteering with the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) in 2007.


Similar to UW Health, the Wisconsin Chapter of the APDA works very hard to assist and support the people with Parkinson disease, their families and caregivers in the state of Wisconsin and beyond. They do this through their extensive educational and fundraising efforts, networking and support groups.


A colleague of Sherri's at UW Health, Michelle Ciucci, PhD, and the the current president of Wisconsin Chapter of the APDA, notes that in Sherri's relatively short time with the organization, her roles and responsibilities have grown exponentially.


"Sherri attends regular board meetings, contributes to a quarterly newsletter, helps identify speakers for the organization’s scientific and clinical symposia and attends all fundraising events," Ciucci said.


One of Sherri's most significant accomplishments is that she was the co-creator of the exercise program, which provides seven free Parkinson disease exercise classes to the Madison community.


"She is the quintessential volunteer; she does not dedicate herself for recognition or glory. She is the person behind the scenes, and she far exceeds the 50-hour award requirement year after year," shared Michelle.


"However, it is not just hard work that sets Sherri apart from her peers. She is a forward-thinker, she anticipates the needs of the community, and has a passion for finding creative yet effective solutions to deliver services that are so desperately needed."


Sherri's commitment of volunteer service, while maintaining a full-time clinical position, highlights her dedication to improve the quality of life for those in our community affected by Parkinson disease.


Eight additional award nominees were also recognized at the ceremony for their volunteer efforts:

  • Trudy Brule, Flashes of Hope
  • Mary Dodd, Special Olympics Wisconsin
  • Ann Evensen, American Academy of Family Physicians Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics Program
  • Darla Lockman, Susan G. Komen for the Cure
  • Lois Losseneger, Belleville Area Emergency Medical Services
  • Joel Miller, Church Health Services
  • MaryAnn Steiner, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walk
  • Barb Zimmerman, SHARE Wisconsin

Congratulations to each nominee and award recipient. The UW Health Community Service Award will be given annually.

Date Published: 10/21/2011

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