We recently celebrated the retirement of long-time CHN staff member Diane Bongiorno. In addition to her role on the CHN team, Diane, a survivor of multiple cancers, is a dedicated Support Volunteer. We’re delighted to share an edited version of our Executive Director’s speech from Diane’s farewell luncheon.
I’ve said that or some form of it for over 15 years! Many times in the past year (since you announced you would be leaving) I have said I have separation issues so, please don’t be angry when I call you Monday morning and say “Hi Diane.”
As I thought about what to say today, I realized that it would take so much time to tell you about Diane and how I (all of us feel) about her and even given that time; we could not do justice to expressing how truly special she is to us and in particular to me. BUT, I do want to try and let her know just how profound her impact has been.
Diane joined CHN as a volunteer when she attended a training session in July, 2000. I remember saying “Diane, Bon Jorno!!” How many times have you heard that?? As a volunteer, Diane has completed more than 200 conversations with patients; guiding them through their various diagnoses while using her experiences to make their journey a bit less stressful.
Not too long after becoming a volunteer, a patient services position became available at the office. I called Diane and, unfortunately, was a bit too late. She was working with Tom at his business but indicated she would be interested if another opportunity became available at some point and to please keep her in mind. Well, not to be discouraged, I again offered her a patient services position in November, 2002 and this time, we lucked out!
She remained in that position for seven years – helping countless people navigate through their diagnosis – gently, with kindness, knowledge, empathy and care – never showing the angst she was experiencing as she dealt with her own health challenges.
Diane is diminutive, gentle, soft-spoken, kind and many similar adjectives. But don’t let her size mislead you; she is one of strongest people I have known. She faced her challenges head-on and while I’m sure there were days that were plain awful, she always kept her focus on a successful outcome and all the good that she had ahead of her.
In 2010 the Special Events position became available and Diane indicated a desire to change direction a bit and help CHN with our golf and gala fundraisers. Eight years later and through many committee changes, she has been my right-hand person and a stalwart pillar of the event planning and fundraising. When all goes crazy (as it sometimes does at events), Diane is the epitome of cool, calm and collected. How am I ever going to put that attribute in a job ad??
From a personal perspective, Diane and I are of a “certain age” where we share many of the same issues associated with aging parents. She has listened to so many of my “you won’t believe what happened” stories and has helped me sort through the frustrations associated with becoming the “parent” of your parents. Likewise, I hope sharing my experiences have been helpful to her.
We watched her family grow with the marriages of Christen and Steven and grow even more with the birth of three grandchildren – Lucas, Olivia and Theo. She has brought her immediate and extended family (siblings of both Diane and Tom and their spouses) to our events and they have volunteered and supported the organization in many ways. They even have called upon their business associates and friends to support CHN as an organization that is important to them. Clearly, Diane is not a part of the CHN family – more accurately, CHN has become a part of her family.
Diane, I will miss you every day but also know that you will be starting a new, exciting, fun and well-deserved chapter of your life. Many times as I have said farewell and good luck to people I add that I feel fortunate to include them in my life story. In your case Diane, I feel fortunate to be included in your life story. Follow your heart (as it has never let your down) always be well, live and enjoy every moment and thank you for everything.