Learn About Our Annual Volunteer recognition awardees

Each year, we ask our staff and community to nominate volunteers that stand out for the wonderful work they have done to support us.  Under normal circumstances, we would gather together to celebrate all of our volunteers who choose to donate their time and talents to us throughout the year. Without our volunteers, BACC would not be the amazing organization that it is today.

This year, Robert Fenerty was selected for our Volunteer of the Year Award.  Robert has been volunteering at BACC since 2014…  He has played a critical role in helping us stay connected to our clients throughout the years by maintaining our phone systems.  He diligently researches the best systems for our needs and is passionate about saving us money on the services we use.  Colleen, BACC’s Director of Programs and Services, shared, “Robert works quietly and often in the background, but when he is in the office he brings his warmth and compassion with him. Our volunteers and staff enjoy working with him and he is always looking for new ways to support the work we do. He is one of a kind!”

Helen Shaughnessy was nominated for our Dedication to BACC Award.  Since 2017, Helen has been an outstanding Breast Cancer Buddy for our clients. “Helen has a radiant personality and such a positive outlook. We know that our clients will benefit from talking with her about her cancer experience,” said Jennette Gonzalez, Manager of Volunteer Resources. Within the past few years she has been matched with more clients than most buddies usually are. She is always happy to talk with our clients and share her experiences on a variety of topics, from using cold caps to discussing what recovery from breast reconstruction was like. 

Tulin Gurer will be receiving our Corporate Volunteer of the Year Award. During this past year, Tulin has been instrumental in leading BACC through the complex transaction of acquiring the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund’s financial assistance program. In addition, she has gone above and beyond to assist us with navigating other legal matters relating to virtual programming, operations, and connecting us with other experts. She is incredibly talented, generous, and we would have been lost without her! Rina, BACC’s Executive Director said, “Tulin has a true heart of gold and BACC is so lucky to have her as part of our BACC family!”

Since we cannot gather and celebrate in person, we thought that it would be fun to learn a bit about the volunteers that have been recognized this year.  To read more about the contributions that these volunteers have made to support BACC’s Mission and Vision and receive regular updates throughout the year, please sign up for our Subscribe to our Newsletter.

What inspired you to become part of the volunteer team at BACC?

Robert: I was having dinner with the former director of the BACC, Karen Nelson. BACC was moving and wanted help setting up the network, computer, and telephone systems. When I found out that you were paying over $1000 a month for the phones, I got a little upset. So I started learning about internet-based telephone systems. Now the bill is closer to $100 a month, and I think of that as my monthly $900 contribution.

Helen: We get through cancer together.  After I was diagnosed, I talked to several young survivors that I already knew. Having those people to answer questions and surface important things I wouldn’t know to think about, made a huge difference in the way I approached treatment. And because of them, I chose to use Cold Caps and reconstructed via DIEP flap. I know that having a short phone call can help others feel better about the choices they have and have to make, so being a Buddy is a logical way to help women who come after me. 

Tulin: My grandmother and aunt are both breast cancer survivors, so when DLA Piper reached out to me about the opportunity to work with BACC, I was immediately interested and, as I did some research, moved by BACC’s history, mission, and programs.

Had you utilized BACC’s services prior to becoming a volunteer?

Helen: Prior to volunteering, I had brought my parents there to make use of the resources while I talked with Erika about my diagnosis. I tried several different support groups, eventually landing in Judy’s Young Women’s group on Thursday nights at Mills-Peninsula. I’ve also been to a few lectures and the Annual Conference.

Can you describe a bit about what your volunteer experience with BACC has been like?

Robert: I’ve really enjoyed it. I own a small firm that writes documents for large Silicon Valley companies. After we submit long challenging projects, it is unusual for my clients to even acknowledge receipt. But BACC is such a warm and friendly place. It is such a contrast to work with kind, well-adjusted people. I feel very appreciated and able to volunteer as my schedule permits.

Helen: The Buddy program is well organized. So far I’ve been matched up with women who I can relate to and they can relate to me. It feels good when by the end of a call I can hear that the other person is calmer and more confident.

Tulin: My experience working with BACC has been one of the most rewarding of my legal career thus far. It’s inspiring to work with an organization that is committed to improving the lives of others and bringing good into the world. Working with BACC’s Executive Director, Rina Bello, has made the experience all the more enjoyable.  At DLA Piper I’m fortunate to work with some of the world’s most innovative companies and their talented CEOs, founders and leaders. Rina is one of the best and has blown me away with her sophistication, leadership and outstanding management skills. On top of all that, she’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with. BACC is very lucky to have her.

What are some of your favorite hobbies (outside of volunteering at BACC)? 

Robert: I enjoy running, cooking, and entertaining friends. My wife has a love of nature and a deep understanding of California native plants, so we hike together and she teaches me about the natural world. I retain about 7% and she’s so proud when I actually ID something. Look, it’s Calochortus venustus!

Helen: Ice hockey, kayaking, Paddleboarding. Volunteer Trail Steward with TrailCenter.org

Tulin: I really enjoy reading and cooking. I read every spare minute I can find. DLA Piper’s office is on the 24th floor, so I’ll even read while in the elevator so I don’t waste those precious few minutes! It may sound strange, but I also love cleaning and keeping my house in good order. It brings me great joy and peace to wake up or come home to a clean, orderly, and beautiful home. 

If you could magically learn one new skill by this time tomorrow, what would it be and why? 

Robert: I suppose I should say “piano” or “French”. But as I type away in my steamy little home office, the right answer is A/C installation. 

Helen: Drawing/Design/Photography I have always liked to do art-y things, but I don’t have the talent for the results to be worthwhile.

Tulin: I would like to be able to play all three movements of my favorite piece, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35. I’ve played the violin since I was five but haven’t (yet!) reached the skill level required for this particular piece. That said, I really value the growth involved in practicing and learning, so I might not want to deprive myself of that musical journey. 

Once shelter in place restrictions begin to be lifted, what is the first store or restaurant you plan on visiting?

Robert: There’s a neighborhood seafood bistro near us called “Forthright” and we’ve always loved their food and the vibe. I so hope they survive the crisis. 

Helen: Dinner at Limon in Burlingame. I’ve been ordering delivery, but it’s not the same.

Tulin: Mikuni Sushi in Sacramento! It’s my all-time favorite restaurant and they have the best sushi I’ve ever had. Now that I live in San Francisco, my new favorite is Che Fico (their pineapple pizza is unlike any other). I’m also looking forward to outdoor brunch with friends and family.

BACC would like to congratulate these three wonderful volunteers and all of the volunteers that choose to donate their time and talents to BACC!  We look forward to celebrating our incredible volunteer community at next year’s Volunteer Recognition Event.