On June 1, 2022, Lucy’s Love Bus Co-Founder, Beecher Grogan, stepped down from her role as Executive Director. After sixteen years of service, she turned the steering wheel over to her trusty co-pilot, Jackie Walker, who has been with the organization since 2013. In her nine years with Love Bus, Jackie has been instrumental in developing Love Bus programs and systems, and ensuring the safe delivery of integrative therapies. Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Jackie and hear more about her background and vision for the future of Love Bus. Read on to hear more from our new Executive Director!
Who or What has shaped who you are?
Growing up in Baltimore, I was surrounded by a diverse mix of people in a diverse set of circumstances. I knew that I was lucky in many ways: to have a safe and comfortable home, to never have to worry about having food on the table, to have relatively good health and access to healthcare, and so on-- so I never wanted to take that for granted. In my family, helping others was just part of our life. Every day I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of a small organization that is making a huge difference in the lives of the world's bravest children and their families, and I don't take one second of it for granted.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I've always been an animal lover, and so I wanted to be a veterinarian for the big animals at the zoo. I'm an unabashed animal nerd and I went to zoo camp, aquarium camp, and biology camp many summers until I started working in high school. I realized I loved connecting with and helping people, and didn't love complex mathematical equations... so that led me to the human sciences and ultimately into nonprofit work!
Tell me about the last tough day you had and how you pushed through?
The reality of working/being in the world of childhood cancer is that there are some seriously tough days. Love Bus families are my family, and every time we get a not-great update, I feel that deeply. We won't ever turn away, but I know that Love Bus can help to make things a little lighter-- through quickly connecting a child to an integrative therapy, or making connections to other organizations for different types of support, or honestly, just sitting together on the phone with a caregiver in a weepy silence. Remembering that we "bring the good"-- and smooshing my face into my dog's fur-- is how I push through. If that's not enough, I usually go to the Dunkin' drive thru down the street, get an iced caramel latte as a pick-me-up, and pay for the person in line behind me-- an immediate random act of kindness really helps a lot, too!
What is Lucy’s Love Bus doing well, and where do you see opportunities to grow?
In my frequent conversations with our Love Bus families, my heart melts whenever someone tells me that Love Bus is more than just an organization, but that we felt like a family member that could be counted on. I truly feel like the families served by Love Bus are part of my own family, and to have that reciprocated is just... incredible. As Love Bus grows, our ability to always "be there" for Love Bus families is something that will never go away; with a small staff, this means we have plans for very mindful and sustainable growth so we never lose that close connection. I hope to extend this same close connection with our generous community of donors as well, so that they can know the direct impact they have on the lives of our Love Bus families, and how continued support means we can keep helping and growing as one big Love Bus family.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned through Lucy’s Love Bus?
The beloved Maya Angelou said, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I think that many people struggle with what to say in difficult situations; especially in the beginning of my work with our Love Bus families, I was so often worried about not saying the "right thing." But what I've learned from our Love Bus families is that being there for someone -- listening, and helping them to feel heard-- can make the most difference. Just be there, and be present-- and the words won't matter as much.
Why are you passionate about what Lucy’s Love Bus does?
Unlike many other childhood cancer nonprofits, Lucy's Love Bus is unique in that we do not have any requirements regarding "phase of treatment" to be eligible for our support; others require a child be in active treatment, or less than six months in remission, whereas we know that you aren't "done" with cancer when chemo/radiation ends. The commitment our donors have to Love Bus means that Love Bus can commit to sticking by each of our Love Bus families for as long as we are needed. So be sure to spread the word- a child does not need to be in active treatment for their family to be eligible for Love Bus support!
How has your time at Lucy’s Love Bus (9 years!) impacted your life personally?
I've grown up with Lucy's Love Bus, and Love Bus has shaped who I am now in so many ways. Life can change in an instant, so I cherish the small moments, I celebrate small wins, and I know how much the smallest action can have a ripple effect. I've become a better listener, a better friend, a better daughter/sister/wife, and a better person in general because of the children, families, donors, friends, communities, and individuals I've met throughout my time at Love Bus. You have all changed me, and continue to change me, for the better-- thank you.
And now for the”Lightning Round”…
Dogs or Cats?
Dogs! I have two dogs and have volunteered with rescues and fostered pups over the years. But I really do love cats, too! I spare my husband's cat allergies though by sticking to dogs!
Beer or Wine?
Beer, for sure. My favorite beers are sours in the summer, stouts in the winter, IPAs in any season.
Summer or Winter?
While I've come to tolerate (perhaps almost enjoy) the winter here in New England, the summer is incredible, bugs and all. I live in New Hampshire, and it's awesome to be 20 minutes from the ocean but less than two hours from the White Mountains! Summer is also when I can go on roadtrips; this summer I'm heading to Deer Mountain in northern New Hampshire, PEI (my first time!), and Maryland to see my family!
Pancakes or Waffles?
Waffles!!!! I am Leslie Knope. I have a circus animal-shaped waffle maker from a Yankee Swap in college that may or may not be used for "breakfast for dinner" tonight now that I have waffles on the brain!
Football or Hockey?
"Crabcakes and football baby, that's what Maryland does!" I'm a huge Baltimore Ravens fan, which means I'm picked on constantly here in New England - but it's (usually) all in good fun! Though I have to say, I've become a big Bruins fan; hockey is so fast-paced and physical, it's fun to watch!