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Founders and Directors

Debbie George

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President and Co-founder |
No one ever thinks they will hear the words, “Your child has cancer.” I didn’t. When our son, Jeremy was diagnosed with T Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2008 the world as we knew it literally stopped for our family. After one re occurrence and a bone marrow transplant from his younger brother, Jeremy is now in remission and a student at Kent State University . Faith, the team at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital , and support from family and friends is what helped us through his journey. We consider ourselves fortunate and want to help other children and their families. We knew we could never pay everyone back for their generosity. Jeremy Cares was founded on the philosophy of paying it forward with the belief that a little caring can go along way in creating hope. In addition to my work with Jeremy Cares, I am a wife and a proud mother of two sons, Jeremy and Ben, my heroes.  I am a parent mentor for University Hospitals/Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital’s pilot parent/mentor program. I am also the Chief Operations Officer for Beacon Financial Partners, a comprehensive planning and wealth management firm that specializes in alternative investments, and serve as a Stephen Minister at Avon Lake United Church of Christ.

Jeremy George

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Vice President and Co-founder
I will never forget the day I was diagnosed with cancer. I will never forget the moment my mom sat on my hospital bed in the ER and told me “You have Leukemia.” I will never forget the look in my parents’ eyes. I will never forget the fear I had that day or the shock I felt when I relapsed and the cancer came back. Many of the days, months, and years kind of ran together for me after that while in active treatment. But what I do remember from treatment are the moments others created for me. I will never forget the cards, the visits, the gifts, the calls, the prayers, or the sacrifices others made on my behalf, especially my brother, Ben. I remember many horrible days and nights of going through treatment, but I remember feeling loved more. I’d like to say that I’d like to forget I ever had cancer, but I wouldn’t want to forget the love. There is no way to say thank you to everyone that showed me support, some who were even strangers. I’m honored and humbled that the same individuals who supported me continue to support other children through Jeremy Cares. Cancer stinks. Seeing the children smile when we visit the hospital or the Ronald McDonald House is the coolest. I’m not sure I can put into words how much that means to a kid.

Mary Kellick


Vice President and Co-founder |
I’ll never forget the day when I found out my dearest friend’s oldest boy had cancer. My family and I were on vacation in Florida. Another friend of mine had been trying to get in touch with me, but wasn’t leaving any voice mails. When I finally answered, I couldn’t believe my ears: “Jeremy has cancer.” And I’m literally 1,000 miles away from my friend who just received the worst news possible….So now it’s Debbie who isn’t answering her phone. And I’m leaving 1,000 messages, 1 for every mile between us. When I finally reach her, she’s thinking about ME. She’s worried that her awful news will ruin my family’s vacation. WHAT?? That’s my friend. Even in her worst hour, it’s others that she’s thinking of. When we finally returned home, the girlfriends mobilized. How to help? What to DO?? The ladies rallied and organized numerous events for the George Family including t-shirt sales, Indian’s Games, anything we could think of to help. It felt so good to do something to help. I couldn’t take away my darling friend’s pain and fear, but I could do something to help out this family that I loved as my own. God blessed them by making Benny a match for Jer’s transplant, and never in my life did I pray harder. Surely, something good had to come of all this, right? True to form, when Deb caught her breath, instead of taking her blessings and going on her way, she went to work. I feel like she put on her cape & said, “I got this! Let’s go and pick everyone  else up that needs some hope and some joy.” And thus, Jeremy Cares was born. I am honored to be a part of this wonderful organization. In addition to my work with Jeremy Cares and a pseudo aunt to Jeremy, I am a wife and a mother to three beautiful young ladies.

Lisa Bain


Co-founder |
It was my birthday, 2008. I had taken a vacation day so I could relax and do something for myself, for a change. I heard my cell phone ring while I was in the shower but did not jump out to answer. It was MY birthday – it could wait. When I checked the missed call from Debbie, I smiled and listened to the voice mail, expecting to hear her very bad rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Instead, I heard my little sister sobbing the words, “My baby has cancer”. My oldest nephew had been diagnosed with leukemia. The months that followed were somewhat of a blur but the one thing that stood out was the outpouring of love and support from the entire community. Realizing that not every family has that kind of support system or, more often, families being treated at Rainbow are detached from their support system, Jeremy Cares, Inc. was founded. I am honored to be part of an organization that is constantly looking for ways to give back.In addition to being an aunt to three nephews and a niece, I am a wife and the proud mother of two. I have worked at Communications Workers of America since 2001.

Mike Bankowski


Board Member |
It was 2012 when my manager came to me and asked if I would be interested in volunteering my time to help a local non-profit organization for their Christmas delivery. Earlier that year his son was diagnosed with cancer and treated at Rainbow Babies Hospital and this is where he first met the George family. He told me of the comfort and assistance the Jeremy Cares organization brought to the patients and families, whether it was a random gift card for gas, a friend to talk to or a shoulder to lean on. Immediately I was compelled to help. I agreed to meet with Debbie George and was impressed with her son Jeremy’s heart and willingness to help others in their time of need. I wasted no time and immediately agreed to help their cause. My mother raised me to put others and their needs first even before my own. Prior to meeting Jeremy I was confident we had one thing in common…our goal was to create moments of joy! What is better than that? Seriously? How could I not want to support creating moments of joy? I got involved because I care. About others, neighbors, strangers whomever, I care. I have everything in life I need and thank God and count my blessings daily. I am big on paying it forward and outside of my involvement with Jeremy Cares I have helped collect food for the pantry at St. Michael’s Church, raised money and collected bedding for the Cleveland Furniture Bank and single handedly created The Great Mortgage Giveaway through my employer where we partnered with Fox 8 to find a deserving Northeast Ohio family down on their luck and paid their mortgage for an entire year! By day I am a mortgage banker, networker, communicator, negotiator, promoter, leader, friend, lover and most importantly a dad. My 3 year old daughter Brianne is literally the twinkle in my eye! My life and outlook on it completely changed the moment she was born. I treasure every second we spend together and watching her grow has been the coolest thing I have ever experienced. She defines indisputable unconditional love. She is my best friend and because of her I am a different man. In the little spare time I find these days I enjoy my many friendships, music, cooking, boating, camping and anything that involves water, blue sky and sunshine! I am happy to support Jeremy George as one of his soldiers to help his cause and promote his mission creating moments of joy & hope.

Megan Kuhlenschmidt


Board Member &
Our daughter Molly was two years old when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on August 1, 2011. We have three other children and the baby was just 4 months old at the time. My husband and I had to spend ten nights away from the other kids and with Molly in the hospital. We were both too scared and nervous to leave. The first few months of treatment were a real rollercoaster of emotions and illness. We were in and out of the hospital several times during those first few months. I knew that Molly had a tough round of chemo coming up that Christmas so I did everything I could to prepare just in case she got admitted. Sure enough Christmas Eve she gets a fever. A fever for a cancer patient almost always means an admission to the hospital. I was devastated. I knew it could happen but I just thought we had made it to Christmas Eve and we were good. Our older two kids, who were 5 and 7 at the time, were crushed. When we got to the floor the staff told us that there would be a celebration and that the kids should stay for a while. I looked out Molly’s door and saw Jeremy and all his “elves” coming through the door with huge bags of gifts! As an adult I was excited and overwhelmed by what I saw. I think my kids almost passed out when they saw those big bags. It ended up being a beautiful quiet Christmas. The kids want to spend all Christmases in the hospital now! I knew then that these were amazing people and an amazing organization. I contacted Debbie George to thank her and have been in contact ever since. Sometimes the best therapy is knowing someone who made it through.The George Family were those people for me. My husband and I had the honor of shopping for a family the next year. As amazing as receiving felt, giving and seeing those families’ reactions was even better. I always say that even though I would never want to take this journey again we have learned so much and met some truly extraordinary people along the way. It has changed me and my family for the better. I am thrilled to be involved with Jeremy Cares because I want to pay all that love and support forward and teach my children to do the same. I have worked as a Registered Nurse at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center since 2002. I work on the adult Bone Marrow Transplant unit (go Figure)! I have been involved with Light the Night and Relay for Life over the past 10 years. Molly has ended her treatment as of October 2013 and is doing great.

Maryann Ruben


In May of 2013, my 9 year old son’s friend was diagnosed with medullablastoma. Even though I didn’t know them well, I was terribly affected. I thought about Logan and his family constantly. Only, it was more selfish than that. What I was really thinking was, “Oh Dear God! What if that was my baby?! My family?” I couldn’t even imagine what they must be going through. So I offered the only things I know of for comfort: food and prayers. Well, I prayed my head off – and I still am praying! But, instead of bringing them dinner, I wound up putting together a fundraising drive that, by August, had made about $30,000 for the family. That’s how I met Debbie. She heard about our events through church, and reached out to offer supplies and support. I don’t have first hand experience, like Debbie, but I have second and third hand experience with cancer. Creating moments of joy for these kids is like shining a light into darkness. And that’s what we’re all commissioned to do. Other stuff about me: I help folks create their estate plans. I’m an author and a storyteller. I love God, and my family.


John Toth


Past Vice President and Co-founder |
When I found out that Don and Debbie’s oldest son had cancer, one of our friends got a group of us together with the hopes of putting together a golf outing to support the George’s as their family began their fight with cancer. That summer we raised over $10,000 in the first “We Love Jeremy” golf outing. Selling out your first golf outing isn’t something that just happens but when you get a group of very determined people and you mix in the compassion and support from the local community along with a fair amount of effort the results are amazing. When the George Family told me about their “pay it forward” aspirations and the concept of Jeremy Cares, I was hooked. I’m very proud to be one of the founding members of JCI and being able to see it all come to life. “Where caring and hope meet” is the philosophy that inspires me to be a part of JCI and until we never have to hear the words cancer and child in the same sentence, I hope that Jeremy Cares is continuing its mission. Outside of Jeremy Cares, I am Chairman of the Board for Valley Riding Inc. a 501c3 nonprofit that operates the Rocky River Metroparks Stables, and I’m a Dad of two great boys and a caring husband.

Heather Dougherty

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I was sitting at my desk at Quicken Loans Arena focusing on what seemed to be the most important thing in my life at the moment, accommodating an arena of 20,000 guests. Then I answered a call from Debbie, she and her husband, Don, were following an ambulance transporting Jeremy, their eldest son, to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. He had just been diagnosed with Acute T-Cell Leukemia. Instantly, nothing else mattered. At that time, I knew nothing about Leukemia or the effects life saving treatments have on our youth after undergoing the treatments to cure this unforgiving cancer. In a short time, family, friends, and the entire community came together to support the Georges in many ways. Simultaneously, the George family, put forth a positive, hopeful, thankful path. All the generosity, care and love the Georges received they returned ten fold. Jeremy Cares Inc. was established and has become a place of support for many families facing the unknown during their child’s life threatening treatments. Every member of the George family continues to be an inspiration to me and I am honored to be part of this team that sends hope to so many, too many families.

Kristen Moran


Past Board Member |
“I had been friends with the George Family for about 12 years when I found out Jeremy had been diagnosed with Leukemia in 2008. I always knew they had an incredible group of friends but to see how they all rallied around them after Jeremy’s diagnosis was incredible. So, when Debbie started talking about wanting to “pay it forward” and give back to everyone that had helped them through such a tough time, I was more than happy to help. After my first time volunteering at the We Love Jeremy golf outing, where I saw the support from friends, family and the community, and heard the stories of other patients at the hospital, I was hooked and wanted to help in every way possible. I love the idea of “creating moments of joy” for kids facing things kids shouldn’t have to face. There are so many great organizations that raise funds for research and education so we can hopefully find a cure for these cancers, but to be part of an organization that has such a direct impact on the lives of children and their families when they need it the most, is truly amazing. I am so proud to be a member of the Board of Directors and will continue to help create these “moments of joy” as long as they are needed.” Kristen is a Certified Financial Planner® and the Director of Wealth Strategies at Cedar Brook Financial Partners in Mayfield Heights and lives in Fairview Park with her husband, Matt, and their 2 children, Colton (4) and Samantha (2). She is actively involved in the Fairview Park Early Childhood PTA where she is the 2nd Vice President in charge of fundraising for the organization. She is also actively involved in raising funds for organizations such as the Cleveland Food Bank, American Heart Association and the Salvation Army.

Kelli Buttolph


Past Board Member and Secretary
I met Debbie George and her family a few months back on an extremely, miserable hot day while selling snow cones for the Jeremy Cares Foundation to a bunch of cheerleaders. Very good friends of ours, Al and Megan Kuhlenschmidt, have a daughter named Molly who was diagnosed with cancer. Megan and I became “running buddies” over the past year or so and spent several painful miles running and talking about our lives, families and typical woman gossip. Megan had mentioned how the Jeremy Cares Foundation came to the hospital and inundated them with gifts on Christmas for the entire family. What an awesome and truly magical event for them in such a time of chaos, uneasiness and fear. As we continued running, we decided that we were going to be truly crazy and run the Columbus Marathon. Through our training we starting raising money, to not only help the Jeremy Cares Foundation, but to give every painful step meaning and purpose. We would eventually get to the finish line and our pain and fatigue would end. We kept thinking that for many cancer patients and their families, that pain takes much longer to go away. This remained our mantra to keep going. After the marathon was over, I expressed interest in continuing work with JCI and Debbie gladly handed me that gift.

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