This past week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Maria Bye, an ARVF volunteer for the past 17 years. As a Voorhees resident for 36 years, Maria is a true part of her community and a strong supporter of ARVF.
The Volunteer"Life itself is a celebration. I'm a cancer survivor and each day is cherished, enjoyed, and shared with others. Pulling from work and life experiences helps us bring together volunteers of all ages to accomplish projects for teens with life-threatening illnesses." - Maria Palestini Bye, Volunteer Coordinator at the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation
How did you start volunteering?
Maria first met Gisele DiNatale 36 years ago, through her friendship with Gisele’s sister Rose. As their children grew up, their friendship also grew. After Alicia passed, and the foundation was formed, she started volunteering by assembling Teen Kits in Gisele’s basement. Later, ARVF moved to a rented storage space in Voorhees. Maria smiled as she recounted memories from Teen Kit assembly. Maria packaged many kits in the storage unit - she boxed the kits, prepared them for shipment, and waited for a carrier to pick up the boxes from the storage facility.
Eventually, Maria became a full-time volunteer for the organization, and she began shopping for supplies to make Bandana Pillows and to fill the Teen Kits. She laughed as she recalled going from store to store in search of pillow stuffing.
Can you tell me a bit about the L’Oréal Paris relationship?
Maria was honored by L’Oréal Paris as a Women of Worth in 2006. L’Oréal awarded one woman per region, and Maria was nominated by Gisele DiNatale and Maria Chalmers for the Atlantic Region. Prior to the award ceremony, she visited New York City for a L’Oréal Paris make-over and a commercial shoot.
Through the years, Maria maintained a relationship with L’Oréal, even attending a sales force convention in Florida to speak about volunteerism. L’Oréal continues to support ARVF with annual In-Kind donations for the Birthday Bash.
Maria was also listed as Good Housekeeping's "Fifty over Fifty", celebrating iconic women who inspire others to change the world.
What do you love to do as an ARVF volunteer?
Maria loves being involved in ARVF’s major fundraising events and building relations with the community through the foundation. As a part of the Annual Birthday Bash, Maria loves making baskets and keeping an eye on the silent auction to see what items are being bid on. She encourages attendees to make bids and participate in the fun. Maria is very passionate about her work, and she strives to continue fulfilling the needs of kids.
Do you have special moments that you can share?
“The first time I visited a Teen Lounge in Sloan Kettering, NY - it was very emotional seeing a teen enjoying time away from their room to have some fun.”
“Being an Ambassador for ARVF and presenting an Alicia's Art Cart to Broward Health in Florida was another special moment. I was able to give a Teen Kit and Bandana Pillow to several hospitalized teens... when you see the joy that these [Teen Kits] give the teens, you see it really makes a difference what we are doing."
What do you do in your spare time?
Maria loves to cook and read in her spare time. Her favorite summer recipe is avocado toast with arugula, hard-boiled egg, and a drop of olive oil on whole-grain toast.
“I am happy with where my life is and count my blessings every day.”