My Minerva Moment



Since 2004, The Women’s Conference has honored extraordinary women with the annual Minerva Awards. These Remarkable Women & Remarkable Legacies have recognized a problem, identified the solution, and pursued it with strength, courage, perseverance and compassion.

Each one of us has experienced that moment when we first realized that we have the ability to make a difference and transform the life of someone we love, someone less fortunate or someone in need. That's your Minerva Moment!

So tell us –

When did you realize for the first time that you could make a difference? What was your Minerva Moment?  

Share your story in 200 words or less in the comments section below.


My Minerva Moment
  • Some people have “Ah Ha” moments. I had my (Minerva) YEAH YEAH Out Loud (YYOL®) moment.

    As the daughter of a hard-of-hearing and visually impaired father, I had to be LOUD about everything.

    Our youngest daughter’s soccer club was playing in a tournament. A rigorous schedule of 2-3 games a day…. It was cold and foggy. Parents on the sidelines cheered them on. I’m LOUD and kept screaming encouragement but by the 3rd game, 3rd day, and my voice was gone!

    The only thing I could rev up and yell…was “Yeah Yeah”. When the team took 2nd place in the tournament, they all lined up after getting their medals and echoed that very same “YEAH YEAH” back to me! By that simple positive reinforcement, I was empowered to continue saying “YEAH YEAH” Out Loud at future events.

    It became my trademark. When anyone heard it, they knew I was there somewhere in the crowd. “Yeah Yeah” was used for revving up a team when they were down, reinforcing good sportsmanship, to applaud effort and attitude or acknowledging a “proud for you” moment.

    When the kids graduated and moved away to college, I thought my “Yeah Yeah” days were over. Being the “on-line Mom” I ended up fixing things from printers to friend issues; as well as just being available on the other end of a late night check in to say “Hey”. While they used common acronyms to chat, I found my own; YYOL®! They could “hear” me!

    Then a special invitation came. It was a call from our “son”, then a college freshman, who invited me to be at “Mom’s weekend”. Being the “cheer” leader I am, I felt bad thinking I didn’t have any school colors/spirit items for his college.

    It was this experience that was the inspiration which led to the creation of Kiddazy® and Hur-Ray© (a concept that evolved into a full blown self esteem kit) who have become symbols to represent that there is always someone there to “cheer” kids on!

    Posted by YEAHYEAHOUTLOUD, 4 May 2010.

  • Not one, but it a series of moments. A consistent tugging at my soul from something deep inside that makes you cry at a tragic condition somewhere across the world effecting people that you have absolutely no connection to, yet you can’t escape the emotion.

    The emotion lingers and you ask yourself, “What can I do?” but you do nothing, life is busy and you have your own issues to deal with,

    Still empty inside. Struck to tears from a powerful poem about looking back at your life and during the worst times, you only see one set of footprints. You question God. He left you in those darkest days. He corrects you, telling you that the footprints were his as he carried you. And you realize that we cannot make it alone.

    You experience success and spend frivolously. Shamefully seeking “stuff” to fill up the hole in your soul. That’s when you realize that life is not about stuff. It’s about compassion and community.

    Need: more purpose.

    For me, I formed the Footprints Foundation funded by Stemulation and partnered with “Fore” raising victim to victor over domestic abuse. It wasn’t one moment it was a journey.

    Posted by Laurie Nicoll , 4 May 2010.

  • My Minerva moment: It was in the fall of 1999 when my paternal aunt had been lying on a gurney in the hallway of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for 3 days. My cousin’s child was running a high fever when she asked me to check on her mom. I was unemployed at that time and I went uptown to see my aunt. She was screaming and writhing in pain. I went ballistic on the head nurse and patient advocate to immediately remedy the situation. My aunt was then placed in the “hotel suite” floor of the hospital for the remainder of her stay. Upon leaving, I recognized my future self in that moment and realized that I, as an unmarried, childless woman would potentially not have a personal advocate in a time of great distress or need and from that moment on have taken it upon myself to join the Bikkur Holim committee (visiting the sick or elderly) of my synagogue. I feel that by lifting up the mantel others have worn and if I am a voice of healing and comfort to others that the chain will continue when and if the time arises that I cannot speak for myself.

    Posted by Plushredhead, 4 May 2010.

  • Hello, I am Joanie. I am a mother of four. My eldest son Patrick was seven when I became pregnant with my triplets Sean, Kate & Brendan. The stress of the pregnancy and birth lead to a severe stroke within a week of giving birth and life as I knew it changed in that blink of an eye. For two months I lay in a coma, and then I awoke. The stroke paralyzed my right side, I no longer had the use of my right arm or right leg. I had also lost my speech as well as ability to read and write. It took years of hard work to regain some semblance of speech and the ability to read a couple of lines of text. With a degree is journalism, I don't need to tell you how devastating that particular blow has been. I fought through great depressions, struggled to raise my children, cook, clean, and care for them. eight years into this struggle my husband filed for divorce. Unable to care for my children alone, and unable to afford a full time caregiver, I reluctantly agreed that the children should live the school year with their father and moved to Auburn , Northern California where my parents and sister could take care of me. Letting go my children has been the hardest and most devastating result of my stroke, but court evaluators were against me taking care of them. As mothers in arms, I know you understand the ache I carry daily in my heart for the loss of my family. Not being able to share a hug, wipe a tear, sheer them on. They are my life, my reason for going on, why I continue to breath in and breath out. You understand.
    In this time, I met my friend Anne, who has soldiered through this divorce with me, a constant beacon of light and hope for me. In our many talks, we discussed reaching out to others who had suffered severe strokes like mine. In December 2009, Anne set up a lunch at the Ritz in Dana Point. Alice Lei, past president NAWBO Orange County had a brohter Kenneth who had several months earlier suffered a stroke . Ken was successful doctor in Florida, drove a lamborghini and loved to spend time at the Ritz. Ken's speech had not returned yet, his words were barely audible, he also has lost the use of his right arm and right leg. We looked a right pair, struggling together into a window table at the Ritz. Anne, her sister Deirdre also past president NAWBO Otange county, and Kens sister Alice Lei came along to help out and keep the conversation rolling. We had such a good time, the afternoon paced by in much laughter. I talked to Ken, as much as I could and assured him that he like me would work his way through this. He was elated. His family could not get over the change in his outlook over the holidays. My heart rang out and my spirit lifted. I have a use. I can reach out to others and give them hope. I have a value. I am now working with James Kirk Marshall who is helping me write my story. James is a journalist and went to high school in Manhatten Beach with me. It's people like James and Anne, who are helping me get my voice, and with that voice I will reach out and touch the hearts of many other stroke victime. My purpose in this life is to be a beacon of hope and reliliance. Did you know that the definition of Resiliance -One of the critical skills for ongoing success is the ability to bounce back from adversity. I believe, as women in have an advantage in that. I believe all women have the power of reliliance. All of you have overcome many struggles, much adversity, and yet we continue to reach out, we push through, we soldier on. I am so thankful for being a women and having sisters like you, soldiering along with me.

    To Wanda !!!! ( reference Fried Green Tomatoes)


    Posted by Joanieforresilianceofwomen, 4 May 2010.

  • Sometimes you can not save the world, but you can save the life of your father. It's not all glitzy, and no papparazzi follows you to and fro dialysis and wound care visits, but you only get one Dad a life time and saving my Dad's life, gave me the time to reflect that: no I won't have him forever, but I wanted him for a bit longer than what seemed to be. My father is a war hero and served his country through the United States Marine Corps. He feel ill late March and the Doctors wanted him to go into hospice, I refused, and at these crazy economic times I quit a very good job, and fought for more thorough exams, more home health nurse visits and rallied the family for comfort,love and support. His cardiologist and primary care physician were astonished at how amazing he looked on his follow up visits, and they were ready for hospice! Sometimes I had to act like a female canine to get my way for prescriptions, authorizations, and out patient care, but I did it. Charity begins at home, my fifteen minutes of fame are in my dad's loving eyes, and I always tell him he will be the very last WWII vet to leave this earth!

    Posted by deborist19, 3 May 2010.

  • My true Minerva moment came as I was watching my daughter fight for her life. She was only 7 months old at the time and I had learned the devasting news one month earlier that I would lose her to the terminal illness SMA -- spinal muscular atrophy. But watching it happen was entirely different from knowing it will. As my sweet baby struggled to breathe, I threw the towel in, I cried for my loss, I felt empty and helpless. And then, she looked at me, with bright blue telling eyes that said, "Don't give up on me. I'm not done fighting." I did not lose my daughter that day and with that glance my life has entirely changed. From that day forward I found a strength inside of me that I never knew before. I found an unmatched passion to change the outcome of this cruel infant killer. I fight to end the horrible disease that is killing my daughter. I fight for all the children impacted by SMA and all those yet to be born. I fight to increase awareness of its prevalence and the need for increased research funding. And while her medical needs are extensive and her disabilities are severe, she is above all else a little girl with a zest for life and so I also fight for her happiness. It isn't always easy to balance fundraising, lobbying, and being a fun, positive, proactive mom while watching my baby's abilities degenerate and being helpless to stop it. And while I know none of my efforts will likely benefit my daughter directly, if I don't try to create a change for SMA, who will?

    Posted by VStrong, 3 May 2010.

  • In 2004, I realized that cancer doesn't care how young you are, it doesn't care where you are in life, it doesn't care how many people care about you—in fact it doesn't care about anything. That was the year I lost a friend, Lani, to cancer. I had met Lani when I was a freshman in high school and she was a senior. For a year I looked up to her and decided I wanted to be just like her. I joined every activity she did and really tried to do the best job possible. When she graduated in 2002, it was a sad moment but I knew that she would go on to do wonderful things. Then in the summer of 2003, she came down with what everyone thought was a summer cold but it was lymphoma. Just four months later she was gone, taken too soon by cancer.
    Two years later, leukemia took a sorority sister, Ali, too soon after a six month battle with the beast. A bone marrow match would have saved her life but one was never found. In September of 2006 when Ali was still fighting I decided to register myself as a bone marrow donor with the small possibility of being called as a match. Sadly I wasn't Ali's match but I chose to remain on the registry.
    I went about my life as usual, always with Lani and Ali, in the back of my mind. Why were they taken? Why had cancer chosen them? I don't know the answer but I made the commitment to help find out why and to ensure no one else had to suffer the loss of a parent, child, family member, or friend. This was my Minerva Moment.
    After graduating from college in 2008, I became an intern and eventually a staff person for the St. Baldrick's Foundation. St. Baldrick's is the world's largest volunteer driven fundraiser for childhood cancer research. Funds are raised through head shaving events and then contributed to research. Since 2000, St. Baldrick's has contributed over $50.5 million to life saving research throughout the world and currently the Foundation funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization besides the US government. Every day I come to work and think about Lani, Ali, and the 160,000 children diagnosed each year and fight on their behalf for a cure but I always wish there was more I could do.
    Then two months ago, I received a phone call from City of Hope on behalf of the National Bone Marrow Registry, there was a possibility I was a match for someone after being on the registry for 5 years. There was a chance that I might be a match for a 60 year old woman in another country. Although I don’t know her, I could only imagine what if it was my friends or what if it was my mom? I couldn’t say no to her last chance, no matter the cost to me. The next week I went in for blood tests and although I don't know the results, I am hopeful I will be a match for her or for someone else. If I can make a difference in one person's life, that would be enough for me and I think the perfect way to honor my friends. Cancer may have taken Lani and Ali from my life but it never beat them; their legacies live on in all of their friends and in me as well.

    Posted by sara.mccarthy, 3 May 2010.

  • After finishing my Masters Degree in Communication Studies and working in a mutual fund company for a year, I decided to return to academia to work with a grant-funded program that helped to start debate teams in Title I high schools in Southern California. Debate had changed my life in college and I definitely had a passion for providing it to more people and I understood how much it could increase confidence and make you feel like you had a voice. But, I truly had no idea how much of an impact our program would have until I was standing at the podium at our first tournament, calling students down who had won awards. The looks on their faces and the things they were saying as they picked up those awards were amazing. Many of these students had only learned English a short time before and had always felt uncomfortable using their voices because of accents or misused words, but their intelligence in argument had won over judges at the tournament! Others had thought of dropping out of school, following their friends and sibling examples, but now said they had a reason to attend classes (so they could keep attending debate tournaments). Still others had never felt comfortable confronting others and arguing for what they believed in because it was seen as inappropriate, but now they were not only allowed, but ENCOURAGED to do that for the course of the tournament! It was truly amazing to directly see the huge impact it had on those students. Although I have moved on to coaching a college Speech and Debate team at a CSU, I am still in touch with many of those students who were in the program for the five years I was there. They are movers and shakers in their colleges and communities and many of them say that debate was a big part of making them see the power they could have by using their voices and experiences!

    Posted by bk2nocal, 3 May 2010.

  • Before I had my son I was a psychotherapist and treated women who had been abused. After I had my son I was a stay at home mom - after my 5th miscarrige I was beside myself and needing a night out - our trusted babysitter came to watch our son but didn't watch him properly and he walked out the door and down a few street sbefore being found by a man who was a stranger to him - he got into the car with the stranger to find his home-thankfully he was a good person and drove around until my son found his home - We are so lucky - many stories like this do not have a happy ending - but this put me on a mission to educate parents and children with personal safety life skills - our program KidSafe USA has educated over 10,000 children and have lectured to thousands of parents and children - our prevention program teaches through fun not fear in the hope of prevention exploitation and abuse of children as well as teaching important life skills and now I realize I am blessed to have one amazing son and all the children I teach are my other children!

    Posted by KidSafeMoms, 3 May 2010.

  • One of my favorite stories involves a father and son walking along the shore where hundreds of starfish washed up with the tide. Told they would die away from the sea, the boy began to pick up the creatures and toss them back to the water. The father discouraged the boy’s effort, saying he wouldn’t make a difference. It will make a difference for THIS one, the child replied, tossing another. And he proceeded down the shore making a difference.

    During high school, I volunteered at an Iranian orphanage. Resources were limited, workers few. Children clamored for attention. Babies lay in cage-like cribs; few diaper changes made the smell overwhelming. Seeing a roach crawl over a child who moved only their eyes was common. What could I do? I could look past the dirt and lice and enfold a child in a hug. I could tell stories and sing silly songs. I could hold a baby and gently move atrophied muscles. I could make a difference, for a moment, one child at a time. We rarely know the outcome of sharing our time, our hearts, our gifts with others. We simply make a choice: make a difference for this one.

    Posted by KBingham, 2 May 2010.