Ask Vanguardians: What are you thankful for this holiday season?

Co-Authors: Catalina Avellaneda and Erika Gaitan

Did you know that over 90% of American teens and adults indicated that expressing gratitude made them “extremely happy”? Whether you observe Thanksgiving or not, and whether you had the best year or the hardest one, we want to start the holiday season with gratitude. We took the opportunity to ask our team about what they were thankful for this year — grab a notepad and pen, you may be inspired to jot down a couple things that come to mind!


Brenda Foster, Senior Vice President

“I’m incredibly grateful for another year of working with colleagues and clients who are compassionate, empathetic and committed to health, equity and justice for every human being.”

Brittany Vanderpool, Senior Account Supervisor

“This year, I am incredibly grateful for my (bigger) healthy and happy family and the time that I got to spend with them this year. I am also grateful for a job that believes in creating a flexible work environment and allows me to both work full-time and be the best mom I can be.”

Camille Jewell, Senior Account Executive

“I am very thankful for my support system, most specifically my husband! After going through many transitions over the past year, it is very important to have a team behind you to provide consistency and love. For having that, I feel a lot of gratitude!”

Catalina Avellaneda, Communications Associate

“My year has consisted of many milestones as I embarked on my post-grad journey in May. I now know that having a loyal support system is the key to my success. I am beyond grateful for my family, friends and new colleagues that have all motivated me to continue pursuing my dreams.”

Chantelle Polite, Assistant Account Executive

“I am thankful for supportive colleagues, a positive work environment and the chance to make a difference every day!”

Crystal Borde, Vice President

“I’m grateful for public health professionals and medical researchers who tirelessly work to unravel the complexities of health illnesses, disorders, conditions and disparities. Their dedication provides hope for understanding and managing our health challenges and offers a path toward recovery, wellness and a healthier quality of life for all.”

Erika Gaitan, Assistant Account Executive

“This year l’m thankful for the ability to travel with my parents to El Salvador, the country that saw them grow. Seeing their eyes light up as they saw the volcano-filled skyline from the airplane window was a memory I’ll never forget and for that I’m eternally grateful.”

LeAnne DeFrancesco, Vice President

“This year I’m thankful for the brilliant writers and actors that created the show Ted Lasso. I was late in discovering this gem, but I can honestly say, it fills my cup. It makes me laugh, cry, empathize, cheer, celebrate, mourn and so many other emotions. It has brought me incredible joy and I dearly hope they can find a way to bring it back for Season 4! In a word, Believe.

Lelani Clark, Associate Director

“I am thankful for my three Fs — family, friends and faith. These are the sustaining constants in my life that keep me grounded, joyful and fierce in my convictions. I am also thankful that diverse and indigenous communities can celebrate this holiday according to their values, cultural customs and lived experiences.”

Maria Enie, Associate Director

“I’m thankful for my wonderful family and grateful for every moment we spend together.”

Melissa O’Brien, Operations & HR Manager

“This year, I’m thankful for my growing family. I am grateful for Cara and that I have the flexibility to work and care for my baby.”

Maria Rodriguez, President & CEO

“My family didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving until I came home from school in second grade asking why we couldn’t eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and PIES(!) like everyone else. The following year my mom jumped into gear to create a Spanish-inspired Thanksgiving feast and my best friend’s mother taught me how to bake an apple pie. All felt right in my little world. Now when I see promotions for El Dia de Accion de Gracias I’m reminded of how I felt left as a child and am so happy to see my community included in Thanksgiving. Hopefully, fewer children will feel left out as a result. I’m grateful that what we do as communicators and marketers and how we do it can make a huge difference in people’s lives.”

Shannon Walsh, Senior Account Supervisor

“Good health — health is a commodity we often take for granted. This year especially, I am thankful for good health for myself and those I love. Family and friends — Thanksgiving is a wonderful reminder of all the blessings I have been given. Family, friends and colleagues who have become friends are at the top of the list of things I’m grateful for!”

Sharon Cummins, Senior Resource Specialist

“We are very grateful this Thanksgiving for the success of our family’s dual kidney donation and transplant surgeries. Although it had a rocky start, ultimately my husband’s medical situation has greatly improved from this time last year due to the expertise and diligent efforts of a variety of health care workers. From doctors and nurses down to administrative medical workers and janitorial staff, we appreciate the often-overlooked effort they all put in every day for their patients.”

After a year full of devastating news, life-threatening environmental disasters and civil unrest, it’s important to find glimmers of hope. We hope to have shed some light and inspired you to spend the holiday season spreading an attitude of gratitude. In the words of Robert Brault: “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”