Marin Giving in Action

Tika Hick: Moving Past Loss

The headline this past summer was devastating: “Bay Area Man Killed While on Vacation in Maui,” but the story behind the story is what ignited a frenetic community-wide effort to help the woman widowed by the tragedy. Marin native Tika Hick, a preschool teacher at Marin Primary in Larkspur, was in Maui with her fiancée David Potts, their son Indigo, and friends and family for some R & R the week before she was scheduled for a double mastectomy. In one horrific moment a rogue wave took the love of her life. Several days of search and rescue turned up nothing. “As you can imagine, leaving Maui without my David was absolutely heart-wrenching and the hardest thing I have ever had to do,” recalls Hick. Once back home, Hick went through with her surgery and is well on her way to being cancer-free.

Needless to say, this holiday season will be tough. Hick, however, is strengthened. “The way people have rallied around me has been incredible,” she says. “From the offers of childcare and never-ending food to the financial donations and assorted benefits to the endless stream of cards to the hugs and well-wishes, everyone has been so wonderful and has helped tremendously.” Hick says she feels fortunate to be surrounded by close friends and family and is further bolstered by a larger network of support from school and organizations such as A Band of Wives, who have helped coordinate fundraisers. Hick’s story has clearly touched many people. One of her favorite musicians, Michael Franti, heard of her tragedy and has been a source of ongoing comfort, checking in on her almost daily and visiting her frequently.

“At this point it’s hard to look too far into the future,” she says. I just need to be here for my baby and do my best to raise him the way David and I had always wanted to.”

Hick’s medical bills are still daunting as is her cost of living, so her family has set up a fund. Checks can be made payable to Tika Hick and sent to her c/o Matt Johnson, Bank of Marin, 501 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Suite 100, Greenbrae, CA 94904. M.T.

Sheldon Playdle: Getting a Solid Education

Sheldon Playdle, a bright 19-year-old son of a Mill Valley nanny, is just a number — but what a number it is. The sophomore biology major at Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, is one of the 10,000 students from low-income households the San Rafael nonprofit 10,000 Degrees wants to put “on the path to a college degree each year.” Formerly the Marin Education Fund, 10,000 Degrees helped Playdle navigate the college application labyrinth and awarded him a scholarship that partially offsets the $17,000-plus his tuition and housing will cost.

“I was prepared for college through Branson,” he says, “but I never really knew how I was going to pay for college. I didn’t know about all the different sources you could go to in order to get money. My whole life, I’ve had scholarships, but when it came to college I didn’t really know where to go.”

Playdle got his answers at 10,000 Degrees’ college-prep boot camp, the Summer Institute. “They guided me through the process,” he says, “how I’m supposed to pay for college, how I’m supposed to apply, the deadlines — everything.” Playdle intends to be one of the 83 percent of 10,000 Degrees’ students who complete a four-year degree. “I’m not sure exactly what I want to do,” he says, “but I feel like I want to go into the biotech world.” If he does, he’ll join his older sister, who also participated in 10,000 Degrees and is now a molecular biology researcher at Children’s Hospital in Oakland.

By putting 10,000 students from low-income households on the path to a college degree each year, 10,000 Degrees believes its efforts can change the world. All gifts, small or large, are critical to keeping its operation strong; 415.459.4240, T.P.

Mayra Moncado: Growing a Successful Business

Mayra Moncado divides the history of her business into two phases: before and after Women’s Initiative. “I opened up my salon in 1999, but it didn’t go well at all,” she says. “I had the business, but I didn’t know how to run it. I had to have a side job in order to make ends meet because my salon wasn’t generating close to enough income to support my children and me.” Although taking the Women’s Initiative course was a challenge, Moncado persevered. “It wasn’t a difficult one for me because I love learning new things,” she says. Her courses there taught her to give more focus to her desired clientele’s needs and also motivated her to invest in her business. Women’s Initiative also helped her get over her fear of appearing pretentious by charging a certain amount for her services. “Thanks to Women’s Initiative I have more confidence in myself and my abilities. Now, I introduce myself as Mayra the salon owner, not just Mayra the stylist,” Moncado says. “Thanks to all that I’ve learned, I can now depend solely on my salon for my income.”

Women’s Initiative, a training and support service, was founded in 1988 and expanded to Marin County in 2008. Seventy percent of graduates report being in business five years after finishing the training program. Women’s Initiative is currently raising funds and support to expand nationally to New York and Chicago; 415.641.3460, M.T.

Tina Noble: Finding Loving Care

“Why did I get Alzheimer’s? Why me? And how did I get it? I’m so young — just 55.” Tina Noble wrote those words five years ago, just after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Today, the former college professor with a Ph.D. in anthropology lives under the 24-hour care of her husband of nearly 40 years, Bill, a retired naturalist. When Tina does leave the couple’s San Anselmo home, it’s usually to spend the day at The Club, a Senior Access program for people with memory impairment.

“It’s a beautiful place way up on top of the hills in Terra Linda — sunny, open,” says Bill. “There is a school next door, so there’s the wonderful chatter of young kids all the time. There are lots of interns and aides and resource people. They do everything from elder yoga to having performers of various kinds come in. It’s delightful.”

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and nearly 15 million others perform roles like Bill Noble’s, caring for family or friends. Senior Access recently opened another day care center in Belvedere to meet the rising demand in Marin.

If you give Senior Access $160 or more as part of its “160 Campaign,” your gift goes toward tai chi sessions, music therapy sing-alongs, caregiver respite, art therapy projects and more; 415.491.2500, T.P.

Stephen Levine: Embracing the Hospice Community

When Stephen Levine’s wife’s illness became terminal, he was grateful for the help and comfort provided by Hospice By The Bay, which provides end-of-life care for patients and support for their family members and caregivers. “Pam and I were married for 24 years, and we knew each other for several years before marriage,” he says. While he had known about the organization before his wife was ill, it was a friend who suggested he call them for help.

“Hospice By The Bay was extremely helpful to me. As a physician I was managing Pam’s pain medication prior to Hospice’s involvement, and I was happy to be relieved of that responsibility,” Levine says. “Plus, the general experience of working with terminally ill people allowed Hospice to make decisions that were difficult for me. Aside from that, having someone to confer with was welcome.”

His relationship with Hospice By The Bay didn’t end with the passing of his wife. He became a volunteer two years after losing Pam, and he found the training and the organization invaluable. “I have volunteered with a diverse group of terminally ill people, both in facilities and in their homes,” he says. “I have seen a number of individuals regularly, from their acceptance by Hospice until their death. Volunteering for Hospice has been unusually gratifying.”

Hospice By The Bay is the first hospice to be established in California and the second in the nation. It serves about 3,000 Bay Area patients yearly. If you are considering a donation this holiday season, the organization needs volunteers as well as money; 415.526.5500, M.T.

Pashia Lord: Exploring the Arts

When Marin City resident Pashia Lord was just 9, her great-grandmother talked her and her twin sister into a life-changing experience. “We lived right around the corner from the classroom,” Lord says about joining Performing Stars of Marin, a program that provides access to professional training in dance, music and social skills for underserved youth. “We got close to Felecia and went with her everywhere.”

Lord is referring to Felecia Gaston, the founder and executive director of Performing Stars, who combined a frustration with not being able to take ballet lessons as a child with a passion to see children granted access to the arts no matter what their financial limitations. In 1990, the Marin City resident fused these motivators to create Performing Stars.

“It was great to receive a scholarship to get to do the things we couldn’t afford to do,” the now 30-year-old Lord says about the chance to take dance and acting classes, including classes at the Marin Theatre Company. “To get up in front of people and perform taught me to be confident and professional.”

And now Lord shares that same passion with others as a Performing Stars volunteer and with her daughter as a performer — the two recently appeared in a Stapleton School of the Performing Arts production of Hairspray.

This holiday season, Performing Stars needs donations to give more Marin youth the opportunity to take the stage and follow their dreams; 415.332.8316, D.J.

From the Heart

Inspired to give? Here are more local charities that need your help.

By Christine Bronstein

Youth Matters
• Summer Search is a leadership development program that provides ongoing and long-term support for low-income high school students. Founded in San Francisco in 1990, it operates seven offices nationwide and helps more than 1,100 students annually effect positive change. Petaluma, 707.763.2001,

It Takes a Village
• St. Vincent de Paul provides assistance to those in need in 133 countries. The Marin Council is independently incorporated and responsible for its own fundraising. It maintains programs that help people with services ranging from free hot meals to rental deposit assistance, transportation and clothing. San Rafael, 415.454.3303,

For Women
• To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation is a volunteer-based organization that raises funds that are then granted to other Bay Area nonprofits to help people dealing with breast cancer or breast health concerns. Since its inception, the organization has distributed more than $3.3 million in grants. Kentfield, 415.455.5882,
• Image for Success serves men and women referred by more than 45 social service agencies in Marin County. Personal shoppers assist each client in the selection of a professional wardrobe from donated clothes. The organization also provides underprivileged kids with clothing. San Rafael, 415.472.5855,

Environmentally Sound
• EcoMom Alliance empowers mothers to create a healthy and sustainable world. Its goal is to provide every mother with information and tools so she can make healthy choices in her home and community. Donations to this nonprofit organization help grow outreach educational programming. San Anselmo,
• WildCare works to make sure that people and all species of wildlife can coexist in Marin County. In addition to treating sick or injured animals, the organization teaches people how to live peacefully with wildlife and advocate for better protection of Marin’s remaining open spaces and its wildlife. San Rafael, 415.456.7283,
• The Marine Mammal Center’s mission is to expand knowledge about marine mammals and inspire their global conservation. Its team has rescued and rehabilitated more than 16,000 marine mammals since it began in 1975. Sausalito, 415.289.7325,