Mary Gonyea graduated from Niagara University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing in 1988. She has worked as a Registered Nurse for the first part of her career at Kaleida Health and more recently as a Nursing Supervisor at Gates Vascular Institute. Mary is the President of Olivia’s Bears and has been since its founding in 2009. She is the mother of Olivia who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma when she was 8 years old. Watching her daughter go through treatments and surgeries motivated her and their family to give back and create their own not for profit organization. Mary has also been a Make-A-Wish volunteer and Wish Granter for many years. Her and her family know how blessed they are to have such great hospitals like Roswell & Oishei Children’s that helped treat Olivia during her battle with cancer. They also recognize how much support they had received back then from their friends, family and community which has motivated them to carry on the support of others as their mission.
Ali Gonyea graduated from Niagara University with her Bachelors in Childhood and Special Education in 2017 and completed her Masters in Literacy Instruction at Niagara University in 2020. Ali has been an elementary school educator since 2017. Ali is the Vice President of the not-for-profit organization, Olivia’s Bears, a member of the Hope Rises Advisory Board, and member of the Shine Gold Committee. She has worked towards giving back to pediatric patients in WNY for the past twelve years. Watching her sister Olivia go through treatments and surgeries for Ewing’s Sarcoma motivated Ali and her family to give back and create their own non-profit organization. Western New York’s amazing community and local organizations were there to help provide support and hope for their family and because of that, Ali is also a Make-A-Wish volunteer and Wish Granter. There are so many different causes and needs in our community and being a part of all these amazing organization allows her to now give back to many deserving causes.
Olivia Gonyea has been active in the cancer community for over 11 years as a childhood cancer survivor. She founded Olivia's Bears with her family while still undergoing treatment for bone cancer to support other young people affected by cancer and other life-threatening illnesses in Buffalo, New York. Her personal experience with cancer influenced her to pursue an education in Public Health. She graduated from American University in Washington, DC with a degree in Public Health and began working at a nonprofit in DC called the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in July, 2022. As the Cancer Support Program and Retreat Coordinator, Olivia helps plan and host support programs and retreats for adults affected by cancer. During her time in the hospital, she found creative activities to be very supportive. Now over a decade cancer-free, she gets to help others discover the role that the arts can play in healing. Olivia is honored to support both children and young adults and adults who are affected by cancer in both her personal and professional lives.
Ken Gonyea graduated from St. Lawrence University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1988. He completed his MBA at the University of Buffalo in 1999. He has been in Manufacturing Management for the past 30 years and has served on the Board of Directors Olivia’s Bears since its founding in 2009. Ken is the father of Olivia who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma when she was 8 years old. Watching his daughter go through treatments and surgeries motivated him and his family to give back and create their own not for profit organization. He has also been a Make-A-Wish volunteer and Wish Granter for many years. Ken and his family know how blessed they are to have such great hospitals like Roswell & Oishei Children’s that helped treat Olivia during her battle with cancer. They also recognize how much support they had received back then from their friends, family and community which has motivated them to carry on the support of others as their mission.
Vicky first heard of Olivia’s Bears while working with both Olivia and Ali Gonyea. The mission of the organization instantly touched her heart and she loved that it focused on helping children and young adults within our own community. Vicky was honored to be asked to join the Board of Directors in 2019. Outside of Olivia’s Bears, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and their daughter, traveling, reading, and working on our small dahlia garden.
Amanda got to know the Gonyea family when Olivia and Ali Gonyea worked at Platter’s Chocolate Factory which is where she has worked since 2007. She started learning more about the organization and loved everything it stood for. Amanda began helping out more and was honored to be asked to join the Board of Directors in 2019. Outside of Olivia’s Bears, she loves spending time with her husband and their daughter, going on family vacations, walks outside, and reading.
While working at The Platter’s Chocolate Factory, Kelly was introduced to the Gonyea family, and worked side-by-side with Olivia and Ali Gonyea. Hearing about their organization, Olivia’s Bears, touched her heart and quickly became something she will forever remain so passionate about. It is a true honor for Kelly to be a part of this organization and its mission. Outside of Olivia’s Bears, Kelly can be found spending time with family, friends, especially enjoying time with her husband Jack and daughter Carmella. She can also be found at the gym, cooking, or hanging out with our loyal Labrador retrievers!
Maureen Finney has been a long time friend of the Gonyea family. She witnessed Olivia's strength as she endured her cancer journey and the unwavering and ever present love of the Gonyea family as they battled the unimaginable. The establishment of Olivia's Bears is a testament to the selfless love that emerged from the Gonyea family during a time of immense challenge. Maureen considers it a true blessing to be a part of the board of directors. Maureen is currently Provost at Nazareth University. She earned her bachelor's in biochemistry from Niagara University and her master's in natural sciences from SUNY Buffalo. She completed her physician assistant bachelor's degree, and her doctorate in health policy and education from D'Youville University.