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 coordinate support programs and retreats for adults affected by cancer. During her time in the hospital, she found creative activities to be very supportive. Now 22 and 13 years 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. While she will always live with the many negative impacts of cancer, she continues to heal each day by serving her home community and community in DC.
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, AJ and their daughter, Aubrey, going on family vacations, walks outside, and reading.
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.