HomeCommunity NewsCancer Support Volunteer Exudes Passion for Service

Cancer Support Volunteer Exudes Passion for Service

By Jonathan Williams
Outlook Valley Sun

Lydia Valenta’s duty for service runs deep, especially when it comes to raising awareness for cancer.
The longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident, who grew up in a small town in Austria, has dedicated a good portion of her life to working with nonprofit organizations like the Cancer Support Community of San Gabriel Valley.
That passion will come full circle as Valenta co-chairs Cancer Support Community’s annual Angel Gala at the Santa Anita Racetrack to raise funds for cancer awareness, an initiative she’s been fighting for nearly two decades years. The event is Sunday, May 19.
Valenta has a cousin who is currently fighting cancer, and over the last year, some of her closest friends have passed away from cancer. That has strengthened her commitment to bring cancer awareness to help others.
“Even when I’m not feeling well, I want to help other people,” said Valenta, who has committed 15 years of service working for nonprofit organizations. “What drew me in [to Cancer Support Community] is that we don’t have anything like this in Austria … so it’s doing something for other people who are not as fortunate as me [and] giving my time to raise money for an amazing cause.”
The Cancer Support Community of San Gabriel Valley assists individuals and families impacted by cancer. Through a variety of programs and services such as support groups, educational workshops, wellness activities, counseling and social events, the organization aims to address the holistic needs of cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones.
Valenta assists with the gala’s fundraising auction, which often features items such as tickets to sporting events, entertainment, special vacations and unique one-of-a-kind experiences. Her carefully crafted spreadsheet helps her prepare for such auctions. Among the top items curated for the May 19 Angel Gala are four tickets in a private suite for the upcoming Rolling Stones concert at Sofi Stadium and a one-week stay at the Meridien on Grand Caymen Island.
Patricia Ostiller, the CEO of the Cancer Support Community, said Valenta has been an integral part of the success of the group and called Valenta a “silent auction expert.”
“Lydia sincerely believes in giving back and helping others, year after year,” Ostiller said. “She selflessly shares her time with us for the families we serve who are facing cancer. She’s a busy lady and mother, but I sense she values being a volunteer as an important part of being human.”
When she’s not working, Valenta likes to take part in outdoor activities like hiking and skiing. She spent the first part of her life in Wolfsberg, Austria, surrounded by the scenic Gurktal Alps and Koralpe mountain ranges.
“My childhood was very simple,” Valenta said. “I had lots of family around.”
Valenta grew up in a tightknit family of her parents, grandparents and several other relatives in Europe. She keeps in touch with all of them through various forms of communication, including Facebook and WhatsApp.
Although she loves living in the United States and raising her two children, Valenta said she misses the food the most in Austria.
Valenta has lived in many places, including the Cayman Islands, but she finally called La Cañada Flintridge home in 2000. She’s built a foundation of friends in the community ever since.
Tara Westwater, a retired international finance businesswoman, met Valenta while she was on a walk strolling down the oak and sycamore shrouded sidewalks near Palm Crest Elementary.
The two became friends instantly, and Valenta, who was pregnant at the time, invited Westwater to her baby shower.
“To me, she’s like my sister,” Westwater said. “When she comes back, we make plans for vacations and holidays. She’s like family.”
In the years since, they’ve raised children together, often relying on each other for babysitting duties, rides to school and one of the marquee activities: dinner at Valenta’s house. Westwater said Valenta’s house was the destination for all the holiday celebrations.
Through it all, it was Valenta’s commitment to service that shined the brightest. Whether it be within her home or in her work, Westwater said it doesn’t matter where Valenta is, you get the same person.
“She’s someone I trust,” Westwater said. “I know that I could trust her with anything. She’s a true friend.”
Vilay Matuska has known Valenta for almost 20 years, having met through Westwater. Now the three are almost inseparable.
Matuska said Valenta has always had an unmatched commitment to service, whether with her work in nonprofits or to her three children.
“It’s really special to meet someone who thinks about others,” Matuska said.

Lydia Valenta (left) attended the 2023 Cancer Support Community Ladies’ Night Out event with Tara Westwater, Pat Kalish, Susan Weise and Beth Milton. – Outlook Valley Sun file photo Lydia Valenta (left) attended the 2023 Cancer Support Community Ladies’ Night Out event with Tara Westwater, Pat

First published in the April 4 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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