National Make a Difference Day began on the fourth Saturday of October in 1992 and is a day designated to offering community support and volunteerism in ways that address the needs of our society. A champion we’d like to recognize in honor of Make a Difference Day today is Kelly Aaron, a consultant of our law department’s Mandates Control Group who has been volunteering with various nonprofit organizations for the past 30 years.

When Kelly isn’t working at Blue Shield, she’s busy logging time through Blue Shield of California’s Dollars for Doers program, which donates $10 for every volunteer hour up to $250 per employee each year. Kelly has logged 212 hours from her volunteer efforts with the Surfrider Foundation, Ribbons of Life Breast Cancer Foundation, and Hire Heroes USA this year. She also volunteered with a high school group at her local church. This Make a Difference Day, Kelly will be picking up trash around her neighborhood, something that has become a part of her Saturday morning routine, before participating in a local breast cancer walk to honor those who have lost, won, or are still in the fight.

To gain a deeper understanding of what motivates Kelly to give back, we sat down with her to ask a few questions.

What motivated you to start volunteering and what types of work do you do as a volunteer?

Kelly Aaron Hero Image

“I volunteer because I genuinely love helping others and am grateful that I have the time and ability to do so. I started volunteering in my sons’ classrooms and as the ‘Team Mom’ for their sports teams when they were little. My sons are grown now, so I have more free time and I want it to be spent in a meaningful way.

I started participating in cleanups with the Surfrider Foundation because I love the ocean and nature. I was born and raised in So Cal and spent much time outside at the beach, and I still get to the ocean now as often as I can. I was raised to have an appreciation for nature and the environment, so that’s what really led me to focus on picking up trash around my neighborhood and at the beach to support this organization. The ocean is beautiful and inspiring, so it bothers me to see trash near it.

I started walking for Ribbons of Life Breast Cancer Foundation as part of my healing journey after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. I then discovered this year that I was able to log my walking hours with Dollars for Doers. This nonprofit is focused on helping people in my local community who have been diagnosed with breast cancer or who know someone who has, and I wanted to do something to help others on that road.  

And Hire Heroes USA is an organization that helps retiring military and their spouses find work in the private sector. I volunteer with Hire Heroes to honor my grandfather who served with the US Navy. I work with military personnel and their spouses as they transition to private sector careers by providing LinkedIn page reviews, resume reviews, and performing mock job interviews. Many people often have a challenging time understanding how to translate their skills, so we talk through how their experience applies to the private sector in ways that could support careers in health care, analytics, investigations, or other aspects of my background. I love being able to talk to and assist these people who have served our country in this way.”

What are some recent achievements these foundations have made?

“Surfrider Foundation is involved in multiple, ongoing efforts to reduce plastic, influence legislation, and make the oceans clean. Ribbons of Life provides ongoing support and information to those impacted by breast cancer and Hire Heroes USA has achieved over 85,000 confirmed hires for their veterans.”

What is the most rewarding part of volunteering with these foundations?

“I like knowing that I may be helping others by doing something as simple as picking up trash, walking, or having a career-related conversation. Everyone has something to offer and gifts to share. If I can use my experience and abilities to make a difference for others, then that is something I can be proud of. Cleaning a beach or a street gives me instant gratification because the area is immediately improved, and the garbage was kept out of the ocean. Trash being left out anywhere is like a scratch on a work of art. It doesn’t belong there and mars the beauty of where you are.

When it comes to walking for Ribbons of Life Breast Cancer Foundation, it is rewarding to know that they are receiving donation matches through the Blue Shield Dollars for Doers program that will go toward helping others who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in my community. And the people I have worked with through Hire Heroes USA have all been eager, bright, and grateful to have someone help them during their transitions out of the military. It is exceedingly rewarding to help, even if it is just to boost their confidence. I get as much or more out of it than the people I am helping.”

Are there any events or volunteer opportunities coming up with any of these foundations that you are aware of?

“Hire Heroes is having a virtual career fair on November 2nd of this year, and Ribbons of Life has ongoing volunteer opportunities. Breast cancer survivors can provide support to those who have been recently diagnosed or who are undergoing treatment, and they also host a monthly ‘Breast-Fest’ breakfast where patients, family, and friends of those dealing with breast cancer can come together to talk about all aspects of coping and healing.”

What are your future goals for volunteering?

“I hope to be able to continue with my efforts, logging my walking hours with Dollars for Doers, supporting veterans and their spouses, and picking up trash! I believe every effort helps.”

And for those efforts, we give a warm Blue Shield salute to Kelly Aaron for all the wonderful work she has done this year to help make a difference in the lives of others. 

Join us on our journey: if you’re passionate about serving others and ready to contribute your skills, expertise, and heart to our mission, we invite you to explore our available career opportunities.

You can also learn more about Blue Shield of California’s corporate citizenship programs, including our employee volunteerism and giving, at Empowering Change for California | Blue Shield of California | Corporate Citizenship (blueshieldca.com)