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Why We Champion Cara: Andrea O’Leary and Jennifer Dunmore

Meet Andrea O’Leary and Jennifer Dunmore, this week’s highlighted Champions for our Giving Tuesday campaign. We spoke with Andrea and Jennifer to find out why they champion Cara.

What is your current affiliation to Cara?

Andrea:I serve on Cara Collective’s Board of Directors as the Vice Chair. I’ve been on the Board of Directors for three years.”

Jennifer: “I’m currently the co-chair for the Executive Council for Cara Collective.”

How did you originally become connected to Cara Collective?

Andrea: “I got introduced to Cara through Aon and our foundation program. Right away, the mission spoke to me because of my own lived experiences growing up. My dad struggled with gainful employment. Understanding what Cara was all about, I knew it was a perfect fit for me to have an opportunity to make an impact.

Jennifer:I became connected to Cara through Andrea, who had invited me to the Tribute to the Stars event about two or three years ago. I moved to Chicago in 2017 and I was looking to get involved with a nonprofit in the city. Immediately after attending Tribute to the Stars, I felt a connection to Cara’s mission and to the work they were doing in Chicago.

How and in what areas has Cara inspired you to grow?

Andrea: “Being able to attend Motivations, interact with the participants, and getting to know the staff, brought me to a place of impact and of service that’s really helped me feel grounded. I’m truly understanding, learning, and relearning the challenges, roadblocks, and the systems that are in place that prevent people from succeeding and having gainful employment. I feel like it’s also brought me a lot closer to my dad personally. As a kid, you don’t really understand what you’re seeing but as an adult, I think Cara has been a big part my understanding that a lot of what happened to my dad was very unfair.”

Jennifer: “My involvement with Cara has made me much more aware of the challenges people who truly want to obtain gainful employment and contribute to society face. It’s definitely given me a different perspective on second chances, what that can mean for people, and how we should be more giving when it comes to them.”

“From a personal perspective, Cara has made me more compassionate, honest, and action-oriented towards change.”

– Jennifer Dunmore

How have you seen Aon and Cara Collective’s partnerhsip grow?

Andrea: “When I started working at Aon, a lot of the partnership with Cara was just financial giving, which is important. However, I believe so much in what Cara’s doing and I really wanted Aon to continue to lead private, large global organizations in how we think about community partnerships and inclusive employment.

“We’re continuing to find ways in which Aon can be role models and leaders in that space. Our partnership has transformed in a much more holistic way with Cara.”

– Andrea O’Leary

Jennifer: “Aon has a strong presence in Chicago. As an organization, we are committing to changing the face of the workplace over time, which directly connects to my work with Cara. When I see opportunities to grow our partnership, like with our Apprenticeship Program or with bringing a screening of The Road Up to Aon, I take that opportunity. Having that personal connection to the organization and the mission and being able to connect it to my professional world is extremely fulfilling and gratifying.”

What about Cara motivates you to champion us in the various ways that you do?

Andrea: “The personal transformation that people go through as a part of the program is really critical to the longevity of people having sustained employment long term. That’s a big thing my dad didn’t have. At the end of the day, he could find a job, but did he truly believe he could keep one? I still don’t know if he believed that. That is something for me that’s really special about Cara and truly sets it apart.”

What’s your favorite Cara memory?

Jennifer: “There’s three actually. One is the Tribute to the Stars event – my first interaction and first exposure to Cara I mentioned earlier. I remember it very vividly.  My second was when I went to morning Motivations in person. I was really touched by the energy and stories shared in the room. My third was when I hosted a panel after Aon’s viewing of The Road Up film earlier this year. It was such an open and fun learning experience, not only for me, but for many of the people who participated. It was incredible to be able to share the work Cara is doing with such a large group of colleagues at Aon.

Motivations Question: Who/what inspired you give 100% this year?

Andrea: “Personally, my kids. I have twin six-year-old boys, and it is so important for me to ensure they feel the impact of giving back and being here for a purpose greater than yourself. What I want them to reflect on, as they get older, is that doing things for yourself is important, but you also need to make sure you think about the human collective and your community. My family and my community have motivated me to really continue giving a lot of my time and energy to giving back but it’s so thrilling for me that it doesn’t feel tiring.”

Jennifer: “I would say my family, both my immediate family and my chosen Chicago family. Most of my family lives in California, so my Chicago family has been critical over the past year and a half. They’ve been a huge support and source of love. They are truly the inspiration for me to continue doing what I do and to give back to others every day.”

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