The hero among us

Heroes Among Us presented by the Lottery, Celtics logo, Sports Boston logo

PYD’s 2020 Mentor of the Year, Lisa Matrundola was named by the Boston Celtics and the Massachusetts State Lottery as a “Hero Among Us.”

The Heroes Among Us program, established by the Celtics in 1997 honors individuals across the state who make lasting, meaningful impacts on the lives of others. Lisa joins the group of approximately 850 people who receive the honor each year.

“It’s such an honor,” Lisa said about becoming one of the program’s latest heroes. “I’m very lucky to have Tatiana as my mentee – we’ve learned a lot from each other.”

Normally, recipients of the Heroes Among Us award are honored in-person at a Celtics home game. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Lisa explained the Celtics couldn’t host them, but a celebration may take place in June.

Tatiana, Lisa’s mentee cheered for her mentor virtually instead and went on to say what Lisa and PYD mean to her.

“I started PYD when I was 15 because I have a unique disability, and I wanted to start making plans through PYD. Now, it’s like a family for me.”

She met Regina early on in her career, who asked if she wanted to be a mentor. 

“At the time, I couldn’t – I was in the midst of working in the field of rehab for people with disabilities and getting my doctorate. But I promised that when I had the time, I would do it.” Lisa explained that being a mentor was always something she wanted to do. 

“I have cerebral palsy in my lower extremities and in my hands, and when I was growing up, there wasn’t anything for people with disabilities. When I got the chance to learn what PYD stood for, and I thought about being young like that again, it just made so much sense.”

Now that she’s been a mentor for two years, Lisa had some advice for other current or potential mentors. “Don’t be nervous!” she said. “If you want to do this, if you want to make a positive impact, take the challenge and do it. It’s so worthwhile and you will grow a lot personally, too. I know I have – Tatiana is like a part of my family now and we’ve shared so many wonderful things together. I’ve seen a big growth in Tatiana as well, she’s more of an advocate herself now. She speaks up.”

Tatiana has quickly become an accomplished young advocate. Since joining PYD and meeting Lisa, Tatiana said: “I have gotten to develop and learn so much. I even do outreach for PYD and for people with disabilities now, too. I gave a speech at the State House and another speech at EPIC [another Boston-based organization that supports young people with disabilities].” Tatiana advises others to never give up.

Lisa and Tatiana are proof that some of the best experiences can come from persistence, friendship, and advocacy. “Since I’ve been working with Tatiana, I’ve gotten involved in the Disability Access Commission for the town of Winchester,” Lisa said. “They heard about me receiving the Heroes Among Us award when the Celtics posted about it, and they asked me to talk to high school students in Winchester about working with people with disabilities. It just shows how one positive thing with PYD can spread and affect different communities.”

Congratulations on your award, Lisa!

Written by Lizzy Wimberly