We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth O’Neil and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born in Massachusetts, in a suburb about 18 miles south of Boston. Today, when I tell people I’m the youngest of ten children, I usually get puzzled looks. But back then, big Irish Catholic families were “wicked” common. I had seven brothers and two sisters, a very hard working father and a stay-at-home (but still very hard working) mom. Some might think being the youngest meant “missing out” on some of the memories of family events. I always felt I was at an advantage. I became a keen observer. I learned from my siblings as I saw first-hand, the joy of their achievements and the heartbreak and consequences of their mistakes. I learned the true meaning of compassion and empathy from my Mother. There was always room for a “cot” and always enough food for “one more” at “supper” when any of our friends needed help or a place to stay. My Dad taught me the value of hard work and savings – “don’t buy it if you can’t afford it”. A household of twelve was often chaotic and challenging. But it was equally loving and safe. As I get older, I realize more and more how important my family is to me – and how much my family and my upbringing has defined the person I am today.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
When I began my career in cinema marketing, I got involved with the industry charity, Variety – the Children’s Charity. The organization was founded by members of the entertainment industry when one child was abandoned on the seat of a movie theatre in 1928. From helping that one child, the charity has grown to a worldwide organization helping children in need all over the globe. I joined the Board of Directors of the Southern California chapter in 2005 and became the Executive Director in 2008. The thing I love most about Variety is that we are relatively small but we deliver a big impact. We personally meet many of the families and children that we support and we step in to fill needs in the community where other avenues of support fallen short. Our Mobility Program provides children with disabilities adaptive bikes so that they can experience the joy of riding a bike with their families and friends. Our Education Program provides college scholarships to teens who have faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but continue to pursue their dreams of creating a better life for themselves, their families and their communities. At Variety I meet parents of kids with special needs who inspire me with their patience, love and their laser-focused dedication to providing the most healthy and hopeful future for their children. At Variety we believe that children should not just survive – they should have every opportunity to thrive. I have a favorite saying – and my work at Variety has taught me the importance of putting these words into action: “To the world you may be just one person. But to one person, you might just be the world.”
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
For fun sightseeing around Los Angeles, I like the Huntington Gardens (and a visit to The Blue Boy) and a bike ride along the strand. For friends who like to walk as much as I do, a downtown walking tour of Chinatown, Olvera Street and Union Station – ending up at Grand Central Market for Olio Pizza. Growing up on the East Coast, my love of “lobstah” was established at a very young age. My favorite place to take friends to dinner is Malibu Seafood. I cover a picnic table with a tablecloth, open a bottle of chilled white wine and we have the ultimate Lobster Picnic overlooking the ocean. For a fun breakfast treat, nothing beats Randy’s Donuts. For out-of-towners, In-N-Out Burger is a must as well as a great sushi restaurant.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My parents were the most giving, selfless people I know. They always put the needs of their family and others before the needs of themselves. I learned from them the importance of always treating others the way you would want to be treated – and that included always making time to help those who needed support. This commitment to helping others is what led me to Variety – the Children’s Charity.