About the Live Like Coco Foundation

The Live Like Coco Foundation is a non-profit organization helping kids in the Santa Cruz County area grow up healthy and with opportunities to pursue their dreams. Our foundation is named and inspired by Coco Lazenby, a self-described “book lover, cat petter and environmentalist,” who was killed in a car accident in August 2015 at age 12.

To honor Coco's bright spirit and big heart, our foundation works in four areas that made a difference in her life: Literacy, nature, health and funding for extra-curricular activities.

Our unique Birthday Books From Coco program offers students at participating schools the opportunity to choose a new book on their own birthdays. In the 2017-2018 school year, our Birthday Books From Coco program will reach nearly 5,000 public school students at 10 different sites from Santa Cruz to Watsonville. More than 76 percent of the K-5 students we serve qualify for free or reduced lunch.

In June 2016, a Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury report honored Birthday Books From Coco as one of six county, city and private groups making a difference, noting, “For many of these children it is the first book they have owned.” Read more about Birthday Books From Coco here.

While there are no specific socio-economic qualifications for schools to participate, many students are from families that financially struggle; at the four currently participating schools, between 72 and 95 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. In June 2016, a Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury report honored Birthday Books From Coco as one of six county, city and private groups making a difference, noting, “For many of these children it is the first book they have owned.”

This spring, we launched Team Coco, a dedicated group of runners and walkers who train and fundraise for the community. Thanks to Team Coco’s fundraising efforts, we donated $26,000 to 11 non-profits that serve children and families, including CASA, Leo's Haven, Teen Kitchen Project and nine additional non-profit organizations in our community.

We also sponsor a redwood grove in Coco’s name atNisene Marks State Park, a place that Coco loved to play in and explore, and offer scholarship funding to help kids, including those in foster care, get a chance to try art, horseback riding, theater and more.

Board of Directors

Kate Pavao - Executive Director: Kate Pavao is Coco’s mother and a freelance writer and editor who specialized for nearly two decades in writing for and about teens and tweens. When she and her husband Aaron were raising Coco in San Francisco, they founded the Mission Parents Group to help families in San Francisco’s Mission District know one another better. There, Kate successfully secured a First 5 class to facilitate bilingual “Cooking From the Garden Classes,” among other projects. After moving to Santa Cruz with her family in 2009, Kate ran half and full marathons with Team in Training, raising more than $35,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society along the way, and spent a season as the head coach for a Mini Mermaid Running Team at Santa Cruz Montessori. She loves many of things that Coco loved so dearly: camping, traveling, board games, word puns, reading, taking care of animals and everything miniature. She also loves coffee. Kate has a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from University of California Santa Cruz and a master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism.

Aaron Lazenby - Secretary: Aaron Lazenby is Coco's father.

Jessica McElveny- Treasurer

Jackie Medina - Director: Jackie Medina has been a teacher for more than 10 years, an assistant principal, and currently serves as principal at Starlight Elementary School in Watsonville. She has lead her school and district to develop several literacy projects under the umbrella of her campaign called "Building a Culture of Literacy." These projects include various family literacy projects, book clubs, early literacy intervention, kinder workshops, read-in activities, and most notably she played an instrumental role in developing the "Birthday Books From Coco" program. She is also a community leader for bilingual education. As Vice President of the Pajaro Valley chapter of California Association for Bilingual Education, she has lead Professional Development and campaigns to support effective dual language programs in her district and beyond. Jackie played an active role in Sacramento, helping create a statewide "Seal of Biliteracy" award for graduating seniors. She also developed criteria for a "Pathway to Biliteracy" award granted to students at the elementary level for proficiency in two languages.

She has lived in Italy, Guatemala, and Mexico for extended periods of time to teach and learn about these cultures. In her free time, Jackie likes to play soccer and is a member of the marathon training team, Team Coco. Running with Coco's parents, Kate and Aaron, is how she first became connected to Coco. Jackie says, "I've always been impressed by the charisma of Coco and her impact in the community. As a 12-year-old, she has a created a legacy the rest of us can only imagine." Jackie attended the All About Theatre play, "The Wizard of Oz" starring Coco as Dorothy and commented, "I went to the play on opening night because it was my birthday and the Wizard of Oz is my all time favorite movie. Coco was so cute. She nailed her role and helped the other struggling actors along when they forgot their lines. This was the last time I saw her and the way I will always remember her; beloved Dorothy."

Linda Kissenger - Director: is passionate about children's issues, and has dedicated her career as an attorney working for Santa Cruz County to help ensure children receive the support they need and deserve. During her free time Linda enjoys staying active and spending time with her family, including two young sons. Linda holds bachelor degrees in journalism and women's studies from California State University, Chico and a juris doctorate from Santa Clara University. She met the Pavao-Lazenby family several years ago when she and Kate were training for a half-marathon with Team and Training and fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Linda and Kate became fast friends spending countless hours together training for several running events. Through this friendship Linda was able to get to know Coco and her beautiful, giving spirit. Coco even babysat Linda’s sons at track practices. She continues to run as a part of Team Coco.

Martha (Muffie) Miller - Director: Martha Miller has been a teacher for over 30 years and recently retired from Pacific Coast Charter School (PVUSD) as a middle school literary arts teacher. She served as her school’s longstanding coordinator for the Santa Cruz County’s Student Authors’ Fair each spring, was staff advisor for a quarterly K-8 literary magazine, and secured a grant to establish a thriving student publishing center at PCCS for student authors. Additionally, she acted as her school’s SPECTRA coordinator. She has served on numerous non-profit boards including the Board of Directors for Arts Council Santa Cruz County. Muffie is passionate about her longstanding service on the Arts Education Committee, ensuring that the children of SCC have sustained opportunities to experience the arts. Traveling, being out in nature (and photographing those experiences), reading, gardening and cooking are additional favorite pastimes. Muffie has lived in Aptos for over thirty years with her husband, Dr. Les Miller. Her two adult children, Aaron and Ali (and husband Ken), have (happily) settled in California. She was Coco’s teacher during her 6th grade year at PCCS and remembers Coco as “an exceptional student and always contributed her insightful, often humorous, carefully edited writing to The Scoop, our school’s literary magazine. She was an extraordinary, compassionate human being.”