Diverheart executive director Tinamarie Hernandez talks about giving back

By Janis Von Kaenel

She describes herself as the person you don’t think of when great things happen, but to others, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Tinamarie Hernandez, executive director of Diveheart and full-time consultant for Accenture, does so much more than she realizes, and is someone to be admired. Hernandez said she’s “never the fireman rescuing the baby from the burning house, but the person who made sure he had his equipment at the ready, and the training he needed to get the job done.” That statement in itself is one modest cape-wearing superhero. Growing up in the western suburbs, Hernandez graduated from Northern Illinois University in De Kalb, and then proceeded to the University of Denver for graduate school. She acquired a job at Accenture in 1997 as a consultant which enabled her love of learning and travel. Hernandez has always been someone to keep herself busy with second jobs, photography, diving, quilting and volunteer work, immersing herself as a Sunday school teacher, being active in her children’s PTA and even the Special Olympics. She got involved as a volunteer at Diveheart, an organization that builds confidence, independence and self-esteem in children, adults and veterans with disabilities through scuba-diving, scuba-therapy and related activities, in 2011 and jumped in with both feet, developing into her current role as executive director. “At the time I started volunteering and then working for Diveheart, I was at a point in my professional life where I was questioning my value and the skills I had developed,” Hernandez said. “As it does for so many people, Diveheart has given me a purpose, and a way to share my skills and passions to help people.”

It’s not just a job for Hernandez, but a whole other family of people to learn from and enjoy. “I’ve learned a lot from [volunteering] at Diveheart, and I try and bring what I’ve learned into my life,” she said. “Our adaptive divers have taught me appreciation of the healthy body and mind that I enjoy today and which may not be with me tomorrow.” The donors and volunteers have given Hernandez numerous moments of gratitude for their generosity of time, talent and spirit. “It’s easier for me to live in the moment, appreciate what is going on around me and not over worry about tomorrow,” she said. Hernandez is also a goal-setter. “When my son was around six, I decided that I would take him to all 50 states,” she said. “We just visited our 49th last January.” Before she turned 40, Hernandez decided to take on a big task and train to complete a marathon. Her current goal is to visit all seven continents before she turns 50 in two years, and she’ll be visiting her fifth continent this summer in Africa. Who inspires someone as motivated as Hernandez? Besides people in general, “Jim Elliott, founder and president of Diveheart, taught me that everyone has something to give,” she said. “Sometimes they just need a chance to give it.” As a lover of history and reading about people who have achieved amazing things in their lives, Hernandez said she gets inspired by the potential everyone has, and by the people who are able to realize some of that potential in their lives. “The resilience of people is amazing, and sometimes a person needs a little help to remind them that they may be down, but they are not out, and there is still reason to be hopeful and happy,” she said. Hernandez is a true believer that Diveheart, through its donors, programs and volunteers, helps people remember they are more than someone who needs a little help. “They are amazing and all they need to do is imagine the possibilities.”

*Photo bv Daniel Garcia