In high school, Valerie was interested in acting. Through a fortuitous encounter, she was flown to Los Angeles for a screen test and won the role in “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” with Jimmy Stewart. In 1962, she became a California resident and has lived there ever since. Marriage was followed with the birth of her son, Andre, and daughter, Simone. She eventually left film to focus on her family and later developed a successful career in interior design with her projects appearing in several books and magazines, including Architectural Digest. She remains a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) as a “keepsake from that career.”
A new period marred the life of Valerie the day her teenage son Andre was diagnosed with a malignant and inoperable brain tumor. A year after, in 1995, the family suffered his devastating loss. Shortly thereafter, Valerie’s mother died, and a year later to the day, her husband Erwin, 54, took his own life. Through the subsequent months of crushing grief, Valerie sought to redirect her life. What has continued to haunt her was the witnessing of children who were alone in hospitals: having to face their fears, their pain, treatments, and, at times, even their death alone. In most cases, these children were from single parent/single caregiver homes. Upon reflecting on her own experiences with her child, she found it hard to imagine how brutal it must be for those in a similar situation, without financial means or the emotional support of a caring partner.
This injustice was the motivation for establishing the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation (ASRL). As if surprised by a spiritual revelation, the vision of the foundation and its purpose became clear to her. “Experiencing the sudden onset of a life-threatening illness of a child devastates every family,” she said. “But for the single parent without financial resources, it is inconceivable.”
In addition to serving as Founder and President of the ASRL Foundation, Valerie is a recognized public speaker on the subject of caregiver support, a trained Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), a charter member of the Women of Washington/Los Angeles, the Music Center’s Blue Ribbon Society, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The Council of Women World Leaders, and a founding member of the Women’s Foundation of California’s Donor Circle.
When she is not traveling, Ms. Sobel spends time between Los Angeles and her mountain home in Idyllwild, California. Her daughter Simone is a nationally high ranking chess player and chess instructor.
Ms. Sobel has received many honors and awards for her philanthropic vision:
• Under Ms. Sobel’s leadership, ASRL charitable events have appeared in Art and Living Magazine, LA Confidential, Angeleno, Santa Barbara Magazine, C Magazine, and more.