Tim Burns – Board Member
Sue Freiburger – Board Secretary
Jeanne Lippert, Board Member
Gary Novak, M.B.A. – Board Treasurer
Lincoln Purdy, Board Member
Jeff Rainess – Board Member
Mary Sturm, MD – Board President
John Wilson – Board Member
Sharon Gretz – Executive Director
Sharon Gretz, M. Ed. is the Executive Director and Founder of CASANA. She attended Duquesne University and has her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Counselor Education (M. Ed.). Later in life, she entered the Ph.D. program in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to her work with CASANA and in communication disorders, Sharon previously developed and managed novel programs to help individuals with disabilities leave nursing homes and live in the community as well as support them to become participating community members. She has also worked locally, regionally and statewide providing technical assistance to organizations and groups on community program development and inclusion.
Sharon is the recipient of several national and local awards for her work on behalf of children. Additionally, she is a founder of the former Center for Creative Play, Pittsburgh’s first inclusive play space and toy lending library. She serves on the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Yoga Collective, a nonprofit organization bringing yoga and mindfulness practices to communities.
Sharon has three beautiful children and two grandchildren with another one on the way. Outside of her work at CASANA, she enjoys trying new restaurants in town, concerts, movies, traveling and biking. She loves to learn and is passionate about peace, justice, equity, and inclusion causes.
David Hammer – Director of Professional Development and Speech Services
Dave Hammer is the Director of Professional Development and Speech Services for the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA). Prior to this position, Dave had 35 years of pediatric clinical experience at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, PA with specialty interests in childhood apraxia of speech, speech sound disorders and childhood stuttering. Dave received his Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh in 1979 after completing a Bachelor’s in Speech/Hearing Science and Psychology. He has been invited to present over 200 workshops on childhood apraxia and speech sound disorders throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. Dave was a member of the ASHA AdHoc committee on childhood apraxia of speech. He has been involved in the production of a number of apraxia-related DVD’s and an innovative children’s CD. Dave is known for his practical and therapy-rich presentations. His passion at CASANA is helping children “find their voices” and families find the support services they desperately need.
Outside of work, Dave is an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction alike. He enjoys singing, playing the guitar and piano for relaxation, attending musicals and plays, and spending time traveling. Dave was lucky to have married his high school sweetheart with whom he just celebrated 40 years of marriage. He has a daughter, age 31, who works for the US Patent and Trademark office and a son, age 26, who is pursuing a career as a musician.
Kathy Hennessy – Director of Education
Kathy Hennessy, BA, is the Director of Education at the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Communications from St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN. Prior to Ms. Hennessy’s current role at CASANA, she worked in various professional theatres located throughout the Pittsburgh area, including the Pittsburgh Laboratory Theater as the Managing Director. Kathy and her daughter Kate are co-authors of the book, Anything But Silent, Our Journey through Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Kathy is the single mother of two young adults diagnosed with severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) as toddlers. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. As a founding member of and currently the Director of Education for CASANA, she has devoted much of her time to the special issues surrounding children with CAS and has counseled thousands of families dealing with this overwhelming diagnosis.
Justin LeWinter – Event and Volunteer Manager
Justin LeWinter is the Event and Volunteer Manager for CASANA. He was born and raised on Long Island, NY and attended Penn State University where he graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Recreation and Park Management, and a minor in Sociology. Staying in Pennsylvania after college he spent his first stint in Pittsburgh coordinating an AmeriCorps federal grant, providing training and technical assistance for runaway and homeless youth programs and managing volunteers in a multi-state region of the Mid-Atlantic. After later relocating to New York, he obtained his Masters in Education from St. Johns University while teaching mathematics at both the middle and high school levels in New York City public schools. Prior to coming to CASANA he worked as the Director of Teen and Family Services at a YMCA in North Carolina. There he started a grant funded youth led garden program, designed a service learning based summer camp, and established a music festival for teenage artists to promote wellness activities connecting them with available resources.
His latest move brought him back to Pittsburgh where he joined the CASANA family. He oversees the Walk for Apraxia, builds relationships with donors, and provides guidance to over 80 volunteer Walk Coordinators and support to countless team leaders and donors across the country. When not at work he enjoys spending time with his wife, son and dog outdoors – hiking, camping, gardening and enjoying live music!
Earnie Sotirokos – Digital Media Specialist
As CASANA’s Director of Education, Kathy Hennessy, stated at 2015 National Conference on Childhood Apraxia of Speech, “Earnie is the ‘Internet Guy’.” While his official title of Digital Media Specialist encompasses skills like website maintenance, social media posting and graphic design, friends of CASANA are most likely to see his work in the emails they receive. After graduating college at the height of the recession with a B.S. in Human Resource Management, Earnie’s career trajectory took a few interesting turns that included jobs in radio production, online journalism, and science fiction writing before he found a home at CASANA.
At his other home just up the road from CASANA’s office, he likes to read, cook and attempt to make hipster furniture that he’d never pay full price for. He and his wife are expecting their first child in April.
Nicole Mizerak – Event and Outreach Associate
Nicole supports the Event and Volunteer Manager on the annual fundraising programs. She creates websites, uses social media, and corresponds with walk coordinators, donors and sponsors.She has worked in destination marketing, visitor services and retail management. In her free time she enjoys going to concerts, reading, and relaxing with her cats and rabbits.
Jennifer Forster – Office Administrator
Jennifer joined CASANA in 2016 as the Office Administrator. She is a graduate of West Chester University, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Literature. Jennifer wears many hats at CASANA. In addition to ensuring that the office runs smoothly and efficiently, she assists with the iPads for Apraxia program, runs the CASANA store, is the scheduling coordinator for Dave Hammer, and assists with the Walk for Apraxia. Chances are you’ve spoken with her directly, since she deals with much of CASANA’s incoming calls and emails!
Native to Wilkes-Barre, PA, Jennifer moved to Pittsburgh when her husband’s job was relocated here 4 years ago, and has since fallen in love with Pittsburgh while hiking and biking around each neighborhood and its surprisingly expansive acreage of green space. In her free time, Jennifer loves hunting for unique finds in consignment & other second-hands stores, and runs an Ebay store where she connects buyers and sellers around the globe.
Tara Olexa Madoni – Administrative Assistant for Educational Programs
Tara Olexa Madoni is a graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa, she accepted a position as an AmeriCorps member with the Brashear Association in Pittsburgh, PA where she coordinated after school and summer programs for at-risk youth. Upon completion of her service, Tara continued with the Brashear Association managing self-sufficiency programs for individuals and families. Before arriving at CASANA as the Education Assistant, Tara was working as a service coordinator for Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Early Intervention Program. She lives in Stanton Heights with her husband and three children.
Savannah Tracy – Communications and Engagement PULSE Fellow
Savannah is the Communications and Engagement Fellow at CASANA. She is a fellow from Pittsburgh Urban Service and Leadership Experience (PULSE) which pairs university grads with Pittsburgh nonprofits for eleven months. Prior to being placed at CASANA, she graduated from Oberlin College with degrees in Sociology and Religion. She loves all things media, including radio, video, graphic design, writing, and podcasting, and is dedicated to the importance of using media to motivate social change and equity.
Outside of CASANA, Savannah plays the banjo and produces a podcast. She spends a lot of time wishing her landlord would let her have a dog, but makes up for it by learning to grow plants.