CASANA Welcomes Interim Executive Director Michele Atkins

Dear friends and family of CASANA,

The Board of Directors of the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA) is honored to welcome and introduce Michele Atkins as our new interim Executive Director. Ms. Atkins is an accomplished nonprofit executive veteran with expertise in nonprofit transitions. She has graciously agreed to work with CASANA’s founder and previous Executive Director, Sharon Gretz, the Board, and staff of CASANA as we transition from a founder-led organization.

Over the next several months, Michele will work closely with the CASANA team to shore up internal policies and procedures to ready CASANA for a new permanent Executive Director and our next stage. The Board of Directors, Sharon, and the staff have confidence in Michele’s expertise and experience. Our goal to accomplish a seamless transition which will ensure that CASANA’s vital programs, research, and communications will continue to support our children. We are committed to preserving and growing our comprehensive support systems to ensure that the current and future generations of children with apraxia of speech are afforded the best opportunity to develop a voice of their own.

Mary Sturm MD, President of the Board


Michele-and-Pat-AtkinsMichele R. Atkins, CFRE, retired in 2013 from her position as President and CEO of Heritage Community Initiatives, a community based not-for-profit organization based in Braddock, PA.  She has more than 30 years of not-for-profit management, strategic planning, fundraising and governance experience.

Ms. Atkins worked professionally for numerous not-for-profit organizations, interfacing with boards of directors, supervising staff in multiple locations, creating and implementing strategic and business plans, creating and implementing a variety of national fundraising strategies and campaigns and representing organizations to the media.  She worked for and served in a senior leadership position at the Child Care Center in Bethel Park (Executive Director), the Make-A-Wish Foundation of western Pennsylvania and southern West Virginia (President & CEO), the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, the American Lung Association, Gilda’s Club of New York City and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Ms. Atkins earned a B.A. from Carlow College.  Her professional credentials include CFRE, Certification in Human Services, University of Pittsburgh, Leadership Pittsburgh, and Certified Change Master.  She also received honors and awards from Carlow College Woman of Spirit, Carlow College Distinguished Alumnae Award, Joseph Gilbert Award for Excellence in Management, Vectors Pittsburgh Woman of the Year in Community Service, Variety Club Sweetheart Award, Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities of Tri-Ad-Mac Big MAC Award, and the Humanitarian Award from the Fraternal Societies of Greater Pittsburgh.

She currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Carlow University.  She is also on the Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh Opera (Executive Committee) and of UPMC Magee Womens Hospital.  She has served on the boards of directors of Friends of the Orphans, New York SAVE, Animal Friends, Inc., American Society of Association Executives, Greater Pittsburgh Commission for Women, the Mendelssohn Choir, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Pat McKeown and Dancers, the Pittsburgh International Folk Theatre, Project STAR, Every Child, Inc., Variety the Children’s Charity, and the Western Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse, KaBOOM!, Bethlehem Haven, and Heritage Health Foundation, Inc.

CASANA Board of Directors Thanks Founder and First Executive Director, Sharon Gretz

To the families and friends of children with CAS:

With a heavy heart, the Board of Directors of CASANA announces the resignation of Sharon Gretz as CASANA’s Executive Director. We are eternally thankful for her undying support and commitment.

CASANA evolved from a group of families and professionals who desired to positively impact the lives of children with apraxia of speech. However, it was Sharon’s vision, genius and passion which orchestrated CASANA’s birth and development. Sharon weaved together families, therapists, childhood professionals, and researchers, not just into a “net” to catch our children but into a trampoline to propel them toward their goals.

Under Sharon’s dynamic leadership, CASANA has grown into an acclaimed national organization improving the lives of children with apraxia and their families. For example in recent years, CASANA provided:

  • Website and online educational resources to nearly 400,000 new users annually
  • Online support group participation of over 25,000 members
  • 25 – 30 annual educational programs providing training to several thousands of professional and parent participants
  • Reseach funds for project that contribute significantly to the growing body of published, peer-reviewed apraxia research
  • Financial support for several thousand speech therapy sessions annually through our partnership with Small Steps in Speech grants
  • Support for over 80 annual Walk for Apraxia events and celebrations of children with apraxia across the US and Canada

The Board of Directors of CASANA takes seriously our responsibility to carry Sharon’s legacy forward. The Board has formed a transition committee, hired an executive search firm, NonProfit Talent, and employed an accomplished veteran interim Executive Director with expertise in transitions to facilitate a smooth adjustment. Though many find transitions scary, Sharon has lit the path for a productive and bright future for CASANA and our constituents.

We cannot begin to thank Sharon for her years of leadership and her willingness to continue to stand with CASANA as a friend and supporter to ensure every child has an opportunity to find their voice.

Mary Sturm MD
President of the Board of CASANA