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Tim Burns – Board Member

Sue Freiburger – Board Secretary

Jeanne Lippert, Vice-President

Joshua Zellers – Board Treasurer

Lincoln Purdy, Board Member

Mary Sturm, MD – Board President

John Wilson – Board Member

Sarah White – Board Member

Lou LaVecchia – Board Member





Michele Atkins, Executive Director of CASANAMichele R. Atkins, CFRE – Executive Director

Michele Atkins retired in 2016 from her position as Executive Director of Shady Lane School, a 50 year old early learning center. 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, and Heritage Community Initiatives.

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.


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 (2)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 board 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 (2)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

Earnie Sotirokos (2)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.


Nicole Mizerak – Event and Outreach Associate

Nicole Mizerak (2)

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 ForsterJennifer 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 Madoni (2)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 TracySavannah 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.