At F.A.C.T., we love our work. And we (truly) love the people we work for. Take a look through our bios and you’ll see what led many of us here: our own children. Many F.A.C.T. team members have faced the same challenges as the families we serve, so we know how hard it can be to advocate on behalf of a child with disabilities.
Whether we’re parents of children with disabilities or family members, we all share a common passion for what we think is the most important job on the planet – supporting families and kids. Here are some of the friendly faces you’ll see at F.A.C.T.
Denise Gould, Executive Director
My professional background was Human Resources for many years. I was Executive Director of F.A.C.T. back in the early days of the agency. I returned to the agency in 2003. Although each of my career choices have brought great experience to my present position, my life experiences with my children have been the most valuable preparation – they have taught me all the important lessons in life. It is that knowledge that we strive to share with other parents. As parents of children with disabilities or serious emotional disorders, we have that unique perspective that allows us to find a special connection with other families – to empower the family voice with education, resources, and sometimes just a listening ear.
Heather Lytle, Associate Director
I graduated from University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1997 with a degree in English without having any idea what I would do with the degree. In 2002 I graduated from Lindenwood University with a Master’s Degree in Education and a certification to teach high school English. Still I could not seem to find a niche that suited me. In 2007 I began working at F.A.C.T. as an Administrative Assistant and had found a place that opened my eyes to an entirely different world than the one in which I had been living. F.A.C.T. is an organization that wholeheartedly devotes time and energy into meeting people where they are, using strength-based people-first language, truly wanting to educate and advocate for families that have children with disabilities, and working towards a brighter future where every person is included as they so choose. I’m happy to be part of such an organization.
Jordan Syrigos, Executive Assistant
I began my nonprofit working experience at the Brain Injury Association of Missouri and have been hooked ever since. The love, compassion, and work ethic of the people within this field is so amazing that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of F.A.C.T. I am honored to be a part of such a wonderful organization of people who dedicates themselves to helping others achieve their own greatness. That’s all I want for anyone; is for them to achieve at their highest potential and to be truly happy. Becoming a part of F.A.C.T. was an easy decision for me.
Karen Cooper, Training and Transition Specialist and Advocacy Supervisor
I am the mother of two wonderful children, Sam and Sarah. Sam was diagnosed as language-delayed at 3 years and received services through pre-school. I depended on the doctors and school personnel to get Sam the resources he needed, but soon found that wasn’t effective. F.A.C.T. taught me that I needed to educate myself to be the best advocate for my child. I am excited to work for an organization that helps so many people help themselves.
Sarah Miley, People First Advisor
I am a proud mom of 3. I have 2 boys and a girl. My daughter has a learning delay and I am working to ensure that she gets the supports she needs to be successful. I too have a Learning Disability and was on an IEP while I was in school. Having a learning disability can be a challenge in school and in the workforce. However, with supports, I was able to graduate high school and have now found a career path where I am able to guide and support adults in having a voice for themselves. I truly enjoy supporting People First members in any way that I can and encouraging them to be the best Self-Advocates that they can be.
KayCee Machino, Educational Advocate
My name is KayCee Machino. I have 4 children; two boys and two girls. My youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD in the 5th grade. It was very difficult as a parent to see him spend so many years struggling prior to his diagnosis. I often times felt lost, alone and unsure of the best choices to make for my son. Learning about my son’s diagnosis has been a blessing to me. It has opened my eyes to a beautiful world and has taught me to be a better person. I am anxious to be a part of the F.A.C.T. team and to have the honor of supporting other families who may be experiencing similar challenges.
Krystle Brown, Educational Advocate
My name is Krystle Brown and I am an Educational Advocate. My son was diagnosed with ADHD at 3 years old, along with Mood Disorder and OCD at 6 years old. He had been thrown out of many daycare centers and preschools before he was evaluated for eligibility under IDEA. It was very difficult as a parent to see him struggle for so many years. I was unsure what resources Bryce needed to succeed in school. I learned how to advocate for my son through my F.A.C.T. Advocate and there I found my passion. F.A.C.T. taught me that I needed to educate myself to be the best advocate for my child. Afterwards I read everything that I could get my hands on about Special Education Law, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Mood Disorder. Now I hope to support other families that need assistance going through the special education process.
Samantha Voepel, Educational Advocate
My name is Samantha Voepel and I am an Educational Advocate for F.A.C.T. Although having no children of my own, I have had numerous experiences assisting in raising and advocating for my younger siblings, both whom have their own unique disabilities. While in college, I began to get my degree in Vocal Music Studies. During my freshman year of college at SEMO, upon learning of my brother’s diagnosis of Autism, I decided to change my route to become a Special Education Teacher with my specific certification in Autism Spectrum Disorders. While working as a Middle School Autism Specialty teacher as well as seeing my mother attempt to advocate for my brother, I decided to leave my role as a teacher and become an advocate for those children that I had developed a passion for. Upon entering the role of an Educational Advocate, I have become more empowered than I ever believed I could become.
Laura Ojo, Parent Support Partner Program Manager
Working in the Partnership with Families program gives me an opportunity to give back to my community. I know there are families that struggle with their day-to-day lives and I can relate to them as I too have struggled. My husband and I have a daughter who was diagnosed as having emotional and developmental disabilities. It has been a constant effort to work with schools, and other community resources to see that her needs are met. Working at F.A.C.T. gives me the opportunity to support other families like mine by referring them to resources in the community, helping them advocate for their children and by being an empathetic listener.
Lulu Brinker, Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
My name is Lulu Pedraza. I am the proud mother of two young ladies, Danielle and Vanessa. I have devoted my life to making sure that both of my children have all necessary supports so that they may be successful, and it has been a long process. Working for F.A.C.T. is one of the biggest joys in my life. To be able to support families that have children with disabilities by working with their strengths and encouraging them to advocate for their own children the way that I have had to is tremendously important to me. I have a heartfelt passion for trying to empower people so that they may be successful in their own worlds. I feel that if I can make a difference in one person’s life then I have succeeded.
Chris Schoene, Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
My name is Chris Schoene, I am a mother to three adult children. My son was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD while in middle school. It was during this time that I was lead to F.A.C.T. I was taught the skills to make sure my son was receiving all that was available to him for his education. He graduated high school and went on to honorably serve his country in the military. At F.A.C.T, we collect information and resources so that we may pass it along to customers.
Cathi Bornhop, Parent Support Partner Supervisor, St. Charles, Franklin, and Lincoln Counties
Hello, my name is Cathi Bornhop, I am a proud Mom of 3 (2 girls and 1 boy). One of my daughters was diagnosed as having ADHD along with depression and developmental disabilities. I am excited to be working at F.A.C.T. as a Parent Support Partner. I am sure that there are many parents out there that are overwhelmed and confused over having a child with a severe emotional disability. My goal is to empower parents by identifying the family strengths, guiding them to the resources available to them, and offering parent to parent guidance.
Traci Smith, Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
My name is Traci Smith, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children Ali, Rylie and Johnny. Since coming to work for F.A.C.T. I have enjoyed working with many families that are going through some of the same struggles I had been through with my own children. Having this opportunity to work for such an amazing organization is a blessing to me. I have always had a passion for helping others and empowering them to be the best they can be. When I am not working I enjoy coaching my children’s sports teams and being outdoors.
Rose Washington, Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
I graduated in 2014 with an Associates of Applied Sciences in Human Services from St. Charles Community College. I have spent the last thirteen years advocating for and taking care of my nephew. He has been diagnosed with PDD and RAD. I struggled for a few years until I became a customer of F.A.C.T. They taught me how to educate myself and build relationships with persons involved in his education process. Over the years advocating for him has been tough, but with the support and knowledge F.A.C.T. has given me I have blossomed and been empowered to take a stand and advocate with results. I look forward to giving back to my community and helping families be empowered to do the same.
Christine Vaccaro, Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
Hello! My name is Christine Vaccaro and I am the lucky mom to three wonderful boys and one amazing girl. Two of my sons have been diagnosed with emotional and developmental disabilities. Throughout the years, F.A.C.T. has been a huge positive support for me as I learned to navigate the resources available and advocate for my sons so that they could be successful in life. I am looking forward to helping other parents feel empowered to help their children be successful.
Melissa Struble, Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
Hello! My name is Melissa Struble. I’m the mom of 4 children; 2 of them are mine and 2 of them I have been lucky enough to be in their lives – I like to call them my bonus kids. My son was diagnosed in middle school with ADD and a learning disability. My daughter was also in middle school when we discovered she has bi-polar, depression, and a learning disability. Both of them had IEPs and/or 504 plans. Trying to work through the system as best I could with no assistance was tough and at times frustrating. So when the opportunity arose for me to be a part of F.A.C.T., I jumped at the chance! I am happy to be able to give back to families to help empower them and do their best for their children.
Carol Wells, Parent Support Partner Team Leader, St. Charles County
My name is Carol Wells, and I am pleased to be working with F.A.C.T. I have a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Columbia College. I have two great sons, Jonathon and Matthew. My oldest son, Jonathon, was diagnosed with a genetic brain disease when he was 18 months old that has resulted in multiple disabilities. Navigating through the school system has taught me how to be strong. Helping him grow and develop through the years has given me passion to help children with disabilities reach their full potential throughout the many phases of their lives and to empower and support their parents.
Cathy Looper, Parent Support Partner, Franklin County
I am the mother of 6 children, 5 of whom have been diagnosed with mental health disorders of varying degrees. When my daughter was in school, I had no idea who to go to for help. I took the long, hard road because I didn’t know any better. Being a part of F.A.C.T. will allow me to empower parents through those difficult, uncertain times in a way that I wasn’t able to do when my children were younger.
Angela Mitchell, Parent Support Partner, Lincoln County
Can you guess what I am most excited about these days? If you guessed joining the F.A.C.T. team you would be correct! I am a single mom of four adorable kids. My oldest son is Quade. He is an army reservist and college student and let me tell you he is as wise as they come. My son Quinten is next. He is the one who brought me to F.A.C.T. He is as sweet as the morning rain on a cool spring morning. Camden would be my baby boy and if you think big old squishy teddy bear then you are getting close. Last but not least is my little fire cracker Ava. She’s the one who adds the bang to our household. She is full of glamour and spark. I am the glue that holds us together, the head coach, the lead goofball and I absolutely love it and wouldn’t have it any other way! I am here to help and would love the opportunity to get to know you a little better as well.
Christine Kennett, Family Support Partner Supervisor
I am the proud parent of two young men, John and Nicholas. The youngest, Nicholas, was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome as soon as he was born. I was suddenly thrown into a world that I knew nothing about. Having two wonderful children with very different needs was difficult. I had a hard time finding someone who not only could understand what I was going through, but also who could relate to how different my life had become. I found that the more I could learn about my children’s different abilities the better I felt. I strongly believe in that values at F.A.C.T. and hope to live up to them every day. I can empathize with families that have children with disABILITIES and hope that my personal experiences with my own family may empower another family in the same way that I have been empowered.
Alison Telge, Family Support Partner
I am a proud mother of two children. My son was diagnosed with Autism at age four. As a parent, I have been fortunate to learn so much about advocating for my son through F.A.C.T and am thrilled to be a Parent Support Partner. Although Autism brings many challenges, my son is expanding his abilities every day due to the support from the community. I look forward to sharing my experiences and supporting families.
Cherrice Hutson, Family Support Partner
I graduated from UMSL with a B.S. in Sociology in 2013. Throughout my college education, I’ve raised three daughters with the love and support from my spouse and family. My 17 year old is diagnosed with a Language Impairment along with ADHD, my 14 year old has Scleroderma, and my 9 year has been diagnosed with an Emotional Disorder. As I too have a learning disability I know the struggles involved in receiving and accessing services in the community. Advocating for myself and my children was one of the toughest battles for me. It has taught me to teach my children how to advocate for themselves. Since I’ve been working at F.A.C.T. I have learned how to find resources in the community as well as how to support other families like mine through their challenges.
Mindie Strickland, Family Support Partner
I am the mother of four children, all of whom have varying physical and developmental disabilities. I remember when we were finally given their diagnosis thinking, “Now what?” It was an overwhelming time for my family and me, and it took several years to get the supports and services in place that would help my children become successful, independent members of our community. The successes my children have had are due in large part to the people I have been lucky enough to have in my corner, and I am honored to be of service to parents who are on this journey with their own children.
Jennifer Rutherford, Family Support Partner
I am the mother of 2 boys, Elijah and Lee. Elijah was diagnosed with hemiplegic cerebral palsy and Asperger’s among other diagnoses. Lee was diagnosed with a rare chromosome micro duplication. After having Elijah, I found myself with little emotional support, no resources and an unsure view of our future. It wasn’t until I came across others going through similar situations that I learned to navigate my way through this new world I was thrown into. I have met many parents while sitting in waiting rooms who like me at one time, had no support, no resources, and an unsure view of their future. When I learned about this amazing organization called F.A.C.T., I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of their team to help and provide support to parents trying to navigate through the system.
Chrissy Mehrle, Family Support Partner
Hi, my name is Christine Mehrle and I am blessed to be the mother of four children, all who have some degree of a disability. They all have ADHD; my two oldest have bi-polar, and my youngest son is diagnosed with Asperger’s. As much as my life has been a challenge it has been more of a reward. My children have taught me patience, kindness, and to never judge a book by it’s cover because there is so much more to the story. At first, taking care of my children was overwhelming, but with a couple of referrals, I was able to find hope at it’s finest! Now my children are mostly grown and I have the availability to give back all the knowledge and positive energy to the parents I support through F.A.C.T as a parent partner.
Sue Lozen, Parent Support Partner
I am proud to say, I am the mother of a beautiful daughter, who is diagnosed with ADHD, Anxiety/Depressive Disorder and she is on the Autism Spectrum. She is a young adult now and doing great thanks to all of the supports we have had. F.A.C.T. is one of those supports that has been invaluable! Most supports are geared toward our children, but having a parent support partner helped me be the best mom and advocate I could for my child by learning about my own strengths and finding the supports and resources that fit our family’s needs. I have a passion for helping others. Working as a Parent Support Partner gives me the opportunity to bring some of these same skills I have learned to other overwhelmed parents, like myself.
Laurie Schiele, Parent Support Partner
Hi! My name is Laurie Schiele. I am so excited to be a part of what F.A.C.T. does to help empower families. I have three adult children, one that was diagnosed Bi-Polar in his early teens, and one who had an IEP and 504 plan when she was in school. She was also diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes at age 11. I am currently raising my two Grand Daughters, one who was diagnosed with PSTD, Social Anxiety, and Depression. I understand how hard it can be raising children with disabilities, and am glad to be able to help others who feel alone in their struggles.