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.
Heather Lytle, Executive Director
Heather has been with F.A.C.T. since 2007 beginning in the role of Administrative Assistant. Heather received her Bachelor’s degree in English in 1997, and her Master’s degree in Education in 2002 with the hope that one day she might be an English Professor. As is common in planning for a future, that didn’t happen and Heather fell into the world of non-profit disability related work rather randomly. Although she had family members with mental health challenges and developmental disabilities, she was not aware that any services existed for people who have a disability until she came to F.A.C.T. She learned quickly and embraced the philosophy of peer parent mentoring as the most effective way to offer support. She currently works towards the goal of ensuring that all families who are raising a child with a developmental disability or a mental health challenge have the support they need to keep their families together, have hope for the future, have children that are included, and the skills necessary to move through all life’s obstacles.
Rachel Svejkosky, Program Director
Hi, my name is Rachel Svejkosky and I am very excited to be joining the F.A.C.T team. I graduated from Webster University in 2003 with a degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Management with not really knowing what I wanted to do with the degree. Shortly out of college, I landed a job supporting and advocating for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health diagnoses and fell in love with the field. I have always considered myself as a “helper” and enjoy working to support those that do not have a strong voice. I look forward to supporting F.A.C.T.’s mission and to take part in such a wonderful organization.
Krystle Brown, Executive Assistant
My name is Krystle Brown and I started out at F.A.C.T. as 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.
Roni Jackson, Adminstrative Assistant
I am Roni Jackson and my nonprofit experience began with an internship with the Alzheimer’s Association in 1995. From that point on I was hooked and tried to find positions with companies that made community outreach a part of their business model. This eventually led me to work for a Broadcast-Interactive Media company that regularly partnered with nonprofits to either host or be a part of their events; it wasn’t only a part of their business model they actually lived it. We partnered with everyone from Children’s Miracle Network, St. Jude’s and Friends of Kids with Cancer to Lantern Fest and Susan G. Komen. When a position with F.A.C.T. came up I was excited to work with them. To be a part of an organization with people who are passionate about helping families either through support or understanding the Special Education process is more than I could have ever asked for.
Karen Cooper, Training Specialist
I am the mother of two; Sam and Sarah. Sam was diagnosed as language-delayed at 3 years old and received services starting in pre-school. He was later diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. It was very difficult finding the right services and supports for Sam. F.A.C.T. taught me that I needed to educate myself to be the best advocate for my child. I am passionate about sharing knowledge and empowering parents to advocate for their children and realize their best lives.
People First Program
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.
Educational Advocacy Program
KayCee Machino, Advocacy Supervisor
I am the mother of four adult children: two boys and two girls. I spent many years advocating for my sons who both struggled in school with ADHD and learning disabilities. As a parent, it was difficult watching them struggle in school. Often times, I felt alone and unsure of the choices I was making for them and their education. I found FACT when my youngest son was in high school. My advocate helped me feel that I was not alone. I joined the FACT team in 2013 as an Educational Advocate. It was important for me to be able to share my journey and empower families by giving them the tools they need to be able to effectively advocate for their own child. As the Advocacy Supervisor, it is equally important for me to assist my team in providing quality services to our FACT families.
Michelle Dalton, Educational Advocate
Prior to joining FACT, I spent several years as a stay-at-home parent to two children, the youngest of whom is on the Autism Spectrum. Having a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, I assumed that navigating the world of special education would be a cake walk but I could not have been more wrong. I spent countless hours on the internet researching my son’s rights in education, IEP goals and accommodations. There were many sleepless nights, and many meetings at the school; it was extremely important to me that my child get the education he needed to be successful in the classroom and beyond. I am honored to be a part of FACT’s Educational Advocacy Team where I can use what I’ve learned to help families with their children’s path to educational success.
Cathy Looper, Educational Advocate
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.
Chrissy Mehrle, Educational Advocate
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.
Denise Waldrop, Eligibility Specialist
My name is Denise Waldrop and I am so excited to be part of the F.A.C.T family. I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a master’s degree in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Family Dynamics, and am currently pursuing a second master’s degree in Psychology with an Emphasis in Forensic Psychology. I am the proud parent of a bright and energetic 7-year-old boy, and happily married to my husband and best friend. My son was born with a birth defect called Pierre Robin Sequence, which is a cleft palate and lower jaw deformity with respiratory distress. Along with his physical disability my son was also diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, GAD, and SPD before he was 5 years old. I went through a lot of struggles trying to find the right resources and services that met my son’s needs, and at times felt confused, overwhelmed and exhausted. I truly understand the challenges a family faces raising a child with a disability, and I want other families to know that they are not alone in their journey. I strongly believe in F.A.C.T’s mission and values of empowering and mentoring families. Working at F.A.C.T allows me to fulfill my passion of helping families by providing them with the support, encouragement, and the empathy they deserve.
Rose Washington, Educational Advocate
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.
Partnership With Families Program
Cathi Bornhop, Parent Support Partner, Partnership With Families, Supervisor
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, Partnership With Families, Supervisor
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.
Stacy Johns, PWF Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
I am a single mom to a teen who has been diagnosed with Autism and a genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis. Having a child with unique challenges has given me a different perspective to parenting than I had planned for. It’s like my favorite poem, Welcome to Holland. There is nothing wrong with the new path, it’s just different than what I had expected; but still a beautiful and wonderful journey.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Missouri Baptist University in 2010 and have worked in the elementary setting for eight years. I believe this gives me a very unique perspective. My goal as a Parent Support Partner is to ultimately empower families to find their voice and become an advocate for their children. I believe parents are the ultimate experts on their children and know what is best for them and am excited to guide families in this fantastic journey.
Jessica LeMaster, PWF Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
My name is Jessica LeMaster. I have 3 beautiful children; Bryce, Paislee, and Hollis. I was a young mother when I had Bryce and dealt with many issues myself as I was trying to raise him. He was diagnosed at the age of 5 with ODD as well as numerous other mental health diagnosis over the years. When Bryce was in 4th grade I was connected with Crider and also a Parent Support Partner through F.A.C.T. Without this support I would not be the parent I am today. The vast amount of services that are available but not known to most parents is what is so frustrating. As a PSP I want to help parents learn what they can do for themselves first to stay “healthy” as well as find the support they need to help their child. I am excited to have the opportunity with F.A.C.T to support parents like me.
Sue Lozen, PWF Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
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.
Michelle Nicolas, PWF Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
My name is Michelle Nicolas. I am a mother of two children; my son Ian, 10, and my daughter, Aubree, 16 months. I have also helped raise 3 other children for the past 8 years; Jaiden, 12, Elliott, 10, and Kendall, 8. Jaiden was diagnosed with severe ADD/ADHD, ODD – Oppositional Defiance Disorder and RAD – Reactive Attachment Disorder. She experienced trauma as an infant/young toddler which resulted in the mental health diagnoses we are facing now. My son, Ian, was diagnosed with severe generalized anxiety disorder, ADD/ADHD and OCD – Obsessive Compulsion Disorder. Along with my personal experience with my children and their mental health diagnoses, I also have experience from my childhood due to my mother’s diagnoses. She was diagnosed with Bi-Polar/Manic Depressive Disorder, Schizophrenia and Suicidal Ideations. Throughout the challenges that these mental health diagnoses have brought, I am a firm believer that there is a lot of growth and strength that have come from them as well. Being a part of F.A.C.T has given me the opportunity to use my experiences, challenges and successes, to support families and empower them as individuals and as a family.
Mandy Nolan, PWF Parent Support Partner, St. Charles and Franklin Counties
My husband and I are blessed to be parents to two wonderful kids, Cheyenne and Owen. Cheyenne was diagnosed with ADHD, Anxiety and PTSD early on and Owen has since been diagnosed with ADHD, Anxiety, Social Anxiety Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and specific learning disorders. Being told these diagnoses can feel overwhelming and scary. But finding out that we aren’t alone helped give us the encouragement we needed to learn how to advocate and stand up for their rights. This support came from several areas but as a parent, our support came from F.A.C.T. Without our Parent Support Partner’s knowledge and understanding my husband and I would have continued to struggle in how to get our kids the supports they needed. I am excited to help share what I have learned with others and being a part of F.A.C.T as a Parent Support Partner.
Laurie Schiele, PWF Parent Support Partner, Franklin County
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.
Chris Schoene, PWF 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.
Melissa Struble, PWF Parent Support Partner, St. Charles and Lincoln Counties
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.
Christine Vaccaro, PWF 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.
Darlene Whited, PWF Parent Support Partner, Franklin County
Hello! My name is Darlene Whited and I am a proud mother of a beautiful daughter named Andrea. She was in the first grade when we discovered she had a Learning Disability. After being held back a year, I was able to get her on an IEP which provided her much success. She now has a son, who I help raise, who has been diagnosed with ADHD. With the help of F.A.C.T, we have learned to be our own best advocates. I am happy to be a part of F.A.C.T. so that I can give back by supporting and mentoring families.
Randi Wilson, PWF Parent Support Partner, St. Charles and Lincoln Counties
My name is Randi Wilson. I am the mother of one son named Anthony. Our journey started when he was around 2 years old. I noticed he was not speaking any words and basically pointing and grunting to communicate. He has been diagnosed with a speech disability, general learning disability, anxiety disorder, communication disorder, social deficits, depression, ODD, and several other diagnoses. Through working with a counselor from Compass Health Network, I was introduced to FACT and my parent support partner. I was struggling to deal and cope with everything going on with my child. The Partnership with Families program helped me develop the skills and understanding to work through the challenges instead of feeling depressed and isolated. I am excited and thrilled to now be working at FACT and have the ability to help other parents understand and navigate through their own struggles and journey.
Family Support Program
Christine Kennett, Parent Support Partner, Family Support Program, 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.
Carol Otten, Parent Support Partner, Family Support Program, Supervisor
My name is Carol Otten, 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. I am pleased to have been working at F.A.C.T. for over 10 years.
Jennifer Brimer, FSP Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
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.
Ann Buehrig, FSP Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
I am a wife and proud mother of 2 wonderful young men. Nick and Jacob are both on the spectrum. Learning disabilities, ADD, ADHD, anxiety, OCD, and depression have also been considered. They have had many difficulties in school and a lot of challenges in everyday life. When my youngest was a senior in high school, I was introduced to FACT. I was a client with this organization for over 4 years. The help and guidance of my Parent Support Partner taught me how to be the best advocate I could be for my sons. I am so excited to be working for FACT. I want to give back the knowledge that I have learned. I want to help empower parents that are going through similar situations and help them overcome obstacles like our family has encountered over the years.
Sharon Ellis, FSP Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
My name is Sharon Ellis I am very excited to be working at F.A.C.T. I am the mom to 4 amazing kids. Paige is 26 and has given me 3 spectacular grandchildren. Being a grandma is the best gift that God has given me. Austin is 21, and then I have twin boys that are 18. The twins were born at 29 weeks gestationally. They were in the NICU for a very long 6 weeks. While in the NICU, doctors tell you that your child will never accomplish many things. When it came time for the boys to be in elementary school, we noticed that there were signs of developmental issues with 1 of the boys. So, I came to F.A.C.T. and they empowered me to fight for the rights of my son. After that 1st meeting everything changed. The school district was amazing and worked very hard to give him the services that would help him succeed in school. He did and he graduated this past school year with a GPA of 2.0. I was the proudest mom in that auditorium.
Sheila Holt-Leach, FSP Parent Support Partner, St. Louis County
I am the proud mother of 3 amazing children. I have 1 daughter and 2 sons. I am enthusiastic about being a part of the FACT team. My journey began when my oldest son was diagnosed with ADHD, Learning Disabilities, and Speech and Language Impairments at an early age and started receiving services in 1st grade. Later he also received a mental health diagnosis. Feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, not knowing what to do next, or who to turn to, or if anyone understood or even cared what I was going through, was very challenging. One of my favorite sayings that is so true to my situation is “It takes a village to raise a child”! I am thankful to my supportive family and friends, and the many doctors and specialists that helped me along the way. Without an awesome team I couldn’t have done this by myself. My experience taught me self-advocacy, patience, passion for others and perseverance. It’s very rewarding to be able to help mentor and empower families through my job here at FACT.
Cherrice Hutson, FSP Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
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.
Dianna Hyndman, FSP, Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
Hello, my name is Dianna Hyndman. I am the mother of two amazing children. My daughter, Lauren is 26 and happily married in Tennessee. My son, Alex, is 24 and was diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum in middle school, after many years of seeking help through the school district, doctors and therapists. Receiving that diagnosis was a pivotal turning point for our family. He is now in his last year of college at Southwest Missouri and living a more independent life than I could have ever dreamed. I hope to help encourage, support and empower other parents and families in their journey to help their child to hope, live and dream.
Kristen Moore, FSP Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
Hi, my name is Kristen Moore and I am so excited to be joining F.A.C.T. as a Parent Support Partner. I am raising twin daughters who are 11. Mairin has high functioning autism, SPD and ADHD while her sister, Teagen, has SPD, OCD, ADD, Dyslexia and an anxiety disorder. Our adventure began when the girls were 3 and there were some pretty signiﬁcant sensory issues. As they grew and we discovered other diagnoses I began to educate myself on each one and looked for supports and therapies to help the girls be as successful at life as they could be; many times feeling both isolated and driven at the same time. My association with F.A.C.T. started when we sought services through Compass and I met with my own Parent Partner. It was such a relief to know that there was someone that I could talk to who really understood and who also had resources and the knowledge to help connect me with them. Having someone there just for me was such an incredible help! I want to be able to do the same for other parents who may be struggling while trying to do the best for their children. We are our children’s best advocates, so helping parents ﬁnd the resources in order to do just that is my passion.
Lorraine Niemann, FSP Parent Support Partner, St. Charles County
I am abundantly blessed as the mother of five of the kindest, active, amazing boys. My boys have been my greatest teachers and I am grateful to have learned from each of their unique talents and strengths as well as their individual needs. We have had challenges with bi-polar, mental health disorders, autism, ADHD and addiction in our family. When your kids need something, it makes you fight harder. I have learned that I am stronger than all of these diagnoses. Through the help I have received as a client of F.A.C.T. it has inspired me to join their team and help bring the hope and support to our community as they walk this developmental disability path. Together we are stronger!
Brandi Palmer, FSP Parent Support Partner, Jefferson County
Hi, my name is Brandi Palmer! I’m married with one son, Ethan. I understand how difficult it is to have a child with special needs. Ethan was diagnosed at age 3 with severe ADHD in 2005, and then in 2008 diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. It was very difficult finding the right services and supports for him in Jefferson County. I had to find a lot of resources on my own. I decided to educate myself for Ethan’s success, so I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2011 and then my Master’s degree in Psychology in 2013. I’m very excited to have found F.A.C.T. so I can share my knowledge and give back to families with children with special needs.
Kelly Simmons, FSP Parent Support Partner, St. Louis County
Hello, my name is Kelly Simmons, I am the mother of two ( 1 young man and 1 young lady). My daughter, my youngest, was diagnosed with developmental disabilities. I look forward to working at F.A.C.T. As a parent of a child with a disability I know the struggles a parent faces and how overwhelmed you can get; especially when you feel all alone. I hope to be able to give each and every parent the strength and guidance they need to see the light at the end of the tunnel and feel empowered in my role as a Parent Support Partner.