Nick Garofolo – Founder
After a highly successful career in the financial services industry, Nick was impacted by a degenerative eye disease that severely affected his vision. But Nick is a problem solver and a creator at heart, so together with the full support of his wife Diane, he has refocused his time and resources on how he can positively impact thousands of other families affected by disability. Nick and Diane recognize that the disability and care ecosystem is failing those who need it most and family caregivers are left to navigate the journey unsupported and alone. For over seven years, Nick and Diane have committed themselves to creating myHana, with a goal to transform family and unpaid caregiving with the information, supportive community and tools needed to help them build confidence and thrive in their caregiving journey.
Scott Badesch – Partnership Development
Scott focuses on expanding the depth and reach of myHana’s impact by leveraging his strengths in strategic planning, relationship, and organizational development. Scott’s advice and guidance is highly sought after, having Scott served as President/CEO of the Autism Society of America, through a critical period of transition, significantly strengthening the organization and the autism community it serves. Notably, Scott has been recognized nationally for helping pass the Autism Care Act draft and has testified before congress as well several state legislatures. With a background in leadership at the United Way, Scott excels in fundraising, program development, and outcome measurement. Scott holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois. He has received numerous awards, serves on multiple boards, and is a dedicated volunteer. As a proud father of an adult who has benefited from autism support programs, Scott remains deeply connected to the cause.
Heather Sachs – Content & Education
As Faculty Director, Heather oversees disability-related learning materials, including curricula, courses, articles, webinars, and workshops. With over a decade of experience in disability advocacy, Heather most recently served as the Policy & Advocacy Director at the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC). She is the former Vice President of Policy at the National Down Syndrome Society and Senior Advisor to the ABLE National Resource Center. As a trusted and committed leader, she has contributed to numerous conferences, policy briefs, and articles, earning multiple awards for her expertise in grassroots advocacy and policy areas such as education, employment, public benefits, and more. Heather was a co-founder of both the National Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition (NDAC) at NDSC and the Maryland Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition (MDAC) and has held leadership positions in cross-disability organizations on the local, state and federal levels. She holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law, and is a member of the D.C. Bar. As a parent of 3 children, one of whom has Down syndrome, Heather also contributes her caregiving experience to myHana.
Alan Kriss – Strategic Advisor
Supports executive leadership in organizational growth and development. Alan joined myHana® after 10 years as the CEO of Specialisterne North America, where he helped guide the organization to become the global leader in integrating autism and neurodiversity into the workforce. With over two decades of business experience in developing and commercializing new products and services internationally, Alan has served as a leader in various organizations, both large and small. His work spans the financial, healthcare, and consumer services sectors, as well as infrastructure, sports, entertainment, and not-for-profit. Alan's focus has always been on innovation, finding novel ways to solve problems, and exploring and developing new opportunities. He brings his passion and experience to myHana® in an effort to help caregivers and those they care for live their most fulfilling and meaningful lives.
Ven Sequenzia, Jr. - Advocacy, Agency and Business Development
Ven has been an advocate for families with intellectual disabilities for the past 36 years. He has served as chair of local and statewide Committees to further the education of the disabled in Florida and was President of the Autism Society of Florida for 18 years. He has advocated to make sure funding of services to the disabled have not been cut and helped to make sure families receive appropriate services, both at the local, state and national level. He has testified before state Senate and House Committees and served on the Governor’s Task Force for Autism. He has received numerous awards, served on several boards and professionally has been in the printing, promotional products and marketing industry for over 40 years. Ven is the proud father of an autistic adult daughter and 2 of his 3 step-children also have intellectual disabilities. He has dedicated his life to help other families impacted by disabilities and their families.
Lauren Ochalek- Community Director
Lauren works to ensure that myHana®’s educational resources align with and are responsive to the needs of the myHana Community. She brings more than a decade of experience in disability advocacy along with her professional background as an MSN, RN and Nurse Educator. Lauren has served in various leadership roles with several disability related organizations and holds certifications as a Master IEP Coach®, is a Partners in Policymaking® graduate, and recently completed the Arc@School’s Advocacy Curriculum. She is co-chair of the Maryland Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition and serves on the board of directors for the Down Syndrome Association of Maryland. Lauren is a seasoned military spouse of nearly 20 years; a leader within the military aviation toxic exposure community; and the mother of three incredible children, one of whom has Down syndrome. Lauren is passionate about inclusive education and communities, with an interest in advancing policy through both grassroots and legislative advocacy to support a more inclusive world for everyone. Lauren is happiest when traveling, being on or near the water, drinking a good cup of coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
Lindsey Nebeker, Marketing Director
Lindsey Nebeker is a multi-dimensional creative professional with a proven track record of delivering compelling storytelling and marketing solutions. She leverages nearly 20 years of expertise in business development, content creation, educational training, and public speaking to captivate and connect with audiences. With her distinctive perspective in the disability space, she possesses exceptional communication and active listening skills that allow her to comprehend the needs and objectives of her colleagues and community members. As a result, she cultivates robust client relationships built on trust and mutual understanding. Her ability to effectively communicate and attentively listen enables her to establish connections that are vital for supporting and serving individuals in the autism/autistic and developmental disabilities community, and beyond.
Lindsey was born in Tokyo, Japan, and moved to the United States at age 11. Having personal lived experience as an autistic person as well as a sibling of an autistic adult with high-support needs, she knows how vital it is for caregivers of all kinds (parents, siblings, relatives, etc.) to have access to adequate information and resources to support them and their loved ones. She is especially passionate about advocating for autistic individuals with complex support needs and presuming competence in all people. She has served as a consultant for boards and advisory panels for several national nonprofit organizations, and she currently serves as a member of IACC.
Lindsey holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Technology (minor in Photography) and a certificate for the Partners in Policymaking® Advocacy Leadership Training Program.
When she is not reporting to her professional duties, you can find her engaged in her passions of traveling, Japanese culture, documenting her life through photography, and composing pieces on her 1909 Steinway.
Rachel Starr, VP of Operations
Rachel Starr is the dynamic powerhouse behind a host of compelling and award-winning marketing strategies and interactive mobile and online events, spaces and places. Blending creativity with an unflappable sense of organization, Rachel brings over two decades of professional experience in various roles that highlight her versatility and commitment.
Rachel's journey began long before her acclaim and recognition in the marketing sector. Early success in sales paved the way to leadership opportunities in hospitality and corporate event management, where she expanded her expertise in operations, human resource management, budgeting, and strategic planning. At the same time Rachel’s innovative approaches in the face of complex market dynamics led to growth in market share, sales and business profitability.
Rachel thrives in environments where she is constantly learning, improving, and adapting. She leans on innate qualities of patience and attention to detail, while her management, decision-making, and strategic planning skills serve as an essential foundation for repeated successes. These are qualities for which myHana and its community are fortunate to benefit.
Rachel is a devoted mother to two vibrant teenagers. Balancing work and family life has helped her develop a resilience that is reflected in her approach to every project she undertakes. A lover of the mountains, Rachel is at her best when she's outdoors, where she draws inspiration from the beauty of nature. This passion extends into her work, where she infuses a breath of fresh air into each project she handles.
But let's not forget her lifeline - coffee! It's not just a drink for Rachel; it's a necessity. If you spot her with a steaming cup of java, rest assured she's brewing not just her favorite beverage, but also her next big idea.
Carrie Williams - Community and Support Manager
Carrie has a long standing history of collaboration in the healthcare field. She received her formal education at the University of Connecticut, graduating with a Master’s degree in 2005. She worked as a senior outpatient orthopedic physical therapist for 15 years, caring for and helping clients of all backgrounds. Carrie became an advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities when her son was born with Down syndrome five weeks after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently one of the co-leaders of the First Call Program of the Down Syndrome Association of Maryland (DSAMD), which supports women and families who have received either a prenatal or birth diagnosis of Down syndrome. In addition to her advocacy work, Carrie manages a psychotherapy clinic which focuses on women’s mental health services, pregnancy challenges, and infant/child loss. Carrie has an amazing husband and three beautiful children. In her free time, she enjoys cheering on the Washington Capitals hockey team and fine tuning her amateur photography skills.