Meet Our Board & Advisory Council

Karin M. Smith, MBA, SFO, CFE, Board President

Partner, Henifeld Meech & Co., PC
Karin is a partner with Heinfeld, Meech & Co., P.C., a CPA and Business Consultant firm. With over 15 years of school finance, Karin has had the opportunity to work with school districts across the State. Karin received her Master in Business Administration from the University of Arizona. Her other college degrees include a Master of Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University and a Master of Public Administration from Arizona State University. Karin and her family have been involved with Raising Special Kids for 30 years. As an adolescent, teenager, and young adult, Raising Special Kids had an important place in Karin’s life both in connecting her with other siblings of children different abilities and assisting her when she was diagnosed with a learning disability in college.

Jennifer Kupiszewski, Esq., Board Vice President

Attorney, Kile & Kupiszewski Law Firm
Jennifer graduated from ASU law school in 1999. For six years, she represented the Arizona Department of Economic Security/Child Protective Services Division in juvenile court cases involving dependency, severance and guardianship matters. At the Arizona Center for Disability Law, she was co-counsel on the class action lawsuit Jason K. v. Eden representing families obtaining mental health services.

In private practice since 2007, Jennifer is a Managing Partner with Kile & Kupiszewski Law Firm. She focuses on cases involving adults and children with special health care needs and non-traditional families. In addition to her seat on the Board of Raising Special Kids, she also serves on the Board of Directors of the Maricopa County Bar Family Law Section.
Jennifer and her husband Steve have a blended family of five children and one tiny Yorkie. All kids are in college, including Michael who suffered a near fatal traumatic brain injury.

Paula Banahan, BSN, CVNS, Board Treasurer

President and CEO, Arizona Heart Foundation
Education: Paula is a Bachelor of Science graduate of Boston College School of Nursing. She studied at the Arizona Heart Institute and became a Cardiovascular Nurse Specialist.

Experience: Paula has been in the healthcare industry for over 25 years, beginning her career at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles California. She moved with her husband, Jim, to Arizona and while at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, she developed the state’s first Heart and Heart–Lung Transplant Program. Eventually, she became the Executive Director of the Arizona Heart Institute. Paula has held a number of nursing leadership and administrative positions in various settings throughout her career. Her last position was as President and CEO of the New Hampshire Heart Institute in Manchester, NH where she was responsible for a $43 million increase in cardiovascular revenue. She now serves as President for Banahan Communications.

Passion: Since the age of 5, Paula knew she wanted to be a nurse. Paula is passionate about providing the highest quality nursing care. Included with that is the education of the patient, family and support providers for her patients. Paula understands that to be a good nurse you must be honest, trustworthy, compassionate and empathetic in order to be responsible for your patients. Paula in also known to be an advocate for many of her family members and friends when they find themselves in need of medical attention.

"I became involved with Raising Special Kids when it was originally Pilot Parents. I was a volunteer then for Parent to Parent connect. My twins Bobby and Julia are now 21 years old, and I still love my Parent to Parent connections. I also serve as a volunteer for the Residency Training program."

Helen Holden, Esq., Board Secretary

Attorney, Spencer Fane
Helen Holden focuses her practice on assisting businesses of all sizes with a wide range of human resources and employment law issues. She enjoys working with clients to provide practical solutions to workplace issues. Helen regularly represents employers in defending claims alleging violations of federal and state employment laws, including matters involving discrimination, harassment, violation of overtime laws and other wage claims, as well as cases involving breach of contract. She practices before state and federal courts and agencies and is an experienced appellate lawyer. Helen also has extensive experience in resolving a variety of complex business disputes. Clients praise Helen for her cost‐effective approach to resolving employment and business disputes.

Tom Batson, CFP®, CIMA®, Board Member

Senior Vice President – Investments
Batson Financial Group of Wells Fargo Advisors

Tom is active in the local community and volunteers for several civic and community organizations. He serves on the Board of Directors of Raising Special Kids as well as being a member of the Finance and Investment Committee for HonorHealth. Away from the office Tom enjoys hiking, biking and golf. He lives in Phoenix with his wife Gina and their son Tony who is a data entry specialist at a major healthcare network. Their daughter Christina is a stay at home mom, caring for Liam, Tom’s first grand-son.

Katie Barclay Penkoff, Ph.D., Board Member

Senior Technical Assistance Consultant, American Institutes for Research
Katie Barclay Penkoff is a consultant in the Health and Social Development program at American Institutes for Research. Her primary responsibilities include working with States to provide targeted training and technical assistance related to Title II of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and the operation of State Advisory Groups. Katie has over 20 years of experience working in education, social service, government, and nonprofit sectors. Common threads throughout her experiences are working with youth in various systems (i.e. juvenile justice, child welfare, special education, mental health), facilitating coordination, and engaging in interagency collaboration. Katie holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Special Education focusing on education, disability, and juvenile justice from Arizona State University.

Karen Barr, MBA, Board Member

Publisher, Raising Arizona Kids Magazine

Barbara Brent, M.Ed. 

Director of State Policy, National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services 
Barbara is the Director of State Policy for the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS), a nonprofit organization that assists state agencies and others in the development of effective service delivery systems for people with developmental disabilities.

Prior to joining NASDDDS, Barbara served as the state director for the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities, supporting over 30,000 children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families.

Barbara has a master's degree in special education with emphasis on employment and community living for people with severe disabilities.

She has worked in both the public and private sectors in a variety of roles, including case management, early intervention, director of supported employment in the state of Oregon, executive director of a vocational provider agency, UCEDD education coordinator, and as the state developmental disabilities director in Tennessee. Her interests include systems change, community development, and bringing people together from communities and government to create positive change.

Charles Douglass, MBA, Board Member

Owner/Publisher, Attorney At Law Magazine

Tonya Gray, MBA, Board Member

Special Events Coordinator, Arizona State University Alumni Association
Tonya J. Gray is an experienced marketer, event coordinator and business professional. As a special events coordinator for Arizona State University Alumni Association, she manages the away game football tailgates, reunions and legislative advocacy efforts. Born and raised in Colorado, Tonya moved to Arizona to attend Arizona State University where she earned her bachelor of arts in Communication at the Hugh Downs School of Communication. After graduation, Tonya was hired at Southwest Airlines in the Phoenix Field Marketing Office. Tonya supported the sales and marketing efforts of one of the most celebrated airlines and business stories in the world for eight years, earning several promotions and even being named a Marketing Employee of the quarter. During her time at Southwest Airlines, is when she learned about the mission of Raising Special Kids and has since, been an advocate of the organization and its work in Arizona. Tonya Gray earned her masters of business administration from Devry University Keller Graduate School of Management in Scottsdale, Arizona and her career has taken her from Arizona to Dallas and back. Her diverse experience includes brand and product management, community development and relations, event coordination and management, public relations, and sales. Tonya is very active in her local community, but in her rare spare time, she loves to travel, go to the movies, and support her Sun Devils!

Maya Rao, MS, Board Member

Customer Service Representative, U-Haul

Trish Robinson, BA, Board Member

Vice President of Programs, Association for Supportive Childcare

Advisory Council

Lisa Aaroe, Grand Canyon University
Mary Allare, MD Neonatologist
Jack Alspaugh, Gary Insurance Company
Kevin Bonner, Fennemore Craig
Heather Buchta, Quarles Brady Streich & Lang
Linda Cannon, Cannon & Associates
Jim Cole, AZ Family Channel 3
Bob Cox, Nothing But Net
Elaine Ellis, MD
Jodi Feuerhelm, Perkins Coie Brown & Bain
Elizabeth Freeburg
Conrad Greene, Assest Based Capital
Brad Harper, Trigon Executive Assessment Center
Miriam Hayanga, Realtor
Vickie Herd, Extended Family Disability Services, LLC
Mary Holman, Comerica Bank
Shirley Kaufman, Retired Attorney
Dan Kessler MD, Southwest Human Development
Ellen & Bill Leibow
Gina Maravilla,
Susan Morris, Southwest Performance Group
Michael Remus, Director of Special Education for Deer Valley Unified School District
Susan Riedel, Modern Woodmen Of America
Carolyn Sechler, Sechler CPA , PC
Mary Slaughter, Consultant
Chuck Smith
Bill Spain, Provident Partners Companies
Don Storrs, Wolz's Florist
Janelle Tassart, Development & Communications Manager, Gompers
Susan Voirol, Tempe Union High School District
Debbie Voll, Paradise Valley Unified School District
Tim Watters, Colliers International


It’s A Good Time To Have Dyslexia

​Meriah Houser is a former teacher, and a lover of books. She was eager to pass on her enthusiasm for reading to her sons, Cole and Maddox. As her boys grew, Meriah discovered that reading was very challenging for them. … KEEP READING

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Not long ago Aurora Townsend and her family were afraid that she would be unable to follow her dream of attending college to become a Neurobiologist. Aurora has Toxic Encephalopathy and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome–disabilities that cause her body to respond intensely to substances in the environment many of us do not notice. … KEEP READING

​I Felt Like I Could Breathe Again!

When Laurie and her husband adopted Adilynn, they anticipated a few minor medical issues. What they could not have anticipated was the number of hospitalizations, medical procedures and dozens of specialists necessary to meet Adilynn’s medical needs. … KEEP READING

Families Helping Families

Families Assisted
Parent-to-Parent Matches
Professionals trained
Community Partners