|Christina Reaves is a mother of a 9-year-old daughter with Down syndrome. They moved to North Carolina 7 years ago. She chose to get involved with the NCDSA (Formerly TDSN) because in the early years of her daughter’s journey she missed out on vital connections with the Down syndrome community. It is her passion and mission to make sure that every baby born into the world with Down syndrome receives a joyous welcome. She has been employed with the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance for 4 years and has been the Executive Director for the past 2 years.
As the leader of the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance (NCDSA) team, Christina brings her knowledge of Down syndrome, business management, fundraising and program development skills to the organization. She previously was the director of family programs for the Department of Defense. Her passion for working in the Down syndrome community shows in everything that she does.
Christina has previously served on other Boards for local civic groups, town councils, military family readiness, and school boards. Her most recent board experience was where she served as the Secretary of the Archer Lodge Community Center in Clayton, NC.
Christina and her husband Willie reside in Clayton, NC with their 3 children and 2 Great Danes. She loves to travel, camp, attend sporting events and go white water rafting. If she’s not working you can find her headed out of town on an adventure.
|Hi! I am Mahala Turner and I am very happy to be here with you serving our community. I am especially interested in supporting new families because I was considered a “new family” not very long ago. NCDSA (formerly TDSN) stepped in and supported our family during the birth and diagnosis of our 3rd child, Beau. It would bring me great joy to return this service to other families.
I am a former special education teacher (12 years) and I would be honored to also support families through the education and IEP processes. I believe that my personal story and passion as well as my professional experience will help me to serve many families through NCDSA.
I am originally from Alabama. My family recently returned to North Carolina from Maryland where we lived for 15 months. We quickly realized that North Carolina is home and we plan to be here for many years to come.
I believe my position is an important responsibility and investment within our community. I have both my bachelors and master’s degrees in special education form “the friendliest campus in the South”, Jacksonville State University. I also hold a certification in school psychometry which is administering and interpreting educational assessments. My family and I enjoy spending time outdoors any way that we can. We enjoy exploring new places together and creating adventures. I enjoy reading and cooking, and I almost never turn down the rare opportunity for a glorious nap!
|Dawn DeSoto was raised in a family that has supported her to develop her own idea and embrace her creative mind. She started volunteering and fundraising at an early age has always felt the need to give back to the community.
Her ability to conceptualize, plan, and oversee execution of events provides a thorough and precise service as an event planner. Dawn has volunteered as the event coordinator for her local community center. She also gives back as the soccer director for a local soccer league. With creativity and commitment to excellence Dawn DeSoto designs and executes events that will be memorable for both the participants and the organization.
Dawn and her children live in Clayton, NC with their two dogs. She loves coaching youth sports and attending crossfit. Getting away to the mountains for a long hike is her favorite down time.
“There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return”- Nelson Mandela
|Jennifer joined the NSDCA family in the spring of 2021. She is a very passionate volunteer and advocate who jumped right into her role as the Community Group Coordinator. In 2014 her youngest child, JD, was born with Down Syndrome. For her and her family this was an unexpected diagnosis. The NCDSA reached out to her within days of his arrival to ensure that they were not alone with their new information. It was through the NCDSA she made amazing empathetic connections and received the resources the family needed to begin their journey.
Jennifer is currently completing her degree in elementary education while she works full time as Teachers Assistant in an exceptional children’s pre-k classroom for Johnston County Schools. She has a passionate drive for helping others and educating the joy in differences. Her energetic personality allows her to connect easily and build a family from those she’s recently met . Her son, JD, is non verbal and hard of hearing which has driven her to become fluent in American Sign Language as well. Her drive is advocating, educating and supporting families of those with different abilities.
Jennifer has 4 children and 2 grandchildren. She resides in Johnson County with her husband, 3 of her children and her 6 fur babies. If she’s not at an NCDSA event you can find her relaxing at home in the backyard with her family or running away to the beach for a quick trip with friends.
|Donna Beckmann’s journey in the world of Down syndrome began with the birth of her son in 2000. Donna and her family were welcomed into the local Down syndrome community and quickly embraced by members of the former TDSN. Donna soon realized her passion advocating for her son transformed into a passion advocating for individuals with Down syndrome and other Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Donna grew up in an altruistic home where her parents led by the example of helping others. She has always involved herself in organizations that she or her family has participated in or belonged to, taking an active role advancing the agenda of these organizations while lending a hand in their operations. In addition to her volunteer work throughout the years with the former TDSN, she worked as the Volunteer Parent Advocate at the Duke Down Syndrome Clinic. Donna has built relationships across the greater Down syndrome community on the local, state, and national levels. She was the driving force behind the creation of Down syndrome specific webpages for the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services, working with legislators and bureaucrats. She prefers to work behind the scenes, collaborating to bring services to individuals with Down syndrome and their families.
Transitioning from volunteer to staff in 2019, the position of Advocacy and Outreach Director expands on the projects Donna had already initiated. Down Syndrome Advocacy Day and the North Carolina Down Syndrome Conference are two major events that will continue to grow along with further outreach to agencies that provide direct services to the Down syndrome community as well as bringing resources to parents, caregivers, and individuals with Down syndrome. Donna’s statewide network will allow for greater collaboration among the disability community.
Donna holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. She completed the certificate program North Carolina Partners in Policymaking in 2011. During the 2017-2018 academic year, she was a UNC Carolina Institute on Developmental Disabilities LEND Fellow. If she is not floating in a tidal pool on Cape Lookout, she can be found hiking or backpacking. She is proud to say she has hiked from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro…not at the same time, not even in the same decade.
|I am a stay-at-home mom of seven-year-old Jocelyn (typically developing, strong-willed, spirited girl) and 5-year-old Graham (has DS, strong-willed, mischievous little boy). After working full-time as a nurse for many years I decided to stay home to better care for my family as well as dedicate more time to our local DS group.
When Graham was born we quickly realized the lack of support or connection with other families. I became devoted to establishing a monthly playgroup to connect families since there were no groups established in our area. This dream has quickly evolved into more then I dreamed possible. I am now Community Group Leader for NCDSA Eastern NC Families, the local chapter for NCDSA. I am now devoted to connecting families, medical outreach and social and educational opportunities for our families. And I love it!
My favorite thing in the world is to lie on the floor and play with my kids. Intentional time with my family is the most rewarding time. I enjoy cooking but dislike cleaning. As a native Californian where the Pacific is cold all year I never knew how much I loved the beach. As a family we love trips to the beach, the aquarium, the zoo and we love to swim and go kayaking.
“There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return”- Nelson Mandela
|Alyssa Jacobs welcomed her son with Down syndrome in January 2022. The support her family received from the Down Syndrome Awareness Group (DSAG) of Baton Rouge (from their prenatal diagnosis, to the birth of their son, to their move to North Carolina) paved the way for Alyssa’s passion to be involved with Down syndrome awareness and support. Upon moving to North Carolina shortly after the birth of her son, Alyssa was welcomed by NCDSA with open arms! After attending a New Parents Support meeting, she knew she wanted to get involved and is thrilled with the transition from volunteer to staff.
With a bachelor’s degree in strategic communication and master’s degree in higher education administrative leadership, Alyssa has experience in marketing and higher education student affairs. Serving as the communication specialist aligns her passion for contention creation, education, and advocacy for a community she is thrilled to be a part of!
Originally from Wisconsin, Alyssa and her husband live in Mebane, NC in their red door house (as her toddler has named it) with their 2 children and 2 dogs. She enjoys reading, staying active, and traveling (the most recent adventure being a Grand Canyon rafting trip). She is a new, but proud, Duke football fan and can be found cheering on the team during home games!
Board of Directors
|Tara received her Masters in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her undergraduate from Appalachian State University. She has dedicated her life to serving people with intellectual disabilities and has a passion for ensuring that everyone is living the most inclusive and fulfilling life.
Tara is a returning member to the board directors and looks forward to helping NCDSA advocate, serve, and support children and adults with Down syndrome and their families.
|Jeff is a North Carolina native, growing up in Raleigh. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Jeff earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. Jeff has served in various marketing roles from Marketing Manager to Director of Marketing for a number of companies before starting his own company, Lineberry Marketing Consultants, LLC, in 2009. Jeff is looking forward to using his marketing experience to help increase the visibility and development efforts of the NCDSA.
Jeff and his wife, Lizzy, are the proud parents of three beautiful children; Adelaide, Graydon, and Hanna.
Jeff and Lizzy were introduced to the world of Down syndrome when they received a prenatal diagnosis at 12 weeks with Hanna. Hanna was born in 2018 and after some early health challenges, including open heart surgery, Jeff has an appreciation and understanding of what many new parents go through in those early years. Jeff has always had a “servant’s heart” and since the birth of Hanna wants to help improve the quality of life of those with Down syndrome and their families. Jeff is a passionate supporter of full inclusion and equal rights for those with disabilities.
Jeff regularly attends Mass and volunteers at his church, serves as a leader in Adelaide’s Y Guides crew and has coached Graydons’ Tball teams. In his free time he enjoys gardening, wood carving, hunting and fishing as well as spending time with friends and extended family.
|Tony is a member of the firm of McPherson, Rocamora, Nicholson, Wilson & Hinkle, PLLC in Durham. He graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1998 and has practiced in the Durham-Chapel Hill area since then. He focuses his practice on estate planning and special needs law, as well as the related areas of elder law and public benefits planning. Tony is a Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate Law and Elder Law by the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, as well as a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation.
Tony is a member of many committees and organizations related to estate planning, elder law and special needs law including the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the North Carolina Bar Association (Sections on Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law, and Elder & Special Needs Law). Tony is a past president of Chapel Hill and Durham Elder Care Resources, and he is active on the Section Council of the Elder & Special Needs Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association. In addition, Tony is a member of the Durham Orange Estate Planning Council.
On the weekends, Tony enjoys cycling, boating and fishing, and supporting the local restaurant scene with his wife and son.
|Dr. Diane Cavanagh retired to Hampstead with her husband Kevin after a 40 year career in special education. She began her career as a self contained classroom teacher of young children with Down syndrome, forging a longtime relationship with the Ds community. She continued teaching in the public schools until earning her doctorate at Columbia University. In 1991, she began her tenure as a professor in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. As a university professor, Diane shared her passion for working with children and families with Down syndrome by mentoring future teachers and focusing her research and service in this area.
Diane brings a wealth of experience to the NCDSA board. She has served on several boards that included: Catholic Charities Department for Persons with Disabilities; Pocono Parents of Down Syndrome; and, Equi-Librium Therapeutic Horsemanship. She also served on and chaired committees dealing with advocacy issues for individuals with disabilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She was President of the New Jersey Chapter of Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) , as well as faculty advisor to the university CEC student chapter. She co-chaired many Buddy Walks and was the faculty liaison for Special Olympics Pennsylvania. Diane has presented at many national, state and local conferences, sharing her expertise in working with individuals and families with Down syndrome, as well as other research initiatives that focused on inclusion and collaboration.
Since retiring to the beautiful coastal community of Hampstead, Diane remains a strong advocate for the disability community. She shares her passion by volunteering as a local coordinator and bocce coach with the North Carolina Special Olympics. She is also a member of the Retired Seniors Volunteer Corps, the founder and facilitator for the Kiwanis Aktion Club and a volunteer at Camp Victory Junction. Her personal interests include traveling with her husband, being an active member of her church, training for and racing in sprint triathlons, quilting, and working as a therapy dog handler with her black lab Murphy.
|Logan Joines is proud to join the NC Down Syndrome Alliance family as a member of the Board of Directors. Her passion for advocating and promoting self-advocacy in individuals with disabilities began at an early age. While in elementary school, Logan was diagnosed with ADHD and a reading disability. Fortunately, she had the support of a passionate teacher and knowledgeable mom to serve as her first advocates. At that moment, she devoted herself to being a powerful advocate for herself and others.
Logan is an experienced special education teacher in NC public schools and member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET). She prides herself on her knowledge of parental rights, students’ rights, and IEP compliance. Logan is eager to support families and students through the education and IEP process. She has 15+ years of experience volunteering and working with individuals with disabilities. Additionally, she has ties with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte (DSA-GC) and enjoyed her time working as a lead counselor at DSA-GC Camp Holiday.
As a member of the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance (NCDSA), Logan will bring a unique perspective, as an individual with disabilities, an educator, and advocate. She is honored to be a part of an organization dedicated to empowering, connecting and supporting the lifespan of individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and the community through outreach, advocacy, and education in North Carolina.
Logan received her B.A in Adapted Special Education from Greensboro College in 2014 and holds a North Carolina Teaching License in the areas of Exceptional Children: Adapted Curriculum (K-12) and Cross Categorical K-12. In her spare time, Logan loves to play video games with her husband, cuddle with her cats and dogs, and enjoys time with her family, especially her two beautiful nieces, Salem and Luna.
|Stacy Strickland was introduced to the world of Down syndrome in 2018 upon the arrival of his fifth child, Haven Faith. In 2018 the family was blessed with her arrival and she has made a huge positive impact on the family as well as everyone that meets her.
He is excited to be part of the NCDSA helping to bring information and support to new families and to those who have just learned of the diagnosis during pregnancy. With his experience he hopes to help answer questions and concerns from parents that may be overwhelmed with a new diagnosis. He also wants to be an advocate for this wonderful community and to be a voice for those who can’t be a voice for themselves. Stacy wants to bring awareness to the needs and help build programs for individuals with Down syndrome through events, fundraisers, seminars, etc. His strongest attributes are helping to build and create projects, supporting them as they grow, and his willingness to meet with individuals and companies that can help make an impact for our community.
Stacy was born and raised in Dunn NC where he grew up in a happy family. He played baseball, soccer, and basketball growing up. He attended and graduated from Triton High School in 1994 and went to Wake Technical Community College and studied engineering. Stacy has also served on the Deacon Board in his church as well as been a Baseball and Basketball coach for his local community in Johnston County.
After getting married in 2000 he began a career in the infrastructure construction field where he is currently a Sales Representative helping to provide supplies and materials to contractors who build water, sewer, and storm systems for Cities, Towns, and Neighborhoods.
|Carla Williams is recognized for being a strategic marketing growth leader able to open pipelines, move revenue needles, and drive results. Her 20 years of experience working foundations in strategic and creative marketing, branding, social media, digital, sales, promotions, business development, corporate sponsorship, event management, and public relations for companies. With a combined versatile career portfolio, strong academic credentials, a keen insight into emerging markets and opportunities, and tenacious industry-savvy, Carla is highly qualified to serve on boards seeking strategic, digital marketing, institutional knowledge of the business development, and those looking for best practices in content creation, social media, communications, and demand generation. Her differentiated, collaborative leadership approach is grounded in her ability to grow revenue by developing strong teams, building genuine relationships, and streamlining processes. Her glass-half-full mindset, encouraging and positive spirit, aim for innovation, and creative ideation has continually led to corporate and public sector success. She is a Founder of The J Daniel Group, a strategic marketing agency and Practice Director with Strategic Executives Agency (SEA), a boutique human capital consultancy that helps operating executives facilitate growth and/or solve strategic problems with best-in-class talent.
Carla graduated Cum Laude from UCLA Anderson School of Management with an MBA in Marketing and Cum Laude with a BS in Chemical Engineering from NC State University. Adding to her list of accomplishments, she has also served as an adjunct marketing and business professor for the University of Phoenix and currently holds the same position at the University of Mount Olive. She is a fierce advocate for philanthropy, giving back, and serving her community as she currently sits as a Board Director for UCLA Anderson Black Alumni Association, Board Director for North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance, and on the Read and Feed Marketing Advisory Council. Carla currently resides in the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina area with her husband and two young daughters. When she’s not traveling around the world with her family, she loves eating a delicious meal or competing on the tennis courts, as a 2-time USTA State Champion.
|Jason Ho is originally from Kinston, NC. He graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry. He then received his medical degree from East Carolina University School of Medicine and completed his pediatric residency there. He went on to complete a pediatric cardiology fellowship at Indiana University and a pediatric electrophysiology fellowship at Vanderbilt University.
He then worked at the University of Florida College of Medicine for six years prior to returning to Raleigh and joining WakeMed Physician Practices. As a pediatric cardiologist, he has followed a number of patients with Down syndrome.
Jason and his wife, Melissa, have five children, including his oldest who was born with Down syndrome.
|I’m Matt Cooper, a product manager in the software industry. I’ve spent most of my career building tools for software developers with first Microsoft and now GitHub. Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, I always knew I would be involved with computers somehow. I am a graduate of Virginia Tech with degrees in computer science (BS ’05, MS ’07). I’ve lived in Raleigh since 2016; before that, I spent nearly a decade in the Seattle area.
More importantly, I’m the proud husband of Christy and dad of Tierney and Kellan. Kellan’s diagnosis of Down syndrome arrived several months before he did, which gave us plenty of time to freak out before finding our way back to joy. With the help of the resources and friends at NCDSA (not to mention watching Tierney forge such a strong, unconditional bond with her little brother), Kellan’s future is bright and his potential is unbounded.Outside of work, you might find me playing Minecraft with the kids, trying out new beers across the Triangle, or listening to history, architecture, game design, and economics podcasts.