Brennan Wood has served as the Executive Director of Dougy Center: The National Grief Center for Children & Families based in Portland, Oregon since 2015, where she has been on staff in various roles since 2004. Brennan’s professional background and expertise are grounded in fundraising, strategic planning, organizational development, and capacity building. She is the author of, A Kids Book About Grief and is a member of the National Advisory Council for the COVID Collaborative as well as the Advisory Council for Hidden Pain. She was the 2020 Light-a-Fire Award Extraordinary Executive Director and a 2022 Women of Influence Award recipient. Brennan is passionate about Dougy Center’s mission to provide grief support, resources, training, and community response to children, teens, young adults, and their families who are grieving before and after a death, and those who support them. Brennan walked through the doors of Dougy Center for the first time in 1987 when her mother, Doris, died three days after she had turned 12-years-old. Her experience in a peer support group at Dougy Center shaped her life and she has strived to provide the same opportunity that she had to other children and families who are grieving in her community, across the country, and around the world ever since. Under Brennan’s leadership, Oregon Business named Dougy Center as a “Best Nonprofit to Work For” for the past six years, and local CEOs voted Dougy Center as a “Most Admired Company” for the past four. Since becoming Executive Director, Brennan has championed Dougy Center’s commitment to equity and inclusion and has brought innovative partnerships, programs, and resources to the field of childhood bereavement. Brennan is committed to making the world a more grief-informed place where we all can acknowledge grief as a natural and normal response to loss that is interwoven into a sociocultural context.
Jennifer Wiles, MA, LMHC, BC-DMT
Jennifer Wiles, MA, LMHC, BC-DMT is the Director of Children’s Services at Beth Israel Lahey Health at Home in Boston, MA. She is the director of Camp Erin Boston and HEARTplay, a bereavement program for children, teens and young adults of all abilities. Her current project, Expanding the Language of Grief, is focused on providing access to compassionate grief support services to people of all abilities. Jennifer is a board-certified dance movement therapist/licensed mental health counselor and is on the adjunct faculty of Lesley University’s Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences where she also serves as a clinical site supervisor. She is committed to welcoming interns and students into the bereavement field. Jennifer is an active member of The National Alliance for Children’s Grief, where she serves on the Board of Directors and chairs the Education Committee.
Jim Santucci, CPA
Jim Santucci, CPA, is a graduate of the U.S Military Academy. Jim served four years in the active duty Army as an Infantry officer with the 25th Infantry Division and later commanded the 227th Engineer Company while a member of the Hawaii National Guard. After his 10-year-old daughter died in 2008, he received support from Kara, a non-profit grief services agency in Palo Alto California. Soon after he began volunteer work for organizations advocating for pediatric palliative care (Children’s Hospice & Palliative Care Coalition, Coalition for Compassionate Care of California) and supporting bereaved parents and individuals (Kara, Lucile Packard Family Partners Group). In November of 2013, Jim became the Executive Director of Kara. In addition to his daily chief executive responsibilities, he is a peer group facilitator for parents who have suffered the loss of a child and serves annually as a counselor at Camp Kara (a weekend bereavement camp for children and teens). His non-profit service also includes time with Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto and over 19 years of operations management for two faith- based organizations. He is a Certified Public Accountant.
I believe the world is driven by unresolved grief. Serving on the Board of Trustees of the National Alliance for Grieving Children provides me the opportunity to be of service and work towards our vision of ensuring that no child grieves alone. This will only be accomplished through education and advocacy on behalf of all grieving children and teens. I know of no organization like the NAGC working so hard and so effectively to create a world where children coping with loss grow up emotionally healthy and able to lead meaningful and productive lives. These children will be the next generation of healers for bereaved youth.
Jim Price has over 50 years of experience in the funeral profession and is a graduate of the California College of Mortuary Science. Knowing now that 1 out of 5 children in North America are grieving based upon the loss of someone that is very close and significant in their lives, he is hopeful that as a director in the NACG he will be able to better connect those in his profession with regard to how very important it is to have the appropriate conversation with children’s parents. Jim believes it is critical to understand the importance of reaching out to bereavement counselors in communities as well as supporting the wonderful efforts of NACG.
Ryan Loiselle, MSW, LICSW
Ryan Loiselle, LICSW is the program director for FRIENDS WAY. In his role, Ryan manages the day-to-day operations including intake, referrals and community outreach, as well as supervising the volunteer facilitators. In 2001, Ryan began his tenure at FRIENDS WAY as a volunteer group facilitator. He has been the program director since 2011.
Prior to joining FRIENDS WAY, he worked at Merrimack Valley Hospice with a concentration in pediatric palliative care and children’s bereavement. He also served as the program director of “Jeff’s Place”, a bereavement center in Wayland, MA created by FRIENDS WAY founder, Jenny Kaplan.
Ryan studied at the University of Rhode Island and received his degree in Human Development and Family Studies, with a minor in Thanatology (the study of death, loss, grief, and bereavement). He went on to Simmons College in Boston, MA and received his master’s in social work.
Ryan also has a private practice, Rhode Island Grief Counseling, LLC in Providence, RI.
Additionally, he has presented at several conferences for NASW (National Association of Social Workers) and for NAGC (National Alliance for Grieving Children) on children’s bereavement. He joined the board of directors for the NACG in January 2022.
Dan Layman is President and CEO of Ele’s Place Michigan. A native Michigander, he found his passion for non-profits serving as a volunteer companion with hospice patients in Detroit. Before coming to Ele’s Place, he worked for several Michigan based hospices, leading their community outreach and business development programs. He served over ten years as a member of the Hospice of Michigan management team and helped to grow the organization into one of the largest hospice providers in the country.
Dan‘s passion for the Ele’s Place mission stems from his time helping grieving families and witnessing the pain and distress unresolved grief can have on individuals, families, and the larger community.
His inspiration is working to ensure all children in Michigan and across the country have access to compassionate grief support. Dan’s work at Ele’s Place includes transitioning from a regional provider of peer support services to an integrated, collaborative statewide organization, reaching all grieving families in Michigan. His areas of focus include governance, strategic planning, and fostering statewide and national partnerships to support innovative and equitable programming for grieving children and families tailored to their diverse needs.
Dan has an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his MBA from the Broad School of Management at Michigan State University. He is an avid runner, loves the Michigan outdoors, and is currently a mentor with the Broad Wisdom Project. He lives with his wife Kristi and their four kids in East Lansing, MI.
Catherine Alicia Georges, EdD, RN, FAAN
Catherine Alicia Georges, EdD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Catherine Alicia Georges a professor and chairperson of the department of nursing at Lehman College is a leader in academic nursing, health policy development, community engagement, organizational development, and healthy aging. Her leadership in these areas is known nationally and internationally through her service as a member of health policy boards, health care delivery boards, professional organizations, governmental boards, and the world’s largest consumer organization board of directors. She is committed to assuring social justice and equity for marginalized and vulnerable communities.
Dr. Georges served as the national volunteer president of AARP from 2018-2020. AARP is the world’s largest consumer organization. She served as the fifth president of the National Black Nurses Association and is the president of the National Black Nurses Foundation. She is a Lifetime member of the National Black Nurses Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. And an honorary member of Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority. In October 2021 Dr. George became Chair of the National Easter Seals Board. She is the first Black female volunteer to serve as Chair in the 100-year history of the organization. Dr. Georges is a fellow of the NY Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Nursing. In 2019 she was named a Living legend by the American Academy of Nursing. In June 2020, Dr. Georges received the Distinguished Alumna Award from Seton Hall University. In October 2021 she received the Academy of Nursing Lifetime Legacy Achievement Award
Dr. Georges received a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree from Seton Hall University College of Nursing, a Master of Arts degree in community health nursing administration and supervision from New York University School of Education, Division of Nursing, and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Vermont.
Sydney Ford is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in Public Relations, and a graduate of the Emory University School of Law where she obtained her juris doctorate degree. She is currently a juvenile defense attorney and followed this path because of the number of grieving children involved in the juvenile justice system. Sydney’s article on trauma-informed pretrial diversion programs for our grieving youth in the juvenile justice system was selected for publication by the Northwestern Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Online. She has also recently testified for the South Carolina Joint Committee on Children about getting grief resources for children into South Carolina schools.
Sydney wrote and published her own children’s book, “Grief Came to Visit Today,” and created a nonprofit, “Hope After Grief Inc.,” that provides scholarships to high school seniors who have had a parent or sibling die. Sydney lost her dad when she was 10 years and became an advocate for grieving children at age 16 when she began going into elementary schools and talking to classes about the emotions associated with grief. Since that time, she has found ways to support grieving children by fundraising for the National Alliance for Children’s Grief, becoming a buddy and ambassador for Kate’s Club, and meeting with Senators and the South Carolina Superintendent of Education to advocate for our grieving youth.
Tashel Bordere, PhD, FT
Dr. Tashel Bordere is an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Science and State Extension Specialist in Youth Development at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She currently serves as Board Member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, Board Member of the National Alliance for Grieving Children, and Advisory Council Member of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). She has specialized education and training as a Certified Thanatologist (Death, Dying, and Grief). She has served as Editor of the ADEC Forum publication. Dr. Bordere’s research program assumes a contextual approach focusing on trauma, loss (homicide loss, assaultive violence – sexual assault), suffocated grief and Black youth and family bereavement. She studies cultural practices that promote healing and survival. Dr. Bordere has done numerous workshops, consultations, keynotes, and published research relating to social inequities and culturally responsive practices in loss including her co-edited/co-authored book, Handbook of Social Justice in Loss and Grief (Routledge). She recently completed a Forward Promise Fellowship through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focusing on the promotion of healing, growth, and thriving among boys and young men of color. Dr. Bordere has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Ronald K. Barrett Award (2018) from the Association of Death Education and Counseling for research on Black adolescent and young adult grief, 2022 Excellence in Engagement in Outreach Award at the University of Missouri, and the CASE Award for outstanding faculty mentorship to underrepresented college students. She has been featured in multiple media outlets including USA Today, New York Times, Legacy.Com, Psychology Today, Houston Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, NPR (WPSU Take Note), on national and international podcasts (Grief Outloud – Dougy Center), and webcasts (National Alliance for Grieving Children), and the Open to Hope Cable Show – Saving At Risk Youth. Dr. Bordere developed the S.H.E.D. Loss and Grief Tools Training.