PPA Leadership Team
Jennifer Canvasser M.S.W
Founder and Director of NEC Society
Jennifer founded the NEC Society in January, 2014, a year after losing her son, Micah, to necrotizing enterocolitis. She completed her undergraduate studies at U.C.L.A and earned her master’s degree in social work with an emphasis in community organizing from the University of Southern California. Jennifer serves as the Ecology Center’s environmental health organizer. She is an avid runner and loves to be outside with her husband, Noah, Micah’s twin, Zachary, and their family dog, Benjie.
Founder/President, NICU Helping Hands
Lisa Grubbs (TX) is the proud mother of 6 children – 4 boys and 2 angels. Married to a neonatologist, Lisa became involved in helping provide support for families who had experienced a NICU stay in her local community. After the premature birth of her goddaughters in 2007 and in response to the growing need for parent support and education for families experiencing the hospitalization of their baby in the NICU, Lisa founded NIC U Helping Hands in the summer of 2010. Providing local, national and international support to families through a variety of their signature programs, NICU Helping Hands is dedicated to making a difference in the every day life of NICU families.
Founder/Executive Director, Hand to Hold
Kelli D. Kelley (TX) is the mother of two children born preterm – Jackson born at 24 weeks in 2000 and Lauren born at 34 weeks in 2003. She has invested her time and talents during the past 10 years to raise awareness of the growing problem of preterm birth and to support families who share her experience.
Founder, Families Blossoming
Gigi Khonyongwa-Fernandez is a NICU mom who has found her life’s passion in helping and coaching others after loss and the premature birth of her son who has special needs. She currently owns a coaching and consulting business, Families Blossoming LLC, to assist other NICU families and those with children with special needs. Gigi began her career as an occupational therapist. Then, she continued her work with healthcare project management while she pursued an advanced degree in both healthcare and coaching. She is currently a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the New York City Chapter of the ICF and the Preemie Parent Alliance. This is her story.
Director of Operations, National Perinatal Association (NPA)
Kristy Love (MO) is the mother of two preemies, a daughter at 35 weeks and a son at 30 weeks. She has been actively involved in supporting NICU families at Mercy Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, MO since 2001 and took a position as their NICU Family Advocate in April 2012. Kristy has also been with the National Perinatal Association since 2009 and currently holds a position as their Director of Operations.
Executive Director, Holding Tiny Hands
Bob Selby (IA) is a 2-time NICU Dad from Ames, Iowa. His son, Jack, was born in 2006 at 25 weeks and weighed 1 lb. 11 oz, spending 84 days in the NICU. Thomas, born in 2009 at 28 weeks, weighed 2.0 lb. and stayed 120 days in the NICU. Bob is a retired police officer and a stay at home Dad. In 2010, Bob and his wife Susan founded “Holding Tiny Hands”, a non-profit foundation serving NICU families throughout Iowa. Bob is the foundation’s Executive Director.
President, Preemie Parent Alliance
President, Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation
Keira & Richard Sorrells (MS) are the parents of triplet daughters, born at 25 weeks 5 days. After experiencing the trauma of an extremely early delivery, 9 1/2 months of living in the NICU, caring for a special needs child, and the very untimely death of their daughter, Zoe after 14 months; they felt driven to find new ways to help other parents facing the same challenges they met. Keira serves as the Executive Director of the foundation while Richard develops the strategic plan and long term outlook for the organization.
Our Founding Members
from the 2010
Preemie Parent Summit
back row: Deb Discenza, Kelli Kelley, Becky Hatfield, Lori Aston, Portia Belo-Borowski, Mike Petrucelli, Gayle Schumacher, Ariel Dogget, Kara McBurney, Cami Marsh, Nick Hall, Lori Buss, Susan Selby, Chris Dittman, Becky Dittman, Catherine Sylvester, Kristy Love, MaryBeth Hazelgrove, Judy Bender
front row: seated/kneeling: Angie Hernandez, Kristy McNealy, Richard Sorrells, Keira Sorrells, Liz McCarthy, Kelly Fraasch, Samantha Bohnert