At F.A.C.T., we love our work. And we (truly) love the people we work for. Take a look through our bios and you’ll see what led many of us here: our own children. Many F.A.C.T. team members have faced the same challenges as the families we serve, so we know how hard it can be to advocate on behalf of a child with disabilities.
Whether we’re parents of children with disabilities or we’re not, we all share a common passion for what we think is the most important job on the planet – supporting families and kids. Here are some of the friendly faces you’ll see at F.A.C.T.
Denise Gould, Executive Director
My professional background was Human Resources for many years. I was Executive Director of F.A.C.T. back in the early days of the agency. I returned to the agency in 2003. Although each of my career choices have brought great experience to my present position, my life experiences with my children have been the most valuable preparation – they have taught me all the important lessons in life. It is that knowledge that we strive to share with other parents. As parents of children with disabilities or serious emotional disorders, we have that unique perspective that allows us to find a special connection with other families – to empower the family voice with education, resources, and sometimes just a listening ear.
Charlotte Allen, Parent Support Partner and Special Projects Assistant
My son has ADHD. It has been a long struggle, especially with school. We were thrown out of many recreational facilities and it was hard to keep him busy. I learned how to advocate for my son through training. I read everything that I could get my hands on about ADHD, so that I could learn how to handle him at home. I soon found out that a positive attitude and the way I approached him helped an awful lot. I also taught him how to advocate for himself. Because of this, he was able to graduate from high school on time and now attends Junior College.
Laura Bickford, Parent Support Partner Supervisor
Working in the Partnership with Families program gives me an opportunity to give back to my community. I know there are families that struggle with their day-to-day lives and I can relate to them as I too have struggled. My husband and I have a daughter who was diagnosed as having emotional and developmental disabilities. It has been a constant effort to work with schools, and other community resources to see that her needs are met. Working at F.A.C.T. gives me the opportunity to support other families like mine by referring them to resources in the community, helping them advocate for their children and by being an empathetic listener.
Carol Wells, Parent Support Partner
My name is Carol Wells, and I am pleased to be working with F.A.C.T. I have a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Columbia College. I have two great teenage sons, Jonathon and Matthew. My oldest son, Jonathon, was diagnosed with a genetic brain disease when he was 18 months old that has resulted in multiple disabilities. Navigating through the school system has taught me how to be strong. Helping him grow and develop through the years has given me passion to help children with disabilities reach their full potential throughout the many phases of their lives and to empower and support their parents.
Christine Kennett, Parent Support Partner
I am the proud parent of two young men, John and Nicholas. The youngest, Nicholas, was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome as soon as he was born. I was suddenly thrown into a world that I knew nothing about. Having two wonderful children with very different needs was difficult. I had a hard time finding someone who not only could understand what I was going through, but also who could relate to how different my life had become. I found that the more I could learn about my children’s different abilities the better I felt. I strongly believe in that values at F.A.C.T. and hope to live up to them every day. I can empathize with families that have children with disABILITIES and hope that my personal experiences with my own family may empower another family in the same way that I have been empowered.
Lulu Pedraza, Parent Support Partner
My name is Lulu Pedraza. I am the proud mother of two young ladies, Danielle and Vanessa. I have devoted my life to making sure that both of my children have all necessary supports so that they may be successful, and it has been a long process. Working for F.A.C.T. is one of the biggest joys in my life. To be able to support families that have children with disabilities by working with their strengths and encouraging them to advocate for their own children the way that I have had to is tremendously important to me. I have a heartfelt passion for trying to empower people so that they may be successful in their own worlds. I feel that if I can make a difference in one person’s life then I have succeeded.
Lynn Foust, Advocacy Supervisor
I have been an employee of F.A.C.T. since 1999. I am the mother of six grown children; three of my children have disabilities. Initially, I contacted F.A.C.T. to help me understand the Special Education process. After attending the F.A.C.T. training workshops I had the knowledge to advocate proactively for my children with the school district, and felt empowered to help others with similar needs. It is a wonderful feeling to know I am making a difference in the lives of children with disabilities and their family.
Karen Cooper, Transition Specialist
I am the mother of two wonderful children, Sam and Sarah. Sam was diagnosed as language-delayed at 3 years and received services through pre-school. I depended on the doctors and school personnel to get Sam the resources he needed, but soon found that wasn't effective. F.A.C.T. taught me that I needed to educate myself to be the best advocate for my child. I am excited to work for an organization that helps so many people help themselves.
Jennifer Brooks, Administrative Coordinator for Operations
In my prior position I worked for three years at the Neurofibromatosis Foundation as Development Coordinator. I truly enjoyed helping to serve people through fundraising and public awareness for NF.
Heather Lytle, Quality and Program Manager
I graduated from University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1997 with a degree in English without having any idea what I would do with the degree. In 2002 I graduated from Lindenwood University with a Master’s Degree in Education and a certification to teach high school English. Still I could not seem to find a niche that suited me. In 2007 I began working at F.A.C.T. as an Administrative Assistant and had found a place that opened my eyes to an entirely different world than the one in which I had been living. F.A.C.T. is an organization that wholeheartedly devotes time and energy into meeting people where they are, using strength-based people-first language, truly wanting to educate and advocate for families that have children with disabilities, and working towards a brighter future where every person is included as they so choose. I’m happy to be part of such an organization.
Susan Newton, Advocate and People First Advisor
I am a proud parent of two boys both of which have received services for Speech and Language delays. My oldest is now off of services and doing wonderfully. My youngest still has an IEP for Speech and Fluency. Not only have I dealt with the Special Education system as a parent but I too have a Learning Disability and was on an IEP while I was in school. Having Dyslexia can be very challenging but with supports I was able to graduate Cum Laude from Lindenwood University with a degree in Early Childhood Special Education. I truly enjoy supporting parents in any way that I can and encouraging them to be the best Advocate that they can be for their children.
KayCee Machino, Advocate
My name is KayCee Machino. I have 4 children; two boys and two girls. My youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD in the 5th grade. It was very difficult as a parent to see him spend so many years struggling prior to his diagnosis. I often times felt lost, alone and unsure of the best choices to make for my son. Learning about my son’s diagnosis has been a blessing to me. It has opened my eyes to a beautiful world and has taught me to be a better person. I am anxious to be a part of the F.A.C.T. team and to have the honor of supporting other families who may be experiencing similar challenges.
Rebecca Peters, Administrative Assistant
Hi my name is Rebecca Peters and I’m the lucky parent of a little boy who was diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder in 2009. When my child was born and they put him in my arms, I took a sigh of relief that everything was okay. Then, six years later I found out that things were not what they appeared to be. Having a child who was born with a disability changed my life but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My son is a blessing; a gift that was given to me because someone knew I was the right person for the job. But even good parents need a little help. I sought the assistance of F.A.C.T in 2011 to help make the right choices for my son’s wellbeing inside the confines of his school. Not only did they help, and answer all of my questions, but things in my child’s life have never been better! Shortly after, I made the career change to join the amazing staff here at F.A.C.T. It’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I can relate to and understand what our customers are dealing with, as I myself have lived through a similar experience. I look forward to a long and fulfilling career with F.A.C.T. and helping families along their journey.
Shelley Peckron, Parent Support Partner
Hi, my name is Shelley Peckron and I am the proud mother of 4 boys. All of them are diagnosed with ADHD. My son Jeremy, however, has quite a different story other than just ADHD. He has multiple diagnoses which include Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Severe Depression, and a Mood Disorder. My son and I have been through some challenging times but fought our way to get the appropriate help that we needed. F.A.C.T. was by our side the whole way and they taught me to never give up. They taught me to be strong. My goal is to help other families learn that they do not have to do this on their own. There is help.
Angela Mitchell, Parent Support Partner Lincoln County
Can you guess what I am most excited about these days? If you guessed joining the F.A.C.T. team you would be correct! I am a single mom of four adorable kids. My oldest son is Quade. He is an army reservist and college student and let me tell you he is as wise as they come. My son Quinten is next. He is the one who brought me to F.A.C.T. He is as sweet as the morning rain on a cool spring morning. Camden would be my baby boy and if you think big old squishy teddy bear then you are getting close. Last but not least is my little fire cracker Ava. She’s the one who adds the bang to our household. She is full of glamour and spark. I am the glue that holds us together, the head coach, the lead goofball and I absolutely love it and wouldn’t have it any other way! I am here to help and would love the opportunity to get to know you a little better as well.
Meg Thiemann, Franklin County Parent Partner
Having grown up in a family with several siblings diagnosed with multiple behavioral and emotional disabilities, I am very driven to share my compassion and knowledge. Working with a community based organization that centers around strengthening families is allowing me to do just that. As a Parent Partner it is my goal to support as many families as I can and to gain and use the knowledge needed to ensure their family’s success.