PFA’s 20 for 20 Honorees
Pathfinders for Autism Staff and Board of Directors are proud to Announce our 20 for 20 Honorees. We nominated 20 individuals and businesses that have made a significant impact on our organization’s growth and development over the last 20 years. Each of our Honorees will be highlighted throughout our 20 for 20 Campaign which will run February 1-June 15th.
Systems Security Analyst, MDOT, parent advocate, volunteer
Glenn Carr, father to Suzanna, a young woman with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), has volunteered with PFA for almost 20 years. His positive and unconditional support has allowed us to touch the lives of many individuals with ASD and their families throughout MD. From ballgames, to sailing, to horseback riding, Glenn has provided our families with fun opportunities to be out in the community. Glenn was recognized as the volunteer of the year in 2008. He and his family are valuable supporters of Run Wild for Autism each year.
Steven J. Czinn, M.D
Chief of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Chairman of the Dept. of Pediatrics at the U. of MD School of Medicine
Dr. Czinn’s advocacy for the ASD community is evidenced by his role as the Chair of the Autism Technical Advisory Committee which developed recommendations for regulations requiring insurance policies sold in MD to cover ASD treatment. Dr. Czinn was the catalyst to making PFA’s training titled “Your next patient has Autism: Are you prepared?” an integral part of the curriculum for 3rd year medical students and helping to bring the training to other departments within UMMS.
Retired journalist and broadcaster, Fox45
Jennifer has been a long-time supporter of PFA, having lent her talents as a journalist and an emcee to further the organization’s mission. She has been seen Running Wild through the Zoo and on the catwalk during our celebrity fashion shows. In 2017, Jennifer’s coverage of PFA’s police training programs reached national audiences sharing the importance of educating law enforcement officers about ASD and developmental disabilities.
Dr. Rebecca Landa, PhD, CCC-SLP
Founder and Director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), Kennedy Krieger Institute
Dr. Landa played an integral role in PFA’s formation and helped to develop some of our early programming, including the Resource Center that continues to serve thousands of MD residents each year. Dr. Landa served on the Autism Technical Advisory Committee that developed recommendations for regulations requiring insurance policies sold in MD to cover ASD treatment. Under Dr. Landa’s leadership, CARD routinely supports PFA by lending their expertise as workshop presenters and through technical guidance.
Mary Beth Marsden
Broadcaster, producer, artist, autism/parent advocate
Mary Beth has lent her talents as a broadcaster, filmmaker, artist and parent advocate to further ASD awareness and to support the work of PFA. She has emceed events, produced video testimonials, and used her talents as an artist to help raise funds for PFA programs while also promoting local artists with developmental disabilities.
Deputy 1st Class, Harford County Sheriff’s Office, parent advocate
Since 2013, Deputy Myers has been instrumental in our first responder training program as an instructor and as an expert on relevant law enforcement content for our curriculum. She shares her personal stories from her comprehensive experiences in a correctional facility, at the Child Advocacy Center, as a patrol officer, and as a mom to a son with intellectual disabilities.
Executive Director, PFA
Under her leadership as Executive Director, PFA expanded the Resource Center and Recreation program and launched their Parent/Professional Training series, First Responder and Health Care training programs, Community Safety program, and awareness campaigns. Rebecca was instrumental in advocating for the coverage of ASD treatment services by health insurance plans sold in MD, resulting in the passage of legislation mandating coverage. In the past 10 years, PFA has doubled their annual operating budget, tripled their staff and more than tripled the number of people served each year to over 17,000. PFA’s programs and staff have received numerous awards and recognition for their work.
Annie Soriano, M. D.
Director of Pediatric Emergency Services, Sinai Hospital
Dr. Soriano’s foresight and commitment to serving individuals with ASD in a caring and professional way has provided PFA numerous opportunities to train Sinai Hospital staff about ASD and how it may impact their patients. She has been recognized for her efforts to make the pediatric ED autism friendly.
Abila Tazanu, M.D.
Executive Director, One World Center for Autism, parent advocate
Dr. Tazanu has supported the mission of PFA through her efforts to improve early detection practices for physicians and childcare providers. In addition, she envisioned an annual empowerment conference for parents in Prince George’s Co. which is relevant 9 years later. She was instrumental in creating the brochure, “Your next patient has autism: Are you prepared?”, which has become an important handout for our healthcare training program.
Parent Partner with Child and Family Services, volunteer, advocate
Jode Zito became involved with PFA in 2012 when she reached out to us as a possible vocational worksite for the students she worked with at the Forbush School. Jode was the catalyst for PFA’s vocational programs which now supports interns from a local high school and an adult service provider. She eventually started volunteering at many of our events and became an invaluable asset to our volunteer team. She was PFA’s Volunteer of the Year in 2019.
Bob Davidson Ford Lincoln (BDFL), a family owned business, has been serving the greater Baltimore community since 1963 with an unwavering focus on customer service. For nearly 20 years, BDFL has supported the work of PFA, serving as our fiscal agent and providing administrative support, leadership and operations guidance, supporting fundraising events and campaigns through sponsorship and in-kind donations, and promoting ASD awareness through campaigns and hiring practices. BDFL has been PFA’s longest corporate sponsor and has made it possible for PFA’s programs to grow and expand to serve over 150,000 people during our 20-year history.
For nearly a decade, Monty Knittle and Jim Curran have generously supported PFA through our training and recreation programs. Jim and Monty have shared their financial expertise to MD’s ASD community through workshops and financial planning articles that speak specifically to the special needs of our Autism community. They sponsor one of our much-anticipated recreation events, ASD Day at the Aberdeen Ironbirds’ game. Each year, over 200 individuals with ASD and their families get to enjoy a day at the ballpark.
PFA’s Legacy Board are ten leaders who have dedicated 10 years, or more, to the organization. Many were among our founding members and all have served in one or more leadership roles. They have dedicated thousands of hours of service to support the organization’s administration and governance along with dedicating their expertise and creativity to PFA’s program development and implementation. Each has made significant contributions of time, energy, and resources to PFA’s success.
- Mike Ford – Mike joined PFA’s board in 2001 and quickly became an asset to the organization. During his 19 years on the Board, Mike has served as Vice President, on the finance committee, and has chaired several signature events, including PFA’s Annual Golf Tournament and Run Wild for Autism. He is one of PFA’s top fundraisers and is often the first to sponsor events and campaigns.
- Alisa Rock – Alisa joined PFA as our first Executive Director. She joined the Board in 2005 after she resigned from her ED role. Alisa has served as PFA’s President and has been Vice President for the past decade. She has served on all of PFA’s fundraising committees and is often found volunteering in the office and at numerous events.
- Bruce Schindler – Bruce Schindler, President of Bob Davidson Ford Lincoln, has served as PFA’s Treasurer for 19 years. In addition to his fiscal oversite, Bruce has sponsored and attended every special event PFA has hosted. Perhaps his most valuable contribution to PFA is his time. Bruce puts in hours every week serving on committees and participating on calls offering his professional expertise with day to day operations. He is often the first to volunteer to help and has been a key to PFA’s success over the past two decades.
- Brian Mund* – Brian was an administrative powerhouse in launching PFA as an official non-profit. Brian was our founding President and served on the board from 2000-2010. He left PFA to found Itineris Baltimore, an adult service provider for people with autism.
- Becky Galli* – Becky was instrumental in launching PFA as an official non-profit. Becky was our founding Secretary, a role she has served in for 20 years. Additionally, Becky has served on many committees, chairing several, helping to plan events and campaigns to raise awareness and resources.
- B.J. Surhoff* – B.J. is among our founding Board and has been involved in every capacity of the organization’s growth and development. BJ can often be found making public appearances to promote PFA’s special events. His leadership roles have included Vice President, President, and Committee chairs over the past decade.
- Polly Surhoff* – Polly is among our founding Board and has been involved in every capacity of the organization’s growth and development. Polly is credited with bringing the founders together, initially to learn about a new promising therapy, but soon shifting to fill the void that parents at the time had in finding reliable information and resources. Polly has spearheaded many fundraising campaigns and program initiatives, receiving several awards including the Speaker’s Medallion from the MD House of Delegates. BJ can often be found making public appearances to promote PFA’s special events. His leadership roles have included Vice President, President, and Committee chairs over the past decade.
- Rick Opfer – Rick Opfer joined the Board in 2003 and has served on the golf committee and as chair of an art event. He has lent both his professional expertise as auctioneer at nearly all PFA events as well as his business resources to support event logistics.
- Linda Carter-Ferrier (not pictured, see Linda’s bio below)
- Brad Donovan* (not pictured) – Brad Donovan was among PFA’s founding Board and served as the first Treasurer. He continues to sit on the Board today and serves on the finance and golf committees.*founding Board member
In 2012, MSP requested the assistance of PFA to develop an ASD curriculum for their Academy. Since then PFA has taught 12 MSP Academy classes and 31 in-service classes. MSP have been a critical law enforcement partner, serving as a curriculum consultant, participating in multiple “Be Safe” sessions around the state, and supporting PFA staff in earning law enforcement instructor certification. Several MSP Academy classes have supported Run Wild for Autism as volunteers and participants.
MSP is a locally owned company with offices across the country offering over 30 years of experience in brand strategy, project management, event production and design services. MSP has lent their incredibly talented team to support PFA’s rebranding, event management, design and production, and HR needs. Their expertise and support have elevated PFA’s brand and have been at the center of our most successful fundraising efforts over the past 5 years, helping our programs to reach more people across the state.
Merritt Properties is the largest privately held manager of commercial space in the Baltimore/Washington area. For over 50 years, they have remained committed to their founder’s vision of placing equal focus on efficient business operations and community impact. Merritt Properties has supported PFA’s growth and expansion for over a decade and have been an integral part of our ability to serve thousands of families across the state from our Baltimore County headquarters.
Michael Phelps Swim School (MPSS) offers ASD-specific private swimming lessons for children and adults. These lessons are taught by instructors who have received PFA training and serve a wide range of individuals, from those who are hesitant to get in the water to those who compete on local summer swim teams. Lessons include a family fun day where parents and siblings can play in the pool with their swimmer and serve as a nice way to build a community for families affected by ASD.
The National Aquarium has hosted our annual Autism Night for over 10 years. It is our signature event and a much-anticipated fun event for families within the ASD community. It’s not just the wonderful activities available, but the staff at the Aquarium, Vicky Payerle, Darren, Bernie, Phil and many more who make our families feel welcomed and respected.
In 2014, PFA introduced a self-advocate instructor program to train first responders and medical professionals on understanding ASD and intellectual/developmental disabilities. Each trainer has defined their presentation role based on interest and skill, and all have expanded their roles with increased experience. They each bring a unique perspective to the classroom and attendees repeatedly state that their input is invaluable. Collectively, they have co-instructed over 500 classes. Members of the training team have been recognized for their service by the Arc MD, the Autism Society Baltimore -Chesapeake Chapter and The White House.
- Eric Kane – Eric, a 26-year-old, self-advocate with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been training with Pathfinders for Autism since December 2016. Eric has been teaching healthcare professionals about communication strategies for individuals with ASD with a focus on non-verbal communication skills. His ability to offer a fresh perspective each time he trains has been instrumental in offering an honest and effective program.
- Tom Whalen – Tom, a 29-year-old, self-advocate with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), has been training with Pathfinders for Autism since December 2016. Tom has been teaching healthcare professionals about his healthcare journey starting with a congenital heart condition and his Autism diagnosis at the age of 7. He is being cross-trained to support our First Responder Training.
- Glenn Myers – Since 2012, Glenn has been involved with numerous community activities and jobs to include Confidential Document Shredder for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Barn Assistant with Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue, Store Front Assistant at The Mill, visiting nursing homes and medical rehabs with his Therapy Dog Slate, bird conservation at Eden Mill, and Boy Scout Troop 4513. In 2014, Glenn was offered a position as a Self-Advocate Instructor with Pathfinders for Autism. Glenn has had the opportunity to train thousands of First Responders throughout Maryland and DC, drawing on his deep appreciation for Police, Fire and EMS Providers. Glenn encourages First Responders to understand the daily challenges individuals with IDD’s and/or Autism face and to be patient as “his friends” try to communicate their needs or concerns. Glenn always reinforces the importance for First Responders to stay safe. Glenn is also involved in a national program called Be Safe, which helps educate individuals on how to have a safe interaction with Law Enforcement Officers in the community.
- Josh Smith – Josh’s extensive involvement in activities and organizations began at an early age. He received many awards from South Carroll High School for being a leader in his class, participating in sports as a team manager and being a part of the Home Coming Court. In 2003 Josh was hired by Martins Food Store in Eldersburg, Maryland – a job he still holds. His duties include cart return specialist, bagging specialist, training new employees and assisting with other staff needs. With nearly 30 years’ experience as a participant with Special Olympics, he is now a Global Messenger for them, traveling around the state giving speeches. Having retired as a Special Olympics athlete, Josh is now training to become a coach. Josh has been serving as a trainer for Pathfinders for Autism since 2015. He teaches law enforcement, EMS and Firefighters strategies for having better interactions with individuals with disabilities. Josh continues to pursue avenues where he can advocate for those with disabilities.
- Jake Edwards – Jake Edwards is more than qualified to speak on autism, as he is succeeding with autism. Although Jake is a teenager, his resume is quite extensive. For his work teaching law enforcement, Jake has been honored at the White House and participated in a panel discussion on Bridging Law Enforcement and the Community and was awarded the Governor’s Citation from Governor Hogan. In addition, he has spoken to college classes, autism events on the National Mall, lobbied the Capitol, the Maryland state house, presented motivational speeches to churches, and has appeared live television shows about his “super powers”. He has no fear and was born to be behind the microphone. Jake has the unique ability to put his emotions and feelings into words to educate those outside the world of autism. By offering his simple understanding, he teaches the public what it’s like to live in his skin. Jake brings every audience through a gamut of emotions… laughter to suspense to tears at the end. He lives for the standing ovation!
- Dylan Moore (not pictured) – Dylan has assisted in our healthcare training classes. He is a client at Itineris and has helped shape our upcoming recreation events that will focus on an adult audience. Dylan’s input has helped narrow our event focus.
Techtronic Industries (TTI) is a fast growing world leader in power tools, outdoor products, accessories, hand tools and storage for the DIY, professional, and industrial users. Featuring brands like MILWAUKEE, RYOBI, and HOOVER, they are recognized worldwide for their relentless focus on advancing cordless technology and innovative product solutions. For over ten years TTi has supported PFA through generous sponsorship and product donation. TTI products have enhanced nearly every special event PFA has hosted this past decade, providing auction items, raffle packages and tournament prizes. Their commitment to PFA’s success and generous spirit have brought PFA resources to all corners of the state while bringing smiles to event attendees who get to bring their incredible products home.
In Memory of:
Education Advocate, volunteer, parent advocate
Linda was an education advocate and provided parent support services through her work with the Anne Arundel County Autism Society, RISE for Autism, and Pathfinders for Autism. She joined PFA’s Board in 2009, after having volunteered for many years prior. She helped develop PFA’s Autism by Age Navigation Guide and shared her expertise through PFA workshops and articles. Linda was incredibly detail-oriented and helped to draft organization policies and bylaws. She volunteered at countless events and was serving as the governance committee chair at the time of her death. Her enthusiasm and positive energy are missed every day.