Stone Soup Group was founded on the principle that it takes the varied experiences and expertise of many to support families caring for children with special needs. Meet the Board and Staff that contribute to the mission of Stone Soup Group every day.
Board of Directors
Stone Soup Group (SSG) is overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors, who each brings unique and valuable skills and life experience to the table. If you are interested in becoming a part of this dynamic group of parents, family members, self-advocates and professionals, please contact Mary Middleton, Executive Director for more information.
Bryan Thomas, President & Parent
Bryan moved to Barrow from Sacramento in 2007. Bryan and his wife Laura have three children: Violet (age 6); Adele (age 4); and Ellis (age 2). The Thomas Pack also includes two dogs, two cats, and occasional visiting guinea pigs. Bryan studies Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), taking measurements and maintaining instruments as the Station Chief of the Barrow Observatory. He has previously worked in the non-profit sector as a Technician with Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative (ASTAC) and as a Logistics Planner and Senior Systems Programmer with the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC). Bryan’s hobbies include: reading; computer programming; museums; hiking; gardening; playing with Lego™ bricks; and citizen science.
Debbie Brooks, Vice President & Parent
Debbi moved to Alaska from Payette, Idaho in 1980. She attended UAA from 1984 until 1990 and attained two bachelor’s degrees. She has worked for Refrigeration & Food Equipment, Inc. since 1989 in the foodservice equipment industry and became a Project Manager in 2001. She has enjoyed the teamwork with her fellow contractors to build some really beautiful kitchen facilities all over the state. Her new “pet” project is Axel, an 11-month-old lab/golden retriever, who she is training as a service dog to support her son with his transition into adulthood.
Debbi met her husband Rick in Anchorage and they live in Spenard with their son Django (16). She started visiting Stone Soup with her son in 2008 for Wii Club after visiting with a parent navigator for help with Django’s IEP. Django and Debbi can usually be found at Stone soup every third Friday for the Souper Gaming night as they connect with the friends they have made over the years. Debbi is also is involved in the MAP (Mentor Advocate Partner) program and is open to visit with parents about the journey with a special needs child and share her experiences.
Laura Tillman, Secretary
Laura relocated to Alaska in 2017 in what was supposed to be a short five month visit. Originally from South Carolina, Laura completed her Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Psychological Services from Northwestern University, and her Masters of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at Rush University in Chicago, IL. She made several cross country moves, and eventually became a Nevada resident in 2015. After meeting so many wonderful Alaskans in 2017, she decided this was exactly where she needed to be. Laura is a speech-language pathologist and helps adults and children with a variety of communication deficits (written, oral, and pragmatic) as well as sensory swallowing disorders. She also donates her time to serving as a special education non-attorney advocate for children in need of special education services from the local school district. She achieved the Award for Continuing Education (ACE) from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association for her commitment to pursuit of continuing education above the required minimum in 2018. She received the Certificate for Special Education Advocacy from William and Mary Law School in 2019. In 2020, she became a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), where she is able to network nationwide with advocates.
In her free time, she donates her energy to another local Alaskan non-profit organization on the Board of Directors, Forget-Me-Not Service Dogs, which seeks to place service animals with Alaskans seeking to regain their independence. She acquired her year old puppy, who is training to be a facility animal in the future during her therapy treatments. When finally returning to her home, she is met by her 14 year old beagle/bassett hound and her one year old Nigerian Dwarf goat (Nigel), who have formed an unlikely, yet adorable friendship.
Anthony Cravalho, Treasurer & Parent
Anthony came to Alaska in 1996 when he was stationed at Fort Wainwright while serving in the U.S. Army. Anthony is a father of an adult son with autism and is a Kotzebue resident of 11 years who works as the director of Planning & Development for the Maniilaq Association. He has experience serving as a board member for the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC), Special Education Service Agency (SESA), and Governor Council for Disabilities & Special Education as well as serving locally on the Kotzebue advisory school council and Lions club board. Anthony, who is an Eagle Scout, is a graduate of University of Nevada Las Vegas with a B.A. in History and a B.A. in Political Science.
Yvonne Biswokarma, Parent
Yvonne and her husband Sangram along with their kids Jasmine (12) and Jasper (5) have called Utqiagvik, Alaska home since the spring of 2013. Yvonne works part time as a Physical Therapist at Arctic Therapy and Rehab. She grew up in Canada, attended college in Michigan and California completing her Doctorate of Science in Physical Therapy at Loma Linda University. Before coming to Alaska she worked in California, Washington, Oregon and Nepal. She has experience in a variety of clinical settings and has also taught Anatomy and Physiology. She is currently completing a specialty in Scoliosis management. In additional to orthopedics, her research and professional interests include TBI management, uterine prolapse, Musculoskeletal Ultrasound imaging, and Sensory Enrichment Therapy. As a parent she has been blessed to have received information and resources from SSG that have been very valuable in addressing the communication delays and sensory needs of her son. Yvonne’s hobbies include travel, trekking, reading, and coffee; all of which are best enjoyed with her family and friends.
Cheryl Scott, Parent
Benjamin Sutton, Self-Advocate
Ben was born into a large family, the 2nd arrival of fraternal twin boys on June 2, 1991.
As a toddler, he went from scooting across the floor like a soldier at boot camp going under razor wire straight to walking – skipped crawling altogether. Ben had his own language until about 4 years old. His family and friends were all very loving and accepting of all of his
“different” ways. Fast forward to 2010 West High School graduation, then the ACE Program for students with disabilities from which he graduated in 2012. Ben wrote a book about autism and how it has had an impact on his life while in school. Ben was able to successfully leave the Anchorage School District which made him very happy. In the first few years after leaving the Project Search Program through ACE, he had a few short-term jobs until landing in his current position at the Federal Building as a contracted night janitor through Assets, Inc. where he has been for 4 ½ years.
Ben came into contact with Stone Soup in his early 20s when he was selected to be on the original Transition Team, which seeks to help young adults move from life in the school system to work life. This is his second involvement with Stone Soup. Ben is enthusiastic about the positive and energetic support network in place there. He is excited to be a member of the Board of Directors and serve his community.
Mary Middleton, Executive Director
Mary has been the Executive Director at Stone Soup Group since 2013 and moved to Alaska from Texas in 2001. Growing up an Army brat, she moved frequently and still enjoys exploring to new places. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University and has worked in non-profit management for almost 30 years. She has two children, including an adult son who experiences autism. Time away from work includes spoiled dogs, hikes and far-away travels.
Donna Nichols, Admin Services Manager
Donna Nichols has been with Stone Soup Group since 2003. At Stone Soup Group she keeps us running day-to-day as the Admin Services Manager. She serves as liaison with our contracted accountant and oversees the agency’s routine financial transactions. Donna is the mother of four children and is the sibling of an adult brother with developmental disabilities.
Megan Kelley, Communications and Outreach Manager
Megan was born and raised in Alaska and is a graduate of UAA, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. Megan has a professional history working in sales, marketing, and media advertising. She has brought her skills, along with her wish to serve the greater good, to Stone Soup Group. In her free time, Megan enjoys practicing yoga, hiking, sailing, traveling, and learning a plethora of new things. New things she has learned to date are the ukulele, guitar, crocheting, beading, and hand lettering. Megan is the mother of two boys, one of whom experiences autism.
Marcus Douglas, Communications and Outreach Specialist
Marcus was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He joined Stone Soup Group as a DDRC Navigator in February 2017 after earning an Associates Degree from UAA. Marcus has previously worked with Anchorage Parks and Recreation and local licensed child care organizations. Marcus has also served individuals who experience disabilities working as a Direct Service Provider. In his free time, Marcus enjoys family time, sports, painting, hiking, camping, Lego and BBQ-ing year round.
Lee Sweeden, Reception
Lee is a life-long Alaskan with many years of experience working in horticulture and landscaping. In 2013, Lee decided to move to an office environment after she underwent hip surgery. She has enjoyed the change very much. Lee joined Stone Soup Group in August 2018 as our receptionist and is feeling comfortable and at home.
Christopher Blake, Program Director
Born and raised in West Virginia, Chris graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2006 and went on to do graduate work at American University in Washington, DC. He moved to Anchorage at in early 2017 after more than a decade in the nation’s capital. Prior to joining the Stone Soup Group team, Chris was the director of Alaska’s only Assertive Community Treatment team working directly with the municipality’s homeless, severely mentally ill population. He has many years of non-profit experience. Chris also coaches boys’ high school basketball at West High School after seasons at both East and Service. When not working – Chris enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring Alaska and advocating for a number of social causes.
Mandy Cleveland, Parent Navigator
Mandy Cleveland has been a Parent Navigator at Stone Soup Group since 2010. Both she and her husband are lifelong Alaskans and have two girls with special needs. Their oldest has a genetic condition along with profound deafness and youngest has ADHD. At Stone Soup Group Mandy is the resident expert when it comes to schools. She has many personal and professional years working with IEP’s, schools, specialist, private therapy and more. Her personal experience has given her a passion for helping families caring for children with special needs navigate when there are “stormy waters”.
Tracey Morgan, Parent Navigator
Tracey Morgan joined the team at Stone Soup Group as STAR Navigator September 2016. She has served individuals who experience developmental disabilities and/or complex medical conditions for over twenty-five years in various roles including, Direct Service Provider, Care Coordinator and as a Supported Living Specialist providing supervision and oversight of Medicaid waiver services. As a life long Alaskan in her free time she enjoys being outdoors camping, hiking, snowshoeing, and fishing, as well as road tripping and exploring nature and all our great state has to offer.
Karen Lomack, Parent Navigator
Karen Lomack was born in Anchorage, raised in Akiachak, then moved to Bethel, Alaska in 1995. In May of 2005, Karen moved back to Anchorage and made Anchorage her home. Karen has 5 children that range from 6 to 21-years-old. Karen has experience navigating the system on a personal and professional level. Some of Karen’s interests are beading, going on long road trips, camping, fishing, boating, and, participating in subsistence activities with her family.
Caitie Jones, Parent Navigator
Caitie was born and raised in Alaska. Caitie got into the disability services and advocacy world at a very young age as she helped to take care of her brother who experiences Down Syndrome. Her personal experience has driven her to support families with special needs children. Since 2014, Caitie has worked professionally in supporting those with developmental disabilities in a variety of capacities, anywhere from administrative to direct support. Caitie is a 2019-20 LEND fellow, serves on The Arc’s National Sibling Council, and the Hope Community Resources’ Ethics and Human Rights Committee. Outside of work, Caitie is married to her partner of over 9 years and a fur-mom to a dog and two cats. She loves to get outdoors, read, and spend time with family and friends.
Sabrina Johnson, Regional Parent Navigator – Kenai Peninsula
Sabrina started as a STAR Navigator at Stone Soup Group in September 2016. She has spent her life assisting individuals who experienced dementia and intellectual challenges. Sabrina has always been passionate about advocating for supports for people with various abilities. She has enjoyed the opportunity to touch the lives of others as a long-term mental health outreach provider, volunteer adaptive sports coach, special education assistant, and home care assistant. Sabrina believes in focusing on people’s strengths, kindness, tolerance, and respect, for one another.
Anna Zierfuss, Regional Parent Navigator – Fairbanks
Anna was raised in Fairbanks and achieved her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at UAF. Anna is the mother of a son with learning disabilities and Inattentive ADHD. She was active in her son’s schooling including tutors, special services and his IEP & 504 plans. Anna has volunteered or worked in social services since she was 9 years old when her grandmother brought her as a nursing home visitor. Her knowledge ranges from assisting in care for many disabilities, Seniors and teaching life skills. Anna loves to crochet, read and sing in her downtime and spend time with her son when he is home from college.
Laurie Hodne, Regional Parent Navigator – Southeast
Laurie is originally from Iowa, she moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1995 and then on to Ketchikan, Alaska in 2005. Ketchikan is where she and her family call home and she can share her time with her 6 grandchildren. Laurie has over 20 years of experience proving support to families and children who experience special needs. Laurie has taught pre-school and worked as a Family Advocate for Rural Cap/Ketchikan Head Start since 2005. Her most recent accomplishment is being a part of the 2019/2020 LEND Alaska Cohort as a Family Fellow. Laurie has 10 children, 4 of whom are biological, 4 step-children, and 2 that are adopted. Her family has provided safe and loving homes for many foster children since 2006. Laurie has a sincere passion to help empower parents and children to discover the best and strongest version of themselves and enjoy life! Laurie has 3 children who experience special needs and she is involved in advocacy to help support her children; she joined the Stone Soup Group in 2020 hoping to share her desire for advocacy with other families in Southeast Alaska. Laurie enjoys traveling, camping, beach combing, spending time with family and anything that includes time in the sun!
Lisa Bennett, DDRC Manager
Lisa is originally from Arizona and moved to Alaska in 2014. For Lisa, moving to Alaska was one of the most exciting adventures of her life. Lisa has over 26 years of experience in providing support services to individuals and families who experience special needs. Lisa proclaims that this is a very rewarding career! Lisa is the proud mother of three young adult children and one fur baby. Her hobbies include hiking, biking, camping, and anything related to water, or being outdoors.
Thomas Summers, DDRC Navigator
Thomas was raised in Palmer, Alaska…and has lived in Alaska on and off for 35 years. Before returning to college in 2010, Thomas has worked in several different industries. It was through life experiences that Thomas decided to obtain a BA in Human Services at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Thomas graduated from UAA in May of 2017. Thomas has a passion to help others, and strives to live by the Golden Rule! In his free time, Thomas enjoys spending time with his son, cooking for friends and family, and just enjoying the beauty that Alaska has to offer!
Dan Gallagher, DDRC Navigator
Dan moved to Alaska with his family (an Air Force brat) when he was 3 and they got to stay until he graduated high school. He enrolled in UAA and that’s where he met his partner, in EMT class. He has since graduated from UAA and UAF (online) in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Dan has worked for and with the State of Alaska, law offices, and other local agencies and groups in peer support, admin, intake, and social media. He enjoys connecting with others and groups online through social media and content creation.He and his partner have 4 children and a dog. Their family has a mix of strengths and struggles in mental, behavioral, and physical health and LGBTQ+. Dan believes that communication and connection are key to working and connecting with individuals from varying walks of life. Dan enjoys learning from people and never underestimates them. He enjoys being active with his family and relaxing with movie nights. He is an aspiring chocolatier and likes to bring his family into the kitchen to work (and play) with chocolate and test their creations.
Breanna Brian, DDRC Navigator
Breanna “Bre” was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She has two children, one of whom experiences autism, and spends most of her free time with family. She earned an Associate’s degree in Human Services, with an emphasis on Disabilities, from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2013. After earning her degree, she began working as a legal rights advocate for Alaska’s designated Protection and Advocacy Agency. During the seven years as a legal rights advocate, Bre developed legal rights expertise in the areas of special education/IDEA, mental health rights within community agencies and institutions, prisoner rights, and abuse/neglect investigations. Bre is passionate about assisting individuals and ensuring families have the information they need to support their loved ones within their home and community.
Kayla Pokupec, Information and Referral Specialist
Kayla is a born-and-raised Alaskan, with roots in both Anchorage and Fairbanks. Kayla has worked with local agencies across a wide range of services; from developmental disabilities and behavioral health to general health care and homelessness. She is the mother of two beautiful daughters, as well as two dogs, and a very large and very spoiled rabbit. Kayla is currently pursuing an education related to public health. When she’s not studying, Kayla enjoys exploring Alaska and good conversation around the campfire.