Your support makes the difference!

About Us

Welcome to the Connection!

The Down Syndrome Connection is passionate and dedicated to encouraging the unlimited potential in children and adults with Down syndrome throughout the San Francisco Bay Area since 1998. Our mission is to empower, inspire and support people with Down syndrome, their families and the community that serves them, while fostering awareness and acceptance in all areas of life.


We pride ourselves on developing services that are in line with our members’ needs and continuously break down barriers to success by providing resources, technology and education through our direct services. Our Down Syndrome Education Alliance, Expression Connection and Communication Readiness Programs, as well as Peer Development Classes, Medical Outreach Alliance, public policy outreach, education advocacy, new parent outreach, support groups and more reflect the diverse needs of our members.

Our Impact

Our Leadership Team


Teresa DeVincenzi
Executive Director
925-362-8660 x102

Laura Gordon
Director of Programs 
925.362.8660 x108

Marianne Iversen
Director of Mental Health & Aging Support
925.362.8660 x103


Michelle Slape
Director of Family Support 
925.362.8660 x110

Elizabeth Lewis
Director of Education
925.362.8660 x106
Kshama Perera
Development Director
Farhana Hasan
Director of Finance and Operations
925.362.8660 x101


Board of Directors

Dana Morris,


My husband and I met at Cal and have been fortunate to raise our three kids (ages 19-25) in the Bay Area. I had been working either full or part time Nestlé Dreyer’s Ice Cream in the marketing department over this same time period, but was fortunate to recently retire from there. With my extra time, I now work at UC Berkeley, Haas in the admissions department. 

Through my kids’ “growing up” years, I had been actively involved in several volunteer and non-profit organizations related to my kids and served on the various executive boards.  As I became an “empty nester”, though, I was looking for an opportunity to contribute to my community in a way that was meaningful to me. I discovered DSCBA through several friends who have special needs kids and rely on their services, and it immediately seemed like the perfect fit.  I am thrilled to now be part of such an amazing organization and hope to use my non-profit and marketing background to contribute further.

Mike Lin


I came to know the DSCBA when my wife and I had our first child – June – in 2017. As a family, we’ve had the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful families through the DSCBA and have benefitted from its amazing programs. Joining the DSCBA Board was an opportunity for me to serve and pay-it-forward – just as so many families and the DS community has done for us and our family.

Today, my family and I (Suzanne, June and Oliver) live in Danville, CA – after having recently relocated back from Denver, CO. I join the board with 20+ years of experience helping companies design, develop and launch new products and experiences based on a deep understanding of people’s needs. I have done this in consumer products and services, health care, tech – for both for-profit and non-profit organizations.

Dan Ensminger,


My wife Teri and I have been blessed with two lovely Daughters who continue to provide joy and happiness and make me proud every day of their lives. Our youngest daughter Mallory was born in 1987 with Cerebral Palsy leading us to a life of working with her one-on one, seeing her through the many challenges, and being her advocate in every aspect of her life. Having a child with Special Needs has made us stronger as we have worked with various agencies in our area to get her the care and assistance she needs to become the productive member of society that she is today. She continues to make us proud, recently receiving a Master’s Degree in Communication Studies from San Jose State University. Seeing what our Daughter with all of her challenges can accomplish has inspired me to become more involved in the organizations that help and guide these truly special individuals. Joining the Board of DSCBA gives me the opportunity to share my experiences and become part of that guidance, building more inspirational stories like my Daughter’s. As my 33 year career winds down this opportunity just felt like a perfect fit. I look forward to making a difference for DSCBA and more importantly for all of our clients.

Steven Pugsley,


Our family moved to San Ramon in 2016. Soon after we arrived, we were introduced to the services of Down Syndrome Connection for our daughter, Jane (age 11). She absolutely loves going to “class” each Wednesday afternoon. We have been so impressed by the range of services and benefits this organization provides. I wanted to contribute to ensure its continued success.
I am a native Utahn with a love for the mountains, tennis, trail running, and road biking. I am a CPA and work as the Controller for Armanino Foods of Distinction.

Jennifer Schmid,


I am currently a Lieutenant with the Oakland Fire Department where I’ve worked for the past 25 years. I’m also the proud mother of my 19 year old daughter who is attending college at the California Maritime Academy.

I was introduced to the DSCBA while volunteering for 10 years with another local nonprofit, supporting the families of fallen peace officers and firefighters. I wore many hats with that organization which included logistics, graphics, website management, I.T. and event planning. I also served in the capacity of Board Secretary for 4 years.

It was through my work with this nonprofit that I was able to attend several DSCBA events and got to know the wonderful mission and focus of the organization, as well as seeing the drive and dedication of their Executive Director. DSCBA puts children and families first. I knew this was an organization that I would be proud to commit my energy and time!

In addition to working with the DSCBA, I am also in my 2nd term serving as a Commissioner on the California State Board of Pilot Commissioners.

Jonas (Kriks) Kriksciunus My wife and I have enjoyed the Bay Area for over ten years.  We were introduced to the DSCBA in 2010 and were impressed with the leadership team.  Our family has grown with the Connection and during this time we’ve had the privilege to meet and work with some of the best educators, service providers, and advocates.  I have worked in Information Technology for the last 20 years and lead an IS team in San Francisco.  I completed my degrees in Communications and Accounting in Northern California.  As our family grows older, I hope to give back some of the guidance we were fortunate to get.  I'm proud to be part of an organization focused on awareness and achieving the goals of academic and social success.
Julie Sodestrom

My husband, Dirk, and I came to be involved with the DSCBA in 1998 when our third son, Daniel, was born.  With two boys, 8 & 10 yr. old, we were not new to parenting, but we were new to the world of Down syndrome.  I attended the first anniversary meeting of this new organization called The Down Syndrome Connection with a deer-in-the-headlights look.  They soon became our community where we made friends, got advice, got support and reassurances.

I served on the Board in the early 2000’s and have enjoyed seeing the growth and success of the organization since it’s early beginnings. I look forward to seeing the Connection remain strong and be the same source of help and encouragement to many more new families in our future.

I also serve on the Board of The Noll Foundation, which is a charitable foundation that focuses on providing grants to organizations that serve children:  with disabilities, are financially needy or do research into childhood diseases.  The DSCBA has been a long-time recipient of grants from the Noll Foundation. 

Kimberly Bellinger

My engagement with DSCBA is inspired by knowing several families whose lives have been immeasurably enriched through the relationships and services DSCBA provides. I wholeheartedly embrace the mission to empower, inspire and support people with Down syndrome, and their families, while fostering awareness and acceptance in all areas of life. As a Director of External Relations with John Muir Health, I had the opportunity to learn more about DSCBA and help introduce the organization to our Family Medicine Residency Physicians as a resource and partner for them as they care for people with Down syndrome in their practice.I have called San Ramon home for nearly twenty years. My husband, David, and I relocated to the Bay Area from Orange County, California, where we lived after graduating from UCSB (University of California, Santa Barbara). We have two daughters, ages 17 and 13. I enjoy being actively involved in our community, through our daughters’ schools, sports, Girl Scouts and National Charity League.

Clay Mauritson

Born and raised in Healdsburg, Clay is part of the sixth generation of a grape-growing family. Pioneers from Sweden, they raised Merino sheep for the wool and planted their first vines on land they settled in 1868, an area that now anchors the Rockpile AVA.Clay graduated from Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, CA and headed off to the University of Oregon to play football and earn a degree. Two degrees and a couple of surgeries later, in 1997 Clay returned to Sonoma County, where he worked at Kenwood Vineyards, and later honed his skills alongside winemakers at Jordan Vineyards and Winery, Taft Street Winery and Dry Creek Vineyard. In 1998 he founded Mauritson Family Winery with the first vintage of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. Today, Mauritson Family Winery is one of the most respected wineries in Sonoma County. Clay and his wife, Carrie, live in Healdsburg with their three children: Brady, Davis, and Ella. Their oldest son Brady was diagnosed with Down syndrome in 2010. Clay was a founding board member of the DSANB (Down Syndrome Association North Bay) and started Project Zin, a successful fundraising event for the DSANB. Clay and his wife support a number of nonprofits that focus on making the world a better place for people with disabilities: the National Ability Center, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Higher Ground, and the Frankie Lemon School to name a few.Clay has served on numerous nonprofit and industry boards, including: Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile Grape Growers Association, and the American AgCredit Nominating Committee. Clay is currently the President of the Sonoma County Vintners and a board member of the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation.


Staff Directory

Teresa DeVincenzi Executive Director
925.362.8660 x102

Laura Gordon Director of Programs
925.362.8660 x108

Michelle Slape Director of Family Support
925.362.8660 x104

Marianne Iversen Director of Mental Health & Aging Support
925.362.8660 x103

Elizabeth Lewis Director of Education
925.362.8660 x106

Kshama Perera Development Director
925-362-8660 x105

Farhana Hasan Director of Finance and Operations
925-362-8660 x 101

Lexi Ravarino Volunteer Manager
925-362-8660 x109

Laura Von Savoye Communications and Social Media Manager
925-362-8660 x114

Melissa Benavidez Events Manager 
Trang Le Program & Operations Support
925-362-8660 x110

Santa Rosa Office   925-362-8660 x113
Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) 
Communication Readiness Program (CRP)
Dual Diagnosis Support 
Medical Outreach 
Membership Updates Send us an updated contact information for your household 
Music Therapy 
New Member For medical providers to email us about new families. 
Photo Share your photos for DSCBA to use in our media 
Programs Team 
Volunteer Team 




Advisory Board

Welcome to DSCBA’s new Advisory Board of professionals who are committed to being associated with and available to the DSCBA, and whose expertise has and will continue to be utilized by our staff to assist our members. Thank you for your commitment! 

Dr. Ruth Brown, PhD - Clinical Psychologist, Assist. Prof. at Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Aaron Feldman
    • Special Needs Attorney; Founder of the Feldman Law Group
  • Christina Gallo, MS, OTR/L
    • Pediatric Occupational Therapist; Founder & Executive Director of Child’s Play Therapy Services
  • Natalie Hale
    • Founder of Special Reads for Special Needs; Author; Speaker
  • Brian Hockel, DDS
    • Dentist, Life Dental & Orthodontics
  • Marianne Iversen
    • Director of Teens & Adult Services, Mental Health & Wellness Alliance, DSCBA; Board Member of Contra Costa Developmental Disability Council
  • Jen Jacob
    • Author; Founding Partner & Past Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network
  • Denis Kenny
    • Employment & Labor Attorney; Founding Partner at Scherer Smith & Kenny LLP
  • Dennis McGuire, PhD, LCSW
    • Author; private practice, former Director of Psychosocial Services for the Adult Down Syndrome Center of Lutheran General Hospital, Chicago
  • Amanda Pharis,  BCBA, LBA, MA EdSp
    • Behavior Analyst; Owner & Founder of AMP Support Services LLC
  • Kati Skulski, MS, CCC-SLP
    • Speech and Language Pathologist; AAC & AT Specialist; Consultant for DSCBA
  • Cathleen Small
    • Director of Family Support and Medical Outreach for DSCBA;  Co-Chair of the California Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition
  • Dr Noemi Spinazzi,  MD, FAAP
    • Medical Director - Down Syndrome Clinic (Charlie’s Clinic) at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland
  • Stephanie Thompson
    • Director of the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network (NDSAN), a program of the DSA of Greater Cincinnati (DSAGC)
  • Teresa Unnerstall
    • Dual Diagnosis Specialist and Consultant; Author
  • Heather Vukelich, MS, CCC-SLP
    • ASHA-Certified Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist, Certified TalkTools instructor; @happykidstherapy
  • Natashe Washington, Esq.
    • Special Education Attorney, Law Office of Natashe Washington
  • Steve Wilcox, CAP, CFP, ChFC, CFS
    • Financial Advisor and Partner at Summit Financial, LLC

Our Mission

To empower, inspire and support people with Down Syndrome, their families and the community that serves them, while fostering awareness and acceptance in all areas of life.