“Empathy and creativity is our core. We are never satisfied with the status quo. When we listen, ask questions and put ourselves in others’ shoes, we discover profoundly that their experience…is ours. Shared learning is the essence of true connection.”
Meet Your Motivators
Graduating magna cum laude from Boston University, Andrea kick-started her career in the suit and tie world of finance for JPMorgan Chase. After rising to the level of VP, she found herself still wanting something more. Andrea added non-profit consulting to her portfolio, helping causes that personally moved her. So when she met PMD Alliance, it was the perfect fusion of start-up creativity, educated professionalism, and driving mission.
Andrea was hooked. She eagerly transitioned into a full-time position with us and now serves as our Executive Vice President. Her hard-wired empathy and refined communication skills make Andrea ideally suited to developing connections, partnerships and relationships across our numerous stakeholder groups.
Chief Operating Officer
Hailing from small-town New England, Rebecca grew up appreciating the value of a tight-knit community. After graduating from Gordon College in Massachusetts, she launched her career helping a myriad of nonprofit organizations research and implement IT solutions. Never one to stagnate, Rebecca grew into numerous roles, including: Salesforce administrator, web developer, IT manager, grant writer, program facilitator, and associate director.
All this experience honed Rebecca’s ability to think at both the global and granular levels and instilled a passion for bringing the power of technology and connectivity to those isolated by health or circumstance. Her current role as Chief Operations Officer is a perfect blend of innovation, technology and program delivery, which allows PMD Alliance to grow our online community of individuals all over the world.
Anissa Mitchell, LCSW
Chief Program Officer
Maureen Simmons, MA, CFRE, Philanthropy & Development
Chief Advancement Officer
As Chief Advancement Officer, Maureen works across teams to ensure that PMD Alliance raises the necessary dollars to fund its ambitious, groundbreaking workshop programs. She oversees Philanthropy, Community Events, Special Events, Planned Giving and PMD Allies, our grassroots fundraising arm. We’re talking heavy-duty responsibilities, but she makes them seem like a breeze.
Before joining us, Maureen was Executive Director for the New Mexico Parkinson’s Coalition (NMPC), the state’s only nonprofit dedicated to persons impacted by PD. She graduated magna cum laude with a BA in English from the University of New Mexico and later received an MA in Philanthropy and Development from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She holds the distinguished Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) credential, held by just 5,000 people internationally.
Eden Feldman, LCSW, CCM
Associate Director, Community
After receiving her Master’s in Social Work from Florida State, Eden completed her final field placement at Shand’s Hospital in Gainesville, where she fell in love with medical social work. Since then, she spent nearly 9 years working with the USF Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center, which endeared her to the PD Community. Eden believes people with Parkinson’s embody the spirit of human triumph and she has seen the power that meaningful education and resources have in empowering people with movement disorders to live well. She has worked to bring dance and vocal classes to those living with the disease, has facilitated support groups, and gained a wealth of knowledge from experts and, firsthand, from the families she has served.
In her free time, she loves to read, bake, and spend time with her husband, two kids, and everyone’s favorite family member, their dog Jelly. She’s happiest when she has a book in one hand and a chocolate chip cookie in the other.
After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma, Philip began his operations and communications career at the Disney Interactive Media Group. Through service in their VoluntEARS program, Philip discovered how rewarding it is to serve his community and made the conscious decision to continue his career working at non-profit organizations. Since then, Philip had the privilege of making an impact via advocacy and policy change at the National Crime Victim Law Institute and the Oregon Oral Health Coalition, and providing direct service and community education at Candlelighters For Children With Cancer and Nathan Adelson Hospice.
Philip is inspired by PMD Alliance’s mission of never having anyone walk this journey alone, and by the movement disorder community’s passion and resilience. Philip is tasked with operations involving the entire scope of PMD Alliance communications, including in-person and online events, news and information, philanthropy, and more.
Digital Content Strategist
Graduating with a communications degree in 2019, Regan has most recently honed her skills in film, television, and design as a consultant for a variety of different organizations—many of them nonprofits. She considers herself a visual translator, turning spoken ideas into clean, crisp designs, and she strives to create finished pieces that communicate ideas, teach, and inspire.
Regan immediately connected with PMD Alliance’s mission—her grandmother being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2018—and she’s excited to be part of a team that makes her look forward to going to work every morning. When she’s not designing for work, she’s designing for play; aiming to one day publish her own series of children’s books.
Sarah Jones, MPA, MS Strategic Design
With more than 25 years of experience leading non-profits and healthcare programs, Sarah is our visionary founder. She’s a dyed-in-the-wool dynamo who continually seeks opportunities to impact and address unmet needs. Sarah has designed programs and led training for local, national and international audiences, including groups in Canada and Botswana.
Called upon to solve issues of efficiency and develop a culture of innovation, she has also acted as a consultant for global brands, including Campbell’s Soup. Sarah holds two master’s degrees: Master of Science in Strategic Design Management and Master in Public Administration. She has consulted with large health care systems, integrative medicine clinics teaching utilization of strategic design principles to innovate and change end-user experience. Sarah is driven to create a world that people are excited to live in.
Kelly Merkel, MA
Manager, Community Education
Kelly has a variety of experience in business, nonprofit, and education sectors. Kelly spent a year volunteering as an AmeriCorps*NCCC member in the southeastern region tutoring elementary students, working at a homeless shelter, and rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. After earning a Master of Education degree from Middle Tennessee State University, Kelly joined a customer experience consulting agency as a program assistant.
Kelly also has experience as a volunteer coordinator, school counselor, archivist, and event coordinator. As a Pilates enthusiast, Kelly is passionate about holistic wellness and how movement disorders impact daily life. With a passion for serving others, Kelly brings her business acumen and caring nature to the programs team.
Calissa Palches, ACSM EP-C
Calissa received her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology Exercise Fitness and is certified through the American College of Sports Medicine in Exercise Physiology. After graduation, she joined the team at Touchmark Retirement Community where she fell in love with functional movement, brain health, and connecting with people with Parkinson’s. To launch the community’s first-ever Parkinson’s programming, including exercise & support groups, she became certified as a PWR! Moves instructor and Rock Steady Boxing coach. This work taught her to be flexible and to try new things. Today, she seeks to bring her positivity and passion for movement to PMD Alliance.
When she’s not on the job, she volunteers for My Team Triumph, a running team that allows people with disabilities to participate in races with the use of specialized racing equipment. She and her partner love to travel, eat chicken strips & fries, and hike with their three dogs.
Kelly Papesh, MSN, DNP
Director of APProvider Initiatives
Kelly Papesh, MSN, DNP is a doctorally-trained and board-certified family nurse practitioner. After completing her Bachelor of Science in nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, she completed a Master of Science in nursing and a doctorate in nursing practice from Frontier Nursing University in Hyden, KY. She has extensive experience as an advanced practice provider (APP) in neurology and patient case management, with over five years of experience specializing in movement disorders. Her experience includes assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and management of patients with a variety of movement disorders including Parkinson disease, atypical parkinsonism, essential tremor, ataxia, and Huntington’s disease. She is skilled in advanced therapies including deep brain stimulation and botulinum toxin injections. She loves to provide education and teaching patients, care partners, peers and the community.
As a strong advocate for APPs, she’s eager to create opportunities for APPs to deepen their education and professional skills and to work with peers from across the country who share a vision and passion to advance the field of APPs and make a splash in the world of Parkinson disease and movement disorders.
Julie earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Economics from the State University of New York Empire State College. She has been working in health-related nonprofit organizations since 2014. Like many new college graduates, Julie was not sure where she wanted to focus her career, but shortly after graduating college, Julie began her first nonprofit role. With the combination of her passion to help and care for others and the positivity, unity and care she saw within communities, Julie knew instantly she wanted nonprofit work to become her career path.
Always looking to learn, Julie has gained years of experience in finance, operations and administration, development and data systems. She has had her hands in event planning and support, data management and finance systems, to name a few. In her role as Associate Director, Operations, she utilizes this variety of experience to support PMD Alliance programs and communities. She is inspired by the strength, unity and passion of the PMD Alliance community.
Associate Director, Engagement
Clemie Pizzillo, B.S.Ed., CPT, CHC is the Associate Director of Engagement at PMD Alliance. She has been a certified senior fitness specialist for the past 12 years. In 2018 she became a Rock Steady Boxing Coach and PWR!Moves Instructor. She has been teaching group exercise classes for people living with progressive neurological disorders since that time. Her area of expertise is also falls prevention. She holds multiple certifications in evidence-based programs – in both English and Spanish – for older adults, and is certified to teach two styles of Tai Chi; Yang and Sun. She is pursuing her Master’s degree in Gerontology with a focus on cognition and falls prevention. She’s passionate about helping older adults improve their quality of life and maintain their independence through movement.
Jason Rivera, MPH
Director, Continuing Education
With a Master of Public Health from the University of Arizona, Jason Rivera spent 15 years managing major projects, building collaborations and creating professional development and capacity building training. He served as the Associate Director of Prevention Services at the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation for 5 years before joining the PMD Alliance Team.
As PMD Alliance seeks to meet the needs of the Medical Network and other areas of the ecosystem, Jason’s extensive experience with professional development has provided the necessary expertise in directing the launch of the new continuing education program for physicians and APPs (Advanced Practice Providers), as well as guiding future development and training opportunities for the organization and other parts of the ecosystem.
Raised in rural Appalachia, Amanda has a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and a minor in Women’s Studies from Marshall University, where she completed the prestigious Yeager Scholarship program. A longstanding passion for correcting injustice and serving vulnerable communities led her to a career in nonprofit, where she grew her skillset to include: donor and data administration, operations, grant writing, web development, and branding, to touch on a few.
Amanda loves to use her knowledge to enable others to achieve their best, and her array of experience perfectly positions her to support the varied needs of our team and the diverse individuals we serve. Amanda’s personal experiences with chronic illness inform her work, making it all the more meaningful for her to get to give back to the patient community through her role at PMD Alliance.
When Carol’s father was diagnosed with PD she struggled to find information and support. As a long distance caregiver, she worked with her brother to share the responsibilities, and educated herself on how best to help her family cope with the disease. In 1994 Carol attended a Parkinson’s Action Network forum in Washington, DC and became an active advocate. At the event she was offered an opportunity to lead a new foundation dedicated to research and advocacy, and in 1999 Carol moved from California to New Jersey to start The Parkinson Alliance. In her time with the Alliance she also oversaw the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in New York City, raising more than $34 million to support essential research and to end Parkinson’s. Like many nonprofits, the impact of the pandemic and an unstable economy made it increasingly difficult to operate, and the organization closed their doors in April 2023.