The National Council of Visitors is a group of nationally and internationally respected leaders who are enthusiastically committed to support of the MIND Institute’s mission of advancing research into the causes of and treatments for neurodevelopmental disabilities, and to ensuring superior patient care to individuals diagnosed with these conditions.
The council’s goals are to:
Promote the MIND Institute nationally and internationally
Initiate and contribute ideas, expertise and influence
Strengthen relationships with diverse communities served by the UC Davis MIND Institute
Secure support for the MIND Institute by making personal commitments and identifying others who can and will make a significant philanthropic gift to the Institute
Leonard Abbeduto, Ph.D.
Director, UC Davis MIND Institute
Dr. Abbeduto’s research at the UC Davis MIND Institute focuses on the development of language across the lifespan in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. His current projects focus on the factors accounting for variation in the course of language in children, adolescents, and young adults with fragile X syndrome, autism, or Down syndrome. These projects seek to identify the behavioral, biological, and environmental influences that shape language in these conditions.
Highland Park, Illinois
Lynda Canel is a resident of Highland Park, Ill. She and her husband Scott have two children, one who has fragile X syndrome. Lynda discovered the UC Davis MIND Institute Fragile X Research and Treatment Center during her ongoing search for the most leading-edge treatments for her daughter. Lynda also served for 10 years on the board of directors of the National Fragile X Foundation with MIND Institute Medical Director Randi Hagerman, through whom she became familiar with the MIND Institute and Randi and Paul Hagerman’s fragile X investigations. Lynda is committed to her daughter’s care and has made a personal philanthropic commitment to the MIND Institute to support fragile X research.
Stony Brook, New York
Chrysa Demos is a resident of Stony Brook, N.Y., and a Sacramento native. Her parents, Angelo and Sofia Tsakopoulos, established the Tsakopoulos-Vismara Endowed Chair, held by the Executive Director of the MIND Institute and are one of the MIND Institute’s Founding Families. Chrysa’s personal connection to the MIND Institute stems from her deep respect and admiration for Dr. Louis Vismara. Chrysa has been a dedicated member of the local MIND Advisory Council for several years and she remains committed to supporting the philanthropic efforts of the MIND Institute throughout the East Coast region. Chrysa served as vice president of AKT Development Corporation, the largest land development company in Sacramento.
Sarah Gardner is a resident of Sacramento, Calif. She and her husband Chuck are among the MIND Institute’s founding families. Sarah and Chuck are the parents of two children, one of whom, their son, has autism. A former news anchor for KCRA Channel 3, Sarah has been a member of the MIND Institute Advisory Council since 2007. During more than a decade of involvement and as a Founding Family member, Sarah has been an enthusiastic advocate for and leader of philanthropic efforts on behalf of the institute. Sarah remains committed to the institute’s mission of finding treatments, causes and preventions for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
Elk Grove, California
Linette Gill is a resident of Elk Grove, CA and is a wife, mother of three children, a realtor and special needs advocate. Linette and her husband, Ed, have a personal connection and long history with the UC Davis MIND Institute. Their two sons were diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. Her passionate support for the MIND Institute stems from her personal journey and experience of caring for her sons and others with special needs. As a teacher’s assistant, Linette worked in the Elk Grove public schools. While working with Pre-K to 6th grade students in the Resource Center for Learning Disabilities, Linette supported students with autism as well as other learning disabilities. Linette has seen first-hand the benefits of early intervention for her sons and for countless other young people. Linette also understands it takes a village to support and fill this enormous need as families are approaching the adult transition phase. She shares the mission to bring families out of isolation and into collaboration with others to implement effective solutions. Linette is committed to the philanthropic efforts needed to support the UC Davis MIND Institute.
Gail Goldstein Heyman
Gail Goldstein Heyman is a resident of Marietta, Ga., and is the president and co-founder of the Fragile X Association of Georgia. Her longtime career as a dental hygienist inspired her passion for service and community activism. Gail serves on several local and national boards and has been recognized by many organizations for her service. She and her husband, Lyons Heyman, Jr., became involved with efforts to support fragile X research when their adult son, Scott, was diagnosed with fragile X syndrome as a young boy. Through an interesting fusion of dentistry and medical research, Gail and her family made a unique personal contribution to fragile X research by donating her son’s extracted wisdom teeth for the purpose of stem cell research for fragile X syndrome. Gail enthusiastically shares the MIND Institute’s vision to uncover the causes of, and find new and more effective treatments for, neurodevelopmental disorders such as fragile X syndrome.
Bronxville, New York
Larry is a resident of Bronxville, New York. He is the founder of the New York law firm Krantz & Berman LLP, where he currently represents public and private companies in both criminal and civil matters. Prior to founding Krantz & Berman, Larry was a federal prosecutor and has over thirty years of trial and appellate litigation experience. He has been involved in numerous high profile cases and has successfully tried a wealth of criminal and civil cases in federal and state courts. Larry’s relationship with the MIND Institute and Dr. Randi Hagerman, Medical Director and Endowed Chair in Fragile X Research, developed long ago from his own personal experience with fragile X syndrome. Larry is the father of a 17 year old son who has been diagnosed with fragile X syndrome. He also has a 19 year old daughter whose life has been affected by Fragile X. For many years Larry and his family have been generous supporters of the innovative fragile X research conducted at the Institute. Larry remains committed to supporting the mission of the MIND Institute and to help move forward the discovery of new and more effective treatments for fragile X syndrome and related neurodevelopmental disorders.
Luis Navas is a resident of Miami, Fla. He holds the position of vice chair at Global Governance Advisors, an internationally known independent compensation advisory firm. Luis and his wife Mary have two children. Their son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. His personal experience with autism and deep understanding of the challenges families face inspire Luis’ philanthropic passion. In partnership with his colleagues, Luis raised $2 million to purchase a luxury vacation home on Florida’s beautiful Emerald Coast. The home serves as a special getaway for families in need who have children on the spectrum. Luis is committed to raising awareness and providing critical support and services to individuals and families affected by autism.
Manhattan Beach, California
Neal Robb is a resident of Manhattan Beach, Calif. He is a litigator specializing in defending financial services firms, handling large and complex litigation. Neal and his wife Carolyn have a son who has been diagnosed with fragile X syndrome and autism. Neal is a former director and two-term president of the Fragile X Association of Southern California. Neal and Carolyn are very active in charitable organizations in their community and with the Manhattan Beach School District. Neal is a committed parent who is dedicated to the mission of the MIND Institute to find the causes of and new and more effective treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders.
Leah Stevralia is an attorney whose professional career has been focused around health-care advocacy for the disenfranchised, first in Washington, D.C., and later in the San Francisco Bay Area. Leah has worked as a government relations representative for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR), where she was a voice for the need to advance AIDS research, prevention, treatment and care for people living with HIV and AIDS in the United States and around the world. She later brought her expertise to the Alameda County Health Consortium, where she worked to ensure funding for the medically underserved and uninsured, particularly at a consortium of community-based health centers. She and her husband, Pete D’Alessandro, are the parents of two young children, Kate, and Benjamin. She attended Smith College and Georgetown University Law Center.
Michelle Montna Vogt
Michelle Montna Vogt is a resident of Woodland, Calif. She and her sister Nicole help manage their family’s rice farm, Montna Farms, located in Yuba City, Calif. The farm sits on land that has been in Michelle’s family since the 1800s. Michelle and her husband Casey have four children. At age 3 their son was diagnosed with autism and was evaluated at the MIND Institute. Today her son is an active 7 year old, participates in the MIND Institute social skills program, and is making great progress. Michelle’s mother, Gail Montna, is an active member of the MIND Institute Advisory Council. Michelle and her family are committed to finding the best treatments and therapies for individuals with autism. To help support the advancement of autism research, the Montna family has made a personal philanthropic commitment to the MIND Institute.
El Macero, California
Lynn Volkerts is a resident of El Macero, California. Lynn’s passion for the MIND Institute stems from her two granddaughters who were diagnosed with autism and began beneficial treatments at the MIND Institute. Lynn is a retired cosmetologist and now serves as the president of her family’s foundation, the George and Lena Valente Foundation, which was created by her parents. Through Lynn and the foundation’s generosity, the MIND Institute has been able to expand autism research and their assistance to families in need of services. Lynn is actively invested in a goal to improve the lives of families dealing with neurodevelopmental disorders.