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DSA's leaders represent a cross-section of our community and have a passion for our organization and those we serve. They work hard to ensure long-term sustainability of the organization and oversee that the funds raised directly affect our DSA families.

Staff

Leah Janke, Executive Director Email

Samantha Kruse, Special Events Coordinator Email

Amanda Clark, Program Coordinator Email

Marcus Sikora, Self-Advocate Administrative Assistant 

Board

Kyle Schmidt, President  Email

Kyle and his wife Stacy live in Elkhorn and are proud parents of Isaac, Emilee and Aaron. Their family has been active members of DSA since Emilee was born. He joined the board of directors in 2017 when Emilee was two serving on the family outreach committee and was elected to President in 2018. Kyle works full time as an Implementation Manager for C.H. Robinson Worldwide where he manages client implementations, systems technology development and training. Kyle and Stacy are passionate about their children's futures and doing everything they can to advocate for people with Down syndrome to ensure they have every opportunity to lead fully productive and fulfilling lives. In his spare time Kyle enjoys activities with the kids, spending time outdoors, hiking and playing with their dog Skya. 

Denise Gehringer, Sheltering Tree - Vice President

From the day her 4th son was born with Down syndrome, her life was set on a new trajectory.  She immersed herself in learning everything possible to better understand and assist him.  That grew to a love of helping all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities achieve their full potential to live healthy, fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Denise is the Executive Director at Sheltering Tree Communities providing safe Independent Apartment Living for adults with Intellectual Disabilities.  Prior to working at Sheltering Tree she was program coordinator for several programs for the Arc of Omaha at Ollie Webb Center, Inc.: The Next Chapter Book Club, The First Chapter Book Club, Parent to Parent, Stars Basketball, Tween Scene, The PRISM Project, the Ultimate Life Program and Legislative Advocacy.  Currently, she is the Legislative Advocacy Chair for two non-profits; Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands and Brian Injury Alliance of Nebraska. Her goal is to enhance and elevate the lives of people with diverse needs, to provide information to them, their families and the community, and to advocate on behalf of those she serves.

Her passion for helping those with special needs has filled every facet of her life.  She currently serves on the Board of Directors at the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center as President, the Brain Injury Alliance of Nebraska, The Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands and the Education Rights Counsel. Denise is a 2019 ABLE National Resource Center Ambassador and a member of the Nebraska State ADA Task Force. She is the founder & director of the BSC TOPSoccer Program for athletes with special needs and is the Nebraska State Soccer Special Needs Commissioner.   Denise is also a member of the National Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition and a former National Down Syndrome Society Ambassador.

Denise and her husband Jeff have been married for 33 years and are the proud parents of 4 interesting and socially conscience men.  Also, part of their family are five beloved pups and a speedy tortoise.

 “My son, and all of the delightful people I have met along my journey, have inspired me to strive to raise awareness that all people are valuable, have abilities and deserve the opportunity to pursue their unalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Ranae Keckeisen, Union Pacific - Treasurer

Ranae Keckeisen became the Director of Corporate Relations for Union Pacific Railroad in June 2014. In her role, she oversees Union Pacific’s Community Ties Giving Program, which includes the company’s Foundation, National and Regional Key Partnerships, corporate contributions and charitable giving, employee matching gifts programs, and its annual employee giving campaign. Prior to her work in corporate giving, Ranae held various positions within Union Pacific’s Finance department. She started her career in Corporate Audit and spent five years in Chicago as the Director of Accounting for Union Pacific’s Commuter Rail division. Ranae has volunteered with a number of organizations in Chicago and Omaha, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Ronald McDonald House, Chicago Lights tutoring, and has traveled to San Lucas, Guatemala, several times to serve at a local orphanage. Ranae previously served on the Board of Directors for the Greater Chicago chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar, an organization dedicated to advancing women in transportation. She became passionate about advocating for and educating people about Down Syndrome after having a son with Down Syndrome in 2018. She recently joined the Board of Directors of the Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands and currently serves as Treasurer. Originally from Michigan, Ranae holds a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from Michigan State University.

Heather McNeal, TD Ameritrade - Secretary 

Heather and her husband Jeremy are proud parents of three young boys, oldest son Hayden and twins Rory and Declan. They have been actively involved with DSA of the Midlands since receiving a birth diagnosis of Down Syndrome for Declan. Heather joined the board at the end of 2018, and became Secretary in 2019. She has previous board experience through the Human Resource Association of the Midlands, including serving as President. Heather enjoys a busy and fulfilling career in human resources. With three boys 18 months apart, Jeremy and Heather’s home life is busy! They enjoy family activities like trips to the zoo and safari park, walks to the park, and of course, all the fun family events put on by the DSA!

Zachary Buxton, Baird Holm - Legal Advisor

Christine Tran, UNMC/Nebraska Medicine - Medical Outreach Email

Christine and her husband, Tin, live in Omaha. They are the proud parents of Joseph (DS) and Margaret. Their family has been active with the DSA since J’s birth 5 years ago. Christine started volunteering as a member of the Buddy Walk (now called Step Up) Committee. She later joined the DSA board in 2017. She holds the DSA's board position as Medical Outreach Coordinator. Christine works for UNMC/Nebraska Medicine as a Nurse Practitioner. In her spare time, she loves to travel with her family.

  • Committee Member, Leticia Franco, Bilingual Parent Outreach Email

Jennifer Koley, Ollie Webb Center, Inc. - Self-Advocate

Jenny is serving her second term as a self-advocate member of the DSA board.   She has worked as a part-time receptionist for ten years at the Ollie Webb Center, Inc.  She graduated from Bryan High School in 1999.  She also attended Metropolitan Community College where she earned forty credit hours in business, math and theatre classes.  Jenny volunteers one afternoon a week at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.  She also participated in the 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s -Sarpy County by setting up and managing her own team, KOLEYS FOR THE CURE.  Jenny has lived independently for three years in her own apartment.   Her hobbies and interests include Special Olympic bowling, golf and swimming; acting, reading, book club, line dancing, Broadway plays, singing and travel.  She is currently acting in a play called MOROZKO, a Russian fairy tale which combines a cast of professional actors and actors with disabilities.  She is a huge Nebraska football fan! Jenny loves to advocate for herself and others.  She had the honor of going to the national NDSS BUDDY WALK ON WASHINGTON, to lobby for the ABLE Act.  She has also gone to Lincoln to speak directly with senators of the Nebraska Legislature on important bills that impact people with disabilities, and regularly attends the Senatorial Dinner.  

Katie Erspamer, Verizon Media

Katie and husband, Justin, have three children and live in LaVista.  Gideon (8), Clare (4) and Ronnie (3). Katie became involved with DSA and their fundraising efforts when their family took part in their first Buddy Walk in 2017. Katie has been in the board since early 2018 and loves to help fundraise for the programs and events that DSA sponsors. 

Kendra Ely

Kendra and her husband, Joe, live in Omaha, NE.  They are the proud parents of three children, twins LJ & Harper (4), and Kendall Josephine (2).  Their family has been active with the Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands since receiving a prenatal diagnosis for LJ.  Kendra started volunteering for the DSA almost immediately after the twins were born and then joined the Board of Directors in 2016. She is currently serves as Chair for the Family Communication and Outreach Committee.  Although free time can be hard to come by these days, Kendra enjoys photography, traveling, and running, especially with the Down Syndrome Alliance's YAS (Young Adults Series) Running Club.   

Janet Pol

Laura Baum

Sarah Schulz, Executive Director, Human Resource Association of the Midlands (HRAM)

Sarah and her husband, Nick, their son, Nicholas, and daughter, Olive live outside Omaha, NE in the smaller community of Bennington. She enjoys the small town lifestyle just minutes from the heart of the city. Sarah enjoys reading, traveling, family movie nights, and volunteering at her children’s school and her church. She is an avid Husker fan, and enjoys cheering them on any chance she gets.

Sarah is the Executive Director for HRAM, she is responsible for the operational management and direction of the organization. She oversees the financial activities as well as the strategic plan for the association. Sarah has been with HRAM since 2005. Before she became Executive Director, she served as Chapter Manager after starting as the Program Coordinator for HRAM.

Prior to her time with HRAM Sarah worked for ICAN (Institute for Career Advancement Needs) as a Program Coordinator. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and has a Bachelors in Journalism, with a major in Advertising and Public Relations.