President: Chris Steele
Vice-President: Fred Hieber
Treasurer: Jody Blocker
Secretary: Jordan Williams
Additional Board Members:
- Jason Sizemore
- Maria Jameson Mendivil
- Kathryn Barrett
- Kier R. Cooper
- Jessica Ventura
- Julia Steinbrenner
- Michael Sullivan
- Maria Balderas
- Outreach: Nicki Rawlings
- Assistant Programs Coordinator: Doreen Altieri
- Marketing & Communications: Lindsey Cacioppo
- Fundraising: Jordan Williams
- Facility: Brad Luger
- Advocacy and Inspiration Team: Nick Altieri
- Site Coordinator: Alisha Harper
- Volunteer Coordinator: Shayla Terry
Christopher Steele, President
Christopher Steele is the Board President of GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa. He has been involved in the playhouse since the onset and has a passion for developing the Tampa Playhouse into a model for how future playhouses can be developed. Christopher also works for Tampa Electric Company as the Engineering & Maintenance Manager of an 1,800 MW Power Plant. His career with Tampa Electric spans over 18 years with increasing levels of responsibility. Christopher’s formal education includes a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of South Florida and a Master’s in Business Administration with a Corporate Finance Concentration from the University of Tampa. Christopher is also a Registered Professional Engineer in the State of Florida and a Senior Member in the IEEE. Christopher is also on the board of the Florida Hospital Carrollwood Foundation committee.
Nicki Hollmann-Rawlings, Outreach Team Lead
Nicki Hollmann-Rawlings retired as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Salt Lake City after 25 years in federal law enforcement with the Drug Enforcement Administration. She served assignments in Salt Lake City, Washington DC, Tampa, The Bahamas, Kansas City and St. Louis. Ms. Rawlings has managed federal drug operations and programs in the supervision of statewide personnel and multi-million dollar budgets. In her career, she has been nationally recognized for acts of Valor and for coalition building as the White House's Drug Czar's 2016 Task Force Commander of the Year. In 2017 she was appointed to Florida’s Office of Child Welfare Critical Incident Rapid Response Team. Four years ago, she became the parent of a child with special needs and her passion as a federal drug agent and government manager expanded to the advocacy of those with special needs, specifically children with Down syndrome. Retiring in 2016, she now focuses her expertise as part of a team to open GiGi's Playhouse Tampa, a national non-profit organization, with the focus of launching achievement center in support of Down syndrome individuals of all ages and their families.
Doreen Altieri, Assistant Programs Coordinator
Doreen Altieri retired last year after 28 years as Assistant Director/Special Education Coordinator at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Preschool in Tampa. Her responsibilities included the oversight of special needs students: completing developmental assessments, developing early learning plans, classroom placement, and coordination of all therapies. She was responsible for staff training and overseeing developmentally appropriate implementation of school-wide curriculum and adaptations and supports for students. She maintained all student records, oversaw financial records, preschool payroll, and the day to day responsibilities of running an inclusive preschool program. She believes in the “team approach”: working closely with parents, teachers and therapists to benefit children. Doreen earned her Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from SUNY Geneseo, NY and her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from SUNY Cortland, NY. She and her husband Ray are the parents of 4 boys, one of which was born with Down Syndrome so her interests lie both professionally and personally in the opening of a GiGi’s Playhouse. She looks forward to positively impacting the families of Tampa who have been touched by Down Syndrome.
Jordan Williams began his career with Tampa Electric, an Emera Company, in 2011. In his current role as a Forecast Analyst, Jordan is a part of a team that is responsible for developing and maintaining regression models to accurately predict short-term and long-term revenues and consumers’ energy consumption related to Emera-owned electric and gas utilities in Florida. Previously, Jordan has worked as an Energy Accounting and Billing Analyst for Tampa Electric. Jordan’s formal education includes a Master of Arts in Economics from the University of South Florida (2014) and both a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Florida Southern College (2011). Via job responsibilities, Jordan has become fluent in writing Visual Basic for Applications code and is proficient in various other computer languages related to financial and statistical modeling. Through his mother, who has spent her entire career working with adults with special needs, Jordan was introduced to the special needs community. Throughout his college career, Jordan worked as a program-aide for four adults with Down Syndrome. Jordan is committed to and passionate about increasing awareness and advocating for the special needs community.
Jody Blocker, Treasurer
Jody Blocker retired from banking in 2011 after a 28-year career working through multiple bank mergers. Along with her daily duties, she took on the job of mentoring and training new employees during their on the job rotation period. When her son started school she became a regular fixture in school. Volunteering for 21 years in the elementary schools and consecutively doing 3 years at the middle school level. She held the position of PTA Treasurer for 7 of those 21 years. You could find her every Wednesday working in the library and reading to the students in their classrooms. Jody coordinated the Reading Is Fundamental program (RIF), Box Tops For Education and the Reading First program sponsored by her bank. In 2013 Jody was awarded the SERVE volunteer of the year award for both Hillsborough County and the State of Florida. After retiring Jody was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent the first year of retirement going through treatments and still found time to volunteer at the school. When a friend who has a little girl with Down syndrome mentioned she was working on opening a GiGi’s Playhouse here in Tampa Jody jump right in and asked what she could do to help. And at this time is the Finance Team Lead.
Michael Sullivan, Board Member
Michael Sullivan is a manager at ICI Homes, a custom home builder in Florida. He joined the home-building industry after a long career in education and educational leadership. Michael’s formal education includes a Master’s in Education Leadership from Manhattan College, a Master’s of Divinity in Theology from Saint Joseph Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from St. John’s University. Michael and his family are members of St. Timothy Catholic Church. Michael first learned of GiGi’s Playhouse when he received the prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis for his daughter, Sophia. Since then Michael and his wife, Suzanne, have enjoyed attending programs at GiGi’s playhouse with Sophia. He has experienced the way the programs at GiGi’s have affected her development and is grateful that we have this resource in Tampa. Michael is committed to raising awareness of GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa so generations of individuals with Down syndrome can benefit from its services.
Kathryn Barrett, Board Member
Kathryn Barrett is a work at home mom, part-time student and middle school substitute teacher. She has been married for 24 years, has four children and is a proud mom to a Trisomy 18 angel, Jacob Asher. Kathryn volunteers her love for marketing to help with social media for Tampa Bay Moms Group, Relay for Life and GiGi's Playhouse. Kathryn's youngest daughter, Maggie, has been a teacher's assistant for 3 years for the Dancing With Downs class at Centerstage Dance Academy. Because Maggie's involvement and having a Trisomy 18 baby, Kathryn felt a strong pull to be involved with GiGi's Playhouse.
Kier R. Cooper, Board Member
Kier grew up in Tampa, Florida. He earned his bachelors degree in Engineering Sciences from Dartmouth College in 1986. He played on the Dartmouth football team and was active in his fraternity during his time there. Kier has been the President and Owner of Engineer Sales Company in St. Petersburg since moving back to Tampa in 1991. Prior to working at Engineer Sales, he worked for Schlumberger Industries and Westinghouse Electric Corporation in roles of technical sales. Kier has served on the Board of the EERA (Electrical Equipment Representatives Association) from 2010-2017, rotating through each board position to President in 2015. Kier is a member of Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church and served as an Elder on Session from 2013-2016. In addition, Kier actively supports Created Ministries in the Tampa Bay area. Kier and his wife, Lauren, have been married for 24 years and they have two children, Case (21), who will be a senior at Vanderbilt and Kennedy (19) who will be a sophomore at Clemson this Fall.
Nicholas B. Altieri - Team Leader, Advocacy and Inspiration Team
Nicholas B. Altieri is the Advocacy and Inspiration Team Leader for GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa. Nick has joined GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa during its groundbreaking stage to promote awareness and access for the community’s young adults and children with Down syndrome. Nick is a great advocate for those with Special Needs and has a strong desire to promote the abilities of those who share in his life’s quest. During his days, Nick is employed by the Hillsborough County Public Defender’s Office in an administrative capacity, where he has worked for almost five years. Nick’s story is a great example of when given the opportunity, what young adults living with Down syndrome can achieve and contribute to a prospective employer. Nick is a graduate of the University of South Florida’s post-secondary program known as Successful Transition After Graduation for Exceptional Students (STAGES). Before attending STAGES at USF, Nick graduated from Gaither High School in 2009. Nick has also been a longtime member of various advocacy groups for those with Special Needs in Tampa. His rising within those organizations to become President of both his High School and USF STAGES Programs is a testament to his exceptional personality and productivity. Furthering his leadership skills within this organization, Nick has earned the designation of Advanced Ambassador, which allowed him to travel to various States and local professional offices, speaking on behalf of the organization to make the general public aware of the need for job placement opportunities for those young adults with Special Needs. Nick is the third son of four boys and is the proud uncle of 3 nieces and 1 nephew.
Brad Luger, Facility Team Lead
Brad Luger spent his early years in Kansas City, and desiring to expand his commercial real estate career, moved to Tampa 35 years ago. Since then he has been involved in many aspects of the commercial real estate business including new development, leasing, management, general brokerage and acquisitions. Presently, Brad is a partner in B&L Investments, LLC, a company specializing in the acquisition of neighborhood shopping centers. Brad and his wife of 26 years have five children; three girls and two boys. They were blessed 13 years ago with the birth of their youngest daughter who has Down syndrome. He looks forward to putting his real estate knowledge to work in locating and securing a new location for GiGi's Playhouse in Tampa, Florida.
Jessica is very excited to be joining the incredible team at GiGi’s Playhouse! Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada – Jessica grew up dancing (jazz, tap & ballet) and always loved working with others. After graduating high school, she went to college to be an education assistant and work for the school board, specifically with kids who have special needs. She was placed in a junior high with teens diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder. She fell in love with the students and the unexpected challenges each day held but knew this would take a toll on her emotionally as she cared too much for the students who were going to high school the following year and likely wouldn’t have the same support. She started a new journey by moving to Tampa and enrolling at the University of Tampa in 2006. Jessica graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Sport Management in 2009 and has been working for the New York Yankees and their local Minor League teams ever since. She was able to hire adults with special needs to work areas of the stadium like the main gate scanning tickets, passing out giveaway items or assisting the promotions team on the field between innings. One of her main responsibilities with the Yankees is player community service and that’s where Jessica was introduced to GiGi’s Playhouse. She is looking forward to all of the exciting things that GiGi’s Playhouse has planned and is honored to be a member of the Board.
Julia Steinbrenner has a personal and professional passion for advocating for children, especially those with Down syndrome and special needs. She is employed by the New York Yankees and is a member of the New York Yankees Tampa Foundation, and serves on the board of the Children’s Dream Fund and St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. Julia is strongly committed to the mission of GiGi’s Playhouse and providing a special dedicated place for those with Down syndrome to achieve and become their best of all through the no-cost programs.
Maria Jameson Mendivil
Maria Jameson Mendivil is the Executive Vice President at Jameson Financial Solutions, a financial services firm that specializes in safe retirement strategies. Before devoting her work full time to Jameson Financial Solutions, Maria built a successful 20 year career in business marketing large companies like WellCare, and Peak 10.
Maria has always had a passion for giving back. For the past 12 years Maria has been an active volunteer working with children as a wish granter with the Make a Wish Foundation. She has completed over 70 wishes for children with critical illnesses and has also served on successful fundraising committees within the organization. Maria also supports the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and Metropolitan Ministries.
When the opportunity to join the Board of GiGi's Playhouse Tampa, she saw it as an opportunity to use her non-profit expertise in fundraising, marketing and finance to further their mission. It is her goal to help increase awareness and visibility within the local community and fund exciting no-cost programs for families who have been touched by Down Syndrome.
Maria holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Saint Leo University and lives in Tampa Bay with her husband and 2 dogs. She is an avid reader, loves international travel, the thrill of learning something new, and dancing Argentine tango.
Jason Sizemore, Board Member
Jason Sizemore is Manager of Cyber Security Operations Center at TECO Services, an Emera Company. Jason has an extensive background in regulatory compliance, information technology, risk management and information security. Jason is responsible for security, confidentiality and integrity of company data for all TECO affiliates. Jason holds a Master of Business Administration from Saint Leo University and two Bachelor of Science degrees in Management Information Systems and Economics from University of South Florida.
Jason believes in giving back to the community, especially when geared towards children with special needs; abandoned, abused or orphaned children; and struggling families. Jason lives in the Tampa Bay area with his wife and three children.
Fred Hieber, Vice President
Fred has over 29 years of experience as a fraud investigator, including conducting investigations into money laundering and terrorist financing as well as drug and human trafficking. In addition to his financial experience, Fred previously served on the board of Wesley Chapel Athletic Association as a Medical Director for various sports programs and also served as a paramedic, while holding certification for trauma in the state of Florida. Fred has been married for almost 30 years, and has two children and three grandchildren. Fred was introduced to GiGi’s Playhouse when one of his grandchildren, Chase, was born with Down syndrome. He was honored to help in assisting his community by contributing to the opening of GiGi’s Tampa location. Fred is now a proud board member of GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa and is excited to experience the wonderful opportunities offered to all persons in the Tampa area with Down syndrome.
Alisha Harper, Site Coordinator
Alisha previously served as a Paralegal in a New York City law firm while attending St. John’s University. In 2014 she relocated back to Tampa and continued in the legal field working along side multiple attorneys. Alisha is a mother to two children. Her youngest, Chase was born with Down syndrome in 2016, which is when Alisha found out about GiGi’s Playhouse. She dedicated her free time to getting involved in helping open the Tampa location. Since having Chase in her life, Alisha realized that being an advocate for her son was her main priority and decided throughout the GiGi’s Playhouse network is where she wanted to continue that passion. Alisha enjoys meeting new families, building friendships with other parents and contributing to being an active advocate in the Down syndrome community. She looks forward to the many rewarding opportunities GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa has to offer.
Maria Balderas, Board Member
Maria obtained an Occupational Therapy Assistant degree in 1998 and, has been working as a COTA/L for over 21 years. . She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and is currently pursuing a degree in Organizational Leadership from South University. Her experience includes working as an O.T. practitioner in geriatrics, pediatrics, home health, acute rehabilitation, hand therapy, outpatient rehabilitation and management for 10 years. She currently works as a professor for the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at South University, Tampa. Maria has established programming at GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa to have her students involved in providing O.T. services for participants of all ages at our Tampa location. She has been involved with GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa since early 2018, during the construction stage and is involved in the culinary program as a regular volunteer. She enjoys cooking, time with friends and family and travelling.
Shayla Terry, Volunteer Coordinator
Shayla Terry is a native of Brundidge, Alabama. Throughout her formative years, she served as a summer camp counselor in Brundidge as well as in Tuscaloosa while attending the University of Alabama. In 2016, she graduated from Troy University with a B.S. in Multimedia Journalism and a minor in leadership development. From 2015 until 2017, she worked for the Luverne Journal as staff reporter, ultimately becoming editor of the weekly publication. While working for the Journal, she developed her photography skills and a knack for media management. She credits her time at the Journal with teaching her the importance of empathy and compassion for all people from every walk of life. In 2017, she relocated to Tampa, Florida. Since coming to Tampa, she has served in various communication roles. Terry is currently the Tampa Administrative Manager at AAMI, Inc, a technological organization specializing in home automation and security. Terry joins GiGi's Playhouse Tampa with an eagerness to serve and make a difference.