Director and Interim President – Denille Francis
My service to the DSAHR Board began in 2012. Advocating for children and marginalized individuals in Virginia has been one of my passions professionally for over 15 years. However, my work in the child welfare system and purpose in life changed forever in 2008 with the birth of our amazing son with Trisomy 21. Through the Partners in Policymaking Program (Virginia Board for People with Disabilities 2010 graduate), my awareness of the Disability Rights Movement changed and I became motivated to become involved with the DSAHR. With imperfect systems, underfunded programs, inhumane waiver wait lists, and societal stigmas, we know that many individuals with disabilities and their families fall in the gaps and are unserved and under supported. I am committed to the DSAHR advocating for meaningful policy change, supporting large scale awareness campaigns with dissemination of accurate information, increasing community outreach with programs for families, and continuing to focus on educational and community inclusion of people with all abilities. As a licensed professional counselor and board certified art therapist, I currently work full time as the Clinical Director of Family Preservation Services, where I supervise community-based programs serving children and families with mental and behavioral health needs, both with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities
Secretary – Kathleen Ward
My name is Kathleen Ward. I am currently serving as secretary on the Board of Directors for the Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads. I am currently working towards my Bachelor of Science in business management, focusing on healthcare administration. I have been married to my husband Patrick for nearly five years. We have two children; Joseph, who we welcomed into the world in 2010, and Nicholas, who we welcomed in 2011. When I was five months pregnant with Nicholas, we were given the news that our newest addition would have Down syndrome. Our world was rocked! We knew nothing about Down syndrome and quickly realized we needed to educate ourselves in order to navigate our family through this new, unexpected journey. In the months following Nicholas’ birth, we quickly learned that in order for Nicholas to reach his highest potential we would need to be not only “Mommy” and “Daddy”, but advocates, educators, and at times, fighters. Our boys have opened our eyes to a world beyond ourselves, where there is endless opportunity as long as you possess perseverance.
I welcomed the position as the secretary on the Board of Directors for the Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads in September of 2012. In September of 2014, I had the pleasure of launching the Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads First Call Program, which supports new and expectant families of children with Down syndrome in Hampton Roads and beyond. I enjoy my work on the Board of Directors and as the First Call Program Coordinator, and the amazing people who volunteer their time, sweat, and energy alongside me. I look forward to the future of the DSAHR, and I’m excited to serve our members.
Treasurer – Bobbi Jo Kraemer
Originally from Pennsylvania, I moved to Hampton Roads in October of 2007. My husband and I were married in March of 2009 and in March of 2011, we found out we were having a little girl. Little did we know that she would turn our lives upside down in such an amazing way! She was born with Down Syndrome in November 2011. Since I moved to VA, I have actively been involved in the community and in my husband’s squadron helping those in need as much as possible and providing support. My family and I have been attending events with the DSAHR since our daughter was born. I was invited to join the Board of Directors with the Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads in October 2013. It was such a honor to accept the invitation. I am so excited to be a part of such a dedicated and fun group of individuals and an amazing organization providing support for our children and loved ones with special needs. It has been a passion of mine to become more involved with DSAHR and I see this as an exciting opportunity to do just that. I am very eager to learn and meet a lot of wonderful new friends. I am committed and dedicated to doing my part to act as a resource and an advocate for those caring for children and adults with special needs. I look forward to starting my journey and building long lasting relationships with my friends of DSAHR. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of such an amazing group of people!
Director – Renee Howard
I joined the DSAHR Board in 2014 and am honored to be among such a motivated and committed group of Executives and Directors. I have been married to my high school sweetheart, Stan, since 1993 and together we have three amazing children. Our middle child, Jackson, was diagnosed with down syndrome prenatally. He was born in February 2012 – 23 months after his big sister Vivian, and 15 months before his little sister Lexington Marie. Life is busy at the Howard household, but we treasure it all. My husband and I are originally from central New York State, but have lived in Hampton Roads for 20+ years. I worked locally in long term care for seven years as I finished my undergraduate education. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Old Dominion University and a Master of Business Administration degree from the College of William and Mary. I am a licensed CPA and currently work as a Senior Manager for the audit, tax and advisory services firm, KPMG LLP. I am excited to have the opportunity to serve the Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads in this way, and am looking forward to becoming a better educator in our community, as well as a better student of, and advocate for the children and adults with special needs that this wonderful organization serves.