Mountain West Chapter Leadership
Ellen officially became the JDRF Mountain West Chapter Executive Director in November 2022. With a B.A. in Business Communications and a B.A. in Psychology from Augustana College as well as a Masters of Non-Profit Management from Regis University, Ellen has built a passion for health non-profit fundraising and management over the last 25 years.
The Penrod family has connections to a rare type of diabetes known as MODY (maturity onset diabetes of the young). As a self-proclaimed “research nerd,” she loves that JDRF has a focus on bringing new treatments for T1D directly to market. She knows that the research JDRF funds directly impacts her family and all individuals living with diabetes. Ellen loves the community work JDRF staff and supporters are doing together to find cures for T1D.
In her free time, this Colorado native enjoys adventuring around the hills of her mountain home with her 3 children and 2 dogs, but also loves a cozy night in by the fire with a puzzle.
Prior to serving as Mountain West’s Market Director, Mike led the Mountain Valley Chapter (Utah and Idaho) as the Executive Director since 2014.
Prior to joining JDRF as a staff member, Mike volunteered for JDRF as a Utah Board member and a JDRF SLC Walk team captain since 2004. Along with volunteering for JDRF and Susan G Komen for the Cure, Mike was the Director of Human Resources for Companion Systems, a manufacturer of products for the banking industry, for 25 years.
Mike is a Utah native and grew up in Woods Cross. Mike married his wife Michelle in 1995 and has two adult children. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, and camping with family and friends.
Senior Development ManagerBio
Senior Development Manager
Dana’s first experience with JDRF came when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 22 and received a T1D Care Kit from the local JDRF Chapter. When a position opened up in the Rocky Mountain office, it was an opportunity Dana couldn’t pass up. She officially joined the team in February of 2017. Working at JDRF combines Dana’s love of connecting people and supporting the T1D community with nonprofit work. A Chicago native, Dana has been living in Colorado since 2013. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and dogs, fostering kittens, reading, and travel.
Mikayla joined the JDRF Mountain West staff as Development Manager in March of 2022. She is based in Denver.
Mikayla brings 18 years of experience in the Colorado nonprofit community, having served in roles ranging from Development Associate to Executive Director for local chapters of the March of Dimes, Florence Crittenton Services, the Autism Society and other health and wellness-focused organizations throughout her career.
She studied Law & Society at the University of Denver and is passionate about her role as an advocate for equal access to healthcare for all. Mikayla will ensure the success of the JDRF Dream Gala and support mid-level donor programs.
Madeline is the Development Manager with the JDRF Mountain West Chapter, having joined in March 2023. She has a B.A in Organizational Communications and Non Profit Leadership from Western Michigan University. Her career so far has taken her from Michigan, to Colorado, to a year living on the ground in Cambodia. Madeline has a background in various roles in the non-profit world and is deeply passionate about creating a more equitable world for all people. She is honored to utilize her experiences while working alongside the driven Mountain West team.
Madeline has a handful of friends and family members with T1D and is so excited about accelerating JDRF’s mission to improve lives and eventually find a cure for T1D!
In her free time, you can find Madeline camping, skiing, fly fishing, drinking cold glasses of prosecco, diving into a great book, trying out a new recipe, or frequenting *another* dog park with her goofy lab Cedar and siberian husky Shasta!
Community Engagement ManagerBio
Community Engagement Manager
Andrea was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2011, just 3 days before her sophomore year of high school, when she also received a Bag of Hope from JDRF during her hospital stay. She was not unfamiliar with T1D, as her father was diagnosed when he was just 4 years old.
Andrea’s formal education is in social work and she has always tried to put community engagement at the core of her work. When the Community Engagement Manager position opened up at the Mountain West chapter, she knew she had to apply and she officially joined the team in February of 2022. Growing up, Andrea never had many people in her life also living with T1D. She understands the importance of having people in our corner who understand what living with this disease feels like. She is excited to facilitate such connections for our chapter and beyond, ultimately working together for a world without T1D.
Andrea has lived in Florida and North Carolina, but she is now happy to have the Rocky Mountains in her backyard. In her free time, she enjoys journaling, reading, drinking coffee, and exploring the woods and hills of the Rockies.
Senior Development CoordinatorBio
Senior Development Coordinator
Mackenzie is the Senior Development Coordinator with the JDRF Mountain West Chapter. Mackenzie was born and raised in the Park City area of Utah where she grew up skiing, hiking and playing outside. Growing up, she spent copious amounts of time volunteering locally and internationally and participating in peer-to-peer fundraising for many organizations, so the transition to working professionally in fundraising was a no-brainer. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Utah and earned a Masters in Business Administration at the University of Central Florida. Previously, Mackenzie has held fundraising and stewardship positions across several local and national nonprofits, as well as spending several years ‘making magic’ at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
While Mackenzie doesn’t have a direct connection with T1D, she is very passionate about finding a cure. Her stepfather has struggled with Multiple Sclerosis for 15 years, and she has many close family members that have been diagnosed with other autoimmune diseases. She hopes to utilize her skills in fundraising and storytelling to accelerate the mission and increase awareness of JDRF so that together, we can end T1D.
Outside of work, you can find Mackenzie in the yoga studio, at a local coffee shop, or continuing to add to her ever-growing to-be-read list at the bookstore.
Colorado Community Board
Margaret Olek EslerBio
Margaret Olek Esler
Margaret was diagnosed with T1D at 10 years old and thanks JDRF for supporting her and her T1D journey in the over 3 decades since. Margaret is currently an attorney at Nelson, Mullins, Riley, & Scarborough. In addition to serving on the Colorado Community Board, Margaret also serves on the board for Community Table in Arvada. Margaret believes that JDRF’s mission, especially in Advocacy, will find cures for T1D. In her free time, Margaret enjoys traveling; reading; and spending time with her husband James and their two dogs.
Research Information VolunteerBio
Research Information Volunteer
Dan’s interest in T1D stems from his family connections: his brother, uncle and cousin all live with the disease. Early on in his education, Dan was interested in doing medical research, which gave him exposure both to the potential and the challenges of research. This experience highlighted the importance of supporting organizations like JDRF that help fund basic research in T1D, but in addition, also focus on improving the day-to-day lives of people with T1D, while scientific research moves forward. In his career, Dan has the opportunity to learn about innovation in medicine, both devices and pharmaceuticals, and he is happy to try to help apply his scientific background in immunology, along with his current industry exposure, to help distill down research advances at JDRF as the Colorado Community Board’s Research Information Volunteer.
Clinical Trial Education VolunteerBio
Clinical Trial Education Volunteer
Meredith Coors is the mother of four busy children including Peter, age 19, who was diagnosed with T1D at age 11 and is now a sophomore in college at the University of Notre Dame. After Peter’s diagnosis, Meredith and her husband, Peter, became involved with JDRF and have, since that time, been dedicated to raising funds for research and a cure. Meredith is actively involved in the Denver community, previously sitting on the boards for Safehouse Denver and Denver Kids, and is also currently volunteering at Children’s Hospital Colorado and serving on the board of the Denver Zoo. She joined the JDRF Mountain West Colorado Community Board in 2017 and has recently joined JDRF’s Global Mission Board.
Blake Bennett moved to Colorado in April 2017 and has made a home here in Denver. Previously Blake and his wife Candice lived in New York City and they are both originally from Arkansas. They are expecting their first child in September of this year. Blake works in private equity at Revelstoke Capital Partners located in Cherry Creek. He has been active with the JDRF YLC since moving to Colorado.
Kathy’s connection to T1D started 50 years ago when her brother was 3 years old and diagnosed with the disease. It became a forefront in her life when her own 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed in 2015, and again when she learned one of her brothers has 3 of the autoantibodies that lead to the development of T1D. Kathy connected with JDRF right away for support. In 2017, she had the opportunity to co-chair the JDRF Gala. Kathy is grateful for the people in this beautiful organization that continue to fight and raise money to find that elusive cure.
Gail deVore celebrated the 50th anniversary of her T1D diagnosis in February 2022. Through these 50 years, she has seen the incredible advancements in care and treatment options, which she attributes to her good health now. Gail owns 2Degrees, LLC, a database consulting company that works with various non-profit organizations across the country to best their clients. She also volunteers with several non-profits serving on advisory committees and boards of directors. She was heavily involved in the insulin co-pay cap and insulin safety net legislation in Colorado to help other people living with diabetes afford insulin. Serving on the JDRF Mountain West Chapter Colorado Community Board is a continuation of her nearly life-long affiliation with diabetes-centric organizations. Gail knows that while being able to access and improve treatment today is crucial, being able to look to the future as we approach finding a cure would be the ultimate goal for all of us living with T1D.
In 2019, Kami’s son Reid was diagnosed with T1D at the age of 7. In this moment of immense pain, they recognized that the best path forward was to be a part of the T1D community and fight for a better future for Reid and all kids through JDRF. Kami is the President and CEO of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce, where she ensures businesses and organizations have the resources they need to thrive. When not working, the Welch family can be found in the mountains camping, skiing and exploring.
Brian’s T1D connection is through his wife Leslie, who was diagnosed at age 11. Brian has been an active board member since 2018. In his professional career, Brian is the Senior Director of Applications Development for FirstBank. He joined FirstBank in 1998 and has over 20 years of experience in Information Technology. Brian leverages his diverse technical experience to lead the strategy and development of FirstBank’s application portfolio, supporting the company’s long-term vision and goals.
Emily became involved with JDRF after her son Owen was diagnosed with T1D in January 2020 at the age of 9. Emily has a background in economics and finance, and has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years, primarily in New York City and London. She currently lives in Evergreen with her husband and two children, and works in risk management for a consumer finance company. She loves skiing, hiking, running and traveling with her family.
Kate joins the Colorado Community Board with over 25 years of experience in sales leadership; talent learning and development; and creating an inclusive workplace. She became involved with JDRF over 14 years ago when her son Jake, then 5, was diagnosed with T1D. The Kellys remember warmly being welcomed by a Bag of Hope and Rufus the Bear with Diabetes®, and they have enjoyed many years as a JDRF One Walk top fundraising family as “Jake’s Jaguars” and have supported Jake as a JDRF ambassador and frequent participant in clinical trials. Kate and her husband Ben live in Denver with their three kids. In her spare time, in addition to volunteering with JDRF, Kate teaches yoga, loves to ski and enjoys traveling.
Molly’s T1D connection is her husband Eric, former Colorado Community Board Member, who was diagnosed at age 6. She has been involved with the JDRF YLC since 2013. Professionally, Molly is a partner at the law firm Husch Blackwell, LLP, where she specializes in employee benefits and compensation. Molly is a 5th generation Coloradan and enjoys doing all of the Colorado-y things with Eric and their son, Archie.
Utah Community Board
Merissa is a wildlife biologist by trade and has been working in environmental consulting for over 20 years, spending the last 12 at Bowen Collins & Associates in Draper. Diabetes completely took over the lives of the Davis family when Merissa’s son Otto, age 9, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 2. Merissa volunteers her time with JDRF because this organization has allowed her family to step back from the day-to-day grind of T1D and instead focus on the bigger picture of what they can do to improve the everyday lives of those with T1D and their loved ones. In her free time, she loves to spend as much time as possible in the mountains with her husband Jason and their two children, Otto and Vivian. They love trail running, mountain biking, skiing, enjoying live music and baking. Merissa even turned her love of cooking and baking into Piebetes, a family organization where she bakes and sells pies to raise funds for JDRF year-round.
Nominating and Board Development ChairBio
Nominating and Board Development Chair
Dan’s association with the T1D community started soon after his second son Sean was diagnosed in 1990 at the age of 14. Dan became involved with the San Diego Chapter and served on the Board before being elected President. In 1995, Dan’s career took him to Salt Lake City, where he was the founding President of the Chapter in 1995. Dan served on the Los Angeles Board from 2000 to 2004 before he and Caroline returned to Utah in 2005. Since then, he has continuously served on the Utah Community Board as well as been a member of the JDRF audit committee and other regional assignments. Dan and Caroline are Beta Society members. Dan retired as Chief Risk Officer at WCF Insurance in 2019 and in retirement, serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Utah.
Advocacy Team Chair
Annie lives in Lehi with her husband Randy and their three sons: Hank, Max and Sam. Hank was diagnosed with T1D in 2011 and Max was diagnosed in 2015. They enjoy sports, (especially football), being out on their boat, golfing and skiing. Annie is a certified life coach who helps moms improve their relationships with their teenage sons. Her real-life experience caring for two teenagers with T1D has greatly influenced her coaching style. She decided to become involved with JDRF shortly after Hank was diagnosed. The research they help fund gives her so much hope for the future. She has loved serving in many capacities within the organization from the One Walk, to leadership committees, to mentoring, and now on the Utah Community Board. The type 1 community has given Annie so many wonderful friendships and support that she is very grateful for.
Research Information VolunteerBio
Research Information Volunteer
Chris has lived with T1D for nearly 35 years, since the age of 6. His family got involved with JDRF at the time of his diagnosis and has been involved with this organization in some capacity ever since. Chris is currently a senior scientist at Myriad Genetics, developing, overseeing and reporting the analytical studies needed for tests that inform cancer patients of chemotherapy treatment eligibility in order to work on regulatory body approvals. Chris continues to remain involved with JDRF outside of his professional career because he wants to see cures for a disease that affects him and millions of others. In his free time, he enjoys backcountry skiing, mountain biking, hiking, a glass of whiskey, reading and doing as much of it all as possible with his wife and two young boys.
Andrew’s son was diagnosed with T1D when he was 14 years old. It was a scary time for the Miller family. While staying with his son in the hospital, Andrew was reintroduced to JDRF. He had previously volunteered for JDRF years earlier and was reminded of the incredible work they were doing. The organization was there for the Miller family in a time of need and Andrew wanted to help champion the cause for his son and all those affected by the disease. His son, who is now 17, is doing very well and continues to be a great example to Andrew, his wife, and their other three children. He is now a rock climber, golfer, body builder and plays tennis for his high school team. As a family, the Millers love to travel, rock climb, golf, play pickleball and spend time outdoors. His wife is an Instagram influencer who stages video and photography shoots for businesses and Andrew has owned his own Farmers Insurance Agency since 2020.
Wade is currently Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Adobe, in charge of the legal team in support of Enterprise Sales and the Digital Experience business unit. He also currently serves as Head of Integration for Adobe’s recent acquisition of Workfront. Wade is the father of a child with T1D. His daughter Julia was diagnosed at the beginning of her junior year in high school. It was a devastating discovery for a kid that was a
competitive swimmer, with goals to compete at the highest levels of the sport. This diagnosis, and the resulting lack of control, that is presented to someone of Julia’s personality type was extremely hard. It took a toll on the small family. She has since gone on to attend and graduate from the University of California, Berkeley in Genetics and Plant Biology and was a member of the Cal Triathlon team in each of her 4 years in school. She is now working as the Lab Manager and Associate Researcher for a microbiology lab, and she strives to manage her disease everyday with the frustrations and challenges it comes with. Wade wants nothing more than to see the technology evolve to a place where everyone with this disease has a reasonable means of managing it easily, eventually finding a cure. Wade believes the work that JDRF is doing is incredibly valuable in changing lives for the better. Wade enjoys having an active voice in his community and serves on multiple other boards, including for Utah Warriors Rugby, Emigration Brewing Co., EPIC Venture Fund and Silicon Slopes. He also serves as Co-Chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.
Chris has served as Vice President of Data and Architecture at 1-800-Contacts for nearly 2 ½ years. He is passionate about driving change and developing people, and the majority of his career has been centered around data and technology. Chris was personally introduced to T1D when a friend in high school passed away from hypoglycemia. Then later, his oldest daughter Lindey started showing symptoms at 8 years old. It rocked the world of the Sanders family. It was months before he was able to sleep through the night and would frequently check her blood sugar a couple times a night to make sure she was still alive. Every night tucking her into bed, he wasn’t sure if she would wake up in the morning. Over time, the family adjusted and life became normal again – at least for five more years when his 3rd child Kaylie also started showing symptoms at 8 years old. Round two was much easier since they all knew what to expect and how to manage T1D. 15 years later, both daughters have A1C’s in the 6’s and are doing an amazing job managing their T1D. The new tools available have been game changers and the Sanders family is very grateful for the advancements in technology to make life that much easier. Chris is very active and when not working, can be found trail running, hiking, bowhunting and exploring the remote corners of Utah.