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We believe in what we do. So, it’s no surprise that many of our staff and board have a personal connection to our mission.

Twenty three years after our founding in 1995, our staff and Board continue to be true believers in our model and some would even testify to its efficacy – since many are themselves, permanent parents to youth. Some of our staff and board are also former foster youth; in essence each member of our board and leadership team has a personal connection to our mission which informs their passion and commitment to the agency.

Executive Director

Mary T. Keane

Executive Director
Foster/Adoptive Parent

Ms. Keane has been a dedicated employee of YGB since 2004. Before stepping into the Interim Executive Director role in 2017, Ms. Keane served as Senior Director of Family Permanency and Director of LGBT Services. She oversees YGB efforts to provide capacity building and technical assistance to agencies wishing to improve permanency outcomes, and is responsible for our our youth-specific recruitment work by supervising the recruitment teams and coordinating services to the teens, their families, foster care staff and social workers. Additionally, Keane is an outspoken advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and parents and is the leadership behind YGB’s LGBTQ programming and our efforts to recruit and prepare permanent families from the LGBT community.

On top of her Executive Director role, Keane has been a foster mom to almost two dozen teenagers and is currently the adoptive mother of 13 children. She is a highly recognized speaker both locally and nationally–about her experiences as a parent as well as her YGB-focused advocacy for permanency for every child, regardless of age.

Board of Directors

Gretchen Biedl

Gretchen Beidl

Board President
Sales & Marketing Executive/Entrepreneur

Gretchen spent her career in the television industry including Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing at Sundance Channel. Previously, she held positions at Oxygen Media, Comedy Central and AMC/Romance Classic (which became WE).

Gretchen began her work with kids in care as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) in 2011. She then became a mentor to a teenager who eventually came to live with her and her husband, Michael. They now have two remarkable young women who have joined their family from foster care along with Michael’s two children who are immensely supportive.

“We are parents today because of the support we received from You Gotta Believe. Every child deserves a family and I’m proud to be part of such a dedicated group who are determined to make this happen.”

Gretchen is a graduate of New York University, a Betsy Magness fellow and was named one of the “50 People to Watch” by Cable World magazine. She has been a board member of the NYC Chapter of WICT (Women in Cable & Telecommunications), VIP Community Services and advisor to Nomi Network.

Sabrina Glaser

Sabrina Glaser, Esq.

Board Secretary
Attorney, Ropes & Gray

Sabrina is an attorney in the Tax & Benefits department of Ropes & Gray LLP, where she specializes in employee benefits, particularly issues relating to the investment of pension funds. While still a law student, Sabrina acted as co-director of the Nonprofit Organizations Clinic at Yale Law School. At her firm, she has advised various nonprofits on formation and nonprofit governance issues.

“I’ve seen YGB transform the lives of some of New York’s most vulnerable young people. It’s such a great feeling to have even a small part in that, and I am so thrilled to be a steward for YGB as it broadens its reach and expands its mission.”

Daniel Taitz

Board Treasurer
Chief Operating Officer, Penthera Partners

Dan is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Penthera Partners, which licenses technology that enables customers of streaming video services to download TV shows and movies for offline viewing. Previously, Dan spent 15 years in the media industry and before that was an associate and partner at law firms in New York. Dan is known for transformative work with some of the biggest video delivery businesses, including serving as interim CEO for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.; senior vice president of business affairs at Univision Communications Inc.; and general counsel and chief administrative officer at Oxygen Media Corp. where he negotiated the $1 billion sale of Oxygen to NBC Universal and led the company’s transition team.

Dan and his wife, Penny, are parents to four children, all in their twenties. They are his inspiration for joining YGB to help as many foster children as possible finding permanent families.

Paul Brown

Adoptive parent

Paul Brown transitioned from theater producer to film producer. With more than 35 years of management, fundraising, marketing and organizational development experience, he has led and been a key member of art and culture organizations, candidate and issue campaigns, and community service efforts. He began his career as a newspaper sales executive. Paul was a founder and producing director of Alaska Repertory Theater, the first professional theater in Alaska. During his career, he has served as a management, board development and fundraising consultant to organizations in New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Alaska, and Germany. Most recently, he has engaged in a planning project with Cyrano’s Theatre Company in Anchorage, Alaska. 

Paul has been an adoptive parent for about 20 years. He has seen first-hand the difference it makes in a child’s life to have a permanent loving family. He wants to do all he can to give this gift to other children and families. 

Paul Carlesimo

Head of Equities and Central Funding Compliance, RBC Capital Markets

Paul Carlesimo is the Head of Equities and Central Funding Compliance for RBC Capital Markets, LLC where is responsible for managing the compliance program for several business lines and functional groups. Paul has over 11 years of experience within the securities industry, previously working at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) before joining RBC. Paul holds a B.S. in Finance from West Chester University of Pennsylvania and holds several securities licenses.

After initially learning about the mission and amazing work of the YGB staff during the 2nd Annual Voices for the Voiceless event, Paul became interested in finding ways to help further their efforts. He ultimately joined the Board in 2017 to help the organization continue to meet its goal of connecting foster children with unconditionally committed and loving permanent families.

Nicole Green

Founder and CEO, Small Great Deeds Attorney

Nicole is an attorney with deep roots in civil rights and experience in finance and entrepreneurship. In addition to serving as the Compliance Officer for a NYC-based environmental nonprofit, she is currently the CEO and founder of Small Great Deeds, a diversity and inclusion company. Prior to her current roles, she worked in storm-recovery and was a Fair Housing Attorney for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Nicole is a member of the New York City Bar Association’s Civil Right Committee and the Construction Committee. In her spare time she also mentors first-generation college students through her participation in America Needs You.

A graduate of Ohio University, Boston University School of Law and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Nicole currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Alice Leopold

Board Member
Wealth Manager, Janney Montgomery Scott LLC

Alice is an accomplished private client wealth manager dedicated to providing holistic financial planning throughout all life stages. Delivering a bespoke client experience, unique to each individual’s wealth and investment strategies, complemented with superior service and execution. Alice’s practice involves expanded wealth management strategies for asset accumulation, wealth preservation and legacy planning. Incorporated into these strategies are the disciplines of goal-setting, asset allocation, liability management, tax minimization, estate planning and trust services.

In addition to her position on the Board of Directors of You Gotta Believe, Alice is also a proud Member of the Planned Giving Advisory Board of the Lighthouse Guild, the American Heart Association Advisory Council, and the Marfan Foundation.

A former concert bassoonist, Alice received her B.A. in music and history from Boston University, and studied 19th Century European History at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Alice resides in East Harlem with her husband James Benintendi.

Maria Llerena

Managing Director at Neuberger Berman

Maria Llerena, CFA, Managing Director, at Neuberger Berman. Maria joined the firm in 1997 and is a Portfolio Manager and a Senior Research Analyst on the Global Equity team covering Health Care, Consumer Staples, and certain sub-sectors within Industrials. Prior to joining the Global Equity team, Maria worked in the Research Department as a member of the Healthcare team. Previously, she spent three years as a manager at ExecuTrain, a start-up provider of corporate training solutions. Maria earned a BBS from the University of Limerick, College of Business where she majored in Accounting & Finance. She has been awarded the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Maria believes that everyone needs the safety net of family regardless of age.

Brigitte McCray

Media Consultant

As a seasoned and successful television executive with over 20 years experience in planning programming, content development, program acquisition, and curation, spearheading multi-platform scheduling and building effective creative teams for top-rated television networks.

The former Senior Vice President of Programming, Planning and Strategy for Travel Channel, Brigitte was responsible for short and long-range strategic planning of the network’s programming, as well as developing, implementing and managing network acquisitions, network stunts and specials. In addition, she led brand research and participated in the development of current programming.

Prior to joining Travel Channel, she worked in several roles at Oxygen Media, including senior vice president of programming and vice president of marketing and on-air promotions and creative services. She also held roles at BET and WABC-TV Disney, where she led strategic planning to drive ratings, increase profitability and enhance visibility. She also enhanced the network’s look, feel and personality, maximizing its success.

Brigitte received her BA from the University of Maryland before earning a PDM from Simmons Graduate School of Management. A native of Maryland, Brigitte resides in New Jersey with her husband Houston Robinson, an independent filmmaker and their daughter Jordan.

Jonathan Stark

Director, Client Services and Operations, RVM Enterprises

Jonathan Stark is currently Director of Client Services and Operations for RVM Enterprises, Inc. Before this position, he served as Director of Processing for AlixPartners, one of the world’s leading global consulting firms best known for its work in corporate turnarounds. He is a well-respected industry expert with more than 13 years of experience in e-discovery, litigation, and electronic records retention.

Jonathan’s experience includes work on major terrorism investigations, shareholder actions, criminal investigations, bankruptcy matters, and intellectual property disputes. After the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York City, Jonathan launched and led the division responsible for retrieving over 10,000 active litigation cases for the New York Port Authority Law Department, otherwise lost or damaged while headquartered at the former World Trade Center.

An adventurer at heart, Mr. Stark has hiked jungles in Central America, the Inca Trail in Peru, and traveled extensively throughout Europe and Central America. In addition, he is a voracious marathon runner who has completed over two-dozen half, full, and ultra-marathons.

Jonathan spent two years living with an unconditionally loving foster family in the early 1980s. He is committed to You Gotta Believe because he believes everyone deserves to have a loving family. He is currently writing a memoir based on his foster care experience.

Jonathan is a graduate of Iona College and New York University and completed Harvard University’s Authentic Leadership Program.

Joelle Keane Tramel

YouTube Global Solutions Manager
Adoptive Parent

Joelle has helped build Google’s advertising business over the last 13 years and currently works to do the same specifically with YouTube. She is known for her innovation in the media industry and bringing people along with her on the digital transformation that is changing our day to day lives.

More importantly, Joelle has created a blended family that has been her dream since childhood. Joelle and her husband, Dennis, fostered two sisters before the privilege of adopting them at ages 10 and 11. Around the same time they welcomed a biological daughter into the mix. Now as a mom of three daughters, she encourages them to live fearlessly since they are all part of a forever family. Joelle believes that all children, no matter the age or situation they came into this world, have the right to feel safe, respected, and loved. You Gotta Believe allows Joelle to go beyond her personal mission to make the world a better place with her family to impact many more young people who still need forever families.

John Weitzer

Managing Director, Americas and Head of Regulatory Compliance, HSBC

John Weitzer is the Managing Director, Americas and Head of Regulatory Compliance, Global Banking and Markets for HSBC. Before this position, John served as Managing Director and the Deputy U.S. Chief Compliance Officer for RBC Capital Markets, LLC. John has approximately 20 years of experience in the securities industry including positions at Barclays Capital Inc., Lehman Brothers, Inc., and NYSE Regulation. John has a BBA in Accounting from Pace University and holds several securities licenses.

John joined the Board because he feels strongly that it’s every child’s right to have the unconditional support of a permanent family. He believes that aging out is a serious issue that YGB is well positioned to address.

Amber Williams

Operations and Business Development for Latitude

Amber Williams currently oversees Operations and Business Development for Latitude, a research firm rooted in the media and technology industry. Prior to joining Latitude, Amber worked in a variety of content, advertising and strategy-focused research roles for major media companies including Discovery Communications, Viacom and NBCUniversal.

Amber holds a master’s degree in Public Policy and began her career in Washington DC, working at various government and non-profit organizations specializing in the health and human services space. She also completed a brief stint on Capitol Hill for her hometown Representative. Amber also worked for YGB wearing several hats, including as a Family Recruiter working directly with youth in care and as Parent Trainer teaching the principles of unconditional commitment to prospective parents. She teed up media outreach and promotion for key events and fundraisers.

As an adoptee from foster care, Amber knows firsthand why YGB’s focus on family, connection and permanency matters. Raised by unconditionally committed parents, Amber boasts connections to 6 siblings thanks to having recently been reunited with her bio-siblings as an adult. Amber looks forward to continuing to support YGB’s efforts that all children who leave foster care do so with what they were promised – a family.

Board of Believers (Advisory Board)

Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, You Gotta Believe

Seth Rudetsky
James Wesley

Seth, host of SIRIUS XM’s Broadway Channel and James, Concert for America producer, are the creators of You Gotta Believe’s Voices for the Voiceless annual concert.After years of volunteering and performing for non-profit organizations (Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Actors Fund of America, and Hearts and Voices), husbands Seth and James formed Your Kids, Our Kids to directly help children through creative means. VOICES FOR THE VOICELESS was their organization’s first project. They expanded their organization’s scope with a desire to benefit a wide array of non-profit organizations serving a diverse audience, all with a similar focus: fighting for civil and human rights for all Americans. They organized Broadway for Orlando in the wake of the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in June of 2016.  Uniting the Broadway community to sing “What the World Needs Now is Love” (for which they received the 2016 National Leadership Award from the LGBTQ Task Force), charted on Billboard’s Hot 100, selling over 50,000 copies and raising over $100,000 for the Orlando LGBT community.  The song was followed by From Broadway with Love: A Benefit Concert for Orlando, with proceeds going to the LGBT Community Center of Central Florida, Hope and Help Center of Central Florida and Zebra Coalition. Their first edition of Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out!, raised money and awareness for civil rights organizations, as well as infuse Americans with hope and inspiration and the desire to become more active citizens. To date, there have been numerous editions performed around the country, including in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Atlanta.

Regina Calcaterra

New York Times Best Selling Author
Partner, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP

Regina’s affiliation with You Gotta Believe began in 2005 after she learned that there was actually a group of committed individuals who truly believed that older foster children deserve families. Since then she has served as a Board Member, Board Vice President and is now on the Board of Believers.

Regina grew up in the New York State foster care system and aged out parentless at 21. She shares her story and the plight of older foster children in her #1 international best selling memoir Etched in Sand, A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island (HarperCollins Publishing, 2013). As a result of Etched in Sand’s messages of resilience, optimism, the plight of foster children, that no child is a lost cause it has been integrated into college and high school curricula throughout the U.S. and been selected for community reads. She is also co-author of Etched in Sand’s sequel which she wrote with her younger sister Rosie Maloney, Girl Unbroken, A Sister’s Harrowing Journey from the Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho (HarperCollins Publishing, 2016). Girl Unbroken has also been integrated into college curricula alongside Etched in Sand.

Both books have resulted in readers, and those who have heard Regina speak across the U.S., adopting older foster youth and becoming first time foster parents. Her story has also prompted youth to react such as a Long Island teen, Ryan O’Day, creating an annual event called Teens Gotta Believe, where he raises community awareness about the need for adoptive parents for older foster youth in his community and raises funds for You Gotta Believe.

Regina is the parent of a young adult who aged out of the NYC foster care system parentless at the age of 21 while putting herself through college. Her daughter who moved in with Regina at the age of 21 has graduated college, works full time and is preparing for graduate school – with the security of a parent who is wholly supportive of her.

Emma Cookson

Partner, You & Mr Jones

Emma is a branding/communication strategist who is currently Partner at You & Mr Jones, and formerly Chair of the U.S. office of one of the world’s most creative advertising agencies, Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH). Her brand experience has stretched from jeans to luxury cars to deodorant to browsers, and along the way she has been recognized as one of the industry’s more prominent female leaders: one of AdAge’s ‘100 Most Influential Women in Advertising’ and Business Insider’s ’30 Most Powerful Women in Advertising’.

Emma’s commitment to YGB (as a former Board member and long-time supporter) stems from witnessing the near-miraculous transformation of the lives of young people that YGB brings about.

Christine DeKlerk

IT Professional
Adoptive Parent

Christine worked in Information Technology for 14 years at General Electric. During that time, she held a variety of IT roles including Director of Finance, Risk and Operations Systems. Christine graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Fairfield University and she completed her MBA at the University of Connecticut.

Now Christine is a stay at home mom of two adopted sons. “I am so blessed to have my 2 sons and to be able to be home with them. I miss professional work and YGB allows me to give back to a cause that I am passionate about!”

Pat O'Brien

Pat O'Brien

Founder and Former Executive Director
Adoptive Parent

Pat shares, “Our child welfare system is predicated upon Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being. Well there is no Safety or Well-Being without Permanency for those youth discharged from the foster care system without the foundation of at least one lifetime parent who creates the safety net of family around a youth long after their years in foster care are over. The foundation of family that includes at least one unconditionally committed permanent parent who claims the youth as his or her own is where all the answers for every individual youth in foster care springboard from. We must never stop looking for that person or those persons who will make this parental commitment for any aging out youth we know up until, and perhaps even past, every young persons last day in foster care. Young Adults and teens need the same time every other youth in America has. Families with lifetime parents provide them with the time they need to both success in life and to have opportunities at failure until they can succeed in life. That is every child’s birthright and especially those emerging adults who come into our child welfare system because they needed to be protected as children.”

Jason Rok

Vice President, Finance & Operations, Nontraditional Employment for Women

Jason Rok transitioned to the nonprofit sector in 2015, after a long and successful career working in the global financial markets. He started his career as a settlement clerk in the back office and rose through the ranks to positions of COO and CFO. His experience spans organizations that range from very large international firms to startup boutiques, and now nonprofit organizations as well. Along the way, he was afforded the opportunity to operate in most regions of the world and had functional responsibilities that spanned almost every functional area of the organizations he supported. In each case he worked to build scalable, resilient and cost effective infrastructure that improved the speed and accuracy of the information being processed.

Jason retired from Wall Street so that he could pursue his dream of working for a mission-driven organization. He hoped to work with organizations that impact individuals and families by helping them change the trajectory of their life. While he volunteered and supported numerous charities over the years, he always dreamed of doing something more personally fulfilling in his career. He was rightfully confident that nonprofit organizations would value the steps he took to make a smooth transition, his broad and deep skills, his experience, and of course his passion.

After being introduced to You Gotta Believe by a friend, Jason begged to get involved, because he recognized how lucky he was to have had the support of people he considers “family”.

Jason is grateful to his wife for being so supportive in the pursuit of his dreams, and to You Gotta Believe for the sense of personal satisfaction and societal impact that he has been able embrace. He is also thankful that his wife has become involved with YGB and finds great joy in her support of the organization.

Diggi Thomson

Diggi Thomson

Former YGB Board President
Chief Connector - the Dot Connectors

Diggi is the owner of The Dot Connectors, a training and facilitation consultancy that specializes in marketing communications and client agency collaboration.

Growing up in Edinburgh, Scotland his father and mother were heavily involved in non-profit work in their spare time and so it was only natural that at some point it would play a large role in Diggi’s life as well. Initially he got involved with You Gotta Believe in 2010 through a friend of a friend who worked there and was looking for some marketing advice.

It is tremendously rewarding work supporting the staff in the extraordinary and transformational work they do. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a close, loving family that has supported me through my ups and downs in life, so I’m passionate about doing what I can to help You Gotta Believe scale up its operations so that all youth in foster can have the opportunity of experiencing that too.

Joseph Toles

Founder and President, The Joseph Toles Foundation
Founder and President, T/Toles Consulting LLC

Joseph Toles is a New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Physical Education Teacher, School Counselor and experienced high school coach. He received his masters in Sports Psychology from Brooklyn College in 1985, and he specializes in comprehensive assessment of adolescent needs. A former Division One All-American Track and Field Athlete at Auburn University, Joseph also earned the honor of leading the Tigers team as Captain. He holds one of oldest New York State high school track and field records and continues to stay connected to his roots by coaching high school teams.

As founder of T/TOLES Consulting LLC, he provides private mental health counseling, educational/college counseling and athletic training/consulting to students and athletes in the New York area. He is an active member in HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association), AMHCA (American Mental Health Counselors Association), ASCA (American School Counselors Association) and NYMHCA (New York Mental Health Counselors Association).

On top of all this, Joe Toles is a YGB parent and a foster care alum. Over the years, Joe has adopted seven young men into his family. He enjoys being an ambassador to YGB’s important mission. He frequently shares his family’s story to encourage others to take the plunge and consider adopting older youth.