Our Team

Our Board Members

Kristin Cosner

Executive Officer and Co-Founder

Gabriella and Bridget’s mom, a critical care nurse, a cake designer and now a pediatric cancer advocate. Throughout Gabriella’s journey with fighting rhabdomyosarcoma, Kristin learned that there was a huge need for providing support to parents fighting their child’s cancer and a need for more funding geared toward research and less toxic treatments for these children.  She found many willing to support families fighting cancer and brought them together.  With passion, strength, motivation and a team of supporters behind her, Kristin will make a change for all the children battling this insidious disease.

Mariela Rico

Secretary Executive Board

Mariela is a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a niece, a friend, an active community member and a fierce business women. Straight out of high school, Mariela entered the real estate world where she eventually settled in the mortgage loan sector. With over 10 years in the business, Mariela is now the owner and lead operator of a successful contract loan processing company which she founded in 2009.  While succeeding on the professional front, Mariela felt it imperative to follow her passion for children; In 2010 she was sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (C.A.S.A.) for foster youth in Santa Cruz County.

In 2010 when a brain tumor was discovered in Mar’s cousin and best friend, Claudia, Mariela first learned about cancer and what it means to support a loved-one fighting it.  It was when Claudia’s 14 year old daughter, Tianna, was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 that Mariela learned what it meant to be a gritty fighter, educator and advocate for all.  Tianna was the first born baby between the cousins and revered as precious by all.  To Mariela, Tianna was her “Munchkin” and shared a bond second to a mother’s.  In August 2012, Tianna succumbed to her battle with rhabdomyosarcoma.

Through this dark experience, Mariela’s drive for children’s advocacy has only been strengthened and more focused; specifically, children battling cancer and their families. She is determined to keep Tianna’s spirit shining strong and wide, touching many and making a difference.  As of February 2013, Mar certified her volunteer efforts to Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area.  With her tenacious spirit and undeniably big heart, Mariela will make a mark in the fight against childhood cancer.
“I know this is what my munchkin would’ve wanted.”

Sarah Miller

Founding Board Member

Sarah is currently a junior at Stanford University studying Neurobiology and focusing her research efforts on childhood cancer. She met Gabriella while working as a counselor named “Squishy” at Camp Okizu, a camp for childhood cancer patients and their families, in the summer of 2012. Since then, Sarah has kept in close touch with G and her family, coming to visit during treatments, and growing to love being a part of the life of such an unconditionally happy and resilient little girl. Her interest in childhood cancer originated in the lab when she began researching the cellular mechanisms behind tumor growth, but has since transitioned to an incredibly rewarding combination of work both inside and outside of the lab (if you can even call the outside part work!) as she gets to know kids like G and begin the exciting new journey of serving on the board of Team G Foundation.

Adam Cosner

Founding Board Member and Co-Founder

Gabriella and Bridget’s dad, a fireman, a paramedic and a father who is a fierce advocate for his daughters. Adam is the pillar of strength making this family stronger, committed to doing the right thing and is a natural at commanding respect.  He is a dedicated and loyal husband and father.  With Adam’s hard working attitude, leadership and commitment, cancer has met its match.  Together, we will move mountains.

Kellie Merritt

Executive Board Assistant

I think most of you have met Kellie at some point over the course of the last year and no doubt have been amazed at her boundless energy and dedication to any task she takes on.  We all know Kellie as Kristin’s long time friend and purveyor of some excellent coffee.  Kristin and Kellie have been friends since their high school days at Monte Vista and quickly became very close partaking from volleyball activities to extra curricular events and even learning to drive together.  Even though Kellie is a single mom, she manages to run a successful business while still finding time to attend charity events and raise money for Muscular Dystrophy through Surf City Coffee.  She has been an event planner for years and recently helped start Leo’s Club at Aptos H.S. where moms teach the kids valuable life skills and how to give back to the community through beach clean ups and raising money for organizations like Meals on Wheels.  Kellie is a huge asset to Team G Foundation and we are proud to have her as part of our Board.

Diego Valdez

Founding Board Member

A loving, strong and determined father, Diego enjoys time spent with family and friends.  Diego is currently a systems programmer  at Siemens.  When not at work, he partakes in the great outdoors with fames such as disk golf, soccer and mountain biking.

Diego knows all to well the devastating effects cancer has had on his life after learning his wife was diagnosed with a brain cancer then having his eldest daughter Tianna battle rhabdomyosarcoma, eventually succumbing to this vicious disease.  After Tianna’s battle with childhood cancer, Diego vowed to continue the fight.  With his dedication to family, his work, and commitment to make a difference in the lives of families facing this journey, Diego will help us achieve amazing things.  He embraces being a strong advocate for childhood cancer which is why he is a huge asset to Team G Foundation.

Bill Sylvester
Vice President Executive Board
 

Bill is a retired Firefighter/Paramedic and former coworker of Adam’s.  He, along with many others, has walked alongside the Cosner family through Gabriella’s fight with cancer. Bill was inspired to become Team G’s first ambassador when he took on a cycling adventure by riding from the Canadian border to the Mexican border in the month of Sept to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer.  He now joins the Team G Childhood Cancer Foundation Board of Directors to continue the fight.

Ronnie Boose

Founding Board Member

Ronnie (better known as Uncle Ronnie) has been a dedicated friend and “adopted” family member of the Cosner’s.  Since the beginning of Gabriella’s diagnosis, Ronnie has been dedicated to helping the Cosner family along the way.  As the journey went beyond Gabriella and her family, he saw the need for supporting other cancer families and made a commitment to see that support through.  With his quiet strength, determination, strong will and witty energy, Ronnie will help make a tremendous impact on childhood cancer.

Claudia Cisneros

Financial Officer Executive Board

Claudia knows we all live in the web and are connected; by blood, experience, and love. She is married to her best friend, Diego, and the mother of two beautiful girls; her oldest, Tianna, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma at the tender age of 14. While in treatment Tianna read about Gabriella in the newspaper and said to her parents, “We have to help these people!” Because of her helpful and giving nature, the families are now linked by the shared desire to find a cure and to help others facing childhood cancer.

Claudia, a cancer survivor herself, has been given a second chance because of cancer trials and new treatments available for brain tumors. She is disease and symptom-free because of contributions to fund research that benefitted her and so many other patients. Her experience with cancer, both her own and her daughter’s, have made her a passionate medical advocate for herself and her children.  Now, in Tianna’s memory and for kids and their families facing this diagnosis, she will continue the fight. Claudia has developed a ‘crazy DNA of determination’ to keep on moving forward to advocate for herself and others.  This is her drive that gathers strength every day.

Melanie Turowski

Founding Board Member

A busy mom of three older children, a loyal friend and a devoted student, Melanie has a heart of gold.  For the last few years, Mel has returned to school and is dedicated to obtain her degree as a registered nurse and dietitian.  As busy as Mel is, she will drop everything and anything to support her family and friends.  Mel provided the Cosner’s with vast amounts of love and support during their most difficult moments.  Because everything she does comes from her heart, Mel is all things pure, honest and good.

Our Directors

Denise Carr Vernacchia

Director of Research Committee 

Denise is a ‘Top Producing’ Realtor in Los Gatos, a mother of three beautiful children ( Sofia, Marco, Sienna), a wife to Ralph and now a childhood cancer advocate. Denise’s family was initiated into the “World of Pediatric Cancer” in 2014 when their oldest daughter, Sofia, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of 6. During this tumultuous time, the Vernacchias were introduced to the Cosner family who provided resources, support and an in-depth understanding of the isolating experience. This journey can leave a parent feeling helpless, as they are forced to watch their child received hundreds of pokes, highly toxic doses of chemotherapy, experience pain and various side effects from medications. In addition, the news spreads quickly of the countless cases of newly diagnosed children and stories of little friends that have lost their fight to this horrible disease.

Denise made a conscious decision to turn this helpless state into empowerment by making a difference in the community, raising money toward research for progressive cancer treatments, and providing support for newly diagnosed families whose lives will forever be impacted by cancer. Denise is proud to be a part of the “Warrior Mamas” group, where close friendships have developed between cancer moms and dads who are able to candidly share stories of their family’s journey, share their fears, ask questions, but mainly to de-stress and enjoy a laugh between friends!

With complete elation, the Vernacchia family will celebrate Sofia’s graduation from “Warrior” to “Survivor” as she receives her last treatment in September 2016. Denise’s journey, however, does not end here and she will continue raising funds with Team G Childhood Cancer Foundation in hopes of making a difference in the future of medical research.

Gretchen Wolff

Director of Marketing

In 2012, when Gretchen moved in across the street from the Cosner family, Gabriella was in the thick of her fight against rhabdomyosarcoma. During that time, Gretchen was inspired to support the Team G Foundation’s mission to raise awareness about pediatric cancer, as well as the work it was doing to help families facing a child’s cancer diagnosis.
Gretchen is thrilled to be making her role in the organization official as a Director of Team G Foundation. For 30 years, she has worked in marketing communications, advertising, and graphic design, and she looks forward to serving on the community outreach committee.
Sarah Miller

Director of Research Committee/CAC2 Representative

Sarah is currently a first year medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine. While an undergraduate at Stanford, Sarah studied Neurobiology and focused her research efforts on childhood cancer. She met Gabriella while working as a counselor named “Squishy” at Camp Okizu, a camp for childhood cancer patients and their families, in the summer of 2012. Since then, Sarah has kept in close touch with G and her family, coming to visit during treatments, and growing to love being a part of the life of such an unconditionally happy and resilient little girl. Her interest in childhood cancer originated in the lab when she began researching the cellular mechanisms behind tumor growth, but has since transitioned to an incredibly rewarding combination of work both inside and outside of the lab (if you can even call the outside part work!) as she gets to know kids like G and begins the exciting new journey of serving on the board of Team G Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Kelly Luckey

Director of Public Relations 

Kelly makes the most of every moment as a mom to her son, Benjamin, and wife to Judd.  Since moving from Minnesota to California in 2003, she has worked as a Travel Director for corporate and incentive events and was a Research Assistant in the Pediatric Endocrinology Department at Stanford Hospital.  Since moving “over the hill” from San Jose, she has been volunteering on the procurement team for the Vine Hill Elementary Auction, managing donations for HAND of the Peninsula and putting her love of kids into action as a substitute teacher.  Her experience with cancer has included the painful loss of a dear friend to brain cancer and watching her best friend lose her mom to it.  But she has also seen research save the lives of many friends and after learning that only 4% of federal funding is directed to childhood cancers, she is honored to join the fight!!!

Iriana Hinman

Research Committee

Iran Hinman is currently a clinic nurse manager at Salud Para La Gente, a non profit Federally Qualified Health Center in Watsonville. She is a US Navy Veteran who served honorably during 911. When Iriana is not fighting wars or fighting diaper changes with her baby boy Hunter, she is fighting for pediatric cancer awareness. Iriana’s introduction to this devastating disease came when her niece Tianna was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma at age 14. She made us promise that no matter what happened that we would continue the fight for other kids and families so that no one else would suffer.  Iriana is now a strong supporter of Team G Childhood Cancer Foundation where she will help create awareness and fund research efforts in hopes of one day irradicating this horrible disease.  She is honored to be a part of the research committee and will bring forward her best knowledge to the team to make a difference for children fighting cancer.

Terry Patterson

Rally in the Redwoods Event Director

Terry is a wife (to Dan), a mom (to Lindsey and Luke), and a self-described “planner.” Her career in education and workforce development has provided many opportunities in training and development, grant writing, and event management; but it was her organizational skills that lead her to Team G. Her brother, Bill Sylvester, was embarking on the Border to Border ride to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer. He didn’t really have a plan for the cycling adventure, and Terry stepped in – mapping out the route, scheduling the cycle days, and organizing SAG support for the month. It was an amazing adventure and cause to be a part of – and really the whole Sylvester family became involved and fell in love with Team G. Terry continued to stay involved providing team building training, raising money through St. Baldrick’s Brave the Shave, and volunteering at the Kid’s Cancer Cycle Challenge. With her event planning background, Terry has joined Team G as the Event Director for the cycle challenge. She is excited to help create a signature event which continues to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer.

Sharon Green

Director of Social Media

Sharon is a busy mother of three. She juggles motherhood and works part time as a paralegal in a family law practice. Sharon never had any real knowledge or experience with childhood cancer “until our neighbor “G:” was diagnosed. G and my son are the same age so it really hit home that cancer can happen to anyone at anytime.  This is a great opportunity for me to help families in need but to also teach my children about compassion and the importance of giving back to the community.”

Medical Advisor Board

Douglas S. Hawkins, MD

Douglas S. Hawkins, MD, is Associate Hematology/Oncology Division Chief, Associate Director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research at Seattle Childrens Hospital (SCH), clinician at SCH, and professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Hawkins is the principal investigator for COG activity at SCH and chair of the COG Soft Tissue Sarcoma Committee.

He is a steering committee member of several COG committees, including the Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Bone Tumor, and Voting Body. He is also the Chair of the COG Scientific and Discipline Chairs Committee. Dr. Hawkins has focused on clinical research, particularly in the treatment of pediatric sarcomas. He is the COG chair of two clinical trials, one for Ewing sarcoma and another for rhabdomyosarcoma. He is collaborating on a pharmacogenomic study investigating cyclophosphamide metabolism and toxicity, both locally and as part of two COG studies. In addition, he collaborates on the use of FDG PET to assess response and guide treatment in pediatric sarcomas.

Titles

  • Associate Division Chief, Hematology/Oncology, Seattle Children’s
  • Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine

Board Certification(s)

  • Pediatric Hematology-Oncology

Medical/Professional School

  • Harvard Medical School, Boston

Residency

  • Pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle

Research Description

My clinical research is particularly focused in the treatment of pediatric sarcomas. I am the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) chair of the Soft Tissue Sarcoma Committee, which designs and conducts all national studies in pediatric soft tissue sarcomas, including rhabdomyosarcoma. I am the COG chair of two clinical trials, one for Ewing sarcoma and another for rhabdomyosarcoma, and the vice chair of three other COG clinical trials. I am working collaboratively on a pharmacogenomic study investigating cyclophospharmide metabolism and toxicity, both locally and as part of two COG studies, and on the use of FDG PET to assess response and guide treatment in pediatric sarcomas.

Dr. Harvey Cohen, MD

Dr. Cohen served on the Board of Directors of Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital, and was a Board Member of the Ronald McDonald House and the Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto, California. He was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Montgomery Medical Venture Fund and Gamida Cell, a biotechnology company involved in expanded cord blood stem cells. He also served on the Steering and Selection Committees of the Pediatric Scientist Development Program, and he chairs the Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Committee of Bio-X, a venture into research, education, and innovation across all scientific communities of Stanford University. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the March of Dimes, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, and the Morgridge Institute for Research, a private not-for-profit institute dedicated to supporting interdisciplinary medical research at the University of Wisconsin.

Dr. Cohen’s research interests include: clinical trials in leukemia, mechanisms of drug resistance, and determining the roles of proteins in predicting susceptibility to, diagnosing, and treating childhood illnesses such as brain tumors, leukemia, prematurity, and inflammatory diseases. In addition, he has a long-term interest in pediatric palliative care.

CLINICAL FOCUS

  • Hematology, Pediatric
  • Hematology/Oncology/Stem Cell Transplant, Pediatric
  • Oncology (Cancer), Pediatric
  • Pediatric Hematology-Oncology

ACADEMIC APPOINTMENTS

ADMINISTRATIVE APPOINTMENTS

  • Chair, Stanford University School of Medicine – Pediatrics (1993 – Present)

PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION

  • Board Certification: Hematology, American Board of Internal Medicine (1972)
  • Board Certification: Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine (1972)
  • Residency:Boston Children’s Hospital (1976) MA
  • Residency:Boston Children’s Hospital (1974) MA
  • Internship:Boston Children’s Hospital (1971) MA
  • Medical Education:Duke University Medical Center (1970) NC