A nonprofit organization for special needs families

Board of Directors and Officers

In addition to our roles within HFAR, we also play a significant role in the special needs community. We take great pride in representing this organization and we truly value the importance of our mission!

Melanie Oates - President

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Melanie is a mom to a set of twins, both with their own unique condition. Julius has autism and Genell has a rare chromosome abnormality. When Melanie is not at home being a "supermom", she works full-time as a Business Intelligence Analyst along with managing her part-time job as a hairstylist. To learn more about Melanie's story, visit her personal blog TwinMomMel.com

Emily Barrett - secretary

Emily Barrett

Emily is the mom of two young children; a daughter named Noli Rowan and a son, Thaddeus Kieran, who is a medically complex special needs toddler. Emily works in a policy office for the Federal government and has been a civil servant for over 15 years. Aside from being a working mom, she participates in various initiatives related to child advocacy and family support resourcing (e.g. early intervention services, community outreach, and special needs awareness). She is also a self-proclaimed "Thadvocate" for her son and highlights her story on her blog, "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Thaddeus".

Karal Busch - Treasurer

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Karal is the sister to our founder. She has three children whom she considers the "A team" (Aliya, Angelina, and Ashley). Karal and her family have quickly learned what is involved with raising a special needs family member and her children have an extraordinary bond with their cousins, Julius and Genell. Karal works for the Federal government as a Youth Services Program Specialist. When she is not working, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her family.

Dawn Adams - Member at Large

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Dawn is the mom of two beautiful girls, Skye and Destiny. Her youngest, Destiny, was diagnosed with Lissencephaly when she was 5 months old. Due to the complexity of her condition, she requires 24-hour care from a skilled nurse. Dawn works for Advent Health and when she is not in the office, she enjoys traveling and spending time with family.

Emerald Mark - Member at Large

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Emerald travels the world as a pediatric nurse and is in her 11th year as a pediatric RN-BSN. She plays an integral role in the special needs community and has worked in over 15 units including ICU (NICU and PICU), Pediatric Oncology/Hematology, Endocrine, and Cardiology. Emerald is the mom to two 4-legged furbabies, Oscar and Zoey, and enjoys spending time with them when she is not working.