top of page

Meet the Team

Board of Directors

Picture2.png

Nora Carroll

Founder/Board

Nora is leading a new team to design and launch this new program for the Richmond special needs community.  She plans to utilize her non-profit organization management experience as a member of the Board of Directors for Mercy Mall, as well as her 30 years of leadership skills in corporate business and marketing to fill a large gap  in the Richmond Special Needs Community. Nora identified this need while searching for a fun and inclusive environment for her high school graduate son Christopher, diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, and his peers can thrive. 


Her years of study at Carnegie Mellon University have provided her with the analytical skills necessary to launch and manage a business.  Her heart as a mother inspires her to create a fun and inclusive program for those with severe intellectual and physical disabilities.

untitled.png

Donna Hayes

Director of Communications

Donna is the mother of Alexandra, diagnosed with Grin2B, Lennox Gastaut & Cerebral Palsy.  Donna is now a full time caretake of Alexandra who is non-mobile, non-verbal and g-tube dependent.  Donna graduated from business school in New York City and has over 20 years of business experience in the HR field.  Donna currently serves on the We Heart Harlie and Friends Foundation Board as their Family Liaison  and has served on other non-profit Boards benefiting people with disabilities.  Donna has a personal passion for serving the special needs community.  In her free time she enjoys crafting, being with friends and spending time with her husband AJ and her children Alexandra and Zachary.

CR.jpg

Cindy Richards

Physical Therapist

After working in the financial industry, Cindy was inspired to change careers to pursue her passion for working with children. She earned her degree in Physical Therapy from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999 and began practice at the Children's Hospital of Richmond. After learning about the intensive therapy approach and the great distances families were travelling to receive this care, Cindy established her own practice, Richmond Hope Therapy Center, in 2006.  To further support her mission and business, Cindy earned her Master of Healthcare Administration in 2017 from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Cindy is passionate about providing intensive therapy to the pediatric population, as well as an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to therapeutic interventions. Under her leadership Richmond Hope Therapy Center has grown significantly and, in 2012, the practice joined the Bon Secours Ministry. Cindy is thrilled to provide high-quality therapy to the pediatric population of Richmond and its surrounding areas. She is incredibly proud of her team and enjoys supporting the families she meets. Cindy’s enthusiasm is evident in daily interaction with the children, and her perspective in pediatrics is certainly heightened as a mother of four.

When she isn’t working, Cindy enjoys spending time with her husband and four children- especially if that time is spent somewhere tropical!

BT.jpg

Ben Thomas

Treasurer

Ben’s oldest child, Jimmy, was born in 2007 with a long list of medical complexities. Today, despite his challenges, Jimmy is an active and enthusiastic member of the community. He enjoys school, music, Inclusive Racing, Miracles in Motion dance, and cheering on his four younger siblings at their activities.

 

Ben is excited to contribute to the Board of Directors by applying his experience in strategy, predictive analytics, finance, and management. He has worked at the CarMax corporate office since 2007. Prior to that, Ben earned a BS and MBA from JMU, as well as a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from MIT.

Leadership Team

IMG_8375.jpg

Suzanne Bowers

Executive Director

Suzanne Bowers is the new Executive Director of Nest Academy RVA! With a degree in Education and almost twenty years as a nonprofit executive, Suzanne has devoted her career to empowering and supporting the disability community.  Suzanne has served on numerous local, state, and federal disability task forces, stakeholder groups, and disability advisory boards. With a certification in Nonprofit Management, she has served as a nonprofit and HR consultant for various organizations and professional boards.  She brings her expertise and passion to Nest Academy to continue to grow the Nest community and expand outreach and opportunities for individuals with complex medical and intellectual disabilities! Suzanne believes in continuing to educate communities on how to understand, support, and engage individuals with disabilities so that everyone feels welcome and empowered to be active members of their community.

Suzanne enjoys spending time with friends and family (including her dogs), being outdoors, and reading.

Jennie1.jpg

Jennie Raugh

Thriving Together Program Leader

Jennie Raugh boasts an impressive career as a special educator, accumulating over 35 years of invaluable experience. Her unwavering commitment has left a lasting impact on countless students. Throughout her journey, Jennie has navigated a diverse array of educational settings, showcasing her adaptability and passion. As the Director at Camp Baker, Jennie provided visionary leadership, ensuring a nurturing environment for campers to thrive. Within Chesterfield County Schools, her teaching prowess enriched the lives of students with special needs, fostering growth and learning. Jennie’s role in supervising group homes extended beyond the classroom, supporting individuals in their daily lives. At Commonwealth Music Therapy, she creatively contributed to students’ well-being through therapeutic approaches.

Jennie’s dedication to special education traces back to a poignant encounter during a summer before high school. She met a young boy with Down syndrome who boldly proposed to her. Remarkably, they both attended the same high school. This heartfelt experience ignited Jennie’s passion for the special needs community. Her genuine care and understanding have helped countless members flourish.

Jennie resides in Bon Air alongside her husband and three children. Her home life mirrors the warmth and compassion she brings to her work. Beyond her educational endeavors, Jennie enjoys cooking, harbors a soft spot for animals, and even plays the violin—a harmonious extension of her caring spirit.

Jennie Raugh’s multifaceted talents continue to make a positive impact, nurturing growth and fostering a sense of belonging for those she serves.

sara.jpg

Sara Mar

Outreach and HR Director

Sara Mar is a seasoned professional whose extensive background encompasses a diverse array of fields, including Business Administration, Education and Human Resources. With a bachelor’s degree in general psychology, where she specialized in Industrial Psychology, and a master’s degree in mathematics Instruction, Sara brings a unique blend of skills and expertise to every endeavor.

In her role, Sara integrates her passion for education with her HR proficiency to foster dynamic and thriving workplace cultures. Central to Sara's contributions is her strategic mindset and adaptability, which enable her to navigate complex challenges with ease. Whether it's crafting HR strategies or managing outreach programs, she approaches each task with meticulous attention to detail and a forward-thinking approach.

Outside of her professional pursuits, Sara cherishes moments spent with her family, finding solace in the bonds they share. Additionally, her passion for fitness is evident through her participation in marathons, Ragnar relays, showcasing her determination and resilience. Always eager to broaden her horizons, Sara eagerly explores new interests, embodying a spirit of continuous growth and curiosity.

TF.jpg

Theresa Fink

Outreach Volunteer Leader

Theresa's daughter, Reagan suffered an anoxic brain injury (TBI) from complications following her adenoids being removed. After Reagan's injury, Theresa became a full-time caretaker and advocate for Reagan.  Sadly, Reagan passed away in June 2021 and Theresa remains an active advocate and supporter of Nest. 

With a BS degree in finance from VCU and a class A business license, Theresa worked in the HVAC commercial industry for 14 years. Theresa is truly excited to be a part of Nest Academy because this another opportunity for her to give back for those who deserve so much more. 

bottom of page