Trish Morris - President & CEO
Trish Morris is the President and CEO of Special People Special Needs Foundation, the premier organization, empowering people to embrace differences and see that all individuals are people first and foremost.
Prior to starting Courageous Faces Foundation (formerly known as: Special People Special Needs Foundation), Trish was the Director of Programs at the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, where she was responsible for the development and operations of the Dare to Play Football and Denver Broncos Cheerleaders – Dare to Cheer program, the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Dance Class with the Colorado Ballet, the Dare to Play Soccer Camp with the Colorado Rapids and Regis University, Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fitness program with Pure Barre and the foundations World Down Syndrome Day Celebration at Children’s Hospital of Colorado. Trish also played an integral role in the Foundation’s annual awareness and fundraiser, the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show. In addition to securing silent auction items, celebrities and funds, her favorite role was running the model auditions and working with the models and their families.
Trish joined the Global Down Syndrome Foundation as a volunteer in 2008 and then in a full-time capacity in 2011. Prior to joining the Foundation, Trish was an Associate Vice President and Portfolio Manager at Wells Fargo Advisors. In 2010, Trish retired from Wells Fargo Advisors in order to follow her passion for helping individuals with special needs.
Trish has a compassion for individuals who are differently-abled and has been a volunteer in this field for many years. She served as coordinator for hundreds of athletes with special needs on the Rocky Mountain Special Olympic Team. For the past 9 years, Trish has taken a group of beautiful ladies with special needs to be special princesses in the Miss Colorado Pageant. Trish and her family have organized a fun, dinner and event for people with special needs and their families, “An Evening to Remember – A Very Special Evening for Some Very Special People.”
Trish has served on several boards and committees including the Denver Adult Down Syndrome Clinic, Colorado Woman’s Association of Financial Consultants, John Lynch Foundation’s “Salute the Stars,” The Children’s Hospital Blood Donor Annual Golf Tournament, and Kops & Kids.
She is married to Rick and they share their home with their three dogs.
Marcus Jackson - Board Chairman
Marcus was born and raised in Denver Colorado. He is a proud graduate of the Montbello High School class of 1993. Marcus attended Idaho State University on a football scholarship where he received All-American accolades and in 2005 he was inducted to the Idaho State Hall of Fame. In 1996, Marcus suffered a paralyzing neck injury during a football game in his senior year. He returned to college in the fall of 1997 and graduated two years later with a Bachelors of Business Administration.
Marcus is the Founder and Executive Director of Only the Strong Foundation, started in 2005, promoting a pursuit of education in the Montbello – Green Valley Community. He volunteers his time with Boys & Girls Club and True Life Baptist Church.
Becky LaBrant - Board Treasurer
Becky was born & raised in Colorado. She retired from King Sooper’s as a Checker in 1998. Since retirement, Becky has enjoyed traveling and volunteering with the Arthritis Foundation, Special Olympics Colorado, Welldine Health Fair, & Lipbar Inc. Becky resides in Colorado and shares her home with her dog Minnie.
Chris Lynn - Board Secretary
Chris is a Realtor at Metro Brokers – Paramount Properties. He has been selling the Denver Metro Area for 13 years, representing Sellers, Buyers, and Relocation clients. Prior to his wife’s death over a decade ago, Chris was a Commercial Pilot at Continental Airlines.
Chris is a Colorado Native & graduated from Metropolitan State University. He is currently a part of the South Metro Denver Board of Realtors and Toastmasters International. Chris volunteers for the Leukemia Society and Multiple Sclerosis. He is the father of two daughters and enjoys spending time with them, his grandson and his 2 dogs.
Jeff Carter - Board Vice President
Jeff is a Denver native. Early years brought exposure to baseball, football, gymnastics and diving, leading to Springboard Diving recognition at the National level at the University of Hawaii where he obtained an economics degree.
Jeff graduated from the Navy Aviation Officer Candidate School as a Navy helicopter pilot, serving out of Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, including a tour in the Persian Gulf in 1988. Jeff became a helicopter flight instructor in the Naval Aviation Training Command in Florida & was also a back-up pilot for the Grand Canyon National Park Service.
On July 1, 1994 Jeff had been called to fly with the Forest Service battling wild fires near the Tucson area. A mechanical malfunction led to a catastrophic helicopter accident that left him burned over 57% of his body with third and fourth degree burns. Years of recovery and reconstruction presented challenges few will ever face.
9NEWS special report: Fueling the fire
Hannah Medved - Board Member
Hannah is a Financial Advisor with the RHY Group at Robert W. Baird & Co. Prior to joining The RHY Group, Hannah was Miss Colorado 2012 and an ambassador for the Miss America Organization and numerous charities including Kiwanis, Children’s Miracle Network and GDSF.
Hannah received her BA in Business from the University of Northern. She is a former President of the Denver Tech Center Kiwanis Club and has remained a volunteer for the Miss Colorado Organization and their philanthropic partners.
She and her husband Chris live in Parker with their dog.
Alison Hradek - Board Member
Alison Hradek, graduated from Mountain Vista High School and in 2014 will be starting her 7th year working as a Kitchen Assistant at an elementary school in Douglas County. She enjoys her job, her coworkers and all the students. When not working, Alison likes to read, listen to music, dance, travel and going out with friends. Alison also participates in Special Olympics.
Sandee Walling - Board Member
For 20 years, Sandee has been involved in many non-profit organizations, where she lends her knowledge, experience and passion to everything she does. Currently serving on 10 boards (Rocky Mountain M.S. Center, Excelsior Youth Center, Co Uplift, Family Homestead, University Library Association, Denver Center Alliance, Kempe Foundation, Volunteers of America guild, Rocky Mountain Chapter PKD) & now the Special People Special Needs Foundation, keeps Sandee busy and her finger on the pulse of the needs of people and how best to help them. Her desire to make meaningful differences to help others is a sign of her faith & strength.
In the mid 1990’s Sandee was diagnosed with Multiple Scleroses. For over 20 years she’s been active with the Rocky Mountain MS Center & has been honored & received numerous awards for her dedication, commitment & personal contributions. She is particularly proud to have played a part in attracting to Denver, Dr. Tim Vollmer as Director of Neurosciences Clinical Research at the University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Center, who has completed over 10 clinical studies and is currently working on 30 clinical studies in Multiple Sclerosis.
Sandee holds a master’s degree in speech pathology and a masters in psychiatric social work. She has worked in rehabilitation hospitals, as Director of a daycare center, & as Clinician and Director of Programs for challenged children and adults, all while raising her two young children after divorce.
Sandee is one of Colorado’s most beloved activists and an avid sports fan.
Francis Smith - Board Member
Dr. Francis Smith was born April 25, 1975, with the rare craniofacial syndrome Treacher Collins syndrome, missing middle & outer ear structures, bones, eardrums, canals, outer ears, lower eye socket rim bones, cheekbones, cleft palate, underdeveloped jaws, & an easily obstructed airway. Unable to hear or speak, and he was autistic & lived in a prison of silence and social withdrawal. Even after 20 surgeries, he was not expected to live, much less lead a normal, intelligent life.
At birth, he was given up for adoption by his parents from Ireland & was in the Indiana state foster care system for three years. He was adopted by the Smith family of Fort Wayne, IN & his new diverse family included 10 other adopted children with special needs. His Mom and Dad, and the rest of the family, encouraged him to work hard, persevere, and defy the odds. Francis was raised in a Christian home, and encouraged to find his own faith in Christ at a young age.
Growing up with craniofacial anomalies, brought social rejection by peers, teachers & administrators that did not want him in their classes or schools, believing his perceived disabilities might be too much of a challenge to teach. The constant bullying, verbal, physical, and emotional abuse nearly destroyed him & he continually withdrew into himself for protection.
Francis felt God’s call (and everyone’s encouragement) on his life in high school, to pursue the field of medicine, especially craniofacial anomalies. He studied biology at Purdue University & craniofacial embryonic development and facial birth defects at King’s College in London, England, where he was given great career opportunities that had been denied in the US. He received his doctorate in craniofacial embryology at the University of California-San Francisco in 2012 & then went on to do a postdoctoral research fellowship in craniofacial 3-D imaging and morphometrics at the University of Calgary from 2012-2015. He is currently doing a second postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus in craniofacial biology.
Francis is an artist, musician (piano and violin), avid traveler, reader, and Trekkie, with an ever-expanding range of interests.