BOARD OF DIRECTORS
In 2005, Eva opened Moonshadow Ranch, a small ranch in the heart of Shadow Hills. Moonshadow Ranch is committed to enriching the lives of both horses and people. Eva developed a passion for helping children at an early age. Growing up in her native Sweden, she lead special needs children around the arena at her riding school, as a way to earn lessons for herself. In Sweden, almost every riding school has a special needs riding program and Eva discovered that the effect riding had on these kids was tremendous. In 2007, Eva volunteered at the "Special Olympics" at Hansen Dam, and was reminded of her childhood encounter with special kids .Eva holds a Certificate for Therapeutic Riding from the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) and Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, (EAGALA). Autism awareness is a subject close to her heart, as Eva is the godmother of Jake, who is autistic. Jake is a tremendously brave person, with a heart of gold and a pure soul.
In the late 1970, as Kathy was attending college, she volunteered as a coach for the Special Olympics. Thirty years later, after changing her major from nursing to education, she finds herself again working with special needs children. Currently, Kathy works at a LAUSD elementary school and is a special needs advocate. In the past, Kathy managed group homes in San Diego and assisted the agency in public relations and fundraising. For five years, Kathy has been the completion coordinator for the Kiwanis Club of Warner Center Therapeutic Horse Show. Kathy’s son Paul, who is autistic, has been riding since he was 10 years old and is considered an “A” rider. Kathy’s passion for horses, children and education is a great blend for Special Spirit Inc.
Paul is the owner of CSB Contractors, a leading design/building company specializing in recording studio construction. Initially trained as a recording engineer, Paul worked with such industry giants as Jimmy Iovine and Don Smith on projects by U2, Tom Petty, and Stevie Nicks, among others. Paul is the father of Jake, a 17-year-old autistic boy, who inspires all who come to know him. Jake splits his time between California and Maryland and is active with the Special Olympics in both states. Paul's inspiration for Special Spirit Inc. came when he did a "Polar Bear Plunge" in Maryland, to raise funds for the Special Olympics. The formation of Special Spirit Inc. is the culmination of years of brainstorming with Eva as to how they could become active in the special needs community. Paul and Eva have been business partners on joint ventures in many varied successful projects and apply the same principles to Special Spirit Inc. Jake's sisters, Shawn and Emily, who are both college students, are also deeply involved.
Michael McClain serves as Senior Consultant in the firm’s Los Angeles, California office. Mr. McClain re-joined Battalia Winston after four years working with a leading global search firm as a co-leader of the west coast healthcare practice. He has over 20 years of experience in executive search and he has done extensive recruiting and consulting in a variety of areas including Healthcare, Consumer Goods, Entertainment and Not-for-Profit.
Earlier in his career, Mr. McClain was a Senior Consultant at Battalia Winston for twelve years. He was the first partner in the Western Region and opened the Los Angeles office. From 1989 to 1994, Mr. McClain was the Vice President/General Manager of a Los Angeles-based firm that specialized in the recruitment of executive talent for consumer products, manufacturing, distribution and service organizations. Previously, he served as General Manager of a boutique executive search firm based in Dallas. Mr. McClain directed its successful growth from a regional to a national organization by expanding its industry focus and developing new markets.
Mr. McClain serves as a member of the UCLA Extension, Dean’s Advisory Board and is the Leader of the Advisory Board of the Venice Family Clinic, the President of the Advisory Board of Special Spirit an equine therapy riding stable for autistic children, member of the Advisory Board of Discovery Eye Foundation, past President of the Advisory Board of The Jeffrey Foundation a school for autistic and disadvantaged children and a past member of the Board of Trustees of the Center For The Healthy Aging. Additionally, Mr. McClain served as Chairman and President of the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, as well as being a member of the Field Operations Committee for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. Mr. McClain currently serves as Co-Leader of the Advisory Board of JDRF for the greater Los Angeles area.
A native of Oakland, Iowa, Mr. McClain is a graduate of Drake University. He has two children and resides in Los Angeles.
Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson is a former high-powered television producer turned author and activist on the subject of fearless aging and autism awareness. She co-authored Not Your Mother’s Midlife: A Ten Step guide to Fearless Aging (Andrews McMeel) and Fearless Women: Midlife Portraits (Stewart, Tabori & Chang). She wrote and performed in the stage show “Boomer Babes” and has done motivational speaking to sold out audiences around the country. Alspaugh-Jackson is an Emmy-Award winning television producer and executive who pioneered the magazine program format with Westinghouse’s PM Magazine. After serving as Vice-President of Group W Productions, she served as executive producer for a number of network and nationally syndicated programs, including the long-running NBC talk show, LEEZA. She has been honored with the United Press International Award, the Associated Press Award, the Gabriel Award, the Genesis Award, as well as having been named one of the Hollywood Reporters “Women to Watch”.
Having grown up with a younger brother with Down Syndrome, Alspaugh-Jackson was aware of the challenges families face raising special needs children. She feels it was no accident that she was given a special needs child to raise herself.
Alspaugh-Jackson feels her most important assignment came after her adopted son Wyatt was diagnosed with autism at the age of three (Wyatt is now 13 and making tremendous progress). Although Wyatt started displaying signs of autism at the age of 2, he was not diagnosed with the disorder until three and a half and did not receive effective treatment until the age of four and a half. Wyatt, like many children with autism, often had violent tantrums, sometimes as many as ten a day. She recalls a turning point in her life after one of these instances.
“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” I was screaming so loudly my throat was raw. Wyatt wailed like a hurt animal. I was hyperventilating but I held onto him. We were both soaked with tears and I had bleeding scratch marks and bites all over me. My shirt was torn. Where had this dream of having a baby to love, turned into this nightmare? What was happening to my life, and to my precious son? I sat on the floor of my living room, rocking Wyatt in my arms, and I started to pray. God, if you help me find out what this thing is that has taken my child, I swear I will do anything you need me to do. Just give me the answers.”
The answer was that Wyatt had autism. It was out of this ordeal that Alspaugh-Jackson found her calling as an advocate and activist for other families. "Wyatt should have been diagnosed earlier, and the answers regarding treatment should have been easier to find." She saw an urgent need for families to have somewhere to turn to for advice and assistance when dealing with this devastating disorder. “As difficult as it was getting the diagnosis for our son, we have never forgotten that we are the lucky ones in that we have the resources to find help – what about those families that don’t have the time or money to access treatment and care?” With that in mind she began the annual Denim and Diamonds for Autism fundraiser to benefit ACT Today! at the ranch home she shares with her husband, Fox Television executive Read Jackson. A short time after creating this fundraiser, Alspaugh-Jackson was asked to become the executive director of the foundation by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, the founder of ACT Today!. Denim and Diamonds has become ACT Today!’s gala events, entering its 10th year.
Nancy has now been at the helm of ACT Today! for the last 8 years, overseeing its numerous annual fund raisers, special events and campaigns. In the last 7 years, ACT Today! has distributed 2.8 million dollars to families across America for autism care and treatment, and launched the first national campaign for military children with autism, ACT Today! for Military Families and the first national campaign for Latino Families, Autismo Y Familia . In addition, she has raised awareness for the need for effective treatments for the multitude of individuals living with autism. She is a Lay Minister and the Director of The Exceptional Families Ministry at Prince of Peace Episcopal Church in Woodland Hills, Ca.
Sandy Cooper donates her time to both Special Spirit and Danny's Farm programs to help in the fulfillment of children and young adults challenged with Autism and Cerebral Palsy by fundraising to insure the continuation of the programs of this 501C3 organization. She is a natural with the children. Her older sister has cerebral palsy and her younger sister has MS, Sandy totally understand the challenges of our special needs kids. Sandy is a natural with our special children, and the kids just love being in her very positive and uplifting presence.
Kim J. Lukasik
Born and raised in Poland, Kim moved to Sweden at age 18 to become a Swedish resident. For over 10 years, Kim ran a successful hair salon in a beautiful coastal community in Sweden until he moved to the US in 1998. As a child growing up in Poland, as well as Sweden and LA, he has always been involved with animal’s charity events to raise money and awareness. Upon moving to the US, Kim owned and operated a hair salon on Robertson Blvd. in Beverly Hills for an additional 10 years.
Passionate about design and aesthetics, in 2008 Kim completed the UCLA Interior Design program and now works as both an interior designer and hair stylist in Beverly Hills. His design firm, “K.J. Lukasik Design” is a collaborative design company created with the needs of the client in mind while maintaining a European sensibility.
My first impression of Special Spirit was "I'm Home" I walked around and seen the volunteers, stuff and the actual special needs kids and I was just amazed. Not only that
I could feel the love but most importantly the professionalism and knowledge that everyone shows here. I want to be a part of this fantastic "family" and give as much as I can to everyone that have "special needs". I never knew how much this would affect my needs, and I know that I get back in the form of smiles and "high-fives" from everyone at Special Spirit.