ABOUT SPECIAL SPIRIT
MEET OUR 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.
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 Lovine 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.
A dual-national (USA and Ireland) and a native New Yorker, Dylan Coffey is a management consultant, project manager and financial controller and has delivered large, complex change portfolios focussed on Legal, Risk, Compliance, Finance and Treasury functions at several of the world’s largest banks including Merrill Lynch, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Canada. Dylan started his career in logistics and operations at Air Canada and United Airlines and has spent the last 20 years based in London with extensive project work in Germany, India, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
His focus on supporting Special Spirit is in creating strategies for fundraising/grant writing, directing the volunteer programs and as a key member of the governing body. He has an additional commitment to the support and care for the Special Spirits Senior Horses like Pumpkin and Juliette!
Susan Houston had been involved in the logistics maritime industry for over 30 years. Her positions were in the Sales, Marketing and Strategy areas. Most recently as Director for the NW Seaport Alliance - one of the largest ports in North America. Her career required international travel which she enjoyed and spent 4 years working in Ireland and the UK. During her career Susan served on the boards of both regional and national associations. With specific focus in the areas of fundraising and communications. For the past 15 years Susan has served in various executive roles for CII, a prestigious industry association in the logistics industry. Last year having moved to California from New Jersey Susan began volunteering at Special Spirit and has been involved in fundraising and is committed to expanding programs at Special Spirit. In February 2022 Susan will be a part time instructor at Long Beach City College's Maritime Center of Excellence.
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.
B Brian Martion
Business Development Adviser
B Brian Martin, Founder and Council Chair of AnalysisLAB, is a proven finance executive with a prodigious business background in retail, hospitality, entertainment, and real estate development. B Brian’s expertise in key facets of capital structuring, private placements, contract and lease negotiations, project developments, and corporate finance underscores his analytical and strategic acumen for expanding proof of concepts and accelerating brand expansions. His professional background includes large scale entertainment developments and accelerated-growth strategies of notable national restaurant and nightlife brands.
From entrepreneurial startups and proof-of-concepts through brand expansions and exit strategies, B Brian's successful undertakings include significant industry innovators and leaders like Universal Studios CityWalk & Theme Parks, Innovative Dining Group, sbe Restaurant & Nightlife Group, and House of Blues Entertainment, Kingsmen Creative, SusieCakes Bakeries and Bungalow Hospitality Group.
Current projects include a $2.1B strategic acquisition and repositioning of Ciudad de la Luz Studios in Alicante, Spain. A $20MM structured equity raise for development and expansion of Nerf Action Xperience Centers and $25MM development and equity raise for Los Angeles based hospitality group.
B Brian is graduate of University of Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Science in Management with a dual concentration, Accounting and Finance, and Minor in Economics, Master of Science in Business Analytics candidate at Texas A&M and Congressional Nomination recipient, United States Military Academy, West Point.
HELP ENRICH THE LIVES OF OUR RIDERS
Your donation will help us continue our mission to enrich the lives of our young riders through our various programs. Thank you for your support and all you do for Special Spirit!