Board of Directors
Our Board of Directors are all volunteers from the community. They provide their expertise in overall direction and support of the organization. Without them, the Foundation would not be able to provide all of the great services that we have over the last few years and into the future. If you share their passion and are interested in a board position, please feel free to contact any one of them.
Jason Ryan- President
Jason Ryan currently works at Experience Grand Rapids as a National Sales Director, where he handles the environmental, technology, scientific and manufacturing markets for the organization. He has been in the sales and marketing industry for over 10 years and has an extensive background in hospitality, which has given him a vast knowledge in sales, marketing, customer service and overall best business practices.
Jason has been involved in the world of kids with special needs, since college, where he worked with some families and through his wife, Tammi, who is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist.
Jonathon Thomas- Vice President
Jonathon Thomas serves as Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Butterball Farms. Mr. Thomas’ responsibilities include business development and brand marketing for Butterball’s global specialty butter business.
Mr. Thomas brings more than 20 years of consumer products experience, with over 15 years directly related to food and beverage companies. Prior to joining Butterball Farms, Mr. Thomas spent over seven years with Kerry Foods Group in various senior marketing, sales and executive management positions. While working for Pepsi and Sara Lee, Mr. Thomas worked with every major customer segment in North America, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
Thomas holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the Indiana University and an MBA with an emphasis in Marketing from The Keller Graduate School of Management. Mr. Thomas is working towards his Doctorate degree.
Kathleen ("Katie") Hogan Aguilar- Director, Treasurer
Kathleen ("Katie") Hogan Aguilar is an attorney at Miller Johnson practicing in the Probate and Estate Planning Group. While Katie practices in estate planning and probate, she concentrates her practice in Elder Law and Special Needs Planning. Katie works closely with individuals and families to plan for their loved ones with special needs, including guardianships and conservatorships, Special Needs Trust, planning for long term care, and qualifying for government benefits.
Katie is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School and is licensed to practice in Michigan and Illinois. Prior to joining Miller Johnson, Katie practiced estate planning and probate law in the Chicago area.
Dave Kinsman- Director, Secretary
David H. Kinsman is a Vice President at Chase Bank where he started working in 2012 as the business banking area manager. Prior to his current role with Chase, Dave managed the commercial loan team at Founders Bank and Trust where he began his banking career in 1998. He enjoys working with business owners who value a banking relationship and has experience with all types of business banking.
Dave also serves as the treasurer of the Kent County Parks Foundation, is a member of the finance committee for Kids Food Basket, a member of Commercial Alliance of Realtors (CAR) and a member of the Grand Rapids Economic Club. Dave and his wife Alison reside in Forest Hills with their three girls.
Paula Hampson- Past President
Paula Hampson is a Wealth Management Advisor with Northwestern Mutual and a forty-
plus year community volunteer and advocate. For the past several years, Paula’s practice
has included a specialty of working with families who have a family member with special
needs as Michigan’s representative in Northwestern Mutual’s elite 30-member Special
Steps planning team.
With a working background of business ownership and business management, Paula’s
past focused on strategic planning for organizations, helping guide businesses in start-up,
growth and succession planning.
In her volunteer life, Paula has helped organize and raise funds for a diverse number
and type of organizations. Among others, she has received awards and honors from
the Michigan State Police, West Michigan PRSA, and Mecosta County Community
Foundation. She also serves on the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Professional
Advisory Committee and on boards for both her church and her women’s choir.
Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance
Company, Milwaukee, WI (Northwestern Mutual) has helped clients achieve financial
security for more than 150 years. Northwestern Mutual and its subsidiaries offer a
holistic approach to financial security solutions including: life insurance, long-term care
insurance, disability insurance, annuities, investment products, and advisory products and services. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC, broker-
dealer, registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern
Mutual Wealth Management Company, limited purpose federal savings bank; and
Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company; and Russell Investments. Further
information can be found at http://www.northwesternmutual.com.
Mike DeSmyter- Director
Mike DeSmyter is a Wealth Management Specialist with Midwest Capital Advisors, LLC, a Grand Rapids-based registered investment adviser. Mike directs the retirement plan practice area for the firm, assisting retirement plan sponsors in the design, implementation, and management of best in class retirement and investment strategies. Prior to joining Midwest Capital, Mike spent 10 years in the private banking and trust departments of two Michigan-based institutions, working primarily with individuals, trusts, and endowments throughout the state.
Mike holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Central Michigan University and a Masters of Business Administration from Western Michigan University. In addition to the BRAINS Foundation board, Mike is a member of the Grand Rapids Civic Theater board of directors. Mike and his wife Erin, a middle school teacher, have two small children and reside in the Lowell area.
Lee Perez- Director
Lee Perez comes to the Brains Foundation with a background in media management and marketing. Before graduating with honors from film school in 1994, Lee helped co-found and was a partner at Cirrus Teleproductions, a successful film and television production company in Santa Fe, New Mexico.For close to ten years he helped lead that company to tremendous success until its merger with a larger media group in 2001.
In more recent years Lee has returned to his roots in the Midwest and has been serving as Vice President of Carter Products Company. Carter, founded in 1929 specializes in small things for big machines in every industry from the small shop to wind energy and aerospace. Lee is a member and supporter of various industry and civic organizations, including the Grand Rapids Economic Club and Family Business Alliance, where he serves on the Leadership Committee.
Lee has a family of four, including one child who has special needs. He also has an extensive background in special needs education and has served on past boards for other non-profit educational concerns.
Candace Smith-King- Director
Candace Smith-King is a pediatrician with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. She is currently the Program Director for the Pediatrics Residency Program. She also works in the Academic General Pediatrics Clinic. Candace brings the physician perspective to the board. She sees the impact of the BRAINS Foundation first hand, when a child who needs psychological and neuropsychological testing is able to receive it. Candace has a passion for serving the under-served.
Candace received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Michigan, and her Medical Doctor degree from Michigan State University. Candace and her husband, Chris, reside in the Kentwood /Caledonia area with their four children.
Erin Melcher- Director
Erin Melcher is the current Principal and Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center, a K-5 Elementary charter school which implements the Reggio-Emilia Approach to education. An alumna of Aquinas College, Erin received her Bachelor’s Degree in 1990, and her Master’s degree in Education in 2002.
She began her career in education as a 5th grade teacher at St. Stephen School, and then went on to become a member of the faculty in the School of Education at Aquinas, and a graduate instructor and research assistant at Michigan State University, with a research focus in teacher education and literacy. She is currently enrolled in the Graduate School of Educational Administration at MSU. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Erin has lived, worked, and raised her four children in Grand Rapids over the past 25 years. She enjoys gardening, reading, cooking and rooting for the Detroit Tigers in her free time.
Danielle Buth- Director
Danielle Buth has served in the Information Technology industry as a Sales Executive for over 35 years working with large enterprise customers to assess and identify areas of opportunity for immediate impact on profitability, productivity and market share. Danielle recently retired from Siemens Enterprise Communications after 25 years working with midwest clients on a local and global basis.
Danielle is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Business Administration and currently serves as a Governor for the Golf Association of Michigan. Danielle is also a member of Egypt Valley Country Club where she is a Past President and currently serves on the Scholarship committee.