This month marks a big transition for DSDN! It is bittersweet for us to announce that Heather Bradley will be stepping down as our board president, but we are excited to announce that Melissa Shutwell will take over as president. Since co-founding DSDN in 2014, Heather has been president of the board and has devoted countless hours to helping create the largest Down syndrome organization focused on the diagnosis phase.
Heather reflected, “DSDN began as a dream over 5-1/2 years ago to make sure that all families have unbiased
diagnosis experiences filled with up-to-date information and access to connections and support. Today, DSDN serves nearly 9,000 families and has over 100 volunteers and 9 board members. We are making huge strides in impacting how physicians deliver a Down syndrome diagnosis. I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve accomplished as an organization! With growth comes a responsibility for all nonprofits to cycle their leadership positions, and I am thrilled to have Melissa as our next president. I will be staying on the board and will continue to devote my time to ensuring that DSDN’s mission and vision are fulfilled.”
The DSDN team is incredibly thankful for Heather’s vision and efforts and pleased that she will continue to serve on the board. Board Vice President and Medical Outreach Director Jenny Di Benedetto has watched DSDN grow from an idea to a leading nonprofit under Heather’s efforts. “Since the beginning, Heather worked tirelessly to create DSDN. We are an organization because of her vision and now, as a team, making a difference for thousands of families each year because of the foundation she laid.”
Board member Joe Scott also reflected on the transition. “Heather’s leadership has been invaluable to me. Her vision for DSDN has been clear, and she has a way of leading that makes people feel valued and respected. I find it inspiring that she has decided to give way to new leadership for the organization.”
Taking over the president role is a challenge, but the board is confident that Melissa brings the passion and drive necessary. “Melissa’s passion for DSDN, knowledge, and previous experience as director of support make her highly qualified for this position,” said board member Kelli Caughman. “She has a track record of success and I’m glad to have her on board.” Melissa is no stranger to serving DSDN’s mission; she has been an active member since joining the DSDN pregnancy group in 2015 and was DSDN’s director of support from 2017 until the end of 2018. “Finding the DSDN pregnancy group and then joining a birth group after the birth of my son, Augie, had an incredible impact on me as a new mom to a child with Down syndrome. My firsthand experience is a testament to our mission and the reason I believe in this organization so deeply. It is my great honor to begin a term as president of the Board of Directors of DSDN. The organization has seen tremendous growth and impact under the leadership of outgoing president Heather Bradley.”
What does this transition mean for DSDN? Melissa shared, “It is a very exciting time to step into a leadership role with DSDN. Ideas that were imagined many years ago have gained momentum, and we have seen growth in all areas of the organization. This growth will continue, and with it will come new challenges to overcome and new opportunities to embrace. As incoming president, I will guide our strategy moving forward so that we can live out our mission—to connect, support, and provide accurate information for families with a Down syndrome diagnosis. I will be supported by a strong Board of Directors, as well as our executive director, Jen Jacob, and her incredible team of operations directors. We continue to be a volunteer-driven organization, relying on our dedicated team of volunteers to help us achieve our goals. Thank you to all the rockin’ moms and dads who make this organization what it is. It is my honor to serve alongside you!”
Would you like to acknowledge the work that Heather has done? Donate in her honor here: https://dsdn.networkforgood.com/projects/72301-thank-you-heather