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Team Bios


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Nicole Giroux, Founder and Executive Director

Nicole is the founder and executive director of the Lilabean Foundation. Most importantly, she is mother to Lila – the namesake of the organization. Lila was diagnosed at 15 months old with a multifocal, inoperable brain tumor and has undergone many chemotherapy regimens over the past 12 years. Before founding LBF, Nicole worked in event planning, public relations and development. Starting the Lilabean Foundation gave Nicole the opportunity to put her skills to use with her most meaningful job to date. Nicole is a 1996 graduate of Dickinson College where she majored in Psychology. When she is not working, Nicole enjoys reading, riding her Peloton and family adventures.

Sarah Lilly, Director of Development and Communications

 Sarah has been in the non-profit space for the last 10 years and professionally her most recent roles were the fundraising and events director at LIVESTRONG, a cancer non-profit that helps those affected by cancer. Most recently, she was the national event manager at Notley, a social impact nonprofit which aims to accelerate innovative ideas to change the world. Growing up, Sarah’s sister, Becca, battled an aggressive glioblastoma brain tumor, and thus, Sarah’s passion for helping others was embedded in her from a very young age. She volunteered for various organizations and events, like Becca’s Run, which was created in honor of her sister’s courageous fight. Many years later, she is still extremely passionate about volunteering and creating events that inspire communities to come together and rally around a cause or focus in meaningful ways. Sarah became involved with the Lilabean Foundation through the Ambassador Council and is excited to continue to be a part of the LBF community in her new role as the Director of Development and Communications, where she will help grow the funding and focus on the storytelling of LBF as we begin this next chapter! In her free time, Sarah spends her time cooking, traveling, or getting outside with her husband, Jonathan, and their three dogs, Cooper, Remington, and Wade.


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John-Paul Purssord, President

John-Paul has been part of the Lilabean Foundation since 2013. John-Paul has a very personal tie to this disease. His son Jack was diagnosed in 2009 with an inoperable brain tumor. After three years of treatment, unfortunately, in 2013, Jack passed away. In honor of Jack, the Lilabean Foundation instituted the Jack Preston Courage Award, which is presented every year at the LBF Fall Ball. John-Paul is an Associate Vice President of Sales Training at Nationwide Insurance where he is accountable for design, development, and delivery of sales training solutions. From a business perspective, he has a broad background in finance, strategic development, sales, and marketing. He attended Greensboro College where he earned dual Bachelor degrees in Business Administration & Economic and Sports Exercise Science. John-Paul also earned a Master’s degree in Business from Charleston Southern University. John-Paul and his wife Beverly reside in Columbus, Ohio, with their daughter Kaitlyn and son Sam. As board President, John-Paul is accountable for the overall strategic direction of the foundation with a laser focus on raising funds to support research to find a cure for pediatric brain tumors.

Meg Cortezi, Vice President

Meg is the Vice President of Employee Experience, overseeing the TEKsystems employee strategy across performance, development and culture. Encompassing Inclusion & Diversity, Human Resources and Professional Development, her team shapes the employee journey from candidate to individual contributor to leader. TEKsystems is a full stack IT services provider with over 6,500 global employees. Fueled by her own passion and track record for fostering an inclusive environment that inspires innovation and business results, Meg leads the strategic design and implementation of programs and initiatives that support the holistic employee experience.  Over her 25 years with the company, Meg has held a variety of leadership positions and has focused on creating positive outcomes for TEKsystems customers, consultants and employees while leading high-energy, high-impact teams.

Meg holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from James Madison University and currently lives in Northern Virginia with her wife and two sons.   Meg has a connection to the mission of LBF as her oldest son, Ben was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma in 2015.  Watching her son go through intense treatment with protocols using adult drugs and seeing the life long lasting side effects of those drugs affirmed for Meg the need to invest more time in the research and development of better treatment for kids like Ben.


Stewi Corno

Stewi is the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Microsoft Federal focused on cloud and digital strategy, partnerships and growing a multi-billion dollar pipeline across the federal government. Working in both the IT and aerospace industries, Stewi has 15 years of experience holding various leadership roles in operations, business development, strategic analysis, and program management -  supporting the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, and Federal Civilian agencies. Stewi was selected to participate in the Northrop Grumman Women in Leadership Program, served in multiple leadership roles on the AFCEA Bethesda Board, and was in the ACT-IAC Voyagers leadership development program.


A DMV native, Stewi went to Oakton High School in Vienna, VA. Stewi holds a master’s in Systems Engineering Management from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she played varsity field hockey. Stewi lives in Potomac, MD with her husband, Andy, and their two daughters - Cameron and Kaitlin. 


Stewi is a passionate brain cancer advocate and has close ties to this cause, as her daughter, Cameron, was diagnosed with an anaplastic ependymoma in 2020 (treated at Children’s National). She was first introduced to the organization when Cameron received the Jack Preston Courage Award at the 2021 LBF Fall Ball. Most recently, Stewi was the 2022 LBF Fall Ball Chair - making it the first ever sold out event, raising a record-setting amount of over $500,000. Stewi hopes to confine to support Fall Ball, as well as bring her background in advocacy and technology to the LBF mission. 

Nick DeSarno

Nick is co-president and owner of Rock Spring Contracting. He is involved in all aspects of running the company with a direct focus on business development, financials and operations. Nick is a strong and decisive leader, who is willing to invest and add resources that improve service, reliability and convenience for Rock Spring’s customers. 


A native Washingtonian, Nick grew up in Silver Spring and attended St. John’s College High School. He received a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech. Nick currently lives in Kensington with his wife, Lauren, and their four children. He spends his free time with family, playing golf and coaching youth sports.


 Nick and his family have beens supporters of the Lilabean Foundation since its inception.  Most recently Nick has been co-chair of the Birdies for Childhood Brain Cancer LBF golf tournament growing that event year over year.  He is excited to further his involvement as a member of the board and advance the mission of LBF.

Melissa A. Garcia 

Melissa is the Associate Executive Director for the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. In her 22 years at SfN, Melissa has had the opportunity to support the organization in initiatives that include conferences, education, information technology, governance, journals, science policy and advocacy, membership, communications and marketing, and grants and development. Her passion is taking ideas and translating them into a vision and strategy all the way through to timely and meaningful execution, and she prides herself on leading through others and developing the next generation of leaders to achieve their own successes. She is active in the association community, currently serving on the board of the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives and is a Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives.


Originally from New Jersey, Melissa moved to the Washington DC area after graduating from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in English and French. She lives in Clarksburg, MD with her wife, two daughters, and son. She was first connected to LBF through close friends, Meg & Leslie and their son’s cancer journey. Melissa is honored to be a part of such an amazing organization and looks forward to serving on the board to further its important mission.

Eric McAndrew

Eric is President and Creative Director of McAndrew Company in Bethesda, MD. The agency specializes in data-driven marketing communications solutions for both the public and private sector. Eric supervises marketing and media strategy, reviews research and develops messaging options. Additionally, Eric is routinely invited to speak at local, regional and national conferences on topics such as social media, new media, innovative marketing, public awareness campaigns, and marketing strategy.

Eric has helped The Lilabean Foundation hone its message and has assisted with social media campaigns. He is honored to sit on The Lilabean Foundation board and looks forward to helping the foundation raise greater awareness and funds to help fight pediatric brain cancer.

Jessica Flynn

Jessica Flynn is in Account Management at Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Hemophilia/Oncology division. She has over 25 years of industry and leadership experience in Pharmaceuticals in Urology, Endocrinology, Nephrology, and Cardiology in the Washington, DC Metro area.   She has worked for Schering Plough, Takeda, Auxilium, and most recently, Astellas Pharmaceuticals prior to Bayer. Her experience includes sales, training, management, and market access and reimbursement. Jessica has earned multiple awards in her career including Chairman's Circle, Rep of the Year, Pinnacle Winner,  and multiple Leadership Awards. 


Jessica is raised in the DC Metro area and earned her Bachelor's Degree from the University of Delaware in Biology in 1996.

She lives in Chevy Chase with her husband Patrick, daughter Caroline, and son Graham.  She enjoys running, biking, and traveling. Jessica and her husband have been involved with LBF for the past decade serving on the host and sponsorship committees. 


Dr. Brian Rood, Scientific Advisor 

Brian is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s National Health System whose primary clinical focus is pediatric neuro-oncology. He has also been Lila’s Oncologist since 2010. Dr. Rood joined the faculty of Children’s National in 2002 after completing a fellowship in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology as well as a research fellowship in the molecular biology of brain tumors, both at Children’s National and Children’s Research Institute.

Dr. Rood is the Medical Director of the Neuro-Oncology program at Children’s and cares for brain tumor patients on the inpatient oncology ward and in the outpatient clinic. He is a co-principal investigator with Eugene Hwang, MD, of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium clinical trial program at Children’s National and runs an active molecular biology lab in the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research. He is also the institutional PI for the Childhood Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium, a multi-institutional tissue and data repository aimed at providing essential resources for the pediatric brain tumor research community. His own lab investigates the proteogenomics of multiple pediatric brain tumors in order to identify proteins that are unique or highly expressed in tumor cells. He aims to further this work by developing immunotherapies to target these tumor-specific proteins as well as the means to use these proteins as biomarkers capable of detecting disease. Dr. Rood also is working to identify microsatellite markers in a person’s DNA that predict the risk of developing different kinds of brain tumors.

Chris Pratt, CFP®


Chris is the Managing Director of Cardinal Wealth Management. He is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and has 12 years of industry experience working as an advisor at an RIA and an additional 6 years as a successful entrepreneur both in the US and Latin America. Cardinal Wealth is affiliated with Spire Investment Partners, a cutting-edge, independent registered investment advisory firm and broker-dealer with open access to custodians such as Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, Pershing, and Charles Schwab.


Chris specializes in the creation of personalized comprehensive financial planning for high-net-worth individuals, business owners, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits. The financial planning service is met by developing and executing a customized set of goals for each client through risk management, employee benefits planning, investment management, income tax planning, and estate planning.


Chris began his career as a financial planner for the Financial Consulate in Baltimore County, where he worked with business owners and high-net-worth clients. He has extensive business development and managerial experience both in the U.S. and across Latin America. Previous projects range from directing two major public programs in Colombia (+450 employees) and raising capital for ventures in the Baltimore area.

Tracie Rolle

Tracie is a Registered Nurse at Shady Grove Adventist Medical Center in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where she has cared for the most critically ill newborns and their families since 1997. She is also the team leader and services administrator for the Vermont Oxford Network, a voluntary collaborative group of health care professionals who are committed to improving the effectiveness of medical care for newborn infants and their families through data-driven research. Prior to her current position, she worked in the NICUs at Children’s National Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the University of Virginia. Tracie was named as a Washingtonian Nurse Excellence Finalist in 2016.


Tracie grew up in the Washington DC area, attending Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School. She graduated with a BSN in nursing from The Catholic University of America. Tracie lives in Bethesda where she loves to spend time with her husband Chris and her four sons, Chris Jr., Nick, Jack and Liam, and daughter-in-law Alex. She enjoys the outdoors, hiking and tennis. 


Tracie became involved with the Lilabean Foundation after her son Jack was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 10 years old. Two years later, Jack shared his story of childhood cancer at the LBF Fall Ball. Going through a childhood cancer journey with her son, and watching other families endure even more difficult journeys, inspired her to become involved with the Lilabean Foundation. She is passionate about advancing research to improve treatment options for affected children and raising awareness of the severity of this fatal disease.


Brendan Tuohey

Brendan is co-founder and executive director of PeacePlayers. Along with his brother Sean, Brendan founded PeacePlayers International in 2001. PeacePlayers International uses basketball to unite and educate young people in divided communities. Driven by their idea that children who play together can learn to live together, PeacePlayers International has worked with thousands of young people across the globe, with offices in the Middle East, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus, and the United States. In 2015, Brendan was named One of 50 Most Inspirational People in Sport by Beyond Sport.

In 2008, Brendan received the Laureus Sport for Good Award, which recognizes individuals who make transformational contributions to society through sport, at the Laureus World Sports Awards in St. Petersburg, Russia. At the 2007 ESPYS, two leaders from PeacePlayers’ program in Northern Ireland were awarded the prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Brendan is a 1996 graduate of Colgate University where he majored in Philosophy and Religion and played basketball. He received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Georgetown University in 2018. Brendan was an Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar and a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Lilabean Foundation for Pediatric Brain Cancer Research.

Dr. Jessica Foster, Scientific Advisor

Dr. Foster’s research and clinical interests lie in bringing immunotherapy to use in pediatric solid and brain tumors. During her pediatric oncology fellowship, she joined the laboratory of Adam Resnick, PhD, a leading expert in pediatric brain tumors, and John Maris, MD, internationally renowned expert in neuroblastoma. In collaboration with David Barrett, MD, PhD, and Stephen Grupp MD, PhD, who have successfully translated chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) from the bench to the bedside for the treatment of relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Dr. Foster’s work focuses on developing CAR T cells for pediatric solid and brain tumors and improving CAR T cell efficacy and safety using RNA-based technologies.

Her current research began during oncology fellowship, where using a CD19 CAR model, she was able to improve existing RNA CAR technology through the use of a novel purification method, paving the way for RNA CAR T cell therapy in solid and brain tumors. Her goal moving forward has been to apply these same RNA synthesis techniques toward CAR T cells targeting pediatric solid and brain tumors.

During her time in the lab she has published on this work and taken on multiple projects developing CAR therapy for neuroblastoma and high-grade pediatric brain tumors. These projects include targeting GD2 with RNA CAR T cells for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, development of new CAR structures targeting GPC2 for neuroblastoma, medulloblastoma and high-grade gliomas, as well as using mRNA encoding cytokines as a boost to enhance the efficacy of CAR T cells for solid and brain tumors. Dr. Foster is also investigating additional immunotherapeutic targets using genomic sequencing, RNA sequencing, and proteomic data.

Dr. Mateusz Koptyra, Scientific Advisor

Dr. Mateusz Koptyra is the Director of Preclinical Research Unit at the Center for Data-Driven Discoveries in Biomedicine (D3b) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His scientific interests center on pediatric brain tumor modeling, biomarker discovery and non-invasive diagnostic. Dr. Koptyra’s laboratory has developed numerous cell lines, xenografts, and 3-D organoids tumor models, widely accessible for research through Children’s Brain Tumor Network (CBTN), a multi-institutional tissue and data consortium supporting pediatric brain tumor research community.


Dr Koptyra serves on CBTN scientific committee and coordinates the CBTN tumor biospecimen collection workflows and large-scale CBTN data generation efforts. Dr. Koptyra’s research also focuses on disease specific biomarker discovery and utilization for pediatric brain tumor molecular characterization. This effort is primarily oriented on small RNAs, their role in tumor biology and utility for disease profiling and surveillance through the non-invasive approaches.




Ann French

As Lila’s cousin, Ann is thrilled and honored to be a part of the Ambassador Council to celebrate and spread the LBF mission.  Based in Paris, Ann works as Managing Director of Client Operations for the global advertising agency VMLY&R. In her role, she is responsible for leading teams and campaigns across Europe, Middle East and Africa.  Ann has a Masters in Journalism from University of Missouri and has worked across television, magazines, newspapers and public relations.

VMLY&R believes that creativity, technology and culture can create connected brands that impact the world.  To that end, the Lilabean Foundation is the perfect cause to champion.

Ann is an avid runner and has completed 4 marathons on 4 continents. Like Lila, Ann loves all animals but especially dogs and horses.


Brynn Carnahan

Brynn is a stay-at-home mom living in Ellicott City, MD. She studied Elementary Education at Towson University, is a devout Christian, and an avid runner. Brynn discovered Lilabean through another Council Member’s work and has since fallen in love with the cause. She hopes to bring new ideas and perspective to the foundation and help in every way that she can! She is passionate about philanthropy and hopes to dedicate more time to it as her children get older.

Natalie Kristobek

Natalie is a fourth grade teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland.  She is a native Marylander and recently moved back to the area after living in Austin, Texas for 13 years.  She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Learning and Development from The University of Texas at Austin.  She is passionate about raising awareness of childhood cancer and the importance of fundraising for furthering research.

Isabel Duckett

Isabel is a first-grade teacher at Broadneck Elementary School in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. She has been babysitting for Lila’s family for ten years. She thinks it has been incredible to witness Lila’s family’s love, strength, and faith throughout Lila’s battle. She is honored to be a part of the LBF team and eager to help spread the LBF mission.



Derek Danek

Derek has a passion for non-profit work and is a leader in the volunteerism efforts of a young professional group at Nationwide Insurance. Since 2017 Derek has organized volunteer events at non-profits around Columbus, Ohio supporting the local children’s hospital, meals-on-wheels and the Furniture Bank. His connection to the LBF mission is through the Purssord family, as he formerly reported to John-Paul and collaborated with him on an internal podcast series. When Derek is not volunteering or spending time with his niece and nephew, he works as a Learning & Performance Specialist for Nationwide, where he designs and develops training assets for associates. Through this work, he has honed his skills in multimedia production and hopes to bring these abilities and his creativity to benefit LBF. Derek is a graduate of The Ohio State University (BS, M.Ed., MLT) and resides in Columbus, Ohio.


Meghan Savercool, Ambassador Council Chairperson 

Meghan is a student at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in civil litigation. Meghan grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she is best known as the founder of the popular backyard summer camp, Camp Clover. She is an avid runner, despite early setbacks, including finishing last place in Becca's Run 2004. LBF hero Becca was Meghan's babysitter and Meghan was involved with Becca's Run from the time of its inception. Since then, she has cared deeply about fighting pediatric brain cancer. She is excited to now have the opportunity to contribute to the LBF mission.

Alex Rolle

Alex is the Senior Manager for Marriott Bonvoy, the premier loyalty program supporting Marriott International's 30+ brands and over 8500 global properties. In this role, she is responsible for both the day-to-day seamless member experience as well as leading special projects designed to set the future strategy of the program. Alex has a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor's Degree from Wake Forest University. Based in Alexandria, Virginia, Alex enjoys spending time with her husband and dogs, Ronald and Reagan. Lilabean is a special "family venture" for Alex and her husband, Chris. Her brother-in-law, Jack, is an LBF Hero, having survived a brain tumor at 10 years old. Additionally, her mother-in-law, Tracie, serves on the Board of Directors. She looks forward to continuing the family legacy of support for LBF! 

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“Children are theworld’s most valuable resource and it's best hope for the future.”

John F. Kennedy

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