Bart Barta, Member
Mr. Barta has lived in Broward County for more than 20 years with his wife Caroline. They have three sons who attend Broward County Public Schools. Their youngest son, Daniel, was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. After Daniel's diagnoses, Bart was motivated to help children with autism receive coverage for medical therapies through their family's health insurance plan. With the assistance of State Representative Ari Porth, Bart was instrumental in helping to spearhead legislation that would later become known as the Steven A. Geller Autism Coverage Act. Bart is a 22 year veteran of the Coral Gables Police Department and currently serves as a lieutenant in the Uniform Patrol Division. Since 2008, Bart has been serving as a guest lecturer for the 11th Judicial Circuit Court's Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training Program. He has aided hundreds of law enforcement officers in Miami-Dade County in having a better understanding of individuals with autism. He currently serves as the secretary of the Coral Gable Police Athletic League, Inc., a not-for-profit organization, and has served on its executive board for the last 10 years. Bart is also a 22 year member of the Coral Gables Fraternal Order of Police and has served as a past vice-president of this organization.
Wendy is a native Floridian. She is married and is the mother of two. Her oldest child, Steven, is 28 years old and is her inspiration. He was diagnosed with ASD over 25 years ago, and Wendy actively lobbied for early intervention legislation and appropriate educational services. Her daughter, Jill, is 27 and is a Speech and Language Pathologist. Steven was instrumental in guiding his sister into her chosen profession. Wendy currently serves as the Executive Director of Parent to Parent / Family Network on Disabilities of Broward County, an organization she founded in 1988, as a means to assist families in becoming the best advocates for their children. The organization began as a kitchen table support group and has developed to a well-established agency funded through the Children’s Services Division of Broward County under her leadership. Wendy's past activities include being a charter board member of the University Of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, former president of the state-wide Family Network on Disabilities of Florida, and is active in a wide variety of community organizations that provide for individuals with developmental disabilities. Wendy is passionate about issues that pertain to individuals with Autism and other developmental disabilities. When considering the options for Steven after high school the choices for day programs was very limited and not very productive. Thinking about Steven's unique needs, Wendy has created day program for her son, with an individualized approach to provide him with a job, volunteer position and recreational experiences in his community. In her spare time, (LOL) she enjoys baking, boating and books.
Andrew Blitman, born in Florida, currently resides in Coral Gables. He is a senior at the University of Miami, currently studying Marine Affairs and Biology at the University of Miami. He is the vice president of the student organization Random Acts of Kindness, a non-profit group that spreads positivity and goodwill to the UM campus and the Miami area through acts of community service. He enjoys helping others, working out, learning about science, and spending time with friends and family. Andrew is driven to help the world understand autism from the perspective of those labeled with it as well as that of people who have overcome the diagnosis to live successful, normal lives.
Dr. Gabriel Canales, Member
Gabriel resides in Miami with his wife Cristina and daughter Carolina age 8. Carolina was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 4 and is a third grader at Bent Tree Elementary School. Gabriel is an Assistant Principal at Jorge Mas Canosa Middle School in southwest Miami-Dade County. He earned his Bachelor in Education from Florida International University and later a Master of Science and Doctor of Education from Nova Southeastern University. Gabriel enjoys cycling, reading and spending time with his family.
Carmen Cuza, born in Puerto Rico, lives in Weston with her husband Jesus and their six children: Jesus (20), Mireya (19), Carmen (18), Cristina (16), Maria (9), and Jorge(8). Mireya was diagnosed with autism when she was 18 months old in Puerto Rico and the family moved to Weston in 1996 in search of more advanced resources for Mireya. Carmen got her Master’s degree in Psychology in 2003, at University of Nevada and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2004. Carmen worked at the Ann Storck Center as a BCBA for an intensive behavioral group home in 2004. Carmen is an active volunteer in the Broward County Schools.
Carline Die, Secretary
Carline Die, born in Haiti, currently resides in Miami Dade County. She has one child, Vladimir, diagnosed with autism. She currently works as a resource teacher for Varying Exceptionality students in Dade County Public School. Carline started teaching in 1998 after obtaining a bachelor degree in Elementary Education from Florida International University. Prior to teaching, she was a Program Coordinator at the Center Of Information and Orientation at risk youth employment program. Carline is actively involved in creating Autism Awareness in the Haitian community through UM-NSU CARD.
Ysela Heim, Chairperson
Ms. Heim lives in Pembroke Pines with her husband Carl. They have two children, Chandler (7) and Ethan (4). Carl also has a son Taylor (16) who is very close to his brothers. Chandler was diagnosed with Autism at 28 months. Since the diagnosis, Ysela has taken on an active role in the community by educating and supporting families as well as advocating for children in Broward County Schools. She attended Broward Community College and Florida Atlantic University. Her studies included Liberal Arts & Social Work. She is employed with Family Network on Disabilities of Broward County. She currently sits on the UM-NSU Constituency Board, Autism Society of America-Broward Chapter Board, and was co-chair of the 2006 Autism Speaks walk in Broward County. She is very active in her children’s schools as well. She has been room parent for the last 2 years. She hopes to continue being active and helping families with the many struggles that they face in raising children with disabilities.
Rhonda Ginsburg Labbie lives in Coral Gables with her husband, Andy who is a pediatric urologist and their two sons, Jake and Cole. Rhonda and Andy were introduced to CARD in October 2008, when Jake, then 15 months old started an intense early intervention program for his autism spectrum disorder. They have been CARD supporters ever since. From 2001 – 2006, Rhonda was the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Guardian International. For most of the prior sixteen years, Rhonda served in management and sales positions for various broadcasting companies. Rhonda was at USA Broadcasting as Vice President and General Manager of WAMI-TV, as well as Vice President of Sales. She was also employed by the National Broadcasting Company ('NBC') as the Sales Manager for television station WTVJ in Miami, and represented the NBC's Television Station Division in New York. Rhonda holds a B.A. from the University of Miami, and an M.S. in telecommunications and management from Barry University. She is currently a member of the WVUM Advisory Board, where she serves as the alumni representative for the University of Miami radio station. Rhonda spends all of her time educating herself on Autism Spectrum Disorders, managing her family and taking care of Jake’s therapy needs.
Susan Morantes is the Vice President of Disability Services at the Dan Marino Foundation. Her responsibilities include direction of summer employment programming, grant writing, serving as the Foundation’s family and professional liaison, presenting to local and state agencies on services offered by the Foundation, and developing and directing web channel programming. Prior to joining the Foundation, Susan worked for the University of Miami – Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities as a Program Assistant conducting family intakes and overseeing the resource library at the Miami Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Center. She is a board member of the Legal and Entrepreneurial Empowerment for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, member of the Special Needs Advisory Committee for the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, serves on the Dan Marino Foundation WalkAbout Autism Committee, and is on the advisory board of Easter Seals Florida, Inc. Most importantly, Susan is the proud parent of an adult son, Sean, who has autism.
Dianne Orr has been living in Broward County for 17 years, is married to her husband Scott for 24 years and has 2 children, Veronica 18 and Nicholas 16, who has Autism. Nicholas was diagnosed with autism in February 2000 and Dianne became involved in her first autism walk that June. Dianne has been involved with NAAR/Autism Speaks since the walks came to South Florida and has been on the walk committees in both Broward and Palm Beach for the last 12 years and a Co-chaired 9 times. She holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Montclair State University and has worked for Office Depot corporate headquarters for 15 years.
David lives in Coral Gables with his wife Maria and two sons, David Jr. (9), and Joshua (7). David Jr. was diagnosed as moderate to severely autistic in 2004 at 24 months. Once David Jr. was diagnosed, David and Mary dedicated their lives in every way they could to his growth. David is now attending Kensington Elementary and progressing marvelously. After years of engagement in overseeing David’s therapies and thousands hours of home interventions, David and Mary decided to abandon their lifelong careers and take their roll in the autism community a step father co-founding the Crystal Academy Coral Gables, LLC., an early intervention center for children on the autism spectrum. David Sr. is Managing Member of Crystal Academy Coral Gables.
Rosa Pilar Rivas has one son, Jorge Alfonso (12), who was diagnosed with autism at age 3. Ever since his diagnosis, she has dedicated herself to learn about ASD. She has attended several conferences nationwide, in order to keep up with new discoveries and treatment options not only for the benefit of her son but also to be able to help other families navigate the world of autism, including its challenges, but most importantly, the possibilities. She is an active member in her community and in her son’s school, and participates in parent support groups. She is a lawyer from Venezuela, holds master degrees in Civil Law and International Business and Marketing, and owns Emet Branding Group, a company that specializes in branding and strategic business planning.
Todd Ruderman, Vice Chairperson
Todd lives in South Miami with his wife Liz and three children, Jacob “Jack” (6), Hannah (5) and Eden (2). Jack was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum around 22 months. From that moment on the family's relationship with CARD began. Todd & Liz have been supporting CARD and its programs since 2005. Todd was instrumental in raising the funds to purchase the mobile clinic, involved with the new State of Florida autism license plate and supports all CARD fundraising events. Todd has a BS degree in civil engineering from Northeastern University (Boston) and an MBA from Babson College (Boston). Todd owns and manages Tarco Properties, LLC and Value Store It Management, Inc. These businesses specialize in commercial real estate in South Florida and New England. The Value Store It chain specializes in the personal self storage business. Recently Todd hired CARD's first adult through CARD's Employment for Adults with Autism Referral Network (Project EAARN). This adult is employed as a storage consultant at the Virginia Gardens (Florida) facility.
Nancy Zaretsky, Legislative Committee Chair
Nancy Zaretsky has lived in Miami for almost 25 years. Together with her husband, Louis, they have three children. When their middle child was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at 19 months they entered the world of autism, home programs, diets, therapy and of course, driving. Yet, through it all the UM’s CARD has remained a constant source of knowledge - educating their family and teachers, lending books and holding their hands. Some of the most sincere and thoughtful people she has met are in her life because of autism. Nancy has been an active member of the Michael Ann Russell JCC in North Miami Beach, initiating their summer camp shadow program under the Or Gadol Department, the Kesher School Board, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, as well as the Design and Architecture Senior High School, Greynolds Park Elementary School and the David Lawrence Jr. K-8 . Originally from New York, she holds a dual degree in Political Science and Professional Writing from Southampton College and a Master’s Degree in International Studies from Florida International University.