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Director of Education Services

American Association of Caregiving Youth

Ann FaraoneWith over four decades of experience in the field of education, Ann Faraone, EdD began her career as a teacher in NYC. She has also been the Program Director for the NYS Department of Education, Assistant Dean of the Graduate School of Education & Human Services at St. John’s University, and as a Principal in NY & FL. When The School District of Palm Beach County created the Department of Student Intervention Services to provide programs and support for the most vulnerable students, Ann was appointed as Director. This extra level of support targeted homeless, foster, caregiving youth, pregnant/parenting teens and those in the juvenile justice and/or the alternative education system. Recognizing the logical link of health related issues, Ann supervised all health, wellness & nursing services in the schools. Raising awareness of the trauma and its ripple effects on these students, as well as collaborating with a multitude of agencies, created opportunities for students, many without parental advocacy, thus mitigating the barriers they were facing daily.  Ann believes in “leaving no stone unturned for students” and has created a culture of cooperation and collaboration between agencies, who share a common client—the student & their families. Understanding that no one group can eradicate the multiple barriers faced by many students, particularly those of color and those living in poverty, the common sense approach was one of  leveraging resources, & joining forces to “invest in the human infrastructure” in our community. Ann continues the work of advocating for the most vulnerable youth through consulting on educational issues for national and local non-profits, school districts & parent organizations. 

Marissa B. Gart, Esq. is an Associate Attorney with Feldman & Schneiderman, P.L. in Boca Raton, Florida.  Her area of practice is Family Law, including dissolution of marriage, alimony, child custody, child support, property settlement agreements, post and pre-nuptial agreements, and paternity.  Prior to joining Feldman & Schneiderman, P.L., she served as an Assistant Public Defender for Broward County, Florida where she defended indigent clients against state prosecution.  In 2010, she graduated from the University of Miami, School of Law where she received her Juris Doctorate; and in 2005, she graduated from the University of Michigan where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English.    Marissa is a Boca Raton native and is actively involved in the South Palm Beach County Chapter of Florida Association for Women Lawyers and the South Palm Beach County Bar Association. 

William F. Carter Jr. (Bill) Bill is Sr. VP of Sales for Antennas Direct, Inc. Antennas Direct designs, manufactures, markets and sells high definition TV Antennas. Bill has spent his 30 year career in Sales and Marketing positions in the Consumer Products industry, including assignments with Proctor & Gamble, PepsiCo, NewellRubbermaid and Jarden Corporation. He is based in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Bill found out about the AACY, and the Caregiving Youth Project, as an employee at Jarden. Jarden was supporting the CYP with funding. Bill was facing significant challenges as his wife’s Early Onset Alzheimers progressed rapidly. He wanted to find ways to support his 12 year old daughter, as she was taking more Caregiving duties. His daughter benefited with the support and activities that CYP provided.

Having experienced the benefits of the programs and support of AACY and CYP, Bill desires to help give back by assisting AACY expand and growth, and to help more children and families in need.

Jay Van Vechten small bio pic

Communications Practitioner, Disability Advocate, Activist and Educator

Jay is a recognized international authority whose career has spanned four decades and 34 nations. He was one of the founding members of the Public Relations Global Network (aka: PRGN), an international networking organization of leading, independent public relations agencies. Jay resides in Boca Raton, FL, where he serves as Chairman for the City of Boca Raton’s Advisory Board for People with Disabilities.

In that capacity, Van Vechten created the first annual, Boca Raton-based Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities in 2009. The event was designed to be a free, celebration of diversity in South Florida. In its first year, it drew 350 people with physical and intellectual challenges for a daylong picnic in the park complete with live entertainment and boat rides on the Intracoastal Waterway.

By 2013, the ‘Bash’ drew 5,500 registered guests and 500 volunteers. Thirty yachts, donated for the day by their owners, offered 2,000 boat rides. Over 6,000 barbeque lunches were served while live, nonstop entertainment rocked the park. Dubbed by the media as the “Miracle on the Intracoastal”, the event serves as a model program for community awareness and solidarity.

Van Vechten first entered the national disability arena in 1995, when his firm was retained by Johnson & Johnson to launch Independence Technology and its array of cutting-edge, assistive-technology devices. As the national spokesperson for the company, Jay generated over $10 million in global publicity coverage, including segments on Dateline NBC, the Today show, 60 Minutes, the ESPY Awards, Oprah and dozens more.

Jay joined the ranks of people with disabilities after he was injured in an accident in 2001. That same year he helped create Avis Access for Avis Rent a Car, providing a service in over 80 airport locations across the nation that would rapidly convert any car on the Avis lot to an accessible vehicle.

In Palm Beach County Jay has served as advisor for the Unicorn Children’s Foundation for children who suffer from autism and other learning disabilities as well as Shake A Leg Miami, the nation’s foremost sailing and water sports facility for people with special needs. In 2011, he helped launch a benefit for Stand Among Friends at Florida Atlantic University. While on the national stage, Jay was named to the National Advisory Board for VeteransAid Foundation in November of 2012. VeteransAid is chaired by Admiral Mike Mullen, (Ret), Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Jay was honored with a Presidential Citation for his work for the American Dental Association, in educating America about AIDS and the transmittal of the HIV virus. He was also honored by the American Marketing Association with the Edison AMA Award for the Best Marketing Campaign of the Year for his work on behalf of his client the Arthritis Foundation of America and Tylenol Brand Pain Relievers.




Abbi Bentz, RN, BS, CRRN, QRP

Abbi was born and raised in Connecticut. Shortly after graduating from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor's degree in nursing in 1992, she relocated to south Florida. Abbi has focused her nursing career in the area of home care, and has a specialty certification in rehabilitation nursing with over 20 years of experience working with patients and their caregivers. Abbi is currently employed as the Client Services Manager at Visiting Angels of SE Florida.  She has a long standing history with AACY having been a valued employee during its time of serving people who were homebound or caregiving families. Abbi currently serves as the Co-chair for the Interfaith Health and Wellness Association, and is the president of the American Parkinsons Disease Association, South Florida Chapter. She served two terms on the board of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton as the social action chair where she also initiated an annual caregiver recognition event called "Cookies for Caregivers". Abbi enjoys time with her husband, Stephen, and her two children Hannah and Evan. .

Mr. Herrera began his career with the certified public accounting firms Peat, Marwick & Mitchell (KPMG) and BDO Seidman, (BDO) and enjoyed working in the profession over an eight year period.
During the past 24 years, Mr. Herrera has held numerous executive and consulting positions, and has been a Director or Officer of various public and privately held companies in the entertainment, healthcare, insurance, personal growth/self help and non-profit industries.
Mr. Herrera is a licensed health, life, and variable annuities agent in multiple states. He has negotiated and secured equity and debt financing by coordinating IPOs, private placement, and secondary offerings. Mr. Herrera is also experienced in negotiating mergers and acquisitions. He is skilled in preparing responsible financial statements, projections, budgeting and business plans. Mr. Herrera has also provided expert witness support and consultation services for the healthcare industry at the private, State and Federal Government levels.

Mr. Herrera is co-founder and President of Alpha Capital Group, Inc. and was co-founder, Chairman & CEO of Preferred Homecare of America, Inc. (PFRD).  Mr. Herrera was Vice President of Finance & CFO of CarePlus, Inc. (CPLS). Mr. Herrera was also past President of Onionhead.com, an animated character featured in books, card games and accessories. He was also co-founder of Consumer Health Choice Association.
Mr. Herrera is very passionate about volunteering his time to children and teenagers. In addition to the Board of AACY, he has been involved with the Big Brother/Big Sister Organization and coached Youth Little League Baseball.


 Lauraleigh is a CPA licensed through the State of New York and holds a BBA in Accounting from St. John’s University. She began her accounting career in 1989 in the NYC office of Arthur Andersen & Co. specializing in manufacturing and international clients. Lauraleigh was then recruited by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals as Manager of Financial Reporting and spent four years travelling extensively throughout Europe and South America teaching and implementing U.S. GAAP financial reporting standards to 52 subsidiaries. After moving to South Florida, Lauraleigh joined Spherion and implemented SEC reporting standards for the newly public company. Over the last 10+ years, Lauraleigh has been critical at QEP Co., Inc. in sourcing, acquiring, and implementing both a high level consolidation system and a warehouse management system.

Currently Lauraleigh provides affordable financial services to small entrepreneurial businesses, giving them the basic tools necessary to become “the next big guys”. She has written and teaches a low-cost course entitled “Accounting 101 for the Entrepreneur” through the Community Educator branch of The School District of Palm Beach County.

When not “accounting”, Lauraleigh, her husband and sons provide volunteer services and fundraising for “Stand Down House” in West Palm Beach. She is also very involved in the local public schools and has been elected to a second term on the School Advisory Council for Addison Mizner Elementary. Having come from very humble beginnings, Lauraleigh believes that education is the great leveling ground and great schools and a home-life conducive to learning is what every child deserves. Believing in the work of AACY, Lauraleigh has served on its annual fundraiser committee for the last two years.



Tammy has been following her passion to make a difference in the lives of others since she was a teenager working once a month on a Sunday in a nursing home on Long Island reading to the elderly. She helped launch the Hunger Project in Manhattan in 1977 at Madison Square Garden and since relocating to South Florida in 1987 she has been involved with and fundraised for numerous organizations. Some of her favorites here in Florida are AVDA, SOS Children's Village, and Palm Beach County Legal Aid.

After losing her mother in 2006 to cancer, Tammy's 88 year old grandmother came to live with her. This very difficult yet rewarding situation made Tammy and her family realize how important it is to have someone who can provide this very special caregiving. This realization and the hard work involved in caring for someone has made her appreciate all that the American Association of Caregiving Youth is offering. Tammy and her 4 children were all affected by this tremendous responsibility, but not one regrets having the opportunity to spend this precious time with her.

Tammy put herself through college and then law school much later in life. Graduating college at 34 and law school at 37 she is someone who once she sets her goals there is nothing that can deter her. At law school graduation she was awarded The Most Outstanding Woman of the Year Award from the National Association of Women Lawyers. She takes her passion for making a difference into her law practice where she focuses on family law, family mediation and residential real estate transactions. When Tammy is not practicing law she is a professional speaker with a passion for speaking to college students.

JJoe Kraus is SVP & President of Home Care Solutions at MatrixCare which designs, develops and supports software solutions for Long Term Post-Acute Care facilities and home care agencies.  MatrixCare’s home care software solutions are now used in more than 2,000 Medicare, Medicaid and Private Duty offices across the US, Canada and Australia.  Before MatrixCare, Joe founded Stratis Business Systems in 1999 which was acquired by MatrixCare in 2015.  He started his career as a software developer for General Electric and is a graduate of GE’s Information Systems Management Program.  Joe received a BS in Computer Science from the University of Rhode Island and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management.  Joe joined the Board of AACY in 2012 and has been its Board Chairman since 2015.

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