Kids and families don’t get to take time off from the pain, monotony and hopelessness of long-term hospitalization. So neither do we. Our job is to ensure we meet the needs of the sickest children today, tomorrow and into the future. To this end, we have assembled an engaged board, enthusiastic investors, committed hospital partners and empowered a passionate, professional child life team embedded in hospitals whose round-the-clock commitment to the children make them the real superheroes of our organization.
CEO & Founder,
Hope for Henry Foundation
For 30 years, Laurie Strongin has helped draw attention and resources to issues of emerging national significance.
She began as a PR professional at Podesta Associates and The Kamber Group, two of Washington DC’s premier public relations firms. Laurie then took her advocacy expertise to the issue of affordable housing, serving as the Deputy National Coordinator for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation’s Campaign for Home Ownership; and subsequently running Fannie Mae Foundation’s multi-million dollar portfolio to advance homeownership counseling, foreclosure prevention, and asset-building investments.
“Everything about Hope for Henry is growing. From our geographic footprint, to our staff, to the innovations we take from bench to the bedside. We are not just helping make sick kids happy, we are helping them get better faster with fewer long-term effects.”
In 1996, Laurie became drawn through personal experience into the frontlines of a breakthrough medical procedure that held the promise of saving her son, among countless other children. Turning her advocacy and media skills to that issue, Laurie participated in national medical policy panels (alongside Newt Gingrich and Dr. Bernadine Healy, among others); worked with then-House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) to urge Senate passage of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act; secured coverage of the issue on ABC’s “Nightline” and in a Sunday New York Times magazine cover story; authored “Vetoing Henry,” a Washington Post op-ed criticizing President Bush’s 2006 veto of federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research; and advocated for parental perspectives on NBC, the CBS Early Show, and MSNBC. In 2009, when President Obama lifted the ban on federal funding for stem cell research, Laurie was one of a few dozen honored guests.
Laurie’s subsequent memoir, “Saving Henry” (Hyperion 2010), has been featured on Good Morning America, The Diane Rehm Show, The Bob Edwards Show, The Dr. Oz Show, and BBC; and featured in USA Today and The Washington Post. Since its publication, Laurie has headlined over 60 speaking engagements across the U.S.
Laurie’s leadership has been recognized by numerous institutions. She has received Children’s National’s Chairman’s Award, Georgetown Pediatrics’ Flame of Hope Award, Children’s Charities Foundation’s Star for Children Award and the Center for Nonprofit Advancement’s 2016 EXCEL Award. Laurie was featured as a “Heroes Among Us” in People magazine in 2016. In addition, in 2015-2016, she served on the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on the Ethical and Social Policy Considerations of Novel Techniques for Prevention of Maternal Transmission of Mitochondrial DNA Diseases. She serves on the board of directors of the National Marrow Donor Program, and on the Association of Child Life Professional’s Advisory Council.
Kelly Beck, CCLS
Certified Child Life Specialist
at Sinai Children’s Hospital
Kelly became a Certified Child Life Specialist in 2011 after graduating from Towson University and accepted a position at Children’s National Health System, where she was first introduced to Hope for Henry. In the spring of 2016, Hope for Henry expanded to the Baltimore area, and Kelly became the child life specialist for the Lenny “Batman” Robinson Hope for Henry program at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. Kelly whole-heartedly believes in the mission of Hope for Henry and feels that it aligns with her personal belief that excellent medical care combined with the power of play and laughter can help kids heal faster.
Cathy joined the Hope for Henry team as Program Manager in January 2021, although she has been a member of the Parent Advisory Board since 2018. With an MBA from the Yale School of Management, Cathy worked as a Project Manager in the Washington area for various nonprofits that developed affordable rental housing. In 2009, her family moved abroad to Austria and the United Arab Emirates for nearly eight years. During this time, Cathy was “project manager “of her family. For three years, she served as the PTA Chair of the Vienna International School, a K-12 school of 1,500 students from over 100 countries. Combining her nonprofit business experience with her ability to collaborate and connect with people from all over the world, Cathy is responsible for managing Hope for Henry patient programs at thirteen existing hospital partners across the country as well as implementing and managing Hope for Henry patient programs at new partner hospitals.
Carolyn Schneiders Fung, CCLS
Director of National Programs
Carolyn Schneiders Fung has been a part of the Hope for Henry team since 2012. She became a Child Life Specialist in 2008 and began her career at Duke University Medical in Durham, NC. She discovered her passion for working with children and teenagers receiving solid organ transplants, and helped pilot a child life position within the adult lung transplant team. In 2012, she was hired to work at Children’s National Medical Center, becoming Hope for Henry’s first full-time, in-hospital staff member. In that role, she provided services alongside with the hospital’s top-notch child-life team, delivered Hope for Henry’s unique and exciting programming, and worked to create new programs to improve patient well-being and outcomes. Building on Hope for Henry’s special focus on play, learning, child development, and advocacy, Carolyn helped create the new patient incentives program—Hope for Henry’s Super Path to Super Duper Better. In the spring of 2016, Carolyn became the first-ever program director for Hope for Henry, and in 2018, she became the Director of National Programs.
Carolyn’s passion for the field of child life has led to becoming involved with the Association of Child Life Professionals. She was selected to be a participant in the ACLP’s first inaugural Leadership Academy, has served on the Conference Committee as an Abstract Reviewer, and currently serves on the Community Based Non-Traditional Committee.
Manager of Finance and Accounting
Maria Gortaire is the Manager of Finance and Accounting. Maria joined Hope for Henry in April 2019. She has a Finance degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. She oversees all aspects of the foundations’ finances, including the implementation of financial policies and accounting best practices. She is responsible for the development and management of budgets and financial reports, accounts payable and receivables, general ledger, banking, and reconciliations.
Sofia Iraheta joined Hope for Henry as a Program Associate in 2021. She provides administrative and operations support to all internal and external staff while striving to support and uphold the Hope for Henry mission. After having spent more than a decade studying foreign languages, she studied, worked and volunteered abroad with a focus on International Education and Childcare. Sofia gained a wide range of administrative experience in the Education field supporting children, teachers, parents, and program staff in any way possible. She aims to continue to grow in the nonprofit sector and is pursuing a BA in Communications from Grand Canyon University.
Samantha Polasky, MA, CCLS
Child Life Specialist
Sam became a certified child life specialist in 2016, after graduating with a master’s degree in child life from the University of Akron, and completing her internship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She started her professional career at Cleveland Clinic Children’s primarily working with inpatient cardiology and NICU patients and families. From these experiences Sam was immersed into effects of chronic illness and the toll long term hospitalization has on both children and families. Sam was first introduced to Hope for Henry in 2018, and now has the honor of working as the Hope for Henry child life specialist in the outpatient cardiology clinic at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. Sam looks forward to expanding Hope for Henry programming in the outpatient setting so that more children and families can experience the combined healing effects of laughter, empowerment, and medicine.
Meredith Wade has been with Hope for Henry since 2016, first as a volunteer and, soon after, transitioned into her role as an in-house management consultant. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Meredith brings her experience as a lawyer in private, government, and university settings to her position. She is responsible for improving Hope for Henry’s efficiency and performance to enable growth, and her strategic approach, recommendations, and guidance aid Hope for Henry’s implementation of its vision. Additionally, Meredith is responsible for planning and executing Hope for Henry’s convening, a series of conferences that bring together national experts to collaborate on reinventing the pediatric patient experience.