Maura Weis, Chair and Executive Director
Maura Weis founded Hannah and Friends in 2003 in honor of her daughter Hannah who has global developmental delays. Maura serves as the Chair and Executive Director of Hannah and Friends and led the development of Hannah and Friends Neighborhood with her vision of a community of acceptance and compassion for individuals with special needs. Maura established Hannah’s Helping Hands grants as a program to aid people with special needs from disadvantaged families all over the country. She has authored a book, “Miles from the Sidelines”, about the lessons she has learned from Hannah. Maura has two passions besides her family – special needs and animals. She is an avid horse rider, and an advocate for individuals with special needs—always promotes the mission of “Awareness of Compassion” so that all individuals with special needs are treated with love and respect.
Tiffani Amberg, Tour Coordinator and Spokesperson
Tiffani Amberg grew up in Granger, IN. She graduated from Clay High School in 2005 and then completed the young adult program at Eggleston School. She started coming to Hannah & Friends in 2012. Tiffani joined the Hannah & Friends staff working as the Tour Coordinator and Spokesperson and currently holds both of these positions. In her spare time she enjoys participating in ballroom dancing with the Special Olympics and holds the 2012 and 2014 Miss Amazing Indiana pageant titles. In 2014 she went on to compete at the national level and came in third place at Miss Amazing Nationals. She strives to promote the Hannah & Friends mission and ongoing campaign of Awareness & Compassion. She is also a proud aunt of four nieces and nephews.
Amanda Buchholz, Day Program Instructor
Amanda Buchholz holds a Bachelor of General Studies with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences and a minor in Sustainability from Indiana University South Bend. She worked as a teacher at Growing Kids Learning Center for over six years while attending IUSB. She worked with ages 6 weeks up to 16 years. She was a summer camp teacher and after school classroom teacher for three years. Amanda has been trained in NECPA accreditation as well as Paths to Quality accreditation. In her six years Amanda received multiple “Teacher of the Month” awards for all five centers, nominated by parents and co-workers. Amanda is a South Bend native who has volunteered with local organizations such as La Casa De Amistad and the South Bend Center for the Homeless. Amanda completed an internship with Green Bridge Growers in the summer of 2014 at Hannah & Friends. This internship led to her career as a Direct Support Professional at Mosaic of Northern Indiana. At Hannah & Friends, Amanda currently works as the Day Program Instructor.
Jetta Cruse, Music & Movement Instructor
Jetta Cruse joined Hannah and Friends’ staff in 2010. Jetta’s educational background includes a degree in visual communications and she is currently working towards a degree and certification as a Special Education teacher. Her twenty-five plus years of experience as a professional musician and entertainer has aided her in maintaining a successful and ever growing Music and Movement program. She has a drive for adding an educational component to all programs and she continues to expand and improve our programs on site and in the community. She believes in Hannah and Friends’ mission of raising Awareness and Compassion for people with different abilities, and she keeps that focus as a constant while working with participants, families, guests, and colleagues. Her current goals include expanding community awareness about Hannah and Friends’ programs and services in the Michiana area.
Sarah Mackin, Day Program Instructor Sarah Mackin joined Hannah and Friends staff in June 2016. She started off as our Summer Camp Director. Sarah previously worked in our Meaningful Day Program as Mosaic staff for two and a half years. She spent her time really getting to know each participant individually, and learning about adults with special needs. Mosaic was her first job working with special needs, and she discovered it was more then just a job but a passion. When Sarah first started with Mosaic she never imagined that she would grow such a strong bond to different Hannah and Friends participants. Sarah grew a special attachment to Hannah personally, which really gave her the initiative to become a full time employee for this organization. As time goes on she hopes to grow closer to new participants, as well as bring more new faces into our day program, and evening programs. At Hannah & Friends, Sarah currently works as a Day Program Instructor.
Kayle Sexton, Director of Operations
Kayle Sexton graduated from Saint Mary’s College in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a concentrate in Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing. She played Division III tennis for Saint Mary’s College, and served as captain her senior year. Kayle served as President of Friends with Sisters during the 2014-2015 academic year and Vice President in 2013-2014. Friends with Sisters is the largest campus club connecting approximately 100 Sisters of the Holy Cross to Saint Mary’s students. Kayle served on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for 3 years and served as Vice President and Secretary her senior year. Kayle volunteered at the Center for the Homeless from 2012-2014. While she was there she created a class for children between the ages of 6-10 teaching participants about public communication. In 2014, Kayle interned at Hannah and Friends, focusing on media marketing and event planning. At Hannah & Friends, Kayle currently works as Director of Operations.
Courtney Strychalski, Barn Caretaker and Groundskeeper
Courtney Strychalski grew up with neighbors who had horses so most of her childhood was spent next door. Around the time she turned 10 she started asking her parents for riding lessons, which they graciously let her take both english and western ones. Those lasted about two years, from there she decided to try volunteering at Reins of Life, therapeutic horseback riding. During her 7 years there she earned a lot of her horse knowledge plus received a whole new outlook on life. After graduating high school she picked up a few jobs at different horse barns, one of which she currently still works at. The light of her life is her three and a half year old paint gelding named Howie, he is the biggest puppy dog you’ll ever meet!
Jennifer Weis, Director of Finance
Jennifer Weis is the Director of Finance for Hannah & Friends. Before officially joining in 2015, Weis spent two years interning with Hannah & Friends in both camps and fundraising. Graduating from Miami University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics, Jennifer is currently pursuing her Masters in Accounting from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Weis’ fundraising experience began with Miami University Red & White Athletic Booster Club, and continued with her time in Ecuador working on social development. She is passionate about deepening the impact of non-profit organizations and ensuring that Hannah & Friends is around for many many more years!
Wes Ward, Barn Caretaker
Wes Ward joined the staff of Hannah and Friends in 2009 as our Barn Manager. Being raised on a farm, and owning his own farm in LaPorte County, Wes brought with him the expertise of tending farm animals, growing and harvesting a successful organic garden, managing all barn equipment, supplies, and feed for all of the animals. As an added bonus, he brought his talents as an excellent handyman, groundskeeper, and strategic planner for the needs of the animals and everything related to the barn. When Animal Club became one of our weekly programs, Wes supervised this activity. He very patiently taught participants and residents about each of the animals and how to properly groom and feed them. Burt and Bart, our Percherons who pulled our wagon were guided by Wes who is a very experienced wagoner. Wes retired in August of 2014. He has returned part time to help us out each Wednesday with wagon rides and other barn related activities.