, Inc.,

  an immune recovery child care center

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Advisory Board Members

Joseph Abraha, BS, MT (ASCP)

I received my Bachelor Science Degree in Biology and Chemistry from Metro Politian College at Denver, Colorado in 1992 and pursued my Medical Technology degree from University of Colorado in 1993. I have worked various positions in the clinical laboratory. Currently I am working in Histocompatibility and Immunogenetic field as a laboratory Supervisor. I have been in the field for more than 17 years and serving the need of organ and bone marrow transplant patients.  I belong to the ASCP (American Society for Clinical Pathology), ASHI (American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunology) and CLMA (Clinical Laboratory Management Association) professional societies. I am CAP (College of America Pathology) and ASHI (American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunology) inspector and conduct unannounced inspection for both agencies through the country. I am currently serving as board member for CLMA and RJ Children’s Haven. 

Goldie Benz, RN, DNP, FNP-BC, CDE, CPN

She has been a Family Nurse Practitioner in the Hematology-Oncology department since 2009 at which time she began to work with RJCH.  Goldie’s education includes a baccalaureate degree in Nursing from the University of Iowa, and Master’s degree in Family Nurse Practitioner and nursing doctorate degree, both from the University of Kansas.  She is a collaborative team member managing patients with bleeding and thrombosis disorders and vascular anomalies. Her accolades as an APRN include research investigator, Pediatric Manager of the APRN-Led Anticoagulation Clinic, Chairperson Annual Advanced Practice Nursing conference, Member APRN Advisory Council, Scientist member of the Internal Review Board, Hospital liaison to the SPS HAC- VTE Pediatric Safety Program, Preceptor graduate level nursing students and newly-hired APRNs, Chairperson APRN Mentoring Program and member of Advanced Practice Review Council for APRN clinical advancement.  Her licensures include Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, Certified Pediatric Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator, and Kansas and Missouri State Board of Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner Licensure.  She is a member of the American Nurses Association, American Association of Diabetes Educators, and Association for Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses writing professional manuscripts for patient education.  She has been a principal investigator for multiple research projects and leads in quality improvement initiatives to enhance pediatric care outcomes.  Goldie just completed her (DNP), a Doctor of Nursing Practice. DNP is a terminal professional degree in nursing practice, an alternative to the research focused doctoral degree. We are so proud of you Goldie!

Pat Brown, MS, FT

She received a B.S. from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, a Masters in Family Therapy, from Friends University, Wichita, KS, and a Death and Grief Studies Certificate through Colorado State University, after 150 hours of study in Ft. Collins, CO. She began her career at CMH as the Oncology Clinical Services Coordinator and later became a Family Centered Specialist after receiving her Master’s Degree.  During her tenure in the Hematology/Oncology Division she was an active member and past Director of the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Workers.. She initiated the Oncology Parent to Parent Volunteer Program, the Family Room on the Hematology/Oncology inpatient unit, various inpatient and outpatient groups for newly diagnosed oncology families, siblings, and teens, an annual picnic for Hem/Once staff and patient families, a bereavement follow-up program with parent volunteers, an annual bereavement memorial service with the chaplaincy service for Hem/Oncology families, as well as an ongoing bereavement group. Pat was a founding board member and officer of the Children’s Mercy Cancer Center, a board member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, The Ronald McDonald House, a Friends of Children’s Mercy Hospital member, and a consultant for the American Cancer Society.

Jignesh Dalal, MD

Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist with the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant program at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.  When the concept of a children’s cancer daycare was first discussed, Dr. Dalal not only believed it could be done but he believed it should be done. From the beginning, he was a force that encouraged us to continue for the children of Kansas City and beyond.  He served as Associate Division Director, Section of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation, and Kansas City, Missouri from 2011 to 2015 and Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Director from 2008 to 2015 where he pioneered various transplant techniques.  He received his Medical Degree and completed a Pediatric Residency at State University of Gujarat, India, and a Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and BMT Residency at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  Dr. Dalal has been active in research with many published articles. He has served on many hospital committees and professional societies in the Kansas City region. A few Honors and Awards include: Best Teaching Attending for Fellows and Best Doctor, Kansas City

Jesse Daniels, MBA 

Army Corp of Engineers, Kansas City, MO

Father of Stem Cell Transplant Recipient, Elijah Daniel transplanted for Sickle Cell Disease in 2012
Nakia D. Daniels-Wilson, LCSW, LSCSW, RPT

Licensed Social worker and Play Therapist with the Raytown School District and Mother of transplant recipient Elijah Daniels.

Nakia D. Wilson, received her Master’s in Social Work in 2008 from UMKC and after graduating, she was hired at Operation Breakthrough as a Child Therapist and pursued her clinical licensure in both Missouri and Kansas. After completing her clinical licensure and certification as a Registered Play Therapist in 2011, Nakia joined the Raytown school district as a School Social Worker working with children in Special Education, in the self-contained classrooms throughout the district. In the 2014-2015 school year, Mrs. Wilson began working part-time with parents in the Kansas City Kansas school district as a Truancy Diversion Social Worker to help parents find solutions with getting their children to school and getting them there on time. She is currently working with Raytown school district’s Parent’s as Teachers, as a support to subset families in building resilience, coping skills, problem solving, and accessing resources. Nakia has recently taken on another challenge; she has gone back to clinical work with children, working as a part-time contract Play Therapist with Community LINC to help children in her old neighborhood, build their resiliency and process their trauma through play, art, and writing. Mrs. Wilson currently works and lives in the Raytown area with her husband, Jesse, their two sons, Isaiah & Elijah, and their Lhasa Apso’s, Kandy and Kane.

Maureen Furlong Wall

Vice President/CFO at Carter Broadcast KPRS, Broadcasting & Media Production Company

Over 25 years of diversified accounting and financial expertise to manage the operations and strategic direction for corporations. Experienced with analyzing business operations and financial results to assist Executive Boards with future operational and strategic objectives. Extensive background with HR compensation and benefit program development and implementation. Create and Implement Customized Corporate Events to promote teambuilding and teamwork, successfully lead corporate audit reviews to ensure compliance on an annual basis.

Regina Higgins, BS

Aftermarket Sales Manager at Smith & Loveless Inc.

Parent of Weston Funk, bone marrow transplant recipient Regina Higgins, co-founder and mother of childhood cancer survivor Weston Funk, is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of other families who have a child battling cancer.

Regina utilizes her education and skills gathered in her profession experience of engineered product design and technical product sales & marketing, as well as her personal experiences gained through Weston’s cancer journey to make other family’s cancer journey a little easier. Regina, being a single parent at the time of Weston’s diagnosis, fully understands how difficult it is to be there for your child, care for your child, and must keep full-time employment to not only provide for life’s everyday necessities, but maintain healthcare coverage so Weston could get the medical treatment and medicines needed to save his life. This is a very tough journey, and having a support network to let families & children know they’re not alone, providing hope and a safe environment for immune-compromised children to recover while the parent(s) work is desperately needed. RJ Children’s Haven will make a world of difference for both the children & parents; please consider helping RJ Children’s Haven become a reality.

Kathy Hopfinger

Mother raising 6 children the last 40 years. Childhood Cancer Mom/caregiver/advocate the past 18 years to son Joe, survivor! Serves with the Parent to Parent, Peer to Peer Program at Children’s Mercy Cancer Center for 16 years. And an advisor board member & volunteer for RJ Children’s Haven.

Christopher Jones

Chris has been an IT Director within healthcare for over 9 years. He has helped healthcare companies become more cost efficient through technology innovation and automation. Chris is the President of 531 Digital LLC, a technology company he started that helps companies tackle IT strategies in this fast-moving digital age. Chris has a Bachelor of Science in Management currently pursuing his Master of Information Technology. 

Chris would like to help RJ’s provide kids with the best environment for normality in tough times. Through technology, kids can have to ability connect and go places otherwise seemed impossible. Chris understands the need for this as much as anyone. In May 2009, Chris lost his son 5-year-old son CJ to Brain Stem Glioma.  Because of this devastating loss, he has been devoted to helping other families understand and cope with various illnesses and hardships.  Chris has dedicated his life to ensure that families and children have the resources necessary to overcome life’s obstacles. He is also a member of the Kappa Alpha Phi fraternity and KCPMI. A native of Columbus, MS, Chris is married to Shanta and the proud father of 20-year-old Alise, 10-year-old Logan, and 4-year-old Aidan.

Karen Kopischke, MS, APRN, NNP-BC
Neonatal Advanced Practice Nurse, Overland Park Regional Hospital
A neonatal nurse practitioner and Manager at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. Karen received her BSN from the University of Iowa and her Master’s degree from Rush University in Chicago.   Karen’s husband, John Skelley, was a member of the Bone Marrow Transplant team at CMH until his death and her interest in RJ’s Children’s Haven is in his honor.  Her clinical interests are newborn lung disease and infectious disease.  She is active in quality improvement activities in her work life.  In her private life, she lives in Overland Park with her 2 young adult sons, 2 dogs and 1 cat.  She enjoys reading, scrap booking and volunteers in a kindergarten classroom one day a week, an activity that brings her joy and helps keep her semi-young.

Sue McCalley, PhD

Professor, Education and Psychology Department at Avila University

Sue Ellen McCalley, Ph.D. is a professor of Special Education and Psychology at Avila University, teaching in both the undergraduate and graduate programs.   She has traveled internationally to consult on special education and the development of treatment programs for children with special needs.  In recent years, she has traveled to China, Russia, India, South Africa, and Singapore.  She is a member of the Oxford Round Table on Children with Disabilities, Oxford University, England.  Dr. McCalley has served on several local Board of Directors.  She has served as a board member of the Missouri Association for Colleges of Teacher Education.  She is the chair of the Truman Distinguished Lecture Series at Avila University.

Polly Pendegrast

Polly is currently the Sr. Director for UMKC School of Education’s Edgar L. and Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center. Throughout her career Polly has been a classroom teacher, program accreditation specialist, executive director, faculty and university supervisor for early childhood students. She is a past president for The Mid America Association for the Education of Young Children, past board member for The Children’s Therapeutic Learning Center, Kansas Association for the Education of Young Children, Junior League of Minneapolis and served on the Chicago Metropolitan Association for the Education of Young Children Intergenerational Committee and The Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood. In 2013 she was invited by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) to be part of the review process for Missouri Early Childhood Curriculum. Her research interest focuses on emotional intelligence and social emotional learning.  Understanding the importance of play in early childhood and the critical thinking skills developed through play are a fierce passion of hers. Two of her favorite quotes are “Play is the highest form of research” by Albert Einstein and “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” Carl Jung.  


Polly holds a degree in Human Development and Family Living, Early Childhood Education from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Organizational Management, with an emphasis in Emotional Intelligence, from Concordia University-St. Paul, St. Paul Minnesota.  

Michael Simms, CPA, BSBA

He began his accounting career in 1995 at Deloitte Touche, LLP (now Deloitte) in the tax department. While there he was responsible for preparation and review of corporate, individual, partnership and non-profit tax returns with an emphasis in employee benefits. Additionally, he has extensive experience in the construction and transportation industry, trust and estate planning. Michael joined Walsh Washburn, LLC in 2004 and continues to deliver tax compliance, research and consulting services to a wide variety of clients.  Michael graduated from Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, MO with a BSBA in Accounting and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in Kansas and Missouri.