The Brems Family

Pam and Tom Brems have three children. Their two sons, Alex and Ryan, were born 7 years apart with the same brain malformation.  This life-limiting illness became apparent shortly after they were born.  Alex, born in 1987, lived to age three and Ryan, born in 1994, died at age eight. Their daughter Jennifer, born between the boys, was not affected. 

During their lives, both boys required 24-hour care which was provided exclusively by Pam and her husband, with no respite services available during Alex’s lifetime and very limited respite services during Ryan’s life.  Their insurance did not cover respite care and it was years before Pam’s own research found a Medicaid waiver which they were able to use with Ryan. The Brems family did not have any local family support and their son’s medical needs were too advanced to utilize regular childcare options.  Palliative care was never offered as a support service for either of the boys.

Pam adamantly believes that respite care is not a luxury while caring for a child with 24/7 care needs.  She states, “Respite care is as vital to the life of a marriage and family relationships as a suctioning machine is to a child with swallowing issues.” She asserts that respite care is an essential component to help parent caregivers maintain a healthy mind and marriage because many marriages do not survive the stressors of a chronically-ill child.  Respite care also provides crucial time to maintain healthy relationships with other children in the home. 

Pam is excited about Life House Atlanta providing much needed palliative and respite care for families in a child-focused “home” environment that is different from the typical medical setting.

Pam, Alex and Tom Brems
Tom, Pam, Jennifer and Ryan Brems
Alex and Jennifer Brems

A Christmas Surprise for the Reed Family

Chad Blake supports families through the Experiences Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to provide an opportunity for families and their children to have a fun experience which helps them to step outside of their challenges for some moments of joy. Chad heard about Mary Reed’s daughter Catherine, and reached out to help.

He and Mary’s older daughter, Cecilia, planned some special Christmas surprises for the family. Among these were a special date night out for Mary and her husband Rob, and a specialized Kevan backpack that can be used to carry Catherine, so she can enjoy more outings with the family.

Because Catherine’s care requires 24/7 attention, opportunities for Mary and Rob to focus on each other are hard to find. A date night is a true treat for these parents! “We were all like kids on Christmas morning when Chad Blake came over with his little elf to surprise us!”, said Mary. “My family has been all smiles all day and planning future trips with the Kevan!”

Marilyn E. Pearlman

Marilyn joined the Life House Atlanta team in the spring of 2022 and brings an extensive background in public relations and non-profit engagement. In her role as consultant to LHA, she guides and supports communications and marketing efforts to build awareness, and facilitates valuable community connections.

Marilyn holds a BA in English from Rhodes College, and held roles with Atlanta Public Schools as a high school English teacher, and then the Atlanta Housing Authority and the Atlanta Press Club where she focused on public information. She founded her own company, Atlanta Cause Marketing & PR, Inc., in 1977 and has been dedicated to pairing non-profit organizations with for-profit businesses, creating a mutually beneficial relationship between the two parties and then, telling the story of their business relationship to the public through traditional and social media. She has executed PR and social media campaigns for diverse clients in non-profit, professional services with emphasis on individual practice doctors, hospitality and events.

She currently serves on the board of Atlanta Lions Club, chairing the Leader Dogs committee, she is founder and chair of the Philanthropy Club of the Buckhead Club and serves ALSAC, the philanthropic arm of St. Jude Hospital.

As an entrepreneur, Marilyn understands the challenges of bringing a new organization from startup to operations, and the necessity of creating  exposure to the greater community in order to fuel progress. “I am pleased to contribute to the LHA mission of supporting families with medically fragile children by building awareness through public relations efforts.

 

Jamison Cooper

Jamison joined the Life House Atlanta team in 2022 after hearing about the organization from a family friend, and serves on the Communications Committee.

Jamison holds a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Strategic Communication from the University of Kentucky, and has a background in art and graphic design.

She has worked in marketing and communications for a variety of industries. During her time in Kentucky, she was the Social Media Coordinator at Kentucky Taste Buds, a Social Media Intern for Bearpaw Partners, PR Coordinator and Graphic Designer for the Honoring the Future/Kentucky State Arboretum virtual event, and held the position of VP Public Relations for Delta Delta Delta. Following her graduation, she worked as Digital Marketing Coordinator for Engel & Volkers Atlanta, and currently works as a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Ameris Bank.

Jamison’s volunteer history includes multiple years of raising money and helping facilitate fundraisers for St. Jude Children’s Hospital on behalf of Delta Delta Delta, as well as volunteering time for the Atlanta Humane Society, Ronald McDonald House and Huntcliff Assisted Living.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the LHA team, and to help spread awareness for an organization devoted to serving families when they need it most.”

 

Maria Britain

Maria is a former genetics student of Dr. Fleiszar and was involved in some early discussions as Life House Atlanta was being formed. She recently returned to join the Communications Committee, and brings much needed technical and design experience to the organization.

Maria holds an M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction, M.S. in Media Art & Science, M.S. in Medical and Molecular Genetics from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. In addition, she has a B.F.A. in Visual Communication/Design from Auburn University and a B.S. in Biology from Kennesaw State University.

Maria is a user experience (UX) professional with years of experience in research, design and human factors. She has worked on retail hardware and software interfaces and ensured product compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Her work includes a patent in her name focused on people with disabilities. Maria has also worked in the financial industry as a UX researcher, advocating for users and understanding customers’ needs in order to make websites and mobile apps usable, relevant, and accessible. Maria also has medical research and laboratory experience in academic and clinical settings.

Maria’s service interests include design, research, and writing for digital experiences and technical writing. “I am excited to work with the Life House Atlanta team, and look forward to helping ensure that families can find the support they need at LHA.”

 

Carla Bass

Carla met Kathleen Fleiszar at a Kennesaw Business Association meeting and eagerly stepped in to offer her expertise and guidance with the search for a property for Life House Atlanta. She serves on the board in an Ad-Hoc role.

Carla earned her B.S. in English and History from the University of Tennessee. Her entire 30 year career has been immersed in Commercial Real Estate including office, land and industrial sales and development. She is a Broker/Principal at CBCO Real Estate, LLC in Marietta. In her volunteer life, she is a member of Marietta First United Methodist Church and the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors where she serves on the Community Service Committee which identifies and supports three local charitable organizations annually. Carla is honored to support the efforts of Life House Atlanta. “It is a tremendous opportunity to assist families who are experiencing such tragedy and to provide support and comfort.”

Debra T. Day

Debra brings a long history of service and experience to her role at Life House Atlanta. In her role as an Ad-Hoc member of the team, she provides guidance related to fundraising, donor development and community building.

Debra holds a B.S. in Psychology from Georgia Southern University, and a Masters in Counseling from Long Island University, CW Post (West Point Campus). Her career began with the U.S. Army with roles in personnel management across the U.S., Europe and Panama (during the U.S. invasion), and as a Civil Servant at Fort Bragg, U.S. Military Academy West Point and Fort Meade. She transitioned into roles in higher education, working as a Career Counselor (University of Akron), Vice President of the Atlanta Metropolitan State College Foundation, and Senior Director of Development, Principal and Major Gifts at Kennesaw State University. In Akron, she also served as Homeland Security Coordinator, Retired & Senior Volunteer Program and later she coordinated the Ann Frank Exhibit for the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust at KSU. Currently, she owns and operates D.R. Day Consulting, a boutique fundraising consulting business, focusing on working with university systems and non-profits. Her professional affiliations include the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Military Women Veterans, Kennesaw State Retiree Association and the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

In her volunteer life, Debra’s current commitments include the Bridgemill Sixes Service League, The Park at Steeles Bridge HOA Social Committee Chair, BeCommunity Women’s Book Club and is a Veteran of Foreign Wars Nominee. Previously, she was involved in leadership roles with the Rotary Club of Marietta, Women in Defense (GA Chapter, Founding Member), Coalition of 100 Black Women, KSU Women’s Executive Leadership Program, North Metro Church Stephen Ministry, LiveSave (formerly YWCA Marietta) Tribute to Women Honoree and Domestic Violence Shelter Volunteer and a career resource volunteer for Transfiguration Catholic Church. Debra was raised in Harlem, and later Savannah. She and her husband, who is also retired from the U.S. Army, have two adult daughters. Debra joined the team at Life House Atlanta in support of its mission. “I think that serving vulnerable children and their families is a noble cause worthy of public and private support. My expertise in fundraising is useful to LHA as it seeks to identify and develop relationships with individuals and organizations that identify with its mission.”

Denise O’Connell

Denise joined the board of Life House Atlanta through her friendship with Kathleen Fleiszar. She serves on the Nominating and Fundraising committees and brings almost 30 years of experience in public accounting to guide LHA.

Denise holds a BBA and Masters in Accounting CPA through Kennesaw State University. She is a member of the Georgia Society of CPA’s and AICPA. She is a Partner at Nichols Cauley & Associates, LLC. Her specialties include tax, accounting and general business consulting, and experience in supporting the accounting and advising needs of individuals, sole-proprietors, partnerships, corporations, S Corporations, estates, trusts and non-profits. Denise’s career in public accounting began at age 12, helping with the family business. Following her graduation from college, she accepted a position with a CPA firm and after working for various firms, has been with Nichols Cauley since 2002, advancing through various positions to her current role as partner.

In her volunteer life, Denise serves as the LGE Credit Union Secretary, the Kennesaw State University Accounting School Advisory Board as Vice President, the Georgia Society of Certified Public Accountants Advisory Council and various committees, and is a member of the North Cobb Civitan Club. In the past, Denise has supported the YWCA of Northwest Georgia (now LiveSafe Resources), MUST Ministries, North Atlanta Chapter GSCPA, Ethics Committee Chair for the GSCPA, the American Cancer Society Pink Ribbon Board, and many more over the years. Denise is devoted to her husband of 33 years, her two adult sons and their families including a granddaughter and enjoys traveling, reading, playing tennis and antiquing. She brings a wealth of experience, both professional and personal, to support Life House Atlanta. “My entire career has been devoted to servicing clients. Serving others is engrained into my daily life. I have been fortunate to work with many wonderful non-profit organizations throughout my life. Through this work, my eyes have been opened to many areas of need that I never realized existed. I have a special place in my heart for those with physical challenges as well as their families. We can change the world by helping one person at a time. Fulfilling the mission of Life House would have a huge impact for many families and individuals.”

Lanise Shortell

Lanise serves on the communications committee of the Life House Atlanta Advisory Council. She brings more than 20 years of experience of working with families locally and around the world to her role.

Lanise is a Registered Nurse, is a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Pediatric Nurse and also holds Certification in Perinatal Loss Care. She is the Director of the Pediatric Hospice Program at Harbor Grace Hospice in Atlanta. In this role, she does family consults, community education, case management of children at the end of life and bereavement and grief support. She is often asked to speak to groups of medical professionals and care givers on grief and loss, how end-of-life rituals across cultures should be supported and honored, and on how to prioritize self-care in order to continue to support families experiencing loss.

Lanise serves on the Advisory Board of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation which offers connection and collaboration for researchers, institutions, caregivers and grieving individuals, and facilitates grief education and support around the world. She also educates Pediatric Hospice and Palliative Fellows at Emory University School of Medicine on caring for children outside of hospital walls. Her years of experience in supporting families and their children brings valuable guidance to Life House Atlanta. “I bring medical expertise on symptom management of children at end of life along with grief management tools that enhance the life quality of families experiencing grief and loss.”

Claire Cotton

Claire recently joined the Advisory Council as a member of the communications team focusing on social media after learning about Life House Atlanta through friend connections.

Claire holds a Bachelor of Arts in Medicine, Health and Society from Vanderbilt University. She is a Research Assistant at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Spectrum for Life Lab, focused on research to optimize outcomes for individuals on the autism spectrum. One project she is currently working on is a framework for evaluating the major theories of autism. In addition, she is a Scribe in the Emergency Department at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville.

Claire is the co-founder of Fuel Our Heroes ATL, whose mission is to help the medical professionals sacrificing everything for our public health by providing them food, fuel and PPE to allow them to fight the battle against COVID-19. She is the Undergraduate Fundraising Board Member of Shade Tree Clinic which provides free health care services for Nashville residents with limited resources. Claire is also a Bedside Volunteer in the Emergency Department at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. Claire’s professional focus in health care, and her expertise in launching and managing a large, online social platform to connect high school babysitters with families makes her a valuable addition to the LHA team. She was born and raised in Atlanta. “In the Southeast, children with life-limiting illnesses and their families do not have adequate access to services that provide an environment where they can relax and renew as a family. Life House Atlanta will address a major need for this population, and I am honored to spread the word and connect with families who would benefit from this support.”