Our Team

 

Our BlazeSports multi-disciplinary team is comprised of passionate, motivated and experienced professionals dedicated to providing the highest quality adaptive sports programs. 

 

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Cynthia Frisina | Executive Director

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Cynthia is responsible for the strategic direction, growth and overall operations of BlazeSports. As a successful marketing, fund development and nonprofit professional, Cynthia has committed her professional career and personal life to improving the lives of others through advocacy, education and strategic outreach. Cynthia spent more than 25 years as an award-winning marketing professional for Fortune 500 companies, biotech companies, global healthcare and technology startups.  After Cynthia’s youngest daughter was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, she launched the nonprofit foundation “Reaching for the Stars. A Foundation of Hope for Children with Cerebral Palsy” in 2005 in order to change the future of the most common motor disability in children. In a few short years “Reaching for the Stars” rapidly grew into the largest pediatric nonprofit cerebral palsy foundation in the world with presence in the U.S., Canada, Asia and Australia helping to create meaningful change in the way Cerebral Palsy is researched, diagnosed and treated.  Cynthia was also the CEO and founder of two high growth marketing consulting companies focusing in the healthcare, technology and digital marketing sectors and served on the BlazeSports Board of Directors before assuming the position of Executive Director because of her passion for the BlazeSports mission and belief in how lives can be changed through the power of sport for people of all physical abilities.

Cynthia is known as a worldwide expert on disability advocacy and family education on a U.S. and international level. She is recognized for excellence in brand building, marketing strategy, fund development and strategic alliances. Cynthia was awarded the international Cathleen Lyle Murray Award by the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine for her tireless work on behalf of people with disabilities. She has co-authored numerous articles, publications and curriculum content, and has presented many instructional courses, educational conferences and workshops for families impacted by physical disabilities and clinicians on several different continents. Cynthia was the first to establish a U.S. National Awareness Day for Cerebral Palsy through bi-partisan Congressional agreement and has been a champion of bringing the power of sport to children with physical challenges on a global basis.Read more»

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Mara Galic, MHSc, RD |Director of Operations and Evaluation

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Mara Galic returns to BlazeSports America as the Director of Operations and Evaluation after a brief period as Health Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specializing in nutrition and obesity prevention among youth focusing on the school environment.  In this role, Mara will draw upon her leadership, evaluation and management skills along with four years experience as BlazeSports’ Director of Organizational Development and Evaluation.  Ms. Galic has also worked with the Georgia’s state health department where she successfully built and managed a five-year, $2.5 million cooperative agreement with the CDC focusing on nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention across the state. Mara is a registered dietitian and holds a master’s degree in community/public health nutrition from the University of Toronto, and Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences from the same.  In her spare time, Mara enjoys tending to her garden, trying new recipes and most of all playing soccer with her son William.

 

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Belinda Morris, MBA, CPA |Director of Finance

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Belinda is the Director of Finance for BlazeSports America. Belinda manages the finance and accounting operations of BlazeSports including financial management and support for grants and other funding. Belinda has over 20 years of consulting experience in financial advisory, corporate finance and valuation services working with companies in such areas as: valuations, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, tax planning, due diligence, strategic planning, purchase price allocations and litigation services. Prior to joining the BlazeSports, Belinda worked with international accounting and consulting firms including Navigant Consulting, KPMG, Coopers & Lybrand and Shearson Lehman Brothers. Belinda is a Certified Public Accountant, Accredited in Business Valuations. She graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Business Administration, and holds an MBA in Finance from Georgia State University.

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Felipe Rodrigues, MS |Manager of Sport for Development

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Felipe comes to BlazeSports America with a wealth of knowledge in international sport and sports governance as well as professional and collegiate sports. As manager of sport for development, Felipe has been applying this international knowledge and skills set in the implementation of BlazeSports’ International sport for development programs. Read more»

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Gillian Sharp |Manager of Sport and Community Programs

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As Manager of Community Programs, Gillian is responsible for a broad range of programs and services that include community-based sport, healthy lifestyle and adapted physical activity programs. In addition the role also has a focus on delivering sport and recreation camps, school-based programs, and technical assistance to support those with disabilities in the wider community. Read more»

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Jessie Romito |Manager of Sport and Community Programs

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As a Manager of Sport and Community Programs Jessie is responsible for  administrative oversight of all programs including youth, veteran and international.  Jessie manages the BlazeSports wheelchair basketball program, assists with the BlazeSports veteran boccia initiative, community outreach, and program implementation. She manages organizational special events including our annual wheelchair basketball tournament.  Jessie also coordinates the BlazeSports Training and Education division managing all administrative and logistical functions of the program.  She brings to BlazeSports 8 years of experience in sport facility and event management, staff management, and a Level I Boccia coaching certification.  Jessie has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sport Management from the State University of New York at Brockport.  

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Kit McCluskey|Program Specialist

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Kit joins the BlazeSports team as a Program Specialist in our Sport and Community Department. She found her passion for adaptive sports after she interned with Blaze in the fall of 2012. She is responsible for organizing and implementing our sport and recreation programs, as well as, leading adaptive sport sessions for local organizations and camps. Besides programming, she is also responsible for the coordination of special events throughout the year.

Kit graduated from Springfield College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sport Management. During her time at Springfield, she worked for the school’s athletic department and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. She is a Certified Disability Sports Specialist and a certified boccia coach.

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Maggie Frederick |Office Manager / Sport Specialist

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Maggie Frederick is our Office Manager and a Sport Specialist here at BlazeSports. She a graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.  Maggie was offered a track scholarship and competed for 5 years while studying Speech and Hearing Science. During her free time, Maggie likes to spend time with family and friends, CrossFit, and try anything new. Maggie’s favorite personal quote is “You can do anything you set your mind to”. 

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Fred Lamback |Head Swim Coach

Fred Lamback began coaching to support his son Lantz, who has cerebral palsy.  Lantz took up swimming (after deciding that baseball was not for him) and entered into swim meets against able-bodied swimmers .  Every step of the way he was encouraged by his dad.   His dad heard about an opportunity for swimmers with a disability and decided to drive his son to a disability swim clinic taking place in Warm Springs GA.  Lantz was immediately targeted as having a natural talent.  Fred drove his son across the country to compete in disability swim meets and when Lantz won all 7 events at the National Championships, he was immediately targeted for bigger things.      Lantz, coached by has dad, went on to compete in 3 separate Paralympic games winning a bronze and 2 gold medals.  From his introduction to adapted swimming through his son, Fred became involved with BlazeSports.  For the past 12 years Fred has coached swimmers of all abilities and served on the 2004 Paralympic Staff. The results of Fred’s swimmers speak for themselves.  He has coached countless swimmers to national level and multiple Paralympians including Bradley Snyder who achieved Paralympic Gold 1 year after being blinded by an IED in active duty.  

 

 Canadian sprinter Pierre Brown of Toronto, Ontario, checks out his time after running during the 100m heat during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games Saturday, August 21, 2004. Brown crossed the line with a time of 10.32 to move on. (CP PHOTO/COC-Andre Forget) Le sprinter canadien Pierre Browne de Toronto, Ontario, regarde son temps lors de la ronde de qualification au 100 m aux Jeux olympiques d'été à Athènes le samedi 21 août 2004. Browne a franchi la ligne d'arrivée avec un chrono de 10.32 qui lui permet d'avancer.

Pierre Browne |Head Track and Field Coach

Pierre Browne joins our team for 2015 as the Head Coach of the Youth Track and Field Program.  Pierre is a three time Olympic Track Athlete having competed for Canada in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.

Pierre works as a full time spinal cord specialist with Project Walk Atlanta where he is involved with the design and implementation of recovery programs to teach paralyzed people how to walk again. 

Pierre has over 10 years experience as an elite athlete and sports performance coach specializing in speed agility, strength and conditioning and rehabilitation. 

 

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Eric Gray, CTRS | Adaptive Sport Specialist with Veteran Programs

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As a graduate of the University of Georgia and a Atlanta native Eric began his time in the non-profit world working for the Lighthouse Family Retreat in 2001. Following graduation, as a Recreation Therapist, Eric became immersed in the world of adaptive sports. It was through the National Ability Center that he learned how to develop strong community programs. During his time at the NAC he taught individuals with a variety of abilities  how to canoe, cycle, climb, ride horses, water ski, snowboard, snow ski and a whole host of other activities.

Following his time in Utah he spent 5 years developing programs at the VA Hospital in Augusta GA. Eric developed the first adaptive climbing program within the VA system as well as an adaptive golf, cycling, and kayaking program. Eric also has a strong clinical background from working at the Shepherd Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Eric is also the founder of Catalyst Sports which provides adaptive climbing and kayaking opportunities to individuals with physical disabilities throughout the Southeast. 

 

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Nate Watson |Adaptive Sport Specialist with Veteran Programs

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Nate Watson is a combat wounded United States Army veteran. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. On August 17, 2009 Nate was on a combat patrol in northern Afghanistan when his convoy was ambushed. During the ensuing firefight Nate was shot in the left forearm. Nate was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor for his actions in combat. Nate sustained nerve damage that impairs the movement in his left arm and hand. As a result of his wounds, Nate was forced to retire from the Army in August, 2011.

Nate graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2014 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Sports Management. Since Nate’s retirement he has devoted countless hours to veteran’s charities including starting his own non profit organization Georgia Wounded Heroes. Nate is an avid runner having completed the Marine Corps Marathon and several other marathons. Nate also enjoys rock climbing. In 2013 Nate completed a climb of Yosemite’s famed Half Dome for a 9/11 memorial veteran’s climb. Nate has seen first hand the positive influence of sports on veteran disabilities and PTSD.

 

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Armin Marquez |Intern with International Programs

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Armin, a native of Venezuela, is currently working as an intern in our International Programs. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Georgia State University where he played four years of NCAA Division-1 Soccer, excelling both on the classroom and on the field. He went on to play professionally for eight years in the top division of his home country, while managing several entrepreneurship ventures. He has recently returned to Atlanta to pursue a Master’s Degree in Sport Administration at Georgia State University. Armin is also the recipient of The Roslyn Hirsch Balbirer Memorial Scholarship in Disability Sports at Georgia State University.

Armin holds a coaching National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and coaches youth soccer at Southern Soccer Academy. He has also completed courses in Wheelchair Handball, Wheelchair Football and Wheelchair Basketball. His interest in Disability Sports has been inspired by his sister’s involvement in the Special Olympics. Maria Patricia will be representing Venezuela’s tennis team in the upcoming World Games in Los Angeles.

 

 

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Sam Zapatka |Veteran Soccer Consultant

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Sam graduated from Springfield College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sport Management and began his career  with BlazeSports as a Program Specialist following a successful internship in the summer of 2013.  At BlazeSports, Sam was responsible for the coordination and implementation of all disabled veteran programs, as well as working in the international department delivering Paralympic and inclusive sport opportunities around the globe.

Most recently Sam has transitioned into a variety of different roles.  He splits his time as a team coordinator for U.S. Soccer, technical analyst and videograopher for U.S. Mens Volleyball and consultant for the Veteran Soccer Program with BlazeSports.

 

 

   

Because of her effective advocacy work, Cynthia has been invited to testify and provide public witness testimony before U.S. Congressional Sub-Committees on multiple occasions on behalf of families impacted by physical disabilities and cerebral palsy. She has championed ground breaking scientific research and clinical trials with leading medical institutions and researchers around the world with a particular focus on neuroplasticity and the value of the athletic model for people with physical disabilities. Cynthia has been a frequently invited presenter and speaker at the National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, CP Alliance of Australia, Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy and many research institutions and universities including University of Michigan, University of Massachusetts, Washington University  Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Cynthia is an ex-officio member of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, serves as an External Partner of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Birth Defects and Disabilities Branch.  She is a member of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Effective Health Care Program Issue Exploration Forum for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and serves on the Global Review Panel for World CP Day.  Cynthia is the recipient of many awards for her marketing work and service on behalf of people with disabilities.  She is a published author and sought after speaker on a variety of nonprofit, marketing, advocacy topics.  She holds a BA from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Business Administration and Masters in English from Northwestern University.

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Felipe grew up actively involved in sports at a young age. His father worked with the Brazilian Basketball Federation for over a decade, influencing Felipe’s desire for a fulfilling career in sport management. He himself worked for the Brazilian Basketball Federation for over five years managing the day to day operations and activities of various basketball teams. His experience also extends to major sport events like the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio and the High School Olympics events organized by the Brazilian Olympic Committee. He has also worked with USA Basketball during events in Brazil as well as in the United States. Felipe has also served as the director of basketball at Ability Sports Agency, where he helped found the basketball athlete recruitment program. He developed a keen interest for Paralympic sports when his home city, Rio de Janeiro, was selected to host the 2007 Pan-American Games. His interest grew once Rio de Janeiro was again selected to host the Olympics in 2016 and he started pursuing a career in the field.

Felipe graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Master’s Degree in Conflict Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Sport Management from the same.  A native of Brazil, Felipe is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish. Felipe believes in opportunity for all and that sport can be used as a tool for development and inclusion.

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Gillian graduated with a 4 year Honors Degree in Sport in the Community from the Scottish School of Sport Studies at Strathclyde University. Since graduating she has gained a wealth of experience in the promotion, organisation and sustaining of community level sport and physical activity.

She worked as the project coordinator for the award winning ‘Healthy Lifestyle Project’ where she was responsible for leading a program of holistic health education and training for staff and school students. Gillian also spent several years working for North Lanarkshire Council as Active Schools Coordinator, where she integrated a physical activity pathway between kindergarten, elementary schools , middle schools, high schools and local clubs therefore ensuring that there was ‘life long’ approach to sport within the area. 

As a keen sports woman Gillian has represented the Scottish National Volleyball Squad at Senior, Junior and College level, in addition to playing within the Scottish Volleyball Premier League for nearly a decade. Able to turn her hand to most sports Gillian possesses numerous coaching qualifications and has also gained the prestigious honor of Black Belt in Karate.

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