Board & Volunteers
Who We Are
Meet the hardworking team who’s making it all possible…
David C. McKnight: President
David C. McKnight, owner and founder of Emerald City Designs, THE SPECIAL EVENT GROUP, has operated his business since 1993, and has built his reputation on “exceeding expectations” and creating events with “personality and style. From wedding receptions and mitzvahs, to corporate parties and charity fundraisers, David C. McKnight provides high-end floral designs, accessory rentals, unique stationery concepts and full planning and event coordination.
McKnight has grown his business with the commitment of “bringing visions to life,” and combines his cutting edge originality and attention to detail with innovative and creative floral designs. The end results are often referred to as over the top and totally unique.
From a one person operation (1993) to a vibrant, highly regarded event firm with staffing dozens of employees seasonally, Emerald City Designs sets the standard for professionalism within the special event industry.
In 2011, McKnight created an online store, the poppy shoppe – AN ECD FLORAL BOUTIQUE, servicing local and national floral delivery.
In 2009, David re-connected with school mate from Lake Orion, Shelly Lang Burton. At that time, Shelly and David became very close and learned of Shelly and Jim’s daughter, Nicole Marie Burton. She was diagnosed with Leukemia on September 11, 2008.
Through her life altering experience, Nicole finished treatment on March 23, 2011, and then relapsed on May 17, 2011. At that time, through many hospital and doctor visits, Nicole received a bone marrow transplant on January 16, 2012. With a perfect matched donor, Nicole was in and out of the hospital in 30 days - she was expected to stay at least 100 days or more. Nicole had 18.5 great months until rejection to the bone marrow set in, she then started treatment in September of 2013.
During this difficult time, the idea of KIDSgala arose from Shelly and David’s communication and the first idea started to become a reality. On October 23, 2013, Nicole relapsed again, making it even more important for her to receive the first KIDSgala gifted party to a child.
With now the rejection in full force as well as her leukemia returning, she didn't qualify for any trials. When Nicole’s parents Shelly and Jim told her that the cancer was back, she stated “I want to go home mumma”. In full force, David worked with many colleagues on obtaining a date, venue, vendors, etc. and on October 31st, 2013, Nicole was discharged for the last time. It was with great sorrow, that on November 8th, 2013, she peacefully passed away at home with her parents, uncle, grandmother and David. Unfortunately, the KIDSgala event that was being planned turned into a memorial luncheon for Nicole Marie Burton.
In memory of Nicole, KIDSgala – A David C. McKnight Foundation was created in her honor. The foundation would not be possible without the endless hours of the ten volunteering Board Members and Officers.
Since late 2013, David C. McKnight, President and the Board of Directors have raised thousands of dollars with fundraising events, and in 2014 KIDSgala started gifting “celebration of life” parties to children. With the help of generous sponsors, donations, and volunteers of KIDSgala continues to grow.
"From the memory of one exceptional child; celebrations will be gifted for many children…"
David C. McKnight, 248-886-0631, firstname.lastname@example.org
Carrie Slominski is currently serving on the Board of Directors as Vice President of KIDSgala. She received her BBA from Eastern Michigan University and quickly began a job in public accounting. After a year and a half and realizing she liked to interact with people more than accounting was allowing for, Carrie took a job in Sales and flourished. When she and her family moved to Atlanta for her husband's new job, she quit working and took on the most rewarding job yet; full-time mom.
Carrie and her family moved back to Michigan in 2001 and settled into the quaint little city of Northville. Volunteering and being involved in her sons' sporting activities has always been at the top of her list. Carrie realized early her sales skills were a huge compliment to her fundraising efforts both for Northville High School sports programs and the Northville High School Booster Club. She helped 2 different sports raise well over $50,000 in a 3 year period. In addition, as Golf Outing/Silent Auction Chair of Northville High School Booster Club's biggest annual fundraiser, Carrie and her committee brought in just under $100,000 from 2011 - 2013, breaking a new profit record each year. All of the monies raised went directly to the student athletes at Northville High School.
In the fall of 2014, Carrie went from the "Diva of Volunteering" to the "Diva of Nothing" as her youngest son followed his big brother into the college world at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. David C. McKnight approached Carrie in early 2014 with the proposition of joining the KIDSgala board. After explaining the purpose and the mission of KIDSgala and realizing her volunteering duties as they related to her sons were soon going to be non-existent, she accepted the offer with open arms. And as Carrie will tell you, it is by far the best decision she has ever made. And one of the most rewarding. She was brought to tears after the first KIDSgala recipient, an adorable little boy named Mighty Max, born with Down Syndrome and currently battling leukemia, gave her a big hug at the end of his celebration in November 2014. Max's hug is what will keep the fire and passion burning in Carrie as the KIDSgala board continues on with its mission.
Carrie and her husband, Don, enjoy traveling and attending Michigan football games with their sons. Trey, Carrie's oldest, graduated from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in May 2015, has passed the CPA exam and is now working at Ernst & Young in Chicago. Carrie's younger son, Jake, is also attending the University of Michigan and is in the School of Kinesiology. He will be a junior in the Fall of 2016.
Carrie is the Event Chair of the 2017 KIDSgala 4th Annual White Party Fundraiser to be held at The Townsend Hotel on June 16, 2017. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Carrie Slominski, 248-886-0631, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kimberly Britt is a proud graduate of Michigan State University. It was there that her lifelong dream of serving in the medical field was realized. The Nursing program offered her the opportunities to a rewarding and enduring career path. Kimberly graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which provided her the opportunity to join the staff at the Detroit Medical Center in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Harper Hospital. Taking care of the high acuity critically ill patients sparked her desire to advance her education. She accepted full time enrollment into the Nurse Anesthesia program at Wayne State University and two years later received a Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia.
Continuing her employment with the Detroit Medical Center, Kimberly provided care in the Surgical Suites at Hutzel Women’s Hospital. She enjoyed an emphasis in regional anesthesia as it pertained to labor and delivery. Those experiences in maternal anesthesia led to her aspiration to present the Obstetrical Anesthesia didactic curriculum in the Wayne State University Nurse Anesthesia Master’s Program. She enjoyed lecturing for the next 14 years while working with individual students in the clinical setting. That background paved the way for her to assist students in applying the didactic component with the individual needs of each patient undergoing anesthesia.
Kimberly’s most fulfilling career, however, has been that of wife and mother. Her 15 years of marriage has brought her three wonderful children and has kept her very busy supporting a variety of school and recreational activities. Having taken a hiatus from her medical career, she has had the opportunity to enjoy every moment she has been able to spend with her children. When the time is appropriate, she plans to continue her career as a Nurse Anesthetist.
In 2013, Kimberly’s longtime friendship with David C. McKnight and Shelly Burton brought her to KIDSgala. Shelly and Jim’s love and dedication to their daughter Nicole and the struggles they all endured proved an inspiration to her. Coalescing her years in medicine and the compassion one feels from working with children battling diseases or congenital medical problems compelled Kimberly to get involved with KIDSgala. Her experiences have taught her children need to feel the joy of simple things such as birthday parties with friends, attending sports events and reveling in school functions. KIDSgala brings joy and happiness to children who have or are currently enduring a life-altering event with an individualized celebration. Seeing the happiness these celebrations bring to the children and their families is why Kimberly is very proud to be a board member of this dedicated organization.
Lindsey grew up in the small town of Northville, Michigan raised by a mother and father who taught her to be strong and independent. They also taught her how to give back; as a family they built an ice skating rink and started a movies under the stars program in their community parks.
Upon graduation from high school, Lindsey attended Bowling Green State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and minors in both Psychology and Sociology. While at BGSU, she continued philanthropic endeavors through her sorority Delta Zeta and the athletics department. Lindsey then continued her education at Wayne State University and received a Mortuary Science degree. Becoming a funeral director was one of her proudest moments because she carried on a family tradition. In 1937, Lindsey’s great grandfather started Casterline Funeral Home in downtown Northville, making her a 4th generation funeral director.
The most important aspect of Lindsey’s life is family which includes her husband Brian and adorable daughter Lucy. Lindsey loves spending time with friends, laughing, golfing, and playing tennis. In addition to being on the board of KIDSgala, she is a member of the Northville Rotary and on the board for the Northville Rotary Foundation.
KIDSgala has given Lindsey the opportunity to make a difference, “just knowing that we have caused a little happiness in someone's life makes me smile!”.Lindsey Dogonski, 248-886-0631, email@example.com
Marianne Tappy is Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at FordDirect.com, a joint venture between Ford Motor Company and its franchised dealers that creates digital marketing solutions that enables consumers to search and shop for vehicles online. She is responsible for setting the strategic direction for FordDirect.com’s customer service experience, using data analytics to drive opportunities and insights. Previous roles at FordDirect.com include designing online shopping tools on Ford.com and overseeing social, digital advertising and lead generation products.
Prior to FordDirect.com, Marianne worked at DigitasLBi, a global marketing and technology company, where she launched a suite of online tools to General Motors entire retail network. She also held marketing and product management leadership roles at both Lear Corporation and Medtronic.
Marianne started her career at General Motors and Ford Motor Company in manufacturing engineering and product development roles. While at Ford Motor Company, she enjoyed time living abroad in Japan, launching a new vehicle for several Asian markets.
Marianne earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Kettering University, a Master of Science in Manufacturing Engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA from The Wharton School.
Above all, Marianne is married to Lee and they have two young children, Evan and Elise, and a dog, Soshi. Marianne got involved with KIDSgala because as David C. McKnight likes to remind her, they are not just neighbors, but great friends! It was through that friendship that Marianne learned of Shelly and Jim Burton’s loss of their beloved daughter, Nicole. Not being able to imagine the pain from losing a child, Marianne wanted to do something, anything to help The Burton’s. It is Marianne’s hope that through KIDSgala, she can help Shelly and Jim carry on Nicole’s legacy and support other parents and children who are battling a serious illness.Marianne Tappy, 248-886-0631, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Wolfgram is an Administrative Assistant at St. Perpetua Catholic Church in Waterford, Michigan. She has worked for the Archdiocese of Detroit for over sixteen years. During her tenure there, she became interested and gained experience working in several charitable activities, including working in a food and clothing dispensary and coaching and managing youth athletics for the Catholic Youth Organization.
Mary grew up in a large, but closely knit Irish Catholic family. Being the youngest of six, with five older brothers, she had to learn to be outspoken or risk never being heard. Her father's career resulted in her spending much of her youth growing up in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Brazil. Moving to several new schools in foreign countries as a child was sometimes difficult on her, but she would not trade those experiences for anything.
Mary is deeply honored to be a board member of KIDSgala. She has a passion for helping others and through KIDSgala, hopes to help make a difference in other family's lives.
Mary Wolfgram, 248-886-0631, email@example.com
Suzie Cozart is a stay at home mom to her two toddler boys while also running her start-up custom design business “Oh-So Cozy Designs”. She graduated from Indiana University in 2009 with a degree in Interior Design and minors in Art History, Business and Spanish.
Suzie began her love for philanthropic events as a member of Alpha Chi Omega at Indiana University. Specifically, she participated heavily in Indiana University Dance Marathon (IUDM). IUDM raises money each year for Riley Children’s Hospital of Indianapolis. It allows families of all demographics and economic standings to receive excellent care for their children with no cost for treatment, food or lodging, enabling the family to focus on their child’s health.
Upon graduation from college, Suzie began a business career with Cummins Bridgeway, the authorized distributor for Cummins, Inc., covering Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. She began with a position in Marketing and Communications at a time when social media was in its infancy at the company. She leveraged technical and creative talents to create a modern yet intimate personality for the company in the Midwest. She demonstrated excellent leadership capability and was rewarded with an opportunity to lead the company’s branch operation in Northwest Ohio, where she directly managed over 25 employees, and managed the relationship with hundreds of customers engaged in both industrial and consumer markets. After enjoying significant success, she then took the challenge of performing the same work for a much larger facility in metro Detroit. This position featured management of over 60 employees with an added feature of supporting field service operations, rolling stock and the emergency electrical generator business.
Her goal was to continue progressing in the company. Sadly, a family tragedy changed her commitment to her career and put the focus on starting her own family. She worked leading up to her due date but ultimately made the decision to stay home after the birth of her son. She finds it astounding how tragedy can change the course of the future.
Her background covers many paths, however, her most unique quality was learned at her Alma Mater. While studying Art and Design, she learned the true ability of vision. Her course taught her that a blank wall isn’t merely white, beige and grey but rather if you look closely, you’ll see a rainbow of colors. This perspective has allowed her to excel in a variety of fields by looking beyond the impossible to find the possible.
Suzie lives in Northville Michigan with her husband Aaron and her two sons, Bennett (3) and Hudson (2). She enjoys travel, boating and time with family.
"Welcome Home." These are words I've been waiting to hear for more than a decade. And it is great to be back in Detroit, my home. I spent the last seven years in New Orleans as morning anchor/reporter at one of the TV stations there. I was there for three years before Hurricane Katrina and spent the last four years covering that city's recovery. Before that, I worked as a reporter, anchor and weatherman at the NBC station in Flint, MI for four years.
But it all started in Troy, MI where I began my TV career at the age of 14 when I created, produced and hosted a public-affairs talk show on the government access station. One year later, I was deemed one of the nation's youngest TV personalities when I appeared on The Phil Donahue Show.
While attending Michigan State University, I worked at the Lansing CBS and ABC affiliates.
A defining moment in my career was covering Hurricane Katrina while living in New Orleans. Anchoring for almost 17 hours straight as the monster storm came ashore was truly a reminder of why we do what we do. People who were stuck in their homes alone had no contact with the outside world but us.
After a few days of covering the mayhem on the streets of New Orleans, we evacuated to Mississippi where we anchored from a make-shift set with a camera, a speaker phone and a dry-erase board that told the people where to go next. Where to get water, how to find relatives, and how much of the city was under water were crucial topics our evacuated audience needed to know about.
I've never been one to talk about awards I won as part of a news team. However, I am proud to say our coverage in the hours leading up to the storm won our team an Emmy Award for "Best Continuing Coverage." I also received an Associated Press first place award for "Breaking Weather Coverage". In the years after the storm, my coverage of a city in crisis won two first place awards from the Press Club of New Orleans and the Associated Press as I profiled the "Safest Places to Live" when it comes to storm protection and crime.
Now, I come home to Detroit where a different type of storm is brewing. It was hard to watch my neighbors and friends in metro Detroit deal with this economic crisis. I wanted to come back and help report on stories of struggle and recovery in our area. Whether you lose your home because of storm surge from a hurricane or foreclosure due to a lagging economy, your home is gone.
People are tuning in to local news not just for a check on the weather. News has never been more important in people's lives as they try to recover. I am proud to join Detroit's only news team that's producing solutions as "Problem Solvers." You can watch me on FOX 2 News weekdays at 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. reporting on the day's big stories. You can also catch me reporting and anchoring weekend mornings along with Deena and Jay.
One of the biggest questions I get is where my name is from. Although I was born and brought up in the Midwest, my parents came from India back in 1973. So yes, the name is Indian. And I have heard all of the nicknames! "Roop Dogg," "Roop There it Is" etc.
I believe that my job as a reporter here doesn't end when we sign off. I want to get involved in the community whether it be mceeing your organization's event or volunteering with your group. So please, let me know how I can dive right in and help this community. There's truly no place like home.
Erinn O’Connor is currently Vice-President of Sales and President of the Executive Search Group at Crossfire Group. CrossFire is a full-service staffing firm offering both contract and direct hire opportunities as well as payroll services in every major industry. CrossFire is headquartered in Auburn Hills, MI and is servicing clients now in 34 states. Erinn sold her executive search business to CrossFire in 2013 and has been actively recruiting in the staffing business for 26 years. Erinn’s focus is people. She has a way of being able to connect people to companies and refers to her business like a dating service. “Finding the right fit is just as important, if not more, than matching the right skill set”.
Erinn grew up in California with her Mother and Sister and lost her Father at a young age to cancer. At 10 years old she moved with her family to Grosse Pointe, Mi (where her Mom still lives today). She Graduated from Grosse Pointe South in 1988 and attended Western Michigan University where she pursued her degree in Math. Erinn’s professional desire was to teach Math but her career choices lead her into Staffing at a young age and she never looked back.
When Erinn is not working crazy hours, she is very active with her three kids and husband Greg. Erinn’s kids are 26, 16 and soon to be 6 years old. My sister calls me the “decade mom”- every ten years! It’s certainly dynamic for sure! We live on a lake in Lake Orion and when we are not spending weekends on a basketball court or baseball diamond, we are enjoying the water as much as we can!
Erinn joined the KIDSgala this year and is excited to bring her network of clients to raise awareness to the awesome events that this organization provides. Erinn attended the White Party last year with Kim Britt and was blown away how much KIDSgala has changed others lives and continues to do so. “I am looking forward to an incredible year with this team!” - Erinn
Dorothy Kinnunen is a self-employed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She graduated with a BSA from the University of Michigan – Dearborn with a double major in accounting and finance in 1994. Dorothy has spent most of her career in industry as a controller, the most recent being a $160 million company nationwide. She left industry 3 years ago, to start her own company providing accounting to small businesses and individual tax preparation to a limited number of clients.
Dorothy was treasurer of her own non-profit for over five years, raising over $100,000 for breast cancer and providing funds to organizations that assisted with out of pocket costs for those men and woman suffering from breast cancer.
Dorothy is married to Craig, who has been an engineer at Detroit Diesel for 20 years. They have three kids, the oldest of which is a member of the Army National Guard, the middle which is currently a part time student at Livingston County Community College seeking a career in engineering, and the youngest who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Psychology at Central Michigan University.
Dorothy was introduced to KIDSgala by David McKnight when he requested her assistance with the accounting. She has volunteered her time for over a year now as the treasurer and enjoys being part of an organization providing smiles and joy to children in need.
Bio coming soon!
Sandra Hughes O'Brien
Sandy Hughes O’Brien serves as legal counsel to the President and Chairman of the KIDSgala Board of Directors. In this capacity, she advises on corporate governance, nonprofit law, tax matters and best practices for nonprofits.
Sandy is also a devoted public servant, elected to serve an eight-year term on the Wayne State University’s Board of Governors in 2012. She is the first person of Latino heritage to be elected statewide to the Wayne State University Board of Governors.
Sandy currently serves as the Deputy County Clerk and Register of Deeds for Oakland County. She is an active member of the Michigan Bar Association and several professional organizations and speaks frequently on the topic of women and minorities in law careers. Sandy is a frequent speaker and panelist at conferences related to education, empowerment and inclusion. She serves on numerous community boards and committees.
She is a graduate of the Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University (J.D., cum laude, 1998) and received her undergraduate degree from Grand Valley State University.
Sandy grew up in West Michigan and now resides in Northville with her husband, Barrie, their three children, Faelan, Fiona, and Rory; and their dog, Lola.