Board, Officers and 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…"
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 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.
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, email@example.com
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.