29 Acres was founded by a group of families who share a similar need: Finding quality programming and safe housing for their young adults with autism in North Texas.
When our children with autism were young, our efforts were directed towards seeking appropriate care and therapies, privately and through our educational systems, to ensure they were given opportunities to learn and make meaningful progress. As a result, our children have grown up to be wonderful young adults. Most continue to live with challenges typical of adults with ASD, but have skills that can make a real difference in their lives -– skills that, if maintained, will allow them to successfully engage in the community, be productive at a job or volunteer position and enjoy friendships. We know they can have a life with purpose. We know they can have a happy life.
As our children “age out” of the school system, we know that they will continue to require various levels of support to maintain those skills and to continue to learn and thrive. We also know that we are facing the realities of aging ourselves and that one day, as we age, we will be ill-equipped to meet our child’s ongoing needs. As a result of this, we began to explore ongoing programming and housing options for our loved ones in the Dallas area. We have learned that the need for additional housing is great. Many families are struggling to find the right fit for the unique needs of their adult loved one. Looking around Texas and the United States we are excited and inspired by the work of others. We seek to recreate at scale a community for living that exceeds expectations and will combine the best features of what we are learning.
29 Acres, a registered 501C3, was founded in 2015 to help fill this enormous need in North Texas.
Founders and Board Members:
Clay Heighten, M.D. and Debra Caudy, M.D. have been married for 30 years and are the proud parents of three girls and one boy.
Their fourth child, Jon, was born with moderate to severe autism in 1997.
Clay and Debra have been involved for many years in supporting basic science research in understanding the causes of autism at UT Southwestern Medical School. Their donations created the Jon Brigham Heighten Endowed Scholar Fund, which currently supports the research of Dr. Genivieve Kopepka, who has accomplished milestones studying the PTEN gene that have garnered millions of dollars of additional NIH and private foundation grants. Direct contribution to the laboratory of Dr. Craig Powell for studies of the SHANK gene’s role in autism have also led to grants from the NIH in excess of $3 million.
Dr Heighten, grew up in a small town near west Texas. Dr. Heighten specialized in the practice of Emergency Medicine. His career has, from the earliest stages, emphasized entrepreneurial pursuits. He was a cofounder and Ddirector of a large regional Emergency Medicine group sold to publicly traded EMCare in 1998. He was a founder and President of Medical Edge Healthcare Group, and a co-founder and Director of Physerve Physician Services, which managed over 1,000 doctor practices with many thousands of employees nationwide. Components of these companies were sold to the not-for-profit Texas Health Resources, (one of the dominant hospital organizations in DFW), in 2010 and Intermedix Corporation. Clay currently works as a founder and Director of Caddis Partners, the ninth largest healthcare real estate development company in the USA, as a founder and Director of Green Park and Golf Ventures, an early stage investor in healthcare innovations and as a founder and Director of Health Wildcatters, a downtown Dallas based “accelerator” program for start-up healthcare companies.
Dr. Caudy, originally from upstate New York, came to Dallas in 1982 for training at UT Southwestern Medical School in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology. After a successful career with Texas Oncology, she returned to UT Southwestern Medical School where she specialized in the treatment of breast cancer. Debra ultimately retired from the practice of medical oncology. She accepted the challenge of immersing herself in the process of connecting her son with ASD to the best technologies and people to support his growth, including direct teaching in a home-based therapy and educational program.
Dr. Caudy also worked with the President of UT Southwestern Medical School, Dr. Kern Wildenthal, to raise money for the successful establishment of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (CADD) at Southwestern. CADD is a multidisciplinary resource center and clinic specializing in the clinical challenges of ASD diagnosis, medical treatment, and behavioral management.
Christi Jensen is the Corporate Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer of Primalend Capital Group, Inc. She is a Managing Member of LNCMJ Management LLC and is on the Board of Directors of Primalend Capital Group, Inc., Little Denmark Foundation and 29 Acres. Christi has been married to Mark A. Jensen for 30 years and they have four adult children, and one grandchild. Their youngest child, Alec, was diagnosed with severe Autism at two years old. Christi has managed Alec’s intensive ABA home program since his diagnosis. Christi and her family have lived in Tokyo, Japan and Copenhagen, Denmark and have traveled extensively. She has managed three major residential remodeling projects. She enjoys fly fishing, snow skiing, boating, and is an accomplished cook. She has written two cookbooks and had her recipes published in the book, Remedies for the “I Don’t Cook” Syndrome.
Macy Melton is a solo practicing attorney with The Humble Law Firm, PLLC, specializing in estate planning with an emphasis on special needs. She is also the mother of an 18 year old son with autism. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of 29 Acres, she serves on the Board of Trustees of Challenge Air for Kids & Friends, Inc. and is involved in the special needs community developing a growing network of associated service providers. Ms. Melton graduated with high honors from The University of Texas at Austin Plan II Program with a BA in 1985, and with honors from The University of Texas School of Law with a JD in 1988. After law school she worked at Vinson & Elkins, LLP until 1996 when she had her first child. She took a maternal sabbatical from 1997 to 2008 and then joined Shackelford, Melton & McKinley, LLP from 2008 to 2010. She began her own firm in 2012 and was also associated with MassMutual as a Chartered Special Needs Consultant from 2013 to 2015. Ms. Melton is also a member of the Texas Bar College, the State Bar of Texas, and the Dallas Bar Association. She serves as a volunteer attorney for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and is a frequent speaker at parent and professional groups.
Mr. Soderstrom is a founding partner of Green Park & Golf Ventures, an early stage venture capital investment company. He is a member of the board of directors of Caddis Partners, a Dallas based healthcare real estate investment firm. Additionally he serves on the Board of Dallas-based PerioSciences. Finally, and most recently, Mr. Soderstrom co-founded Dallas based Health Wildcatters, a healthcare focused accelerator. Mr. Soderstrom served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of PhyServe Physician Services, Inc. for 14 years before joining THPG, and has 23 years of experience in physician practice management. Prior to joining PhyServe, he was Chief Operating Officer for Metroplex Emergency Physicians for two years, a company that ultimately spun off the initial practices that became the first clients of PhyServe. Mr. Soderstrom lead the effort to sell that medical group to EmCare in 1998. From 1989- 1996, he worked for Coastal Healthcare Group, Inc. in North Carolina, helping to grow the company to $750M and become one of the first physician practice management companies to go public in 1992. Mr. Soderstrom served as Chief Operating Officer of the $500M Emergency Services Division until 1996. Mr. Soderstrom attended Illinois State University where he received his B.A. in business, and received his MBA from The University of Notre Dame in 1988. He was recognized as a finalist in 2010 for Ernst & Young's "Entrepreneur of the Year" in the Southwest Region of the United States. Carl sits on the Board of Directors for Caddis, Nasseo, Periosciences, Health Wildcatters, and Cancer Gene Connect. Most recently, Carl joined the board not for profit 29 Acres, an adult autism community.