How it all began
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.
The Management Behind 29 Acres
President and Chairman of the Board
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.
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.
Peter is an Audit Senior Manager and joined Montgomery, Coscia, Griellich LLP in January 2009. His primary focus is on financial statement attestation engagements. Peter has substantial experience with the manufacturing, retail, distribution, entertainment, and restaurant industries. Prior to joining the Firm, Peter spent three years at Grant Thornton LLP in the Business Advisory and Assurance Department. At Grant Thornton LLP, Peter worked on and was in charge of multiple small and medium private company engagements. Peter provided services that included financial statement and employee benefit plan audits. Peter earned a Masters in Accounting from the University of North Texas and is a Certified Public Accountant
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 Director 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.
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.
Robin Landreth Bailey graduated from Baylor University in 1994. She is the mother of a daughter, Lauren, and a son, “Tug” who is on the autism spectrum. Originally from Midland, Robin has lived in Dallas for the last 20 years. Her professional role was with the Crystal Charity Ball assisting the membership with fundraising efforts and publications.
John Gentry and his wife, Shary, first came to Texas in 1991 and have resided in Coppell since 2004. They have two children, Ali and Mark. Mark is on the autism spectrum and is a future 29 Acres resident.
John is a global corporate finance executive with more than 25 years of experience. Since 1996, John has been with Exxon Mobil Corporation and served in a wide variety of financial and commercial roles in Dallas, Houston and London. He is currently a Vice President of ExxonMobil Risk Management, Inc. with responsibility for the corporation’s property and casualty insurance programs as well as its captive insurance company. John received a BA in economics from The College of William and Mary in 1991 and an MBA from Duke University in 1996.
Rick Prewitt joined the 29 Acres Board of Directors in November of 2019 after learning of the group through his own personal experience working with an autistic child. He brings close to 20 years of Corporate Finance experience to the team and a wealth of contacts in North Texas and across the country. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President in Dallas, TX for the commercial banking division of Cadence Bank. Rick attended the University of Virginia where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 1994 and The College of William & Mary where he earned a Masters of Business Administration in 1999. He lives in Dallas and has two children.
99Laura Schieber, is the owner and founder of Vivanti Group, a marketing agency based in Dallas. She has experience in marketing services including healthcare, consulting, construction, entertainment, retail and commercial real estate. Laura is also the mother of three teenagers, one who has autism. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for 29 Acres, she is a board member for Park Cities Learning Differences Association and serves on the Special Education Parent Advocacy Committee for Highland Park School District. She has also served on the Program Committee and Central Committee for Belong Disability Ministry at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas. Laura holds her MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas and a Bachelor of Journalism degree from The University of Missouri.
Douglas J. Bartek is a native of Temple, Texas residing with his wife, Jodi, in Frisco. They have 3 sons, ages 20 to 26. The youngest, Ryan, is on the autism spectrum and will be a resident of 29 Acres in the future. Doug is a seasoned and recognized technology industry leader with over 40 years of high tech company experience. He is currently CEO, President, and Co-Founder of Tango Networks. Doug was also the founder, CEO and chairman of Microtune, a firm that he took public (NASDAQ) during his tenure. Doug was a division president at Cirrus Logic, was president and CEO of Acumos, and also held key leadership positions at VLSI Technology, Motorola, and Honeywell. During his career, he has been the principal person responsible for over 25 successful sales, acquisitions, mergers, and financings of high tech business entities, and also holds several patents. Doug is a past chairman of the Texas Council of the American Electronics Association. He has been recognized as an E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year award winner, is an NRCC Businessman of the Year recipient, and has won the Metroplex Technology Business Council Tech Titans Emerging Company CEO of the Year award. He is involved in his community as a Trustee for his church and is a founding member and past President of Star Children’s Charity. Doug graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BSEE (Electrical Engineering) from the University of Texas at Austin, and has both an MS in Engineering/Computer Science and an MBA from Arizona State University.
John Foley and his wife Jennifer have a 14 year old son on the autism spectrum. They have been very involved in the autism community in Dallas. Originally from upstate New York John escaped the “Great White North” and relocated to Dallas in 1989. John is a global human resources executive with more than 30 years of experience in the high-tech, manufacturing and distribution industries. He is currently the Vice President of Human Resources for Builders FirstSource (BFS) in Dallas Texas. BFS is the largest supplier of lumber and building materials to the residential housing market in the US. John has held previous human resources leadership roles with Austin Industries, Maxim Integrated Products and Dallas Semiconductor Corporation.
John received his undergraduate degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University in 1985 and an Executive M.B.A. from Southern Methodist University in 2003.
RBC Capital Markets Financial Advisor
Mitchell Basson is a professional in the financial services industry in institutional credit sales. He has been with the Royal Bank of Canada since 20101 and was previously with Bear Sterns (1985-2008). He has been married to Ingrid for 23 years and they have two children. Their younger son Sam (17) is on the spectrum and the other Ben (19) is a student at TCU. Mitch served on the board of HAVE DREAMS a not for profit in the Chicagoland area that works with children and their families on the autism spectrum.
Everyone Passionately Pushing 29 Acres Forward
Chief Development Officer
Kirsten Brandt James, 29 Acres Director of Development, brings over 25 years of non-profit fundraising and management experience to 29 Acres, having previously served as Executive Director of Alley’s House and Junior Players. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of Executive Women as Philanthropy Chair and is on the steering committee of the Dallas Area Cultural Advocacy Coalition. She has previously served as President of the Austin College Alumni Board as well as Wallace Elementary PTA. She holds degrees in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin Madison and Austin College. Kirsten has been recognized with the Altrusa Richardson Outstanding Woman of Today Award and the Dallas Women’s Council Individual Member Award.
Chief Operating Officer
Morgan McKay is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in the state of Texas. She received her Master of Education degree in Autism Intervention from the University of North Texas where she earned her graduate certification in Applied Behavior Analysis. During her time in school, she provided services in public school and residential settings. She has six years of experience in public schools both in the classroom and in district positions. Her contributions in program development, teacher training, and parent training are numerous. Additionally, Morgan has experience in non-profit work with adults with disabilities.
Morgan lives in Lewisville and is the proud parent of two rescue dogs believing they rescued her as well — dogs can do that. Morgan is also very active in her church – with the high school students specifically. Morgan divides her “spare time” between spending time with friends, traveling, and continuing her education.
Director of Transition Academy
Brittainy Mayes has been with 29 Acres from the start of the very first Transition Academy class in 2018. She holds an undergraduate degree in Professional Development, and a master’s degree in Professional Counseling. During her graduate program, she counseled adults on the spectrum and volunteered at non-profit organizations. Brittainy is excited to sit for her SHRM-CP exam in December, in order to be able to better serve the staff and students of 29 Acres. Before joining the 29 Acres team, she spent three years working at a non-profit program for adults with autism. While there, she developed a social skills curriculum, advised students, and did vocational coaching and job placement. She currently lives in Aubrey with her husband, Kevin, and their two daughters, Harper and Khloe. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, golfing, traveling, and reading.
Instructor, Transition Academy
Jenna Curry is a ten-year veteran special education teacher who is driven to help students overcome barriers that impact their learning. She began her career in New York, but has spent the last seven glorious years teaching in the great state of Texas. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in elementary and special education from the State University of New York College at Geneseo, and holds a Master of Arts in Education in Curriculum Development and Instructional Strategies. Additionally, Jenna is working towards a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and has only two classes remaining until graduation. Jenna has experience working in public, private, and charter settings, but each of her teaching experiences has always centered around special education. In her free time, Jenna enjoys volunteering with Dallas DogRRR, fostering dogs, hiking with her boyfriend, and cooking delicious vegan food.
Director of Enrichment Services
Darcy Cardwell is from Little Elm, TX. She is Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and licensed in the state of Texas. She graduated with her undergrad in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas and her Master’s in Special Education and ABA from Texas Tech University. Darcy worked in public education for several years before making the transition to working with adults. Darcy is a proud parent of two dogs Willie and Louise! Besides working, she enjoys spending time with her family, friends and watching reality TV!
Outreach Coordinator, 29 Acres
Katelynn Andregg started off as a Life Skills Coach for Transition Academy before becoming the Outreach Coordinator. With a sister on the autism spectrum, Katelynn is passionate about sharing the life changing programming that 29 Acres has to offer. She graduated Texas Women’s University with a bachelors in Nutrition Wellness and minors in education and business. For over six years Katelynn helped develop brand awareness as an ambassador for Under Armour. She recently completed her Volunteer Management Certification through CNM. Katelynn lives in Prosper with her husband, two cats, and two dogs. In her free time she enjoys attending concerts, listening to podcasts, working out, and eating Tex-Mex!
My name is Sean Bagley and I am excited to start this next step of my life by working at 29 Acres. I have been in the education the past 29 years as a teacher, coach and for the last 15 years as an administrator. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas and my Masters degree in Educational Administration from Texas Women’s University. The reason I got into education was because of the relationships I experienced with my teachers and coaches in high school. That experience shaped my belief that relationships are one of the most important things that matter in peoples lives. Even though my job title is Property Manager, I plan on being involved with all of our residents as much as possible as we work to plan out many of the events that will occur in our 29 Acres Community.