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.
Melanie Fowler is a certified Educational Diagnostician and author of “Look at My Eyes,” a book that focuses on day-to-day challenges for children with autism and strategies for helping parents cope. In the book and in her work, Fowler emphasizes scientifically proven behavior management strategies that help children with autism learn and grow. Her mission is to educate parents, family members and teachers on the importance of early diagnosis and intervention.
Fowler earned her Bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Pathology from Louisiana State University and a Master’s degree in Special Education from Texas Woman’s University. During graduate school, she also completed her Educational Diagnostician certification. Fowler lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her husband and children, William and Margaret.
Julia Pitlik has a solid track record of building and executing strategic marketing and sales programs that have delivered increased revenues and awareness for highly regarded companies in technology and communications sectors. In addition, she has developed and managed talent programs that have resulted in strong recruitment and employee engagement for a technology company in a highly competitive segment.
Pitlik is currently SVP of Marketing for CrossLayer, Inc., a managed network services company, where she is responsible for creating demand and growing top-line revenue for CrossLayer’s portfolio of advanced network infrastructure and mobile edge compute solutions.
Prior to FTE, Pitlik was VP of Marketing/Talent Acquisition for Nexius where she created a high-performance organization focused on creating demand that fueled performance and revenue growth for three separate services companies. Before Nexius, Pitlik was Sr. Director of Marketing for Fujitsu Network Communications where she led marketing strategy, market development, advertising, PR, and executive communications. She was a key advisor to senior leadership and transformed marketing effectiveness by driving planning, execution and measurement of initiatives and aligning with CEO metrics. Pitlik has also held senior level positions in business planning, development, sales, and marketing with XO Communications, Sprint Corporation, Sun Microsystems, & Texas Instruments.
Pitlik is a 2011 graduate of the UT Dallas Executive MBA program and a received a B.S. (magna cum laude) in public relations from Illinois State University. She is actively involved in local and national community and philanthropic programs. She is a member of the board for Music Movement, a nonprofit that develops programs to support children with autism. She is the past Chairman of the Prince of Peace Catholic Church Parish Council and previous a member of the Dallas Regional Chamber Board of Advisors.
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
Director of Development
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.
Program Director – Transition Academy
Lisa Deer earned her Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies (MSIS in Behavior Analysis, Disability Rehabilitation and Educational Psychology), and the Graduate School Online Certificate in Behavior Analysis from The University of North Texas. She is currently preparing for the examination to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Lisa co-founded Tuesday Night Flights (TNF), a social group for UNT students on the autism spectrum in response to their desire to connect socially on campus. She facilitated the group for five semesters, and provided services and supports for individual members. She was recognized for her efforts as the 2016 recipient of The UNT President’s Award for Community Service. She has twenty years of experience in autism programming, from early childhood intervention through young adult support. Her experience includes coordinating supplemental school-wide math fluency and behavior management programs, educational and recreational programming. Her focus is on advocating for positive changes and creating better education, career and residential opportunities for individuals with autism, while providing support and training to increase independent functioning and community engagement. Her passion for autism services is fueled by her family’s personal experience with the disorder. Lisa serves on the board for 29 Acres and also for Heartlight Ministries, a boarding school for troubled teens. She and her family are intimately involved as fundraisers and volunteers for PGA professional golfer Ernie Els’ charity, The Els for Autism Foundation, and have been featured on multiple national and local television news stories and the book The Ones Who Believed.