Champions for Families

Central Texas Champions for Families who publicly endorse the mission of Hand to Hold include the following:

Kristin Armstrong

Kristin ArmstrongKristin Armstrong is a mother, a writer and a runner. She has written four books: a children’s book called Lance Armstrong: The Race of His Life; Happily Ever After: Walking with Peace and Courage Through a Year of Divorce; Strength for the Climb, An Unfinished Woman’s Guide to Grace; and Heart of My Heart: The Timeless Hard-Won Lessons of Motherhood. She is a contributing editor for Runner’s World magazine and keeps a weekly blog called Mile Markers on

“Parents leave the NICU with their precious baby, along with all the anxiety of trying to care for their child without a team of professionals around the clock. Supporting parents through this transition is essential, extending the comfort and safety of the hospital environment into family life at home.”

Her freelance work has appeared in USA Today, Glamour, O Magazine, Parenting and the Austin American-Statesman, and she writes a regular column for Tribeza magazine. She is a regular contributor for the Living Faith publication. Her writing has led to numerous speaking engagements as well as media appearances on Oprah, Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, The 700 Club, Hour of Power at the Crystal Cathedral, NPR and Rachael Ray. Kristin has run five marathons and one ultra marathon. She lives in Austin, Texas and Santa Barbara, California with her three children, Luke, Grace and Bella.

Dr. Ari Brown

Ari BrownAri Brown, MD, FAAP, is an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and a trusted source on children’s health care. She is a pediatrician, author of three books, child health advocate and a mom.

Dr. Brown completed her bachelor’s degree in child development from The University of Texas at Austin, her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and her general pediatric residency and fellowship in developmental/behavioral pediatrics at Harvard Medical School/Children’s Hospital Boston. She is Board Certified and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Brown sees patients full-time in private practice at Capital Pediatric Group in Austin, Texas.

“When premature babies go home from the NICU, their day to day care and its impact on the family can be overwhelming. I am pleased to support Hand to Hold, which will help guide families through the medical, psychological and economic challenges that lie ahead.”

Dr. Brown’s passion to educate families about children’s health led her to co-author the books, Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Baby’s First Year and Toddler 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Toddler and her newest addition, Expecting 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Pregnancy. She has appeared on numerous news and talk shows including NBC’s Today Show, CNN, Dr. Phil, and Rachael Ray. She is the pediatric health expert for WebMD and serves on the advisory board for Parents Magazine. She lives with her husband and two school-aged children in Austin, Texas.

Matthew Dowd

Matthew DowdMatthew Dowd is the father of a seven-year-old daughter, Josephine, who was a twin born premature at 23 weeks gestation. She spent nine months in the NICU at Seton hospital in Austin, Texas. Her identical twin sister, Nicole, passed away after spending two months in the NICU.

During the past 25 years, Matthew has helped shape strategies and campaigns for CEOs, corporations, foundations, governments, candidates and presidents. He is a founding partner of ViaNovo, an international communications and brand positioning firm, and currently serves as ABC News Political Contributor.

Matthew’s recent political work includes serving as the Chief Strategist on two winning reelection efforts – for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 and for President George W. Bush in 2004. His innovative approach and leadership on the 2004 campaign led the bi-partisan American Association of Political Consultants to name him Pollster/Strategist of the Year.

In the 1990s, Matthew was President and founding partner of Public Strategies, Inc. (PSI), an international public affairs firm. While at PSI, Matthew advised a wide variety of corporate clients. He also helped former Democrat Texas Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock win election and re-election.

Matthew also served as a member of Democrat U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s senate and campaign staffs.

A frequent contributor to many news shows and now a political commentator for ABC News, Matthew has taught at The University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs and has led seminars at Stanford, Harvard and Yale Universities.

He is co-author of the New York Times bestseller Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community.

Eileen Garcia

Eileen Garcia Matthews of Texans Care for ChildrenOur state systems have struggled to coordinate services internally, as well as to work in coordination with other systems. This leads to numerous starts and stops in services and an unclear path for families to follow. Programs like Hand to Hold, that match families with experienced, trained navigators, have the potential to bridge that critical gap. In so doing, parent liaison and parent mentor programs not only help ensure that infants and developing children receive available services, but also help ensure that families receive the support they need to promote their child’s success.

Eileen Garcia-Matthews is the Executive Director of Texans Care For Children, the lead advocacy organization for children’s policy in our state.  She has over ten years experience working in the nonprofit sector, primarily in organizations focused on children’s issues.

Within Austin, she has worked with The Children’s Partnership, Texas CASA, the Texas State History Museum Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

She received her B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, her Masters in Teaching from the University of Portland in conjunction with the University of Notre Dame and her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

Luci Baines Johnson

Luci Baines JohnsonLuci Baines Johnson is the Founder of LBJ Wealth Management and Vice President of BusinessSuites, a nationwide office business service center. Her community commitments are diverse. She currently serves on the boards of the LBJ Family Foundation, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center/The University of Texas at Austin, and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation Board and the SafePlace Foundation Board. She is a Trustee Emerita of Boston University, a Life Trustee of Children’s Hospital Foundation of Central Texas and the Seton Fund, a member of the advisory board of Trinity Episcopal School and a former member of the advisory boards of The University of Texas School of Nursing and the School of Communication.

“Everybody needs Hand to Hold— especially those who face the awesome challenges of multiple births and all the critical complexities of family life that may come with them. As the mother of five and grandmother of 11, I am so grateful Hand to Hold is available to be a voice of personal experience and intimate understanding for those most precious to us all—our children and their families. There is nothing quite as comforting as someone who has ‘been there’ and is being there for you.”

Ms. Johnson has received numerous awards including the YWCA of Greater Austin – Women of the Year 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, the SafePlace 2006 Community Hero Award, the 2005 Girl Scouts of America’s Women of Distinction Award, 1997 Top 25 Women Owned Businesses by the Austin Business Journal and K-EYE TV, the Distinguished Service Award from Georgetown University School of Nursing (1996), The American Optometric Association’s Apollo Award, St. Edwards University President’s Award (1997), the outstanding student of New College at St. Edwards (1997), the Outstanding Portfolio Award at New College (1997), honorary membership in Sigma Theta Tau Baccalaureates Nursing Honor Society, Honorary Alumna status from Vanderbilt University and the Outstanding Friend Award for Georgetown University and The University of Texas School of Nursing.

Ms. Johnson’s most precious career is family. She is married to Ian Turpin, the joy and rock of her life. She has four grown children, Lyndon, Nicole, Rebekah and Claudia, one stepson, Stuart and 11 treasured grandchildren.

Stephanie Klein

Best-selling author, screenwriter, Barnard College graduate, blogger, foodie, fashionista wife and mother, dubbed the former “Internet Queen of Manhattan” and the “real-life Carrie Bradshaw”, Stephanie Klein keeps a high profile in the pages of People Magazine, USA Today, Elle and the list goes on and on. As an Austin, Texas resident the premature arrival of her twins was made public with 20/20 filming from her living room mere weeks later. She shares openly about the experience of having the babies arrive 10 weeks early. “I wanted to hold my babies all day and night, to nuzzle them, and give them what they needed.

“I remember wanting to show NICU parents how much I understood without making it about me and what I’d been through. I wanted to ease their minds, to let them know they aren’t alone, that it gets easier.”

But they were too young.  They needed their own spaces, to be isolated from noise and voices and even me. I wished they were home to feed and hold as I wished.  Instead it was visiting hours.  And driving.  And finding a parking space.”