Founder and CEO
Kelli D. Kelley founded Hand to Hold in 2010 after struggling for years with difficulties surrounding the premature births of both of her children. She now invests her time and talents to raise awareness about the high incidence of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among NICU parents and advocating for hospital and community based programs to ensure better outcomes for babies and families.
Kelli has a Bachelor’s of Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin. She serves as Vice President of the board of directors for the National Coalition for Infant Health, as a parent expert for the AAP TECaN Advocacy Campaign of NICU family mental health, and is a founding member of the NICU Parent Network.
Kelli was named a 2020 Woman to Watch from Austin Woman Magazine for her leadership in NICU parent support. She has also been named a 2015 Outstanding Austin Communicator from Woman Communicators of Austin, 2011 Local Hero through Bank of America’s Neighborhood Excellence Initiative® and a 2011 Health Care Hero through the Austin Business Journal. She is the 2010 recipient of the Austin Under 40 Award for Medical and Health Care, and an ENERGIZER Keep Going Hall of Fame Semifinalist.
Kelli lives in Austin, TX with her husband and long-hair, diva dachshund. In her free-time she enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, and keeping up with her NICU graduates, who are now in college.
Rachel Astorga-McCain has worked as Hand to Hold’s Director of Programs since 2018. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Applied Learning and Development as well as an Executive Master of Public Affairs degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Prior to joining Hand to Hold, Rachel worked for the Prevention and Early Intervention division at the Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS) managing strategic cross-state agency efforts. She also served as project manager for the federal Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) grant. Rachel previously served as the Director of Community Education at Any Baby Can of Austin, Inc. where she coordinated outreach efforts and managed cross-sector partnerships. She also served as the Family Education Program Manager overseeing family literacy and parenting education programs for Austin area families.
Rachel currently resides in Austin, TX with her husband, two children, and their dog. She experienced first-hand the exhausting emotional and physical toll a NICU stay can have on a parent after her daughter was born at 26 weeks gestation and spent 81 days in the NICU. She now enjoys family outings to Austin parks and swimming spots, British dramas, adult coloring books and running as weather permits in this Texas heat!
Chief Growth Officer
Sarah served on the Hand to Hold Executive Board of Directors from 2020-2022. She brings broad experience from a multi-disciplinary career with a blend of strategic vision, digital innovation, data driven insights planning and cross-functional leadership orchestration. Prior to relocating to Austin, TX and launching GrowthCycle Consulting, she spent 15+ years with Kimberly-Clark Corporation working on iconic brands including Huggies® and Kleenex®.
Inbau is a seasoned marketer with depth of experience in brand, product and cause marketing, digital transformation, creative & media development, and strategic partnerships. She is also an experienced cross-functional leader with demonstrated results and learning agility in Operations, Research & Engineering, Procurement, and Supply Chain roles.
Inbau is a passionate leader and coach who believes in leading with a daily combination of head, heart and humor. She lives in Austin, TX with her husband Christian, two sons, Dawson and Parker, and Dempsey the Goldendoodle.
Chief Operations Officer and Chief Financial Officer
Katrina Moline joined Hand to Hold as the Operations Director in 2018. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Communications from Texas State University.
Katrina has been a part of the Hand to Hold family since 2009, receiving peer-to-peer mentoring after the birth of her son at 24 weeks and later serving as a peer mentor herself. Prior to Hand to Hold, she spent 14 years as an Account Manager at Screen Solutions, Inc. and is grateful for the opportunity to focus her time and talents on a mission so near and dear to her heart.
Katrina lives in Austin, TX, and enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends and being outdoors.
Hospital Ambassador Program Manager
NICU and Bereaved Parent
Christine and her husband had two very different but challenging experiences in the NICU.Their first baby, a preemie daughter was born at 28 weeks with severe IUGR. After six weeks in the NICU, she passed away due to complications following two diagnoses of NEC. In spite of carefully managed subsequent pregnancies, these did not go to plan either.Their second child was born at 37 weeks, and their third pregnancy also ended with a delivery just before term. Diagnosed with a heart defect the day after birth, their son required lifesaving, corrective surgery a few days later. Fortunately, the outcome was very different to their first NICU stay and they were able to take their son home after two weeks.
Christine understands the challenges parents may face when they arrive in the NICU and are overwhelmed by their new environment and learning how to bond with and care for their baby. She also helps them understand that even a short term NICU stay can have a huge impact on a person’s emotional and mental wellbeing. She encourages parents to advocate for themselves and their baby, especially when there are language and cultural challenges, as well as to take the time to care for themselves throughout their stay and beyond.
Christine is proud of her cross-cultural identity and extensive travel experiences, and loves parents to share the individual or family traditions and beliefs that they want to share with their baby. She speaks English, Spanish and some French.
Family Support Specialist/Especialista en Apoyo Familiar serving families at St. David’s Women’s Center of Texas North Austin Medical Center
NICU Parent/Special Needs Parent
Natalia’s first daughter, Mariana, was unexpectedly born at 34 weeks gestation with a genetic disorder called Central Core Disease. Mariana faced many complications. She had to be resuscitated several times within her first month of life due to her disorder. Mariana’s lungs were underdeveloped. She couldn’t swallow, she had low muscle tone, and she eventually had a g-tube and tracheostomy placed. That’s when Natalia knew she was going to be a special type of mom. While in the NICU she learned all about trach care and ventilator settings. After 4-and-a-half months she was able to come home with Mariana and a lot of medical equipment.
Natalia has grown her community and learned a lot about Mariana’s genetic condition. She has become Mariana’s greatest advocate, and she feels she was selected to be her hero.
Natalia is passionate about offering support, knowledge and providing education on mental health to NICU families. Watching Mariana grow and accomplish all the hard challenges that she faces every day fills Natalia’s heart with joy.
La primera hija de Natalia, Mariana, nació inesperadamente a las 34 semanas de gestación con un trastorno genético llamado Enfermedad del Núcleo Central. Inmediatamente hubo complicaciones además de estar en la NICU. Mariana tuvo que ser resucitada un par de veces durante su primer mes de vida debido a su trastorno. Los pulmones de Mariana estaban subdesarrollados. No podía tragar, tenía poco tono muscular y finalmente le colocaron una sonda gástrica y una traqueotomía. Fue entonces cuando Natalia supo que iba a ser una mamá especial. En la NICU, aprendió todo sobre el cuidado de la traqueotomía y la configuración del ventilador. Después de 4 meses y medio pudo volver a casa con Mariana con mucho equipo médico.
Natalia ha hecho crecer su comunidad y ha aprendido mucho sobre la condición genética de Mariana. Se ha convertido en su mayor defensora y siente que fue seleccionada para ser su heroína.
Le apasiona ofrecer apoyo, conocimiento y brindar educación sobre salud mental a las familias de la NICU. Ver a Mariana crecer y cumplir todos los duros desafíos que enfrenta todos los días llena de alegría el corazón de Natalia.
Family Support Specialist serving families at Baylor University Medical Center Dallas
Lacie is a Family Support Specialist at Hand to Hold helping to reduce the negative impact of a NICU stay and ensuring the best outcome for the entire family. She supports NICU families at Baylor University Medical Center Dallas.
Lacie has a Bachelor of Behavioral Science degree with a major in Exercise Science. She also has a specialized degree in Cardiac Sonography. Prior to joining Hand to Hold, Lacie worked in a large Children’s Hospital as a registered Pediatric Cardiac Sonographer. She has also been a Peer mentor with Hand to Hold since 2018.
Lacie and her husband have two beautiful little boys, both having spent time in the NICU. Two stays with two very different experiences, both with their own challenges. Lacie’s oldest son was born at 24 weeks and faced numerous hurdles throughout his 8 months in the NICU. He struggled with Chronic Lung Disease, feeding difficulties, Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) and bilateral hearing loss. Due to his premature lungs, her son required a tracheostomy and ventilator to be able to come home from the hospital along with a g-tube for feeding. He continued to grow and develop at home with the care of parents and home health nursing. Her son has since been decannulated and started kindergarten in the fall of 2021. Lacie’s youngest child was born at 35 weeks. He too had a NICU stay, though this time around it was only for a few days. Lacie realized then how emotional even a short NICU stay could be.
In her free time, Lacie enjoys spending time with her family, teaching Pilates, reading and being outdoors. She understands how challenging and overwhelming a long or short term NICU stay can be and wants to be there to help guide other parents through their own personal journey.
Family Support Specialist serving families at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances
Whitney joined Hand to Hold as a peer mentor in August 2018 and became a Family Support Specialist for Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in February 2020. She is a certified Mental Health Peer Specialist and as a Family Support Specialist, she is responsible for supporting NICU families virtually or in person either one-on-one or in group settings, all with a goal to reduce the negative impact of a NICU stay and ensure the best outcome for the entire family.
Whitney gave birth to her first premature baby at 34 weeks and her daughter, Kolbie, spent one month in the NICU. Three years later she gave birth to her son, Kase, at just 24 weeks gestation. After having already spent time in the NICU she remembers how scared she was knowing she would have to go back through another NICU journey. Kase was born a few hours away from home so being apart from her family and friends was extremely tough. He spent four and a half months in the NICU which included several surgeries, some really hard days and also some pretty incredible moments.
She is very passionate about sharing her story to help other families navigate their journey through the NICU and believes that giving back to others is very important.
Family Support Specialist serving families at St. David's Women's Center of Texas North Austin Medical Center
NICU and Bereaved Parent
Ivette’s experiences with high-risk pregnancy, loss, preterm birth and PTSD have inspired her to advocate for others and to raise awareness about anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among NICU parents and for better education and screening for mothers in general. She is certified as a Mental Health Peer Specialist with the goal of working within the Antepartum and NICU population. Ivette also holds certifications as a Wellness Recovery Action Plan facilitator and a Diversity and Inclusion workshop facilitator. Prior to joining Hand to Hold, Ivette worked as a Peer Mentor for Austin Mental Health Community and Travis County Mental Health Public Defender.
Ivette, her husband, and four children live in Round Rock, TX. She is proud to be able to raise her children from her cross-cultural lens, and loves exposing them to her South African beliefs and traditions. Ivette speaks English, Afrikaans, Dutch and Zulu.
Peer Mentor Coordinator
Jenny truly loves being able to provide support for families who have a NICU stay or experience the loss of a baby. No one knows what it is like except for someone who has been through it, and that kind of support is so meaningful. She carefully selects the best mentors possible for each parent, so that the relationship can be as impactful as possible.
Family Support Specialist/Especialista en Apoyo Familiar
Perla had her first pregnancy end in miscarriage at 18 weeks. Her second pregnancy was normal, and she had her first son, Albert. Perla’s third pregnancy started without any problems, until at around 32 weeks, her son Ethan was born and transferred immediately to the NICU with Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome due to the lack of surfactant in his immature lungs. The feelings of guilt and sadness once again returned and reminded her of her first pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. It was a courageous and difficult experience for Perla and her son Ethan. She learned that enduring through times of difficulty, like a miscarriage and the NICU stay of a child, brought her purpose as the mom she is today in my sons’ lives. Perla will always remember her child she lost but has faith and hope for the future with both of her sons. Albert has graduated from college and lives close to Perla; Ethan is a strong and healthy college student at UTSA. Today, Perla welcomes the opportunity to help other parents through her own experience with empathy and compassion.
Perla es especialista en apoyo familiar virtual. Como especialista en apoyo familiar, es responsable de apoyar a las familias de la UCIN virtualmente, ya sea individualmente o en grupos de apoyo, todo con el objetivo de reducir el impacto negativo de una estadía en la UCIN y garantizar el mejor resultado para toda la familia. Ella es una Especialista Certificada en Apoyo de Pares y una Enfermera Vocacional con Licencia en el estado de Texas. Perla está capacitada en sensibilidad y atención informada sobre el trauma, entrevistas motivacionales y especialista en primeros auxilios de salud mental.
Perla tuvo su primer embarazo que termino en aborto espontáneo a las 18 semanas. Su segundo embarazo fue normal, y tuvo a su primer hijo, Albert. El tercer embarazo de Perla comenzó sin ningún problema, hasta que alrededor de las 32 semanas, nació su hijo Ethan y fue transferido inmediatamente a la UCIN con Síndrome de Dificultad Respiratoria Neonatal debido a la falta de surfactante en sus pulmones inmaduros. Los sentimientos de culpa y tristeza una vez más regresaron y le recordaban de su primer embarazo que terminó en la pérdida de su bebe. Fue una experiencia que pedía valentía y que fue difícil para Perla y su hijo Ethan. Perla aprendió que, al sobrellevar tiempos de dificultad, como un aborto espontáneo y la estadía de un niño en la UCIN, inicio su propósito como la madre que es hoy en la vida de sus dos hijos. Perla siempre recordará a su hijo que perdió, pero tiene fe y esperanza para el futuro con sus dos hijos. Albert se graduó de la universidad y vive cerca de Perla en El Paso, Texas; Ethan es un estudiante universitario fuerte y saludable en UTSA. Hoy, Perla agradece la oportunidad de ayudar a otros padres a través de su propia experiencia con empatía y compasión.
Lexi Losch, MA, LPC, NCC
Mental Health Therapist
Cynthia Shogreen, RMHCI
Bilingual Mental Health Therapist
Cynthia serves our families as a Virtual Family Support Specialist and a Bilingual Mental Health Therapist. She is responsible for supporting NICU families virtually either in one-on-one or in group settings, all with a goal to reduce the negative impact of a NICU stay and ensure the best outcome for the entire family. She has a love of psychology and is passionate about helping families find balance and self-awareness.
Cynthia is a mother to three boys and an 8-year-old Schnauzer. Her NICU experience was after the birth of her second son, Raphael. Cynthia was induced at 38 weeks due to fetal macrosomia. Her son had a four-day NICU stay due to thermal issues and gastrostomy issues that lasted for the first 14 months of his life. Her two youngest sons also have developmental disorders that have shaped Cynthia’s career path and her love for helping parents living with full hands and full hearts! She earned her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and behavior analysis in Florida. Cynthia strives to provide excellent service and support, a sense of community, and a safe space for NICU families.
Cynthia es una de nuestras Especialistas en apoyo familiar virtual. Es responsable de brindarles apoyo a las familias que tienen un bebé en la NICU, sea en forma individual o en grupo, con el objetivo de reducir el impacto negativo de la estadía en la NICU y asegurar el mejor resultado posible para toda la familia. Siente un gran amor por la psicología y por ayudar a padres y familias a encontrar un equilibrio y ser conscientes de sus vidas únicas.
Cynthia es la madre de tres niños y un Schnauzer de 8 años. Su experiencia en la NICU sucedió luego del nacimiento de su segundo hijo, Raphael. A Cynthia le indujeron el parto a las 38 semanas debido a una macrosomía fetal. Su hijo estuvo en la NICU cuatro días por problemas de temperatura y gastrostomía que continuaron durante los primeros 14 meses de vida. Sus dos hijos menores también enfrentan trastornos del desarrollo, lo cual encaminó la carrera de Cynthia y su amor por ayudar a que otros padres vivan con sus manos y sus corazón llenos. Obtuvo su maestría en análisis del comportamiento y asesoramiento clínico sobre salud mental en Florida. Cynthia se esfuerza por ofrecerles a las familias de la NICU una asistencia y un servicio excelentes, espíritu comunitario y un espacio seguro.
Family Support Specialist serving families at Baylor University Medical Center Dallas
Alexis Stocks is a Family Support Specialist at Hand to Hold helping to reduce the negative impact of a NICU stay and ensuring the best outcome for the entire family. She supports NICU families at Baylor University Medical Center Dallas.
Alexis received her Bachelors in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2013 and has had many years of experience working with vulnerable families within the community providing support and resources.
Alexis strives to be a listening ear and a resource for families. Although Alexis’s first son was born prematurely 21 years ago, she vividly remembers the emotions surrounding the experience. Her subsequent experiences with postpartum depression following the birth of her two other children have given her a unique insight into the emotional toll parents face when lacking adequate support.
Alexis moved to Texas from Wisconsin in 2018 and lives in the Dallas area with her family.
Programs Administrative Assistant
As the Programs Administrative Assistant, Teresa assists with the day to day tasks that revolve around the Hand to Hold programs department. She works closely with the Director of Programs and the program managers to ensure projects are completed and deadlines are met. She also helps the Family Support Specialists with the coordination of family events and activities in the hospitals. As Teresa is also a NICU graduate parent, she will be co-facilitating some Virtual Support Groups.
Before her daughter was born, it was discovered that she had an omphalocele. This is an abdominal wall defect that causes your abdominal contents to form on the outside of your body. Unsure of what the future would look like for them, she and her spouse as first time parents, remained positive and tried to plan and prepare as much as they could. Because of their daughter’s condition, they knew that a NICU stay after birth would be upon them, but they did not know how long it would be once her omphalocele became stable enough for her to go home. After a few failed attempts of trying to wean her down on her respiratory support, they learned that she had underdeveloped lungs and that she would need to receive a tracheostomy requiring ventilator support. During their 7 ½ month NICU stay, Teresa learned about Hand to Hold and that is where she met Christine Tester, a Hand to Hold Family Support Specialist. Teresa always admired the work this organization did and knew she wanted to be a part of it one way or another.
Over the years, Christine and Teresa kept in touch. Christine connected Teresa with a few women going through similar situations with their NICU babies. She feels it has been such a blessing providing that support and listening ear to others in hard times such as life in the NICU.
Fatherhood Support Specialist
NICU & Bereaved Parent
David lives in Austin with his wife, Rose, and son, Diego. He enjoys spending time with his family, listening to music, and playing guitar. David appreciates the small things in life and is very happy to be able to serve along other NICU parents and staff at Hand to Hold.
Sara Zavaleta, LMSW
Bilingual Mental Health Therapist
Following a birth companion training offered by Mama Sana Vibrant Woman, Sara was inspired to join other folks working to address racial health inequities affecting families of color. They have prior experience offering trauma support to Latinx populations, LGBT+ folks, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, asylum seekers, and communities of color. In their psychotherapy, Sara uses an intersectional feminist, trauma-informed, and strengths-based approach that honors people’s identities, cultures, and experiences.
For their graduate education, Sara earned a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies and a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin. Sara also graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a Minor in Spanish from Vanderbilt University. In their spare time, Sara enjoys swimming, paddleboarding, hiking, and cycling–basically any quality time in nature is great! Sara also loves regularly practicing yoga and meditation as part of their self-care practice. Sara is a proud Austinite and second-generation Salvadoran-American.
Sara (pronombres: elle) es une asistente trabajadore social bilingüe y bicultural que ofrece servicios de salud mental en español e inglés a familias con bebés en UCIN en Hand to Hold. A pesar de que nunca ha tenido un bebé en una UCIN, le apasione mucho promover la salud perinatal para padres con ofrecer psicoterapia y psicoeducación inclusivas y holísticas bajo la supervisión clínica de René Gaitan (supervisor de trabajo social clínico). Sara cree firmemente que el propósito de su vida es ayudar a otros a lidiar con sus experiencias traumáticas, su dolor y sus pérdidas como alguien que ha superado sus propias experiencias traumáticas.
Tras una formación de acompaño de parto ofrecida por Mama Sana Vibrant Woman, Sara se sintió inspirada para unirse a otras personas que trabajan para abordar las desigualdades raciales que afectan a las familias de color en el ámbito de la salud. Tiene experiencia previa en ofrecer apoyo para traumas a poblaciones latinxs, personas LGBT+, sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica y agresión sexual, personas que buscan asilo y comunidades de color. En su psicoterapia, Sara utiliza un enfoque interseccional feminista, informado sobre el trauma y basado en las fortalezas que honra las identidades, culturas y experiencias de las personas.
Senior Event Specialist
Angel is committed to bringing a stress-free event day for everyone in attendance. Having successful events both celebrating and educating others in the NICU space help to create better relationships, compassion, mental health awareness, better business practices and a greater sense of belonging to those who may have felt alone or not even sure what they were feeling. Angel is excited to bring her experience and network to help continue to grow the success of Hand to Hold.
Angel lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, two sons and a full house of pets. Most of the time you will find her and her husband cheering on their high schoolers in their respective sports, wrestling or playing baseball. She has an addiction to shopping, sushi, decorating and playing poker. In the summer, you can find her out on a boat in the middle of the lake where she and her husband relive the memories of the days when they first met while he lived on a houseboat.
Online Store Coordinator
Renli recently joined Hand to Hold as the Online Store Coordinator. She is a small-town girl originally from Merkel, TX. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Angelo State University, she spent her first four years teaching in McCamey, TX, and the next 10 years in Leander ISD, until her own children were of school-age and she became a stay-at-home mom.
She quickly realized the need for a creative outlet and opened an Etsy shop offering home decor and gifts from 2011-2016. The opportunity to join the world of direct sales/social retail was presented to her in 2015 and she has been involved with 4 different businesses over the past six years. This allows her to live the dream she’s always had of owning a boutique. For a brief period, Renli designed closets and worked in insurance, but always returned to social retail.
Renli is blessed to be the mom of two teenagers. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her family, attending the kids’ activities, serving as their personal taxi service, and enjoying a glass of wine.
MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS
Leigh Ann Torres
Email Leigh Ann
Finance and HR Coordinator