Jeff grew up with the Leider family and has been a long-time friend of the Sarcoma Alliance. In 2001, he raised money for the Alliance by running in the Marathon des Sables, a 150-mile race across the Sahara in Morocco. In 2005, he was the moving force behind the successful Spirit of Survival walk/run in California. He is currently a product manager in the semiconductor industry.
Merrilee Campbell Bridgeman
Merrilee joined the Sarcoma Alliance Board in 2016. She is a native Californian who has crisscrossed the country for far too long in her quest to help Fortune 500 brands increase awareness, loyalty and sales. She brings to the Alliance a long-standing passion for service, as well as a personal commitment to honoring the memory of childhood friend and Alliance founder, Suzie Leider. Merrilee lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a rabid Carolina Panthers fan, and believes that Henry Ford was right when he said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”
Gina D’Amato, M.D.
Gina D’Amato is a board certified medical oncologist and a sarcoma specialist at Georgia Cancer Specialists affiliated with Northside Cancer Institute. She received a BS in biology and MD from the University of Miami and did her residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital/University of Miami. She completed her fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. Gina lives in Atlanta, Georgia and her hobbies include running, biking, swimming, volunteering and playing poker.
Joan Darling, Ph.D.
Joan’s daughter was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a pediatric sarcoma, in 1996 at the age of 13. She successfully underwent a year of treatment that included twelve rounds of chemotherapy, 28 doses of radiation, and five operations at Omaha Children’s Hospital and at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Joan is a biologist and works as an environmental consultant in Nebraska. Since 2001 she has volunteered as a Patient Advocate with the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the cooperative group that designs and implements clinical trials for childhood cancers. She also volunteers in a variety of other patient advocacy roles, including: co-managing the ACOR Rhabdo-Kids mailing list; serving on the board of Lincoln Candlelighters and facilitating the adult support group; and contributing articles to ESUN (Electronic Sarcoma Update Newsletter). On the Sarcoma Alliance Board she represents pediatric sarcoma patients, who make up roughly 15% sarcoma patients diagnosed each year in this country.
Kellie found her way to the ACOR (Association of Cancer Online Resources) list while battling Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) in 2000. It was there she met Dave Murphy. In 2001, Kellie served on the Board of Directors for the LMS Foundation. In 2002, Dave introduced Kellie to Sharon Leider, the mother of the Sarcoma Alliance Founder, Suzanne Leider. Although Kellie never had the privilege of meeting Suzanne, she is honored to serve on the board and hopes to continue supporting and building on Suzanne’s legacy of offering support to the sarcoma community. Kellie received a B.A. in Psychology from DePaul University and has her own practice, specializing in long-term care planning.
Dave Murphy is an active figure in the online sarcoma community, devoting his energy among various lists but especially to the sarcoma list for the Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR.org). His wife, Piera, died after a 15 month battle with Leiomyosarcoma, later diagnosed as malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma in 1999. Because of his strong personal belief in supporting this underserved community, he is well-known and loved by the many people who go to these lists seeking information and resources. Dave joined the Sarcoma Alliance Board of Directors in October of 2002. He has represented the Sarcoma Alliance at conferences like American Association of Cancer Research, Oncology Nursing Society, Society of Gynecologic Oncology and the Connective Tissue Oncology Society. Dave currently works as a Computer Lab Specialist at El Camino Community College in Torrance, California and is in charge of nearly 400 computers in 9 computer labs on campus. He is conversant in Italian, French, and Spanish.
Kevin Plottner is a graphic designer in the San Francisco Bay area. He graduated from Tulane University with an Architecture degree in 1984. In 1998 he created the original Sarcoma Alliance web site when his wife, Wendy, a sarcoma patient, and Suzanne Leider, first conceived the idea of a sarcoma support organization. He is the creator of our original logo seen on the “Our Founders” page and the artwork for Sage Cuisine. Today he helps maintain the Alliance web site and oversees the production of our newsletter and various printed materials for the organization.
Suzanne is the Aunt of a childhood sarcoma survivor. A lawyer by training, she retired from the Federal government after 30 years with the Environmental Protection Agency, helping to protect our nation’s waters, including wetlands, coastal waters, and oceans. While working she volunteered as a literacy tutor and a mentor for junior staff. She also supported a colleague during his battle with carcinoma, attending doctors’ visits with him and researching the disease and its treatments. After retirement, Suzanne has been volunteering with the Sarcoma Alliance, as well as at a local school where she assists a kindergarten class with reading. She is also a member of a local charitable organization that supports local schools, students, food banks, and other causes. In her spare time she enjoys going to concerts, spending time with family and friends, and hanging out with her German Shepherd Dog, Leica.
People have described Aimee as compassionate, determined, disciplined and focused; she is probably all those things and more! Her biggest and most proudest accomplishment has been raising her son, Slade in the South Bay community of Redondo Beach, CA. Currently working full time as a teacher, Aimee has the opportunity to help special education students better their lives through work experience. She has been paddling since 1998 and joined The Ocean of Hope (O2H) in 2003 after meeting Mark Schulein, the O2H team captain until 2009 when he asked Aimee to lead the team. She has worked tirelessly ever since to raise funds and awareness for The Sarcoma Alliance as part of Ocean of Hope. She trains to compete in many athletic disciplines, including running and triathlons, but paddleboarding and outrigger canoe paddling are her true passions. She feels honored to help The Sarcoma Alliance advance it’s mission to improve the lives of sarcoma cancer patients by participating in paddling races and events throughout the U.S. and hopes to inspire the generosity and compassion of others to help the sarcoma cancer community.
Marites met Suzanne Leider, founder of the Sarcoma Alliance, early in their respective nursing careers at the University of California, San Francisco where they formed a lifetime friendship and commitment to helping the community of people affected by sarcoma. Marites earned her BS in Nursing from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1992. A dedicated Bruin, she obtained her Master’s degree in Nursing from UCLA in 2006. She is currently a Nurse Practitioner at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, a county facility which provides health care to the uninsured, indigent and medically underserved population of Los Angeles. As a founding board member, Marites remains dedicated to advancing the mission of the Alliance in honor of Suzanne and all those affected by sarcoma.