Our Mission

Giving hope to individuals and families in Nevada affected by neurodevelopmental disorders, including but not limited to autism, by providing education, support and/or opportunities that will have a meaningful impact.

Our Staff


Maricela Gutierrez Rodriguez | Executive Director

Maricela was born and raised in Reno, Nevada.  She is a first-generation Mexican-American fluent in Spanish and functional American Sign Language. Maricela graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in Communication Disorders in 2014. 

Maricela has worked in community-based organizations for over five years specializing in program management, education and training.  She has been working with families and individuals with disabilities both locally and worldwide for the past eight years.  

Maricela brings her passion for community engagement and inclusion to the JUSTin Hope Foundation.


Ana Melendez | Social Work Intern

Ana is a senior at the University of Nevada reno and is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Ana is passionate about helping individuals become the best person they can be all while being self-sufficient. 

“I am very excited to be interning for the JUSTin Hope Foundation because not only will I be working with children and families, but I will also be reaching out to the community and offering assistance with the goal of hopefully improving their quality of life.” 


Dayna Genio | Marketing Intern

 Dayna is a junior at the University of Nevada, Reno and is pursuing her degree in International Business. Dayna is passionate about helping others and loves doing work that makes a difference.

 "I'm excited to be interning with JUSTin Hope Foundation because they help people all across the community, from all walks of life, and truly leave a meaningful impact. I'm excited to be part of the team and to reach out and help the community in any way I can!" 


Karina Aguirre | Social Work Intern

Karina is a senior at the University of Nevada Reno and is currently pursing her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Karina believes that change happens when people are given the guidance and patience they need to draw on their own strengths and realize their potential to live fulfilling happy lives.

“I am excited to be interning for the JUSTin Hope Foundation because I am excited to learn and work with this community. I want to do my best to help individuals realize their own strength to live a happy life by reaching out to resources.”


Ambrosia Sanchez | Public Health Intern

Ambrosia is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno and is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Public Health. Ambrosia is passionate about helping the community and trying to make a difference one step at a time.

"I am really excited to intern with JUSTin Hope Foundation because it helps with a cause that is so near and dear to my heart. I look forward to being able to help out in the community first hand and with such a wonderful team."

Board of Directors


Darrell Plummer | Chair

Sierra Nevada Properties

Darrell is an owner/broker of Sierra Nevada Properties. A fourth-generation Nevadan. Darrell is a 1984 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in business administration with a special emphasis in finance and a minor in economics.

Darrell has been the past president or chair of numerous professional boards and is currently the chair for the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce. He is the recipient of the 1992 College of Business Outstanding Alumnus Award and the 2017 recipient of the Nevada Alumni Association Professional Achievement Award, which is awarded for outstanding records of distinguished career accomplishments and contributions to their profession.


Mitch Laughton | Chair-Elect

 The Laughton Co.   

Mitch is the president of The Laughton Company, an insurance brokerage and investment advisory firm. Mitch has spent more than 30 years specializing in advising businesses and individuals on their Health and their Wealth. His goal is to assist in designing a blueprint for success with business owners as they build their financial fortress. With his unique experience in Employee Benefit, Executive Benefit, and Retirement Benefit planning , the team at the Laughton Company delivers programs that can combine sponsored programs with individual planning to meet personal goals.   Mitch graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor's of science in business. Mitch and his wife Galen have been married for 29 years. They have two sets of twins: Carter, Kelsey, Sydney, and Shayna. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, golf, skiing, fishing, music, and sports


Art Reitz | Past Chair

 Parent/Co-Founder, Reno Firefighter

Art is the co-founder of the JUSTin Hope Foundation.  He is Justin's father and has been married to Carol for almost 20 years.  He has been employed with the City of Reno Fire Department for the past 17 years. 

He is the recipient of the 2014-2015 Community Service Award from Firehouse Magazine and the Northern Nevada Red Cross Real Heroes Community Impact Award for 2014.


Carol Reitz | Co-Founder

Carol grew up in Southern California, where she met Art nearly 30 years ago.  She graduated from Lee College of Court Reporting in 1999, and now would never leave "home."

She completed the Nevada Leadership Education in Neurodevelopment Disabilities, Partners in Policymaking, and is a certified Nonviolent Crisis Intervention instructor.
She is also the owner of Sierra Nevada Chocolates.  The business was purchased so that Justin and others can be trained to become
contributing members of our society.

Carol enjoys running and hanging out with her four extraordinary boys: Kyle, Justin, Riley, and Art.  Her passion is to continue to build a community of support and engagement for all individuals and families with special needs.


Cindy Davis | Treasurer

Strategic HR Partners

Cindy has worked in Human Resources for more than 30 years.  Prior to founding Strategic HR Partners in 2011, she was the director of human resources for REMSA/CareFlight and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. She also had been the HR manager at Viking Metallurgical and Ralston Purina. She specializes in helping clients with strategic HR initiatives, structuring HR roles, compliance, employee engagement, and team-based leadership, dealing with difficult employees and everything in between.

Cindy is a 4th generation Nevadan and loves to help nonprofits.  She has been the president for Northern Nevada Human Resources Association (NNHRA), the Nevada Director for the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), and served on the Pioneer for the Performing Arts Board and Executive Committee from 2009-2018.


Beth Farley

Eidde Bailly

Beth is a partner at Eide Bailly LLP, a national top 25 CPA firm.  Beth is an experienced accountant who specializes in nonprofits, churches, governments, contractors, and small businesses. Beth works with her clients to make sure they understand their financials and develop tools that strengthen their business or organization.  She prides herself in making sure clients receive professional service and valuable information.  

Outside of work, Beth is married to Mike, and they have two daughters.  As a family, they enjoy spending time with family and friends camping, hiking, and relaxing.  Beth has lived in Northern Nevada since 1997 and is a UNR graduate.


Chris O'Sullivan


Chris is an entrepreneur with a passion for entrepreneurship. He is the founder and publisher of bizNEVADA Magazine. He has been a Reno resident since 1997 and raised two native Nevadans.

After moving to Reno, Chris began working for a group of local radio stations. Shortly thereafter, he began a 12-year career as a stockbroker. He began with a large broker-dealer, AG Edwards, and spent the next six years as an independent. His passion has always been to work with business owners.

Chris began his publishing career in the middle of 2014, publishing The Good Life neighborhood magazines in Reno, Sparks, and Carson Valley.  His passion for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship brought him back to the B2B world when he started bizNEVADA Magazine in 2017.

Chris' 22-year-old son Conner survived a near-fatal case of meningitis as an infant, resulting in significant cognitive delays. Chris knows firsthand the importance of having the JUSTin Hope Foundation as a resource for families like his in our community.


Christine Riggi


Christine moved to Reno, Nevada in 2009. Her life changed when having her middle daughter, who has Down syndrome. Since receiving that diagnosis. She is a dedicated mother who likes to give back to her community by serving organizations that have been a resource and comfort to her when in need. After a 15-year career with the federal government as a civilian, she brings her background of running annual budgets, other board experiences as well as event planning to the JUSTin Hope Foundation. 

Ray Pezonella

Pezonella Associates


Tara Zimmerman

Parent, Community Services Agency