Autism Ambassadors

In 2010 TACA established an Ambassador Group to help TACA fundraise and support our ongoing efforts of helping families living with autism.TACA Ambassador Mission:

To assemble a group of business professionals that will work with TACA as an ambassador for the foundation. The primary goal would be to garner support and awareness for TACA and autism.

Ambassador efforts will include the following:

1. Assist with event fundraising efforts (in sponsorship, attendees and auction item acquisition).
2. Assist with educational presentations on behalf of TACA in awareness and support for families affected by autism (or set them up for the Executive Director to attend).
3. Assist in helping TACA based on industry expertise or wish list needs for the TACA foundation.

Ambassadors are nominated by TACA board, key staff or other TACA Ambassadors to participate. To receive more information about TACA Ambassadors, please contact us for additional information.

Benjamin Bequer

Benjamin Bequer oversees the Bequer family’s real estate holding companies of commercial retail properties along with equity and debt placements in privately held companies. Benjamin intends to continue to look for exciting entrepreneurial opportunities to jump start business ventures and look for value-add commercial real estate acquisition opportunities. Current and past investments include the following capital and privates investments: AdMax Local, LLC, Buskin, LLC, Corent Technology, FEM Ventures, LLC, LAK Ventures, LLC, FLRish Inc, National CC, LLC, IKM Holdings Inc, MeiSei Tools, Thoughtful Media Group, Trinidad Capital, Sway Venutres and Solis Capital.   From 1996-2010 Bequer was the CEO of Fiesta Mexicana Market, LP. Benjamin is committed to personal growth and is affiliated with the following groups:  Young Presidents Organization,  Gen-Next, Vistage and Tiger 21. From 2003 to 2009, he has served on the Board of Directors of the California Grocers Association Benjamin graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in business administration.  A southern California native, he currently splits his time between Newport Beach & Los Angeles, California, and has a 17 year old daughter and 12 year old son.  Bequer’s wide variety of interests include racing, fly fishing, motorcycles, boating, scuba, skiing\snow-boarding, and he loves to fly planes and helicopters.

Heather Grimaldi, MS, BCBA

Heather Grimaldi, MS, BCBA is the Founder of Proof Positive ABA Therapies, an organization of highly-trained and compassionate specialists who provide treatment based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the most widely researched and scientifically validated method known for treating autism. Armed with empathy, driven by her passion for helping families, and anchored by her own experience as a devoted mother, Heather built Proof Positive ABA Therapies into one of the largest and most respected institutions of its kind in California. As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Clinical Director, Heather’s focus was on supporting families and team members tasked with implementing behavior-analytic interventions. Proof Positive ABA Therapies developed individualized treatment plans designed specifically to teach self-help and social skills with a family-focused approach and an emphasis on parent education, distinguishing themselves as trusted and hands-on care providers. In late 2016, the long-running Autism Learning Partners created one of the largest autism therapy platforms in the U.S. with its acquisition of Proof Positive. In 2019 Heather and Dr. Kristin Shay created Simple Spectrum Supplement a nutraceutical designed to provide the nutritional needs of the developing nervous system, with extra support for individuals with autism, by addressing potential dietary deficits. Her mission to change the supplement worlds standards and she created the kind of nutraceutical supplement she wanted to see available, based on the latest  scientific research and free from the extraneous additives packed into so many similar products on the market.

Dana Crucil, BCBA

Since 2008, Dana has worked in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). She is currently a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst, residing in Southern California and has worked in various settings including: school districts, nonpublic agencies and insurance companies. During her time working for various funders she worked as a Senior Care Manager, coordinating care for members receiving ABA services nationwide. Dana has extensive experience presenting at national conferences such as CAL ABA discussing insurance-based services and medical necessity criteria within the ABA industry. She is personally connected to the special need’s community by her life experiences with her autistic younger sister. She strives to connect these experiences that have encouraged her to advocate for insurance-based services for her into adulthood, as well as, job skills training, and regional center-based services. Demonstrating her commitment to give back, she has worked on innovative ways to assist families with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as providing education to them on what additional services they should be seeking under various funding avenues. She believes that families, providers, and all funding sources should be able to work collaboratively together to obtain best outcomes for individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities. Dana’s goal is to continue to bridge the gap between families, ABA providers, and funders by education and research driven decisions. It is her belief that all providers and funders should be held to higher standards so that all individuals on the spectrum can achieve best outcomes. Dana is committed to helping families acquire appropriate services for their children while raising awareness and understanding for the autism community.

Gita Gupta

Gita grew up in India, and came to the US for graduate degrees in Computer Science. She spent over 20 years in Silicon Valley in executive product strategy roles at Fortune 100 companies and seed level startups, in market segments that include analytics, business applications, databases, development tools and social media. After her son was diagnosed with autism, she became passionate about helping families find answers for their children's complex medical needs. She has created a forum focused on evidence-based interventions for these children, with several thousand members in 15 countries. Gita closely follows medical research literature in autism, and works with numerous researchers in the areas of neurology, mitochondrial and metabolic medicine, immunology, microbiome etc. Gita's family foundation identifies research with the potential to significantly improve outcomes for individuals with autism and makes seed level grants to help ideas go from conception to proof of concept. As time allows, she also consults on market strategy with early-stage startups. Gita lives in California with her husband and her 9 year old son.

Barbara Cornish

As a mother of 2 diagnosed with autism, Barbara is passionate about finding the deeper cause of autism and understanding how to help her kids and all families impacted by Autism. Barbara was lucky enough to connect with TACA early on in her kids diagnosis and TACA has greatly changed the course of their lives. TACA showed me the true meaning of "challenging the status quo", "never say never" and how to be the best advocate for my family. Barbara brings 25+ years of work experience in tech and eCommerce working at Intel and ebay in various Sales and Marketing positions. Barbara's mission is to bring awareness and support to autism and to put autism in the forefront of our leaders and government. Barbara's hope is for every person on the Autism Spectrum to "Thrive" not just "Survive" and for each of them to have a quality life and be the very best they can be.

Tim Adams

Tim Adams is the principal attorney at Adams & Associates, APLC, a disability rights law firm in Orange County, California. For over a decade, Tim has zealously represented children affected by autism. Tim serves as a resource to families and professionals across the country through presentations and seminars on special education law. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Irvine and his Juris Doctorate degree from Pepperdine University School of Law. He has served as an adjunct professor and Associate Director of the Special Education Advocacy Clinic, Pepperdine University School of Law. He has also trained Orange County Superior Court Judges regarding special education law. Tim is a board member of the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law & Advocacy (EBCALA). He enjoys snowboarding, stand up paddleboarding and traveling. Tim lives with his wife, Rose and three daughters in Orange, California.

Marc Ang

Marc Ang is a Financial Planner and Advisor, currently with Prudential Financial. His practice is dedicated to serving families with special needs providing expertise in the areas of estate planning (including high net worth considerations), tax liabilities, planning for the rising costs of long term care, as well as the nuances around government benefits for special needs families. Previously, he worked as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist and founded/operated an educational services company dedicated to children with special needs. Watching children he worked with from his previous career grow up to become adults, he got involved with TACA due to a desire to make a positive impact on infrastructure around adults with autism, and helping them live full meaningful lives. He is currently based out of Santa Monica, California, but has clients from all over the country. Previously, Marc was an Assistant Vice President at Credit Suisse in Private Banking and Wealth Management, based in New York. Marc has a Bachelors Degree from Pepperdine University and a Masters Degree from Columbia University.

Julia S. Berle

Julia is an experienced non-profit leader, a nationally certified interpreter for the deaf, and is married with three children. Since the time of her oldest son’s diagnosis with autism in 2002, Julia has been working tirelessly in the fight to recover her son and other children from autism. After her son lost the diagnosis of autism in 2005, Julia helped to establish and work for two non-profit organizations to inform, educate and support families who have a child or children with this diagnosis. She is the founding coordinator for the greater Los Angeles, California chapter of TACA, an organization that helps more than 45,000 families nationwide. The mission of this organization is to provide emotional and informational support to parents of children with autism. TACA also provides tools that can be used to help and support these children and their families. Julia also served as a TACA mentor and was once honored as the top, single-person fundraiser nationwide for this organization. Julia is an international speaker on the subject of autism and has appeared in a variety of media outlets on the local, national and international levels. She is also a Parent Founder for the organization Generation Rescue, a non-profit group focused on funding and researching the cause(s) and biomedical recovery options for autism.

Chris Bull

Chris Bull serves as a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of McDermott & Bull, an executive search firm, based in Irvine California. Chris has built a significant executive search practice catering to a variety of clients, including R.D. Olson, Mattel, Kelley Blue Book, First American, Think Together, Bausch & Lomb, Vizio and, Experian, to name a few. Formerly, Chris was an Executive Vice President in the Orange County office of DHR International, the nation’s 6th largest executive search firm. Earlier in his career, Chris spent six years operating the company he founded: American Liberty Capital Corporation. American Liberty combined cutting edge technology with the standards of commercial and residential mortgage banking retail services to become one of the largest privately held consumer finance companies based in Southern California. Chris currently serves on the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Ambassadors Board of TACA and has recently served as a Board Member for the Association for Corporate Growth. He currently resides in Coto de Caza, California with his two children. Chris received a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Finance from the University of Texas at Austin in 1985.

Jeff Cova

Jeff Cova is Founder and CEO of Winspire Inc. Winspire assists non-profits in the United States and Canada by providing highly sought after unique experiences and travel related packages to be used in charity auctions and fundraisers. To date, Winspire has assisted over 7,000 non-profits raise more than $11,0000,000 in net revenue. Prior to Winspire, Jeff was co-founder of The Gavel Group in 2001, a company specializing in producing charity auctions for non-profits. Jeff graduated from Fresno State University with a degree in Sports Administration, working in sponsorship sales for Fresno State Athletics, Cal State Fullerton, Anaheim Angels and Anaheim Ducks. A resident of Ladera Ranch, Jeff enjoys traveling and spending time with his wife Anne and children Shane, Sammy and Mia.

Terri Donnelly

Terri Donnelly currently serves as Executive Assistant to the CEO and Chairman of Microsemi Corporation, a publicly traded technology company based in Aliso Viejo, California providing semiconductor and system solutions differentiated by power, security, reliability and performance. Terri has spent the majority of her career working for several leading Orange County technology companies, with more than 25 years dedicated to the semiconductor industry. In addition to her role with Microsemi, she serves as Executive Vice President for CompuVac Industries, a Costa Mesa-based technology company she founded along with her husband in 1999. After meeting Lisa Ackerman and spending over a decade supporting TACA through various fundraising and awareness activities, Terri has become a huge advocate for the organization. She also encourages friends, family and colleagues to engage with and support TACA’s wide array of programs. Terri enjoys sailing, stand-up paddle boarding and traveling. A native Californian, she currently resides in Laguna Beach with her husband Dave and Labrador Bella.

Chad Fitzsimmons

Chad is currently the Director, Music Initiatives, CBS RADIO. Before moving to Los Angeles in 2005 to launch JACK FM, Chad worked for CBS RADIO in Charlotte, NC for 3 years. Alongside his responsibilities for 93.1 JACK FM, Chad also serves in the same capacity as Marketing Director for 97.1 AMP RADIO, also based out of Los Angeles. In August of 2005, JACK FM adopted TACA as the beneficiary for JACK’s First Show. Over a decade later, Chad and the JACK FM team continue to partner with TACA on various events, awareness programs, and fundraising campaigns.Chad graduated from Winona State University in 1999. He now lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife Angie and son Kellan.

Ehsan Gharatappeh

Born and raised in Houston, TX today he is the CEO of CellPoint Corporation, a global manufacturing firm based in Orange County, CA. CPT assists manufacturing companies with creative and innovative solutions to reduce manufacturing costs and increase product value. The firm delivers repair services and products to Fortune 500 companies, has over 80 employees in a wholly owned factory in Shanghai, PRC. He enjoys skiing, mountain climbing and general mountaineering. Ehsan lives in Newport Beach with his wife and two children.

Jonathan Hallstead

Jonathan Hallstead is the Area Sales Manager of Bay Equity Home Loans. Jonathan directs the operations of a mortgage branch that originates over 200m in residential mortgage loans annually a year. Bay Equity Home Loans is a service retained mortgage bank that is presently licensed in 30 states and does 3 billion annually in production. Jonathan Hallstead has built a strong reputation for helping homeowners understand real estate and lending. Jonathan has over 10 years of experience in mortgage lending. In early 2013 he joined Bay Equity Home Loans to launch and grow their retail presence in Orange County California, located in the city of Irvine. Prior to joining Bay Equity Home Loans, Jonathan has owned and operated numerous mortgage branches with gross loan production exceeding one billion dollars. Jonathan also serves on the board of directors for the California Association of Mortgage Professionals. Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Chapman University. He presently holds a California Real Estate Broker’s License as well as a mortgage loan originator license in; California, Colorado, Washington, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia. He has received numerous awards and honors as a production manager and loan officer. Jonathan is recognized as one of the top 1% of originators in the nation by Mortgage Executive Magazine. Jonathan resides in Newport Beach with his wife and two dogs. He enjoys traveling, golf, surfing as well as keeping up on politics and current events. Furthermore he stays active in the local community engaging with local charities and organizations to further their causes. Find Jonathan on LinkedIn

Mark Khatoonian

Mark Khatoonian has been involved in the real estate management industry for over 20 years, and is currently with the asset management group of RREEF in Costa Mesa, California. RREEF is one of the world’s largest real estate investment managers, investing in commercial and residential property, and real estate securities globally. Primarily focused on accounting and financial analysis, Mark has worked with both large and small property managers and investment firms in Arizona and Southern California. Mark became involved with TACA though an annual charity golf tournament called the “Jimmies Invitational”, which he hosts with friends in Orange County, CA. This event has been held each of the last five years, and now benefits TACA. Mark earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance at Arizona State University. In his free time Mark enjoys travelling, golfing, hiking/backpacking, bicycling and sea kayaking.

Manny Khoshbin

Manny Khoshbin arrived in the US with his family at age 14 with not much money or resources. As an entrepreneur at heart, Manny soon realized the opportunities that existed in America and started his own business in 1989 at age 18 while still attending High School. In the early 1990’s, Manny obtained his real estate license and started a realty and mortgage company so that he could invest in distressed and bank owned properties. Today Mr. Khoshbin is guiding several companies in all aspects of its business with a commercial real estate portfolio in excess of 1,500,000 square feet in 6 states. He resides in Newport Coast with his wife Leyla Milani Khoshbin and daughter Priscilla. Manny enjoys vacationing with his family and Philanthropy through multiple causes.

Steve Plank

Steve Plank is an executive in Allergan’s Global Information Systems organization. Steve joined Allergan in 2005 as the Director of Regulatory Information Management. In 2007, he transitioned into the I.S. organization. Since joining the I.S. organization, he has lead the introduction of numerous capabilities, transformational technology, teams, and technology governance. Steve has over 15 years of experience dedicated in the life sciences industry with roles in the business and IS functions spanning nearly all aspects of the development and commercial lifecycle. Prior to joining Allergan, Steve held positions at Baxter and Amgen as well as consulting engagements at many of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies. Steve graduated from Temple University with a B.S. in Computer Science and received his MBA from the University of Southern California. He currently resides in Irvine, California with his wife and three kids.