Helping people with disabilities live independently
Who We Are
The Susan Mast ALS Foundation owes its name to Susan L Mast, a woman who passed away in 2014 from ALS. Born on April 21, 1952 in Pueblo, Colorado, Mast spent most of her early years in Hawaii, where she attended Kilauea High School and Chaminade University and graduated from the University of Hawaii with an RN degree. After moving to Michigan in 1966, Mast decided to lead a nursing career supporting dying individuals and their families. Mast’s calling led her to become the Executive Director of Faith Hospice of Holland Home. Today, Mast is remembered as a proud wife, mother, grandmother, dog owner, MSU Spartan fan, and friend.
Our organization got its start when our founder, Ross Mast, decided to honor his wife Susan’s memory by supporting ALS families. Born on February 7, 1946, Ross grew up on the Mast Family Dairy in White Cloud, MI. After graduating from Michigan State University, Ross enlisted in the United States Navy, where he retired from the reserves as a Captain thirty years later. In addition to serving in the military, Ross worked in the packaging engineering industry. In his spare time, Ross enjoyed hosting barbecues, playing golf, spending time with his grandkids, and attending St. Andrews Episcopal Church.
Upon founding the Susan Mast ALS Foundation, Mast asked Julie Snelling to take on the role of Executive Director. Julie, who saw her father pass away from ALS, accepted the position. Before joining the Susan Mast ALS Foundation, Julie graduated from the University of Michigan with a BSN and Loyola University with a MSN & MBA. After working in direct care as a nurse, Julie moved into the business side of medical care at the American Medical Association and later the Michigan chapter of the ALS Association.
At the Susan Mast ALS Foundation, we are so excited to see what the next chapter of our story looks like. As we move forward, though, we do not forget the legacy of those who helped us become who we are today.
The mission of the Susan Mast ALS Foundation is to provide excellent support to ALS patients, families and caregivers living in West Michigan. Our services focus on all areas of need for the regional ALS community.
The vision of the Susan Mast ALS Foundation is to build a strong foundation to ensure all ALS patients and families have the much-needed support, guidance and resource available to them today and years to come.
We strive to strengthen and build our relationships with community partners so we can continue our mission of providing excellent support to ALS patients, families and caregivers in all of West Michigan.
Julie Snelling is the Executive Director of the Susan Mast ALS Foundation. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a nursing degree and received her MBA/MSN from Loyola University in Chicago. Julie has professional and personal experience with ALS.
Before starting at the Susan Mast ALS Foundation, she was the Director of Care Services at the ALS Michigan Chapter.
She left the ALS Michigan Chapter to start a foundation helping families the way she believed they needed to be helped. Julie knows firsthand what ALS families need because her father passed away from ALS on December 26, 2016.
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember the airplane takes off against the wind,
not with it.” – Henry Ford
Natsumi Asanuma, M.S., CCC-SLP is a licensed speech language pathologist with special interests in alternative and augmentative communication, neurological and critical care rehab. She completed her master’s in speech language pathology at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston and clinical fellowship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. She continued her work at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC, where she worked with people living with ALS at the MDA/ALS clinic and in acute care.
She recently moved to the Grand Rapids area and is excited to join the Susan Mast ALS Foundation. She hopes to be a resource to people living with ALS and their families through providing training and support on high- and low-tech alternative and augmentative communication, such as communication strategies, communication devices, access methods, and message and voice banking.
Care Services Manager
Pam Van Vliet assists with patient services and facilitates support groups in Grand Rapids, Holland and Kalamazoo.
Pam Van Vliet understands first-hand how ALS impacts caregivers and families. Pam lost her husband Dick in 2013 after a one-year battle with ALS. Pam hopes to help others who are dealing with ALS through supporting the Susan Mast Foundation and all they do.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Director of Care Services
Lauren Jacoby is the Director of Care for the Susan Mast ALS Foundation. She is thrilled to be part of this dynamic organization that provides essential services and support to ALS patients in West Michigan.
Lauren received a BS in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an MSN from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has been working as a RN since 1999 in a variety of roles in healthcare organizations throughout Michigan and New England. Her experience ranges from providing direct patient care, designing and implementing patient education, launching hospital-wide quality improvement initiatives, and serving as nursing faculty. Also, Lauren works as a nursing instructor at Grand Valley State University teaching undergraduate students in the simulation laboratory.
Her role at the foundation is focused on connecting patients with essential services, providing education, and facilitating community connections to ease the transitions through the phases of life with ALS.
Patient Support Psychologist
Emily H Brechting joined the Susan Mast ALS Foundation in January 2020. Prior to joining the SMAF team, she was an adjunct professor in the Psychology Department at Hope College in Holland, MI. Emily completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in behavioral medicine at the Orofacial Pain Center at the University of Kentucky and continued with the clinic as an adjunct faculty member. Emily completed her pre-doctoral internship at the Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Medical Center in Lexington, KY. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kentucky.
Volunteer and ALS Family Liaison
Sarah left her career as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer in 1994 after the birth of her daughter. Her son was born the following year, and Sarah spent the next 18 years dedicated to raising and educating her two children. Her family began raising livestock in 2003 and she continues to maintain a small hobby farm in Greenville.
After losing her sister-in-law and best friend to ALS in April of 2021, Sarah began volunteering at the Susan Mast ALS Foundation. In 2022, she joined our staff as the Volunteer and Event Coordinator.
Gale Shultz is the Bookkeeper for the Susan Mast ALS Foundation. Gale retired from the Oakridge School District after 34 years in education.
Gale brings a multitude of experience to the position; her last 17 years of teaching was spent teaching middle school math, she was treasurer for the Grandville Hockey Boosters and has prepared taxes for an accounting firm. Gale has personal experience with ALS as she and her husband Chuck lost their best friend to the disease.
Web & Social Media Admin
Anne DiVitto came to the Susan Mast ALS Foundation in September 2019 originally to help prepare the website and social media for our 2019 PedALS event. After connecting with Julie and the rest of the staff, she is using her social media knowledge to manage and grow the SMAF website and social media accounts.
When she’s not working with Grand Rapids area businesses and non-profits, Anne enjoys spending time with her husband, two kids and two dogs.
John recently retired from a 45-year career in the insurance industry. His career spanned from insurance product sales to sales management at the district and regional levels. In the last twenty years of his career, John was involved in executive leadership roles. Upon retirement, his title was Vice President and Director of Field Operations.
John, is a self-motivated, results driven person, who is all about moving forward to achieve goals through relationship building and networking.
Carolyn is the Executive Vice President of Home and Community Services for Holland Home, providing executive and strategic leadership to its hospice, home care, case management and educational institute programs. A graduate of Butterworth Hospital School of Nursing and the University of Detroit-Mercy, she has over 30 years’ experience in healthcare leadership, including executive roles in physician practice management, home health and hospice. Carolyn and her husband Jack live in Hudsonville. They have two grown children and two grandchildren.
As a long-time friend and work colleague of Susan Mast, Carolyn saw first-hand the struggles experienced by Susan and the caregiving challenges faced by Ross Mast as he cared for Susan through her battle with ALS. Carolyn joined the board to help those with ALS and their families, who face a similar challenge.
Rick grew up on a fruit farm in Paw Paw, Mi. He attended Adrian College in Adrian Mi. and played football for 4 years. He taught history and government, coached football and was the athletic director at Deerfield Public Schools from 1975-1980. He received his Master’s degree from Siena Heights college in 1979, in Adrian MI.
He started at Taylor Freezer of MI in 1980 in sales and became a partner in 1989. Rick has been president for 10 years and retired in 2019.
Ken is a father of two boys and has been married for 25 years. He was born and raised in Connecticut and graduated from Bryan University in 1984 with a BS in Business Administration. Most of Ken’s career was spent in global manufacturing in the Large Format Graphics industry as Senior VP of Sales and Marketing.
Over the past 7 years, he has been the Managing Partner with Hasco Graphics.
Pamela Marroquin is an experienced finance professional with over 15 years in the corporate finance industry. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan Ross Business School, and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She began her career in investment banking, helping small to large-cap companies raise debt and equity capital and advising clients on mergers and acquisitions. Pam then transitioned to the corporate side, holding various corporate finance positions from business decision support to leading business development for a division of Thomson Reuters. She acted as the CFO of the Thomson Reuters Corporate Services business unit during its sale process, and then moved with the business when it was purchased by NASDAQ. Pam served as the business unit CFO of the NASDAQ Corporate Solutions business from 2013 – 2016.
Currently she is focusing her time on her family, and lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband, son and dog.
Mike Bieker has been a board member since 2018 and was the original host of PEDALS.
Born and raised in the greater Grand Rapids area, Jim is a partner agent at Compass Insurance Agency. His primary focus is personal lines insurance, i.e. auto, home, boat, etc. He is married to Katie, who is the assistant general manager at the University Club of Grand Rapids. Together, they have two children.
Jim graduated from Grand Rapids Christian High and attended Calvin College, prior to starting his Insurance career.
Doug is the owner of Fricano’s Pizza in Comstock Park. Doug cares deeply for the Susan Mast Foundation and all the care, compassion, and support they provide to ALS families in West Michigan. His father, Gus, passed away from ALS 30 years ago.
Doug knows firsthand the good the Foundation can provide to ALS families in need.
A husband to Brittney, a father to Garret, a lover of travel and missions, and a strategic achievement-oriented person. Ryan is a real estate salesperson serving Greater Grand Rapids and the Lakeshore since 2016. Ryan’s background being eight years in banking. Of that time, one and a half years in human resources and culture and over three years in branch management.
Ryan obtained his undergraduate degree through Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration. And his graduate degree from Davenport University with a Master’s in Strategic Business Management.
Kort is the Rehab Director with CareLinc Medical with over 30 years of experience working with disabled clients in West Michigan. He is a graduate of Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Engineering. He lives in West Michigan with his wife Donna, a professor at Kendall College. They have 3 grown children.
Through his familiarity with the challenges of ALS, Kort joined the Susan Mast Foundation in 2019 to be able to work more closely assisting those families.