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AWAKE Influencer Forum


Keynote Speakers

Nicole Chung - Nicole was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean immigrant parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From early childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hopes of giving her a better life; that forever feeling slightly out of place was simply her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as she grew up - facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and a writer, becoming even more curious about where she came from - she wondered if the story she'd been told was the whole truth.

Her nationally bestselling debut memoir All You Can Ever Know was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award, and named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, NPR, TIME, Newsday, Library Journal, BuzzFeed, Real Simple, Goodreads, and the Chicago and Seattle Public Library systems, among many others. 


Susan Harris O'Connor, MSW, LICSW - Susan is a national speaker and author of The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee 2012. She has performed her autobiographical narratives over 100 times as keynote addresses, lectures and featured performances such as the Harvard Medical Conference Series, Wendy's Wonderful Kids Summit, Smith College Summer Lecture Series, PACT Camps West and East, Caribbean Heritage Camp, KAAN and Yale Law School.

Susan received the 2014 Outstanding Practitioner in Adoption Award from St. John's University, the 2018 Distinguished Professional Achievement Alumni Award from Worcester State University and the 2019 Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Social Work Award from Boston University School of Social Work.  

Trevor L. Jordan, PhD - Trevor is President of Jigsaw Queensland, Inc., which, for over 46 years has been providing information and emotional support to anyone impacted by adoption in Queensland, Australia. Jigsaw also provides Forced Adoption Support Services funded by the Commonwealth Government.  For over twenty years, Trevor was an academic teaching and researching ethics in public and professional life, with a special interest in ethics and adoption.


Adam Pertman - Adam is president, CEO and Founder of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency (NCAP), whose mission is to move child welfare policy from the longstanding "child placement" model to a new "family success" paradigm that always includes the education, resources, services and supports that children and families touched by the child welfare system need. He is the Pulitzer-nominated author of Adoption Nation.  After a career as an award-winning journalist for the Boston Globe, Adam became Executive Director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute, where he spent a decade shaping research and advocacy. Adam and his wife Judy are the proud parents of Zack and Mason, whom they adopted as infants. 

World Premiere! @ghostkingdom by Brian Stanton

Brian is the creator of the award-winning one man show BLANK, in which he plays 12 characters to help the audience to understand what it means to be an adult adopted male exploring every avenue in search of his origins and identity. Now, Brian is excited to unveil @ghostkingdom,  a title that is an homage to the work of author Betty Jean Lifton who coined the term in reference to the unseen parallel life that every adoptee might have lived had one decision been different. 


Facilators, Forum Panelists and Workshop Presenters

Kathy Aderhold, RN, BSN, MSN - Kathy has served on the boards of various adoption reform-focused organizations and is currently Vice President of Adoption Search Resource Connection (ASRC).  She was featured in Dan Rather's Emmy-nominated documentary Adopted or Abducted? She lost her daughter to adoption in 1972 after being sent to a Booth maternity home. Kathy searched and found her daughter in 1998. She went on to develop a clinic for pregnant teens at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver, CO, which she directed for seen years. Kathy recently retired from a career as a Legal Nurse Consultant. She and her husband Ben, who has also connected with a son who was relinquished for adoption, live in Denver and thoroughly enjoy time with their children and grandchildren.     


Sally Ankerfelt - Sally is passionate about creating healing space and experiences for those in the adoption constellation. She is an adoptive parent of three children adopted transracially, and sees a strong intersection of trauma between first parents, adoptees and adoptive parents. Sally holds a BA in Psychology from Concordia College and a MDiv from Luther Seminary. She holds a Certificate of Trauma Studies from the University of Minnesota, is a Certified Prepare/Enrich Marital Inventory administrator, and is a certified adoption coach.


Schylar Baber, MPA - Schylar is the Executive Director of Voice for Adoption. He entered the Montana foster care system at the age of six as a result of abuse by family members, and aged out of the system without being adopted, until a former teacher adopted him at the age of 25. He serves on the Boards of Directors of FosterClub, the National Network for Youth in Foster Care, and the Childwise Institute. He has also worked with organizations including  Montana Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), the National Resource Center on Youth Development (NRCYD), Intermountain Children's Home President's Council, and the National Youth Leadership Network(NYLN).  Today, he works in Washington, D.C., advocating with policy makers and congressional representatives to encourage sound policies in the best interest of America's waiting foster children.  Panel:  Thinking Outside the OBC, Friday 3 pm.


Suzanne Bachner - Suzanne is the writer and director of the award-winning play The Good Adoptee,  which has been performed in the US and Great Britain to rave reviews and standing ovations. More than simply a compelling autobiographical personal journey, the play has been performed to raise money in support of legislative advocacy and public awareness efforts to change antiquated laws in states that have yet to provide adult adoptees with direct, unrestricted access to their birth and adoption records.  Panel: Telling the Relinquishment Narrative: A Storytellers' Panel  (Saturday 1 pm).

Bill Barrett - Bill has represented clients before the Florida legislature for nearly 20 years. He has worked with adoptee and State Representative Rick Stark to educate and call upon legislators to repeal laws that prevent adult adoptees from having direct, unrestricted access to original birth certificates. In 2020, HB 89 was passed and signed into law by Governor DeSantis. The measure removes the requirement for adoptive parent consent in order to release the original birth certificate to an adult adoptee, and serves as a springboard for additional future efforts, eliminating one of three obstacles to adoptees in the Florida statue .  Bill is married to an adoptee and, like many advocates, is motivated by a passion for a cause based on personal experience. 

Juliana Braunagel, MA - Juliana is a past Co-Coordinator of Adoptees in Search - Colorado's Triad Connection (now ASRC). She discovered that she is the product of a Filipino father and white American mother, who relinquished her for adoption in California.  Juliana is Manager of Talent and Organizational Capability for a major Denver area employer.

Astrid Castro - Astrid is the former Executive Director of Adoption Mosaic, and now has her own adoption consulting practice. She hosts the podcast We the Experts: Adoptees Speak, featuring guest panelists in discussion about topics of interest to adoptees. Her work focuses on building bridges between communities as personal pathways to understanding. Adopted with her sister from Colombia at age four, Astrid has been in reunion with her family of origin since 2012. She holds a degree in social work and is the co-author of Adoption in the Movies.  She also developed an evidence-based DVD titled, Adoptive Parent Training: Developing Communication Skills. Learn more about Astrid's work at

Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy - Claudia is the Associate Executive Director of the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition (AFFCNY) in New York.  As a birth mother who relinquished her first born son into a traditional voluntary closed infant adoption situation in 1987, she has been active in the adoption reform community for almost 20 years and helped change the original birth certificate laws in New York. Her writings can be found on her website Musings of the Lame, and have appeared in The New York Times, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, and many others.   Now in a successful adoption reunion with her oldest son since 2007, she lives in Kingston, NY with her husband, children and four cats.

Joan Distefano - Joann started her life work as a family law attorney specializing in paternity, child abuse and neglect cases. She also worked as a Guardian ad Litem investigating solutions in the best interests of children. She went on to become a coach and received a Master Certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. She has done archetypal work with Caroly Myss, along with further Internal Family Systems training. Through presence, curiosity, acceptance and compassion, she helps families and individuals find balance, harmonious relationships, positive growth, and understanding of their internal family systems.   


Lorraine Dusky -  Lorraine is an award-winning journalist and author who has been a leading national voice for birth/first mothers for over 25 years. She is a long-time advocate for records access for adult adoptees, and has devoted years of time and energy to contacting to legislators in various states.  She is a sought-after conference speaker, the author of Birthmark and Hole in My Heart, and blogs at Birth/First Mother Forum.  Panel: Mom Advocates:  Out of the Closet, Into the Limelight (Thursday, 2:30 pm) 

Holly Enneking, VP of Marketing at Lev

Derek Frank- Derek is co-creator of Six Word Adoption Memoirs. Panel: Telling the Relinquishment Narrative: A Storytellers' Panel(Saturday 1 pm)  

Heidi Harris, MA - Heidi serves as the ASRC Secretary. A former public relations manager, she is an organizational and talent development leader with expertise in coaching, training and leadership development. After learning through ASRC that she could access her legal adoption files and original birth certificate, Heidi found and connected with her birth mother in 2015 and has since met her two half-sisters, two aunts and a cousin. She is excited to volunteer her professional skills in the non-profit arena.

Lori Holden - Lori is the author of The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption, longtime blogger at, and podcaster at Adoption: The Long View. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption by CCAI in 2018, and is a supporter of Family to Family Support Network.   The Post-Open Adoption Era: Helping Families Navigate Opennes With or Without Contact. (Friday, 10:45 am.)


Holly Janson -  Holly is the newest member of the ASRC Board, joining in 2020. She worked as a DJ while in college and has been in the media industry ever since, working with companies like High Noon Entertainment, Comedy Works Entertainment and NBC Universal. In 2019 she founded her own production company, Casper Black Media. Holly recently found and reunited with both of her biological parents and many other family members, including half-sisters from both sides. She loves to support others, share her experiences, and pay it forward by helping fellow adult adoptees in their discoveries, searches, and reunions.    


Marcie Keithley - Marcie is co-founder of Indiana Adoptee Network {IAN). As Vice President of Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records (HEAR), Marcie testified before legislative committees in support of successful records access legislation. Decades after relinquishing her daughter for adoption, she re-adopted her as an adult. Marcie is the author of the inspirational memoir The Shoebox Effect and co-author of the children's book Frankie and Friends Talk Adoption.  Her articles have appeared in Adoption Today magazine and other publications, and she has been interviewed on Daily Mail TV in New York.  She can be found sharing her wealth of experience overcoming life's adversities on her signature platform "The Shoebox Sherpa." Panel: Mom Advocates:  Out of the Closet, Into the Limelight (Thursday, 2:30 pm)  


Rena Konomis - Rena is a confidential intermediary providing search services to those within the adoption constellation. As an adoptive parent, she believes that it is a treasure for her son to know his birth family narrative. Rena's hope is to influence change for adoptees to gain access to their information. Rena's goal is to update laws to make Washington state the 11th to provide unconditional access for adoptees to their files.  Workshop: Project Search and Reunion: A Model for Agencies to Address Adoptees' Need to Know Their History (Thursday, 1 pm)


Mandy Krahenbuhl (Past President, Concerned United Birthparents) -

Wendy and Ryan Kramer - Cofounders of the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR), with more than 70,000 members in 150 countries, Wendy and Ryan  have appeared on 60 Minutes, Oprah, GMA, The Today Show, CNN, NPR, and CBS Sunday Morning, along with hundreds of global news outlets. Wendy is an Associate Producer on the 2011 Emmy-nominated documentary Sperm Donor and the 2013 MTV News & Docs 6-part docu-series Generation Cryo.  Wendy has reviewed abstracts for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and has co-authored 26 papers on donor conception in journals including Social Science and Medicine, Human Reproduction, Reproductive BioMedicine Online and the Journal of Law and the BioSciences. Wendy is the author of Finding Our Families:  A first-of-its kind Book for Donor-Conceived People, the children's book Your Family: A Donor Kid's Story, and a new memoir in 2020, Donor Family Matters.  The DSR has helped connect almost 20,000 donor-conceived people with their half-siblings. So far, Ryan's sibling group is currently at 20.  


Oleg Lougheed - Oleg was adopted at age twelve from and orphanage in Cherbarkul', Russia and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, not realizing that he would never see his mother again. He never knew who his father was, and learned early in life what it was to face the effects of alcoholism and severe hunger.  Oleg is a national speaker, the founder of Overcoming Odds, whose mission is to restore a sense of community and belonging, and develop one's individual voice through Resilience, Discovery, Network, and Authenticity.  He recently joined the podcast "Just a Squirrel Looking for a Nut" as co-host.


Catherine Lynch, PhD - Catherine serves as president of Adoptee Rights Australia. She is a formerly closed records adoptee who completed her doctorate in Adoption and Literature in 2007 and began practicing as an attorney in 2014. She is the founder of the Australian Adoptee Rigts Action Group;, a founding member of the Coalition for Accurate Birth Records; and a member of Tangle Webs and the New South Wales Committee on Adoption and Permanent Care. Her current research focuses on Australia's history of child removal and its current expressions in child protection, adoption and surrogacy. Panel:  Thinking Outside the OBC ( Friday 3 pm).


Shayne Madsen, JD - Shayne is the Director of the Political Law Center at the Independence Institute. She most recently led the Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs Practice Group in the Denver office of law firm Jackson Kelly PLLC. Shayne has represented clients before the Colorado Legislature and before various local governments for over twenty years.  Her pro bono representation of Adoptees in Search (now Adoption Search Resource Connection) was instrumental in the passage of multiple adoption reform and records access bills in 2014-2015. Ms. Madsen is a graduate of the University of Colorado (Bachelor of Arts) and Washington University in St. Louis (Juris Doctor).  Panel: Thinking Outside the OBC (Friday 3 pm).


Bonnie Malone, VP of Customer Success at Moderning Medicine -

Dianne Maroney, MSN - Dianne is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing. She is an international speaker, author and founder of The Imagine Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps kids, teens and adults overcome challenging circumstances through expressive writing.  Dianne is a thought leader in the area of stress and trauma in children. Her simple, yet profound 7-step writing tool, now used in schools across the US and internationally, gives kids and teens the opportunity to rewrite a challenging personal story and imagine new possibilities in its place.  Workshop: Powerful Tools to Help Kids, Teens and Adults Cope with Stress and Trauma (Thursday, 1 pm). 


Ron Nydam, PhD - Ron is the the founder of Pastoral Counseling of Denver and has specialized in counseling individuals and families affected by relinquishment and adoption. He is the author of Adoptees Come of Age and  Wise Adoptive Parenting:  When Kids Struggle to Adopt Their Parents. Ron has long been a sought-after speaker at conferences and workshops, inspiring audiences with his insight and compassion. Workshop:  Faith, Adoption and Reality (Friday 10:45 am).


Mark Pamer, DO - Mark is a Pulmonologist in Port St. Lucie, FL, specializing in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Pulmonary Vascular Medicine, sleep-disordered breathing, and Interstitial Lung Disease. With the corona virus outbreak, Dr. Pamer felt called to provide treatment to severe COVID-19 patients, along with relief and shared expertise to hospital staff in Queens, NY, the early epicenter of the disease in the United States.  Mark located and connected his birth family in 2017. He is passionate about supporting legislative change efforts in Florida, emphasizing the medical importance of knowing family history.   What COVID Taught Me About Stepping Up: Service and Sacrifice for Something that Matters (Saturday, 10:45 am).

Jean Provance, MSW - Jean is a same-race adopted person who has been in reunion with her natural family since 2003 and reclaimed her name in 2010. She works primarily with youth in the foster system, seeking to prevent escalation to higher levels of care such as intensive residential treatment and out-of-home placement. Ms. Provance has been providing clinical services with focus on adoption and trauma since 2008, after receiving her Masters in Social Work from New York University.   Workshop:  Self Care: Healing for Healers  (Friday 1:00 pm).


David Quint - David is the producer of the documentary Father Unknown, an award-winning chronicle of a trip with his father to a castle in Switzerland which was formerly the orphanage where his father spent his early years.   David has worked as a director, cinematographer and aerial cameraman filming feature films, documentaries, commercials, projects for Netflix, MTV, NBC, ABC, CBS and numerous other networks. He is passionate about spreading the message about the impacts of relinquishment and adoption to the broader public through authentically told stories that have the power to transform.  Panel: Telling the Relinquishment Narrative: A Storytellers' Pane l(Saturday 1 pm.)             


Kelsey Vander Vliet Ranyard - Kelsey hails from Northern Indiana and now resides in sunny Los Angeles. Shortly after college graduation, Kelsey faced an unplanned pregnancy and ultimately chose adoption for her child. She placed her son in an open adoption in 2016 and began her career in adoption shortly thereafter. While she was unclear on her goals when entering the adoption field, it didn't take long for her to figure out that her passion was in achieving high ethical standards and providing support and fighting for the rights of expectant mothers and birth mothers. Kelsey is now in law school with hopes of making big changes in the adoption field as an attorney. 


Ridghaus -  Ridghaus relinquished a son at age 19, then later learned that he himself had been relinquished and adopted at age 35.  He is the co-creator of the documentary film Six Word Adoption Memoirs, which has been shown to rave reviews and many tears at various adoption conferences nationwide. Ridghaus teaches cinema at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.  Panel: Telling the Relinquishment Narrative: A Storytellers' Panel (Saturday 1 pm.)   


Hon. Lori Saine - Lori was recently elected Weld County Commissioner.  Former Colorado State Rep. Saine completed her fourth term in the Colorado House of Representatives, serving in leadership as Minority Caucus Chair. She has successfully sponsored and cosponsored multiple pieces of legislation, including SB 14-051 (Access to Original Birth Certificates); HB 14-1042 (Birth Parent Access to Relinquishment Records); HB 14-1282 (Crimes of Lying and Deception on Birth Certificates); HB 15-1106 (Clarify Access to Original Birth Certificates); HB 15-1355 (The Heritage Act - Family History Access Birth and Personal Records), and HB 19-1023 (Foster Children Driving Licenses). Panel:  Thinking Outside the OBC (Friday 3 pm).


Barbara Shaw, MA - Barbara became a member of Concerned United Birthparents years after relinquishing her son for adoption in 1967.  She and her son were reunited in 1989, during Barbara's career as a speech/language pathologist. She continues to be active with CUB after editing the organization newsletter, organizing retreats, and advocating for legislative change in California. An avid writer, she enjoys responding to articles, television shows and films on adoption, and is percolating on ideas for play or film script idea that would document her experiences.  Free film screening and discussion:   To Each His Own (Thursday, 9:30 am).


Hon. Charles "Chaz" Tedesco - Chaz was elected as Adams County, CO Commissioner in 2012, serving as the Chair of the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) since 2014. He also serves on a variety of other boards, including the Denver Indian Family Resource Center (DIFRC) and the Adams County Youth Initiative.  Born in 1965, he and his sister passed through a number of foster homes before being adopted by a loving couple in Northglenn, CO. Chaz served in the US Navy from 1984-1989 and was honorably discharged. He served as president of the United Steel Workers Union (USW) local 8031 from  2005-2013. His foster experience has served as his inspiration for giving back, with a special interest in helping foster youth and those aging out of the system.   Panel:  Thinking Outside the OBC (Friday 3 pm).


Hyrum Toth, Director of Engineering at Validity -


Angela Tucker -  Angela is the Director of Amara's Post-Adoption Program and host of the podcast, The Adoptee Next Door. Her determination and insatiable curiosity is an inspiration to many and is on display through her search for her biological parents in the documentary, CLOSURE. She is a mentor and advisor to adoptees nationwide, has contributed to renowned fictional work, including Broadway's Jagged Little Pill and NBC's hit show, This Is Us. Her vision is to amplify adoptee voices.   Workshop: Project Search and Reunion: A Model for Agencies to Address Adoptees' Need to Know Their History (Thursday, 1 pm); Panel: Telling the Relinquishment Narrative: A Storytellers' Panel (Saturday 1 pm).  


Rich Uhrlaub, M.Ed. - Rich has been dedicated to support and effective advocacy for the interests of adults impacted by relinquishment and adoption for over 20 years. He serves as President of ASRC and the Colorado Adoption Intermediary Commission. Relinquished and adopted at three weeks old, Rich located and connected with his family of origin in 1995.

Rich spearheaded legislative efforts in Colorado which have resulted in one of the most comprehensive records access laws in the nation. He has been interviewed for local and national radio, television and and newspaper stories. He is a contributing author to Finding Our Place:  100 Memorable Adoptees, Fostered Persons and Orphanage Alumni and Adoption and Mothering.   Panel:  Thinking Outside the OBC (Friday 3 pm).  

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