Darrell Gwynn Foundation

STAFF


Darrell Gwynn

President
Darrell Gwynn Foundation

 

Racing Career
Darrell Gwynn grew up watching and helping his father, Jerry, a former National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) world champ, who drove Alcohol Funny Cars. While Darrell obviously got his love of the sport from his dad, he didn't even attempt to drive Funny Cars. He went directly to dragsters. At 7 years old, Darrell Gwynn was piloting a scaled down dragster designed and hand built by his father, Jerry. By 19, he had earned his first professional competition license, and within 10 years, by 1990, Darrell had worked his way through the ranks to become one of America's hottest NHRA Top Fuel drag racers.

When Darrell Gwynn began his racing career in 1980 in the Alcohol Dragster category of the National Hot Rod Association, he attacked the sport with fierce determination. The fire burned in his eyes at the mere thought of his next round of competition. There was always another barrier to overcome. It finally got to the point where Gwynn would not just overcome barriers, but actually knock them down. As his sportsman victories began to mount, people, especially competitors noticed. Big time sponsors noticed. Everything fell into place for the "kid". Darrell was winless that First year; however he did place runner-up at the U.S Nationals. Gwynn won three times in 1981. He added two wins apiece in 1982 and 1983 and three wins in 1984. Not only did Darrell have 10 wins as an Alcohol Dragster, he also was the Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion in 1983. The competitive spirit he developed then still burns today.

At the tender age of 23, Gwynn turned professional as he moved up to the Top Fuel category. While he didn't win a race in his 12 starts, he did qualify number one once, and made it to the final round in two races, including the biggest race of all, the U.S. Nationals. However his sixth place finish in the Winston Championship did not go unnoticed. The following year, in 1986, Gwynn was the talk of Top Fuel. The kid had even the most seasoned veterans scratching their heads by winning three races in the first half of the season. He was in a dogfight with legendary Don Garlits for a championship. Garlits would ultimately prevail, but Gwynn's four wins, three runner-ups and string of record-setting runs marked him as a quickly rising star in a sport that featured the likes of Garlits, Kalitta, Muldowney, Ormsby, LaHaie, Amato and Hill.

Over the next three years, Gwynn would win another 13 races, but never get the gold ring. He finished third, second and fourth in points, but couldn't call the championship his own. 1990 would be the year that everything changed. The barriers would grow taller. Overcoming them would be his greatest challenge. Gwynn started his campaign that year in familiar fashion; winning the Gatornationals at a track he considered his home track, in his only final round appearance in four starts. It would be his 18th and final win as a driver.

Fate took Gwynn to England in April that year. In an exhibition race at Santa Pod Raceway his dragster suddenly broke and veered left into the retaining wall at halftrack at approximately 240mph, causing major life-threatening injuries to the 28-year-old driver. A terrific battle of faith and determination allowed Gwynn to survive the ordeal, he was left paralyzed and he lost his left arm. Given this unfortunate event, one thing that never changed was his willingness to meet challenges head-on and to live life on his terms. The competitive spirit he developed early on still burns today. You can still see it deep within and raging in his eyes.

Racing Team Owner
Since that time, Gwynn changed roles from star driver to team owner. He employed Frank Hawley, Mike Brotherton, Mike Dunn, Andrew Cowin and Cory McClenathan to handle the driving duties. Dunn was Darrell’s primary driver, driving for Darrell Gwynn Racing for nine years. Jerry Gwynn, the biggest influence on Darrell's career decisions, was a vital part of the team as manager. Despite all the changes, Darrell Gwynn was still the driving force that kept the team focused and directed toward a championship.

Gwynn's signature style of barrier busting continues both in front of and beyond the reach of the public eye. In 2001, at the biggest event in NHRA's 50th anniversary year, the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Gwynn demonstrated his willingness and ability to live life to the fullest. At the site of his most prestigious racing win, Gwynn shocked and wowed a capacity crowd by driving a custom-built, hand-controlled dragster down the Indianapolis Raceway Park quarter-mile track in a special exhibition run. The dragster was built in secrecy by a former crewmember, Mike Gerry as a surprise 40th birthday gift. Gwynn was presented the unique present hours before he took it to the track to delight all in attendance. Though traversing the quarter-mile at a snail's pace compared to his Top Fuel days, the symbolism contained within the on-track return of the once fallen racing champion was felt far and wide.

Businessman & Darrell Gwynn Foundation
Beyond such dramatic feats of a no-barriers lifestyle, Gwynn continues to make his presence felt in both business and civic arenas. As a businessman, Gwynn presides over Darrell Gwynn Collectibles. In 2002, Gwynn launched the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to provide awareness, prevention and support and ultimately a cure for paralysis. That endeavor finds Gwynn active in fund-raising and educational programs. The foundation's quality of life initiatives include programs such as national wheelchair donations to financially underprivileged paralysis victims, an education and prevention program, several fundraising events annually and the successful creation of Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week (SCIAW) in November each year.

Although the DGR NHRA Race Team had a tremendous amount of sentimental value to Darrell, at the end of 2003 with travel becoming increasingly more difficult Darrell chose to sell the team. Darrell decided helping others through the Darrell Gwynn Foundation and spending more quality time with his little girl and wife would be a greater reward than any race won. In the meantime, from Darrell’s racing days through the foundation he has unknowingly found himself a role model to an international following of respectful admirers.

Darrell, with his wife Lisa and daughter Katie, now reside in Weston, Fla.

 

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Lisa Gwynn

Co-Founder
Darrell Gwynn Foundation

 

 

Lisa Gwynn, wife of Darrell Gwynn, is a co-founder of the Darrell Gwynn Foundation and has served as its Vice President & Treasurer since 2001. After stepping away from the day-to-day duties with the foundation to earn her MBA at the University of Miami in 2010, in December 2011 she rejoined the Darrell Gwynn Foundation as its Interim Executive Director until early 2013. Prior to that in 2010 she accepted a position with the University of Miami School of Medicine as its Medical Director of the Pediatric Mobile Clinic Program and Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics.


As interim executive director Lisa restructured the foundation's accounting procedures and brought in a new administrator to oversee and manage this process, implemented the creation of the advisory council and fundraising committee and guided the foundation to better prioritize its fundraising efforts.


As Vice President & Treasurer from 2001-2010, Lisa was involved in all aspects of the foundation including: 501©3 filings with the IRS, accounting, budgeting, strategic planning, correspondence with the Board of Directors, human resources, staff management, operations, government affairs, grant management, fundraising, marketing, website development, social media, newsletter publication, database management, public relations and development and implementation of program services such as the wheelchair donation program, high school spinal cord injury prevention program and Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week.


With a background in pediatric medicine, Gwynn practiced as a pediatrician at Children's Medical Center in Hollywood, Fla. From 2001-2009. There she also became the clinic's Director of Marketing in 2008.


Lisa has a number of academic appointments to her name including the University of Miami School of Medicine, Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics and holds her board certification from the American Board of Pediatrics. She is also a member of several professional associations including American Osteopathic Association, Florida Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physician Executives and the Association of Fund Raising Professionals.


A graduate of the University of Miami pre-med program with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, Lisa went on to further her education by earning her medical degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed her Pediatric residency at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center. Currently she's pursuing an MBA degree at the University of Miami specializing in Health Sector Management and Policy.


Prior to attending medical school, Lisa worked as a research specialist in neuroscience at the University of Miami Bascom Palmer Eye Institute as well as the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. Her work has been co-published in journals such as the Journal of Neurobiology, Glia, the Journal of Neuroscience, Invest Ophthalmol, and the Journal of General Virology.


Active in her community, Lisa has served as PTA president at Manatee Bay Elementary, as well as appeared as a Pediatrician on websites Newbaby.com as well as currently serves on the Miami-Dade County School Health Advisory Council, she has volunteered and supported several organizations including, "Volunteer Pediatrician", and the Manatee Bay Elementary Parent Teacher Association.


Born in Miami, Lisa was a cheerleader at the University of Miami from 1984-88, named Orange Bowl Queen in 1989 as well as Miss Miami in 1991. A natural talent, Lisa enjoyed dancing for most of her life. Lisa and her husband Darrell, along with their daughter Katie, reside in Weston, Fla.

 

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Jerry Gwynn

Operations Director
Darrell Gwynn Foundation

 

Jerry Gwynn has served on the Board for the Darrell Gwynn Foundation since its inception in 2002. Jerry’s contributions to the foundation are immense as he advises on foundation's direction and objectives and serves the foundation as its operations and construction projects supervisor.

Before this, Jerry spent 32 years working for the Chevron Corporation where he was construction and maintenance supervisor for all service stations in Southeast Florida.

As a champion driver, Jerry Gwynn was an NHRA World Champion in 1969 (Super Eliminator). He also won four NHRA Southeast divisional titles. In September 1999, Gwynn, along with his wife Joan and son Darrell, was awarded drag racing's most prestigious honor – The Ollie Award, for citizenship in the sport of drag racing, presented by Car Craft Magazine. In 2010, Jerry Gwynn along with his son Darrell was inducted into the Maple Grove Raceway Hall of Fame.

Jerry resides in Davie, Fla. with Joan, his wife of 50 years.

 

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Kristen Fitzgerald

Executive Director
Darrell Gwynn Foundation

 

Kristen Fitzgerald joined the Darrell Gwynn Foundation in 2013 taking on the leadership role as its executive director with the task of leading the foundation as it rapidly expands its programs. Kristen has ambitious plans for the future of the Darrell Gwynn Foundation and would like to double the number of wheelchairs donated to children and young adults living with paralysis by 2015. Having lost her own two children to catastrophic illness, she brings first hand experience and a personal commitment to the endeavor.


Prior to joining the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, Kristen Fitzgerald served as the founder and president of Brave Kids, which was the non-profit organization that helps children with special needs and disabilities. Kristen launched the Brave Kids organization in 1999 and was responsible for expanding the organization to serve over two million children and family members nationally.


Kristen has been honored for her work in helping others from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. She also served on the Telehealth Connections Committee, which was a project of the Institute for Child Health Policy - University of Florida.


Kristen received a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in marketing from the University of Florida and has extensive marketing experience with leading broadcast companies in the United States. Kristen grew up in Orange Park, Fla.

 

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Ryan Rogers

Marketing & Communications Director
Darrell Gwynn Foundation

 

Ryan Rogers joined the Darrell Gwynn Foundation in 2010 as its Communications Director with an extensive background in public relations, marketing and communications. In 2011 he was elevated to Marketing & Communications Director. He oversees the foundation's marketing strategies including its public relations, media relations, internet marketing, social media, advertising, direct mail, database marketing, tickets sales and sponsorship sales efforts as well as the execution of its fundraising events and assist in the implementation of new development campaigns and the development of foundation partnerships locally and nationally. He is also the staff chair of the foundation's fundraising committee.


Prior to joining the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, Rogers served as the public relations manager for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Hollywood, Fla. from 2006-2010. There he managed the public relations efforts for the casino promotions, hotel and food and beverage operations, Hard Rock Live concert venue, Seminole Paradise retail district, Hard Rock Café, special events and celebrity appearances. He played an integral role in the marketing campaign launching "The First Deal of Blackjack" in the State of Florida, developed and launched the Seminole Hard Rock's social media program and was the architect of the Seminole Hard Rock's successful "Rock the Game" public relations campaign in 2010. During his tenure there, Rogers also assisted in public relations special projects for Seminole Casino - Coconut Creek, Seminole Casino - Immokalee, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Tampa as well as being active in creating tent-pole PR initiatives for all Hard Rock Hotels in the U.S.


In 2010, Rogers briefly aided Zucker Public Relations as a consultant assisting in the grand openings of Maserati Manhattan in New York and Mummies of the World Exhibit in Los Angeles. He also served as an Account Executive at the public relations agency Bitner Goodman from 2005-06 working on accounts such as Seminole Gaming, Seminole Sports Management and Holy Cross Hospital.


Rogers began his career in sports media relations working as a student assistant sports information director at LSU Athletics from 1999-2002. There he also served as the athletic department's primary feature writer for its website, game programs and newsletters. He then went on to work in media relations roles for the Denver Broncos (2002-03), the University of Memphis Athletics (2003-04), Miami Dolphins (2004-05) and the ATP/WTA Sony Ericsson Open Tennis Tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla. (2005). Rogers has also been a part of the event media relations teams for Super Bowl XXXIX (Jacksonville), Super Bowl XLI (Miami) Super Bowl XLIV (Miami), BCS Sugar Bowl (2003), BCS Orange Bowls (2005, 2013) and still serves on the Miami Dolphins Game Day Media Relations Staff (2005-Present).


Active in the community and involved with professional organizations, Ryan is a member of the American Marketing Association (AMA), Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and South Florida LSU Alumni Chapter. He is also a volunteer or supporter of other not-for-profit organizations including the Russell Reading & Life Skills Foundation and the Humane Society of Broward County and is a parishioner at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Davie, Fla.


Rogers was born in Lockport, La. and earned his Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. He also holds a Master's Degree of Science from the University of Memphis. A former three-sport letterman in high school, he remains active in recreational sports today participating in an adult flag football league at Brian Piccolo Park, adult soccer league at Central Broward Regional Park and an adult softball league at Sunset Park. Ryan also enjoys fishing, playing golf, running 5K's, swimming at the beach and snorkeling. He is married to Megan (Weber) Rogers and together with their daughter Ava and dog Pinky Lee, they reside in Davie, Fla.



 

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Julie Smith

Administrator/Foundation Relations
Darrell Gwynn Foundation

 

Julie Smith joined the Darrell Gwynn Foundation in 2012 as its Administrator/Foundation Relations. In this role she manages the foundation's finances and human resources. She also serves as a liaison with donors and coordinates the planning and execution of the foundation's fundraising events. Julie brings to the foundation a great deal of experience working in a variety of roles for organizations.


Prior to joining the Darrell Gwynn Foundation she served as hospitality coordinator and assistant to the owners for Kenny Bernstein Racing from 2007-2011. There she coordinated/oversaw the team's trackside hospitality program, sponsor and sponsor guest relations as well as guest ticket needs and team travel. She served as assistant to both team owners, and worked on several special projects including team merchandise and team apparel.


In her career she has also worked as an administrator for the Professional Racers Owners Organization (2006-07) and served in administrator and director's roles for Carrier Boyz Racing (2004-06), Darrell Gwynn Racing (1998-2004), NASDAQ Dispute Resolution (1996-98), MedX, Inc. (1988-1996) and Coral Gables Hospital (1986-88).


Born in New London, Conn., Julie grew up in North Miami, Fla., and earned her Bachelor's Degree in Communications from Florida International University in 2002. She also earned an Associates of Arts Degree from Broward College in 1998. She currently resides in Cooper City, Fla. with her husband Todd Smith.


 

 

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Richard Garabedian

Operations Manager
Darrell Gwynn Foundation

 

Richard Garabedian serves as the Darrell Gwynn Foundation’s Operations Manager. He is responsible for the company’s information technology needs including computer maintenance, in-house creative and website hosting as well as its building maintenance, shipping management and maintains Darrell Gwynn’s collectibles. He has been associated with Darrell Gwynn’s business ventures for 15 years dating back to 1996.

Garabedian began working for Darrell Gwynn Racing Collectibles in 1996 and stayed with the company through the creation of the Darrell Gwynn Foundation in 2001. Richard has been with the foundation and played an integral role in its development since day one. Prior to working for Darrell Gwynn, Garabedian was the owner/operator of Dick’s Race-ables from 1994-96. From 1986-1994, he worked as a distributor for Mac Tools.

Dick is married to his wife Carolee and together they reside in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The couple has three children.

 

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Danielle Putnam

Executive Assistant to the President

 

Danielle Putnam joined the Darrell Gwynn Foundation in 2011 and serves as Executive Assistant to the President, Darrell Gwynn. Danielle aides Darrell in his daily communications by monitoring email and phone calls. She prepares correspondence, presentations and other documents, manages and maintains Darrell's executive schedules, appointments and travel arrangements as well as those for the entire staff, arranges and coordinates meetings, takes minutes, liaises with board members, donors and internal staff at all levels.


Danielle is responsible for maintaining relationships on the President's behalf with high-profile Foundation supporters and sponsors including NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway, Homestead Miami Speedway & Barrett-Jackson. Danielle communicates regularly with many Public Relations representatives of athletes and celebrities who provide invaluable support to the Foundation. Additionally, Danielle coordinates DGF's biannual Hot Rods and Reels NASCAR Fishing Tournament during the Daytona and Homestead races with emphasis on coordinating driver participation. Danielle is also responsible for many aspects of the Foundation's Car Donation Program including coordination of car builds and communication with members of the high performance and classic car collector community.


Prior to joining the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, she was the Assistant Chef & Event Coordinator at Catering by Sally in Davie, Fla. She has also worked for more than 10 years as a licensed real estate appraiser and continues to maintain successful relationships with clients and lenders.


A native of Davie, Fla., Putnam graduated from Western High School and holds an Associate's Degree in Business from the University of West Alabama. She enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, fishing and vacationing in the Florida Keys. Danielle resides in Davie, Fla. with her husband Roger. The two joined their families together in 2007 and have six children: Amanda, Amber, Andrew, Autumn, Brianna and Devin. They also have a Boxer named Sam.


 

 

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Micah Moreno

Program Services Coordinator
Darrell Gwynn Foundation

 

Micah Moreno joined the Darrell Gwynn Foundation as its Development Assistant in 2011, primarily aiding the foundation in its development and database management efforts. In 2012, she was elevated to a full-time role as Development Coordinator and, in 2013, was promoted to the role of Program Services Coordinator. In addition, Micah continues to manage the Darrell Gwynn Foundation's donor database.


As Program Services Coordinator, Micah is responsible for all aspects of the foundation's Wheelchair Donation Program, Education & Prevention Program and Patient Assistance Fund. She identifies and communicates with wheelchair donation recipients and their families prior to and following donations while increasing awareness of the program and maintaining relationships with hospitals, rehabilitation centers and members of the medical community. She also works to promote the foundation's Education & Prevention Program, coordinating school presentations focused on the prevention of spinal cord injuries while working with local school boards and serving on various advisory committees. She maintains the foundation's relationships with entities such as the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Speediatrics and Craig Hospital while seeking new community partnerships. Micah communicates with legislative offices throughout Florida and secures support for and plans the foundation's annual Florida Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week (SCIAW). Finally, Micah has worked to establish the foundation's Spinal Cord Injury Advisory Council.


Prior to joining the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, Micah served as a writing consultant for Nova Southeastern University's Office of Academic Services. There she guided undergraduate and graduate students through the brainstorming, writing and revising process. She has spent time as an office assistant in the university's tutoring office. Micah also worked as a Human Resources Assistant at ARC Broward in Sunrise, Fla.


A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Micah graduated from Nova Southeastern University with a Bachelor's Degree in Arts in Humanities in 2010. She was a member of the school's Dean's List and Honors Program. She is currently enrolled at Florida Atlantic University and is working on her thesis in multicultural literature towards her Master's Degree in Arts & English. Micah enjoys reading, travelling and volunteering her time with various charitable organizations, seeking to leave the world a better place than when she found it. She resides in Fort Lauderdale with her cat, Bayley.