Mission Statement

Parkinson Foundation Western Pennsylvania provides services, support and education for those living with Parkinson disease and their families.

Our Values

Excellence:  We strive to achieve outstanding results by listening and learning from the Parkinson’s community.

Team Work: We bring together and embrace different perspectives, skills and knowledge.

Collaboration: We partner with a diverse group of stakeholders who share our purpose and urgency.

Integrity:  We are honest, accountable and transparent with each other and with the people we represent to achieve our mission.

Positivity: We lead with optimism and always work to find solutions to problems.

Dedication: We are honored to do this important work and approach each day with a renewed focus until all those affected by Parkinson’s have access to the care they need and a cure is discovered.

Responsiveness: We build relationships through trust in order to meet and support the needs of people living with Parkinson’s and their families.

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Christine Haythorn
Executive Director and CEO

Casey Peluso, LPC
VP, Programs and Outreach

Lauren O’Neil 
VP, Marketing and Design

Beth Appanaitis  
VP, Operations

Diane Balcom
VP, Fund Resources

Wesley Johnson
Director, Diversity & Minority Outreach


Edwin H. Beachler III, Esq., Co-Chair
Retired Attorney, Caroselli, Beachler, & Coleman, LLC

David L. Harnish, Esq., Co-Chair
Attorney, D.L. Harnish & Associates, LLC

Timothy Leichliter, MD, Vice President
Physician, Allegheny Health Network

Jennifer Rose, Esq., Vice President
Attorney, Julian Gray Associates

Josiah Hoffman, Treasurer
President, Wealth Manager, & CCO, Hoffman Capital Advisors LLC

Meghan Taggart, Secretary
Product Manager, Boston Scientific

Susan Cruz
Financial Advisor, Merrill Lynch

Ambrose Murray
Consultant and former ED, Extra Mile Education Foundation

Bill Schmidt
Retired, National City/PNC

Lisa Shaner
Technical Sales Specialist, Hennecke Inc.

Amber Van Laar, MD
Researcher/Physician, Ask Bio/UPMC


Susan M. Baser, MD
Medical Director of Spasticity and Movement Disorder, West Penn Allegheny Healthy System

Sarah Berman, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology & Principal Investigator, University of Pittsburgh


Emily Bayer
Senior Account Manager, Hacker Agency

Jennifer Bittel Derby
Associate Attorney, Tucker Arensberg

Nicolina DiNardi
Senior Electrophysiology-Technical Service Specialist, Abbott

Shannon Mincemoyer
Associate Attorney, Reed Smith

Lauren O’Neil

Laura Teschke, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist, River Therapies

Courtney Williamson
CEO and Founder, AbiliLife

Parkinson Foundation Western Pennsylvania (PFWPA) is pleased to be a member of Independent Parkinson’s Network (IPN), a consortium formed with the shared goals of finding a cure for Parkinson’s and supporting those who live with the disease. IPN encourages collaboration, leverages organizational strengths and maximizes efficiency within its member organizations, which include Parkinson Association of the Rockies, Parkinson Foundation of Oklahoma,  Houston Area Parkinson Society, Michigan Parkinson Foundation, Southwest Parkinson Society, Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson Association of the Carolinas, Parkinson’s Association of San Diego, Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon, Parkinson Association of Alabama and Dallas Area Parkinson Society, and Houston Area Parkinson’s Society.

The creation of IPN formalized a collaboration that began in 2009 between the Parkinson Foundation and several independent regional nonprofit organizations, who became the founding members of the Alliance of Independent Regional Parkinson Organizations (AIRPO). This partnership allowed AIRPO to grow significantly over the years and in 2021, after many years of support from the Parkinson’s Foundation and rebranded to Independent Parkinson’s Network (IPN) in 2022 and now functions as a stand-alone collaborative group.

PFWPA is a proud member of IPN, accessing the many benefits of shared resources and perspectives from prominent and innovative Parkinson’s organizations from across the country. By expanding communication on a national scale, we are devoted to adopting new ideas and treatments generated through IPN and will continue to provide the latest services and programs to help people affected by the disease.  IPN provides the opportunity to collaborate with our peers around the country who are also providing valuable services to their local Parkinson’s communities.

To be accepted to IPN, members must be able to demonstrate their credentials as independent nonprofit organizations by offering programs and direct services to their local community that aim to improve quality of life and daily living to those living with Parkinson’s or caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s. Nonprofit organizations that are interested in learning about IPN should fill out a contact form online: parkinsonsnetwork.com

PFWPA is a proud member of The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council (UPAC). Comprising representatives from local, state, regional and national Parkinson’s organizations, UPAC members gather information on the priorities of people with Parkinson’s and their families, helping to ensure the needs of the broader Parkinson’s community are represented in our collective public policy efforts. UPAC sends letters to policymakers when relevant bills or federal rules are being debated and encourages Parkinson’s constituencies across the country to advocate.

UPAC’s approach follows the work of the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN). From 1991 to 2016, PAN served as the unified voice of the Parkinson’s community on public policy and advocacy issues. PAN represented patients and loved ones on Capitol Hill and worked, with input from other Parkinson’s organizations, to positively impact research and health care policy. In June 2016, PAN closed its doors and transitioned key staff and programs to MJFF.

Learn more about UPAC here.