LEADERSHIP

Meet our leadership team and the people dedicated to our mission.


RYAN SHAZIER, Founder

Any professional football player, let alone a linebacker, must learn resilience to succeed in the game. For Ryan Shazier, the ability to bounce back and thrive comes naturally.

Despite unexpected challenges throughout his life, Ryan has met his goals, silenced his doubters and served as an inspiration to fans across the world. Now, he is turning that motivation toward increasing funding, resources and support for spinal cord injury (SCI) patients.

Ryan knew from age five that he wanted to make it to the NFL, but it wasn’t long before he faced his first significant obstacle. He was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes partial or total hair loss. Through the taunts and bullying, he didn’t let the disease get him down or shy away from his dream. He embraced it as part of who he was and let his play define him, not outsiders.

After high school, he left his sunny home state of Florida for the rough weather up north, joining college football powerhouse Ohio State, where he immediately made an impact, starting as a freshman at linebacker. In three years with the Buckeyes, Ryan recorded 315 tackles, 208 solo tackles and 14.5 sacks.

That success made him a perfect fit for the Steelers, who selected him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He didn’t disappoint, becoming a star playmaker known for his speed, smarts and instinctual nose for the ball. He made the Pro Bowl in two of his first three seasons. Over 46 games, including 41 starts, he recorded 299 tackles and had seven interceptions.

Then it all changed. During a Monday night game in Cincinnati on Dec. 4, 2017, Ryan suffered a spinal contusion, or a crushing of the spinal cord. The nerve signals in his spine were disrupted, paralyzing his lower body and necessitating emergency spinal stabilization surgery. Doctors said he had a 20 percent chance of walking again, but for Ryan, this was just another obstacle to overcome.

After 130 spinal rehabilitation sessions, Ryan not only gained back strength to walk, but he was able to dance with his wife at their wedding just two years after the devastating injury. Moving on to the next chapter of his life, Ryan is now making it his personal goal to help SCI patients get the treatment they deserve and meet their own goals through the Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation.

With Ryan on their side, these patients have a supporter who understands their struggles and a teammate who won’t let them down.


CAROLINE BOYCE, Executive Director

Caroline Boyce moved to Pittsburgh from London, England at the age of six and has considered herself a Pittsburgh native ever since. She brings 30 years of experience in leading nonprofit organizations in executive roles and as a change consultant.

Her most recent work includes service as Interim Executive Director with diverse organizations including the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust, Cliveden of the National Trust, the Maternity Care Coalition, and the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She also served as transitional executive director at the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

With a BA from Connecticut College and an MA from Cornell University, Caroline specializes in assisting nonprofits that are starting up or going through significant transitions. She is a Certified Board Source Nonprofit Governance Consultant, a graduate of the Support Center’s Interim Executive Director program, and a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh.

Caroline’s outside interests include cooking, architecture and Pittsburgh sports teams. A long-time Steelers fan, Caroline is delighted to join Ryan Shazier’s team to advocate for the victims of Spinal Cord Injuries and advance the agenda of this new and dynamic organization.


MAYA HAPTAS, Program Coordinator

Maya Haptas brings over 15 years of nonprofit experience to The Fund, most recently serving as Director of The Clemente Museum in Lawrenceville where she witnessed first-hand the momentum that is created when the sports world intersects with the nonprofit sector. 

Maya has previously worked for the City of Pittsburgh, at the nonprofit Lawrenceville Corporation supporting small business development in Lawrenceville, and at AIA Pittsburgh, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects where she developed continuing education programs and assisted with local design awards. Maya received her M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University in 2008.

Maya has served on the Board of Directors of Preservation Pittsburgh, the Union Project, and is currently on the Board of The Maxo Vanka Murals in Millvale.

In addition to her non-profit work, Maya owns Shred Your Fears, an events-based company that teaches skateboarding to non-traditional skaters. Maya learned to skateboard with her 6-year-old son in 2018. Over 200 participants ages 11-72 have learned to skateboard through Shred Your Fears which holds events all over North America.


JENNA NACE, Communications Specialist

Jenna Nace began interning with the Fund while finishing up her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Arts and Sports Management. She now joins the team serving as the Communications Coordinator where she is able to combine her two passions into one.

As a recent graduate of St. John’s University in Queens, NY, Jenna grew a strong interest in marketing, social media and communication services. She enjoys supporting The Fund’s mission and building relationships through the power of social media.

She also specializes in internal and external communication work and creating collateral marketing materials. Jenna is new to the non-profit industry but is excited to learn and grow while being a part of such a strong mission. She knows that The Fund will change lives and that’s something worth working for.

Outside of her work, Jenna’s interests include watching sports with her family and friends, relaxing on the beach, and dance. She has been a competitive dancer for over 15 years. During the MLB season, Jenna works as a staff member for the Philadelphia Phillies. Having sports as a lifelong passion, Jenna is excited to be an advocate for Ryan’s team and join the fight for individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries.


CATHY COFFMAN, Content Writer

Cathy Coffman is a lifelong Eastern Pennsylvania resident, having grown up outside Philadelphia in Delaware County, PA, and settling later in N. Chester County, PA.

She brings more than 25 years of professional writing and editing experience to The Fund. Cathy started her career with The Chilton Company’s “Automotive Industries’ Magazine,” Later, she wrote for myriad of technical, trade and consumer publications as both a staffer and freelancer.

Cathy earned her BS in news-editorial journalism from West Virginia University, with a minor in jazz saxophone.

Cathy came to The Fund while researching her own spinal cord injury, which she obtained in March 2020 via a simple trip and fall accident. She has a unique perspective when interviewing fellow spinal cord athletes warriors for The Fund’s “Shalieve Stories” because she is living with the challenges and successes that the injury creates.

In her spare time, Cathy enjoys attending live music, theater and sporting events, hanging out with her three adult children and her husband, and (yes) going to physical and occupational therapy. Her goals to be able to play her saxes and clarinet—but if that doesn’t pan out, she’s contemplating learning the vibraphone.

Our Board of Directors

William E. Kassling
Chair

Ryan D. Shazier
President

Kate R. Dewey
Secretary

Joshua Pollard
Treasurer

Will Allen

Amy Bernstein

Cindy Citrone

Prashant Dubey

Tony Farah

Leon Ford

David Morehouse

David O. Okonkwo, MD, PhD

Art Rooney II

Vernon J. Shazier, M.Div.

Michael P. Tomlin

“My injury has helped me see firsthand what the SCI community goes through on a daily basis and the inequities people face when it comes to getting the care and support they need to recover or provide care for their loved ones. I want to be there for people who are going through similar struggles. No matter who you are or what you’re going through, we’re all in life together. We need to take care of each other.”

– Ryan Shazier