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Providing Answers, Support and Hope in Florida
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Community Ambassadors

The Lupus Foundation of America, Florida Chapter's (LFAFL) Ambassador Program's mission is to raise awareness of lupus by sharing personal stories and information about lupus and LFAFL to targeted audiences, contributing to earlier diagnosis, proper treatment, and improved prognosis for those affected by this disease. Ambassadors also increase awareness about the programs and services of the LFAFL and enable us to better serve the estimated 100,000 Florida residents living with lupus and those that care about them. 

Stephanie Alsay, Tavares

I was diagnosed with lupus in late 2019, right before the pandemic. I had mild symptoms for over 2 years but never saw a doctor until one day, my joints were in so much pain that I couldn't walk. Before being diagnosed, I was a frequent traveler who lived a fast-paced lifestyle. Ever since then, I've learned to listen to my body and advocate for myself. I'm so used to hiding away during my flares and never sharing my struggles with others. But, I would like to change that and raise awareness for lupus and other chronic illnesses. I am a huge supporter of the research and advocacy that the LFA is supporting. As a chronic illness warrior, I want to be a voice for those who are suffering from lack of proper healthcare and resources. I have grown to learn that it is incredibly important to advocate for yourself when handling life with a chronic illness. Most importantly, I learned that my illness isn't who I am. And even though it greatly controls what I can do, it has also redirected me to newfound interests, passions, and to this amazing community. Today, I am preparing for my journey to grad school, where I intend to study genetics. I've finally arrived at a stage in my life where I believe that it is possible to thrive, despite living with a chronic illness.

Caron Bermingham, Apopka

I am a wife, mom of 6, sister, daughter, Registered Nurse, Nurse Educator and a Lupus Queen Warrior. I was finally diagnosed in 2020, on my son’s birthday, after 27 years of symptoms. When I was diagnosed, I began researching to better understand what I was facing. I realized there were volumes that I didn’t know. I was completely frustrated! I realized I’d just developed more questions! My rheumatologist, who is extremely patient with my never ending questions, has been an amazing resource for me. However, when I’ve spoken with other physicians they admit they don’t know much more than I did. I found that disappointing. So I decided to do something about it! I am passionate about education and preventing anyone else to have to live like I did. That why I’ve joined Lupus Foundation of America. They were was a lifeline for me! I want to use my skills to make a difference through advocacy, education and peer support.

Antoinette Hill, Winter Park

My name is Antoinette Hill. I was born in Kingston Jamaica came to the states when I was a toddler grew in New York came here to Florida in high school and I’ve been here ever since. I am married and have been married for 23 years. I have birth five children and I have two bonus daughters since one has passed away. I now have four grandbabies all boys and a set a twins. I’ve been in retail most of my life I am also an entrepreneur. I truly love helping people ,making sure that their needs are met or get them the resources to help them. I was diagnosed with lupus 2015 but I have been having symptoms prior to that. I am finally at the point where I have a team of doctors that I now trust and can give me the care and treatment that I need.

Ashley Andrews, Jacksonville

My name is Ashley Andrews. I was diagnosed with SLE in 2016. I am a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. as well. Lupus teaches me each and every day to always look for ways to decompress, refrain from stress and live life to the fullest with no regrets. I have underwent four surgeries within the past 5 years due to Lupus but I refuse to let this condition hinder me. My ultimate goal is to become an Occupational therapist that specializes in either pediatrics or those who suffer from autoimmune disorders. You can reach any goal in life if you manifest, stay persistent and allow God to lead the way.

Hope Erlwein, Melbourne

Hi! My name is Hope and I'm a 21-year-old originally from upstate New York. I'm currently majoring in aeronautical science and minoring in unmanned aerial systems at Florida Institute of Technology, located in Melbourne, FL. I'm also Vice President of Membership Recruitment for Alpha Phi, as well as a member of Active Minds and Movember here at Florida Tech. In May of 2021, I began going to my local gym for the summer, and within a few weeks I realized there was no way the stiffness and pain I was experiencing was exercise-related. I was then diagnosed with lupus in June of 2021, just two weeks before my 21st birthday, and ever since I have been on a mission to help spread awareness and hope to all regarding this confusing and mysterious disease. I have always been an active person, between playing multiple sports and traveling all over throughout my life. A diagnosis like this is among nothing anyone wants to hear, however, I knew I couldn't let it bring me down too much. I chose to approach this new chapter of my life with positivity, and took it as an opportunity to change my lifestyle to a much healthier one, mentally and physically. I changed my diet, began implementing healthy pastimes into my daily routine, and began living a more grateful life overall. I know this is only the beginning of my journey, but I hope to inspire others to remain hopeful throughout theirs.

Ciandra Franklin, Tamarac

Hi! My name is Ciandra and I am 26 years old. I am a medical student in my second year, and prior to starting school I worked as an ophthalmic technician in an eye surgery clinic. I was born in New Jersey but I have lived in Florida for the majority of my life. I am the middle child of three siblings and come from a Jamaican family. Recently, studding has taken most of my free time, however, in the little time I do have I enjoy writing and spending quality time with my loved ones. I was recently diagnosed with lupus this year and extremely grateful to have found this community and excited to see where this journey takes us!

Jackie Dalton, Green Cove Springs

I am a wife and mother of 3 adult children, two of whom have flown the nest and one who will try to stay forever if allowed. I have 3 pups and an amazing support system which has truly held me up when I was at my lowest and weakest. I love to fish, hunt and do just about anything outdoor, which isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Sarah Beard, Lecanto

Hi! I’m Sarah Beard. I’m a Lupus Warrior from Lecanto, FL who was diagnosed in 2019. I am passionate about making a difference and want others to know they are not alone. I want the hurting to know there’s hope, the suffering to know there’s support and the confused to know there’s comfort. I promise to advocate, to speak up for those not ready to speak yet and to help guide those feeling lost. Having Lupus can be a burden, but it doesn’t make the person living with it a burden. I want people to know they are still brave and still beautiful despite the battle they face. I want to use my gifts and my talents to positively change the Lupus Community. I am so excited for the opportunity to serve as a LFAFL Ambassador.

I am a Yorkie Mom to my fur baby Cole. I am studying Psychology at Southern New Hampshire University with the end goal of becoming a licensed mental health therapist . I love to write and have my own blog regarding my autoimmune adventures called Faithfully Fighting. I love to encourage others and have dreams of becoming an inspirational speaker or author one day. I love making people smile and like they matter . In a world full of hate, I do my best each day to be the light.

Ashley Riley, Royal Palm Beach

“I’m just like every little girl that has to pave [her] own way and create [her] own reality.” These words embody Ashley, a Healthcare administrator who has been laying the pavement for her success ever since she could remember. I was diagnosed with Lupus after giving birth to my first child. Blood tests revealed that my ANA was positive and the x-rays revealed substantial swelling in my joints. After two years of being misdiagnosed I was finally given a diagnosis of Lupus SLE in March 2016. After being diagnosed I became very passionate about finding ways to educate people about this horrible disease. I became active with local organizations and lupus non profit organizations to gain more knowledge. Having a medical background helped me become a solid advocate when I was misdiagnosed and felt disregarded. I wanted those to know that having Lupus does not define who you are and that you can crush your goals while living with Lupus. I want to advocate for those in the Lupus community who need it the most, especially the African American women in my community. I want to create a synergy that help bring more people of color into the conversation about Lupus. People of color don’t typically seek help. We don’t raise our hands for therapy or support. That’s just not a part of our culture. This is my way of raising my hand and wanting to play a part, not the black girl part but the part of the changemaker.

Danielle Storr, Orlando

My name is Danielle, I am 16 and I’m from Orlando, Florida. I was diagnosed with Lupus when I was 13 years old. Prior to my diagnosis I was a 4.0 student, a competitive cheerleader and very involved with extracurricular activities. I never imagined that I would be diagnosed with Lupus- I had never heard of it, I was physically fit and led a healthy, active lifestyle. However, I quickly learned what Lupus is, I learned the cause of Lupus is unknown and I also learned that I would have to take medication for the rest of my life to help manage my Lupus symptoms. Needless to say, my life was turned upside down. Over the past 3 years, I have been learning to cope with my diagnosis and manage my Lupus symptoms and flare ups. I am still able to do many things I enjoy although I take medication daily and frequent naps. I am still an honor student and very involved in extracurricular activities. I’m a member of my school’s squash and dance teams, I play the clarinet in my school’s wind ensemble and I serve as a student mentor and ambassador on campus. I also volunteer for an organization that teaches underprivileged children how to read. In my free time, I enjoy participating in pageantry, traveling, online shopping and binging on my favorite Netflix shows. I am excited and committed to help make Lupus visible by sharing my story and serving as a 2021-2022 Lupus Ambassador.

Amanda Quinones, Orlando

I was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. Graduated from Mercy College with a broadcasting degree. Moved to Orlando, FL in my early 30’s. Was in management for 30 years in a few different fields, jewelry manufacturing, banking and finally title insurance. I was diagnosed with Lupus back in the fall of 2008. My first walk to end Lupus was in 2016 and have volunteered my time since bringing awareness and raising funds for the foundation.

Brielle Figueroa, Saint Petersburg

My name is Brielle Figueroa and I am 25 years old. I recently moved to Florida from New Jersey. I have been a Pediatric Nurse for a little over two years now. I truly love working with children and always knew my calling in life was to serve and help others. In May of 2020, I got COVID-19 and my life has changed so much since. Two months after being sick with COVID, I started noticing hair loss and different changes in my body that were not my norm. End of 2020, I was experiencing severe joint pain and inflammation. I reached the point where I could not walk without being in excruciating pain. After receiving a bunch of blood work, I was diagnosed with Lupus in March 2021. My doctor believes my lupus was triggered because of COVID. It has been a trialing journey to say the least. I am still learning about Lupus and making the appropriate adjustments in my life so I can get better. It has been frustrating at times because I went from being super healthy and active in fitness to now feeling lethargic all the time, experiencing random joint pains, hair loss, etc. I continue to push through and remain resilient because I know in time things will be better, I have faith! I also believe changing my diet is going to help big time. I'm excited to meet everyone who can relate to feeling this way, so we can encourage one another!

Rachelle Goins, Miami

Rachelle Goins is an international development analyst and health and fitness coach.
She holds a bachelor's degree in International Relations and became a certified personal trainer after her Lupus diagnosis at the age of 24. Rachelle’s hobbies include boxing, traveling, and documentary films. She grew up in Indianapolis, IN and spent the last 7 years living in Washington, DC before moving back to Miami, FL in early 2021.

Christel Wood, Pensacola

I am originally from New Orleans, LA but have lived in Florida for a total of 18 years. I attended Navarre High School and then moved to Oklahoma to study Journalism at the University of Oklahoma. I have worked in news advertising as well as technology as the director of marketing. Currently, I live in Pensacola with my husband and two dogs Sonny and Earle. I love music, singing and songwriting with my band. My husband and I love going to cities where we have never been and blindly discovering cool people and places. One day we hope to have some land for a dog and horse rescue where I can also train service dogs.

Joyce Tungol, Malabar

My name is Joyce Tungol and I currently live in Malabar, FL. I was born and raised in Charleston, SC and moved to Kansas City, MO for 12 years before my family moved to Raleigh/Durham area for 2 years, and finally have settled in Florida November 2020. I am married to the most wonderful and supportive human being to ever exist, and together we have 4 young boys, ages 8, 9, 14, and 16. I work full time in Oncology Clinical Research, and in my spare time, I like to swim/bike/run (on my good days), and garden on the days when I need to take it a little easier. I was diagnosed with UCTD in 2017, SLE in 2018, and I have been fighting the biggest fight of my life since.

Louise Solis, Miami

I am a fourth-year medical student pursuing a career in family medicine. I have witnessed the emotional and physical challenges my significant other has endured after being diagnosed with lupus. Throughout medical school, I have emphasized to peers the need to keep lupus in our differentials regardless of the patient’s gender, leading to early diagnosis/treatment, improved quality of life, or even saving a life. It is also important to me to continue raising awareness and educating my community about lupus, especially in men. Together we can work towards finding a cure and provide the support/resources the lupus community needs!

Cindy Lait, Clermont

I grew up in Miami, and moved to the Orlando area in 1996 where I raised three beautiful children. Im married and had to early retire as a Medical Massage Therapist due to severe health issues. I was diagnosed with Lupus in 2015 after a long journey of bouncing from one specialist to another. . It was a struggle . I’m also fighting Common Variable Immune Deficiency, diagnosed at the beginning of 2021. I’m a fighter! I believe that a healthy diet and exercise is the key to survival. I won’t give up till there is a cure! I believe it’s now my mission to help others with Lupus and health issues to guide them in the best possible way.

Kristen Palmer, Fort Lauderdale

Hi, my name is Kristen and I graduated from FAU in Spring 2021. I am an aspiring physician who hopes to contribute to the development and research of Lupus. I joined this Ambassador Program to Advocate for the silent voices of all who are suffering from Lupus. The disease is silent, but our voices and impact are not. The more we educate others and get involved is the closer we will be to get a cure.

Lakeya Storr, Orlando

My name is Lakeya Storr and I live in Orlando, Florida. I am honored to be a 2021-2022 Lupus Foundation Ambassador with my 16-year-old daughter Danielle, who was diagnosed with Lupus 3 years ago. I am a mental health professional and Lupus Awareness Advocate- I’ve been spreading the word about Lupus and assisting my daughter with her fundraising and advocacy efforts since she was diagnosed. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, traveling, taking pictures, planning events and cuddling with my teen. My favorite quote is “Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards”. These inspirational words have helped me get through many difficult times and provided me with the necessary encouragement to continue moving forward. As a 2021-2022 Lupus Ambassador, my plan is to help make a difference in the lives of Lupus Warriors and their Caregivers by sharing information and resources, sharing kind and encouraging words, or giving hugs to those in need of comfort and positive affirmations. Lastly, my plan is to help raise funds for Lupus research, education and awareness. I will do this in addition to my advocacy efforts to help improve the quality of life for all people affected by Lupus; with an understanding that “To whom much is given, much is required”.

Jazmin Felix, Leesburg

My name is Jazmin Felix & as a long-time resident of Lake County, I have served our community for 14+ years. I am the mother of 3 amazing boys and have a loving husband who supports me in every way. I have had lupus for a couple of years now but it has not stopped me from running a successful solar business called “Women in Solar” and being a super mom. I am now accomplishing my Dr’s degree to become a pastor and serve more of my community by community outreach.

Gina Schell, Dunedin

I am a 11 year lupus warrior who has the benefit of experiencing the disease from the perspective of a patient and a physician. My journey with lupus has been arduous and ultimately prevented me from practicing medicine, however, it propelled me into transforming myself and my career into a healthier and more sustainable one. Lupus has provided me with the ability to model a resilient attitude for our daughter who was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis. Ultimately, despite the daily pain, the mountain of medications, and the physical limitations I don’t regret the path that Lupus has taken me. It one of growth, humility, and resolve.