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Providing Answers, Support and Hope in the Southeastern US

This is my chapter   |   

Community Ambassadors

Class of 2022-23


The Lupus Foundation of America, (LFA) Ambassador Program's mission is to raise awareness of lupus by sharing personal stories and information about lupus and LFA 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 LFA and enable us to better serve the estimated 1.5 million Americans living with lupus and those that care about them. 


Ashley F FL Ambassador
Ashley Freeman - Riverview, FL

Born and raised in Florida, I am a mother of an amazing and intelligent 13-year-old son. I am a Christian that loves to read, adores flowers of all kinds, and the arts. I love spending time with family and friends and bringing joy to them through laughter and providing a peaceful atmosphere. My mission is to assist other Lupus Warriors with taking control of their condition through education, awareness and internal motivation to want to look and feel better with living with Lupus, while on minimal medications.

se region ambassador
Ashley Tillman Newell - Cordova, TN

My name is Ashley and I am a Lupus Warrior from Memphis, Tennessee. I am sharing my story for two reasons. First, Lupus affects millions of people, yet it is still a relatively unknown and misunderstood condition. This knowledge gap can not only lead to misinformation, but also puts lupus patients at risk of misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. Second, if you feel something is medically wrong, check with a medical professional and keep fighting until you receive a satisfactory answer/diagnosis. You are your own best advocate, and due to my tenacity, I was able to receive a diagnosis much earlier than the average six to seven years experienced by many Lupus patients , hopefully assisting in mitigating my disease progression.

SE Region Ambassador K Brown
Kwajalin Brown - Tuscaloosa, AL

Kwajalin is a buoyant married mother of two who has experienced many challenges during her SLE journey that include a delayed diagnosis and managing other co-occurring autoimmune illnesses. She finds resting frequently, exercise and internal mindfulness the most beneficial to her daily regimen. Kwajalin is an alumna of USC and Alabama. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the principal therapist and owner of Compass Rose Consulting, Therapy and Training in Tuscaloosa, AL.

C Finn SE Region Ambassador
Caroline FInn - Orlando FL

I am currently in my fifth and final year of a PhD in biomedical sciences. I have had a life long love of science and was driven by a desire to understand the illness that plagued my family, specifically my sister and mother, who both have sperate autoimmune diseases. This is what lead to my interest in immunology and is why I currently work in an immunology lab. In the future I hope to use my degree to further advance immunological discoveries and better understand autoimmune disease in heritance.

C Lawthorn SE Region Ambassador
Carolyn Lawhorn - Chattanooga, TN

Although I had accomplished over 20 years of Nursing experience, it was still a shock to me as I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus in 2008 as I lay in ICU with extremely high blood pressure, kidney damage, fever and painful, but temporary, paralysis. After months of therapy and prayers answered, I gradually got back on my feet and gained motivation to educate myself on lupus and any resources available to help manage this mysterious disorder. I began to meet people at church and the YMCA who were lupus warriors, so we decided to start a support group. Prior to the pandemic we met monthly in-person. We are crossing our fingers for another miracle, that we can return to in-person meetings at least by January 2023!

C Rivero SE Region Ambassador
Christina Rivero - Hollywood, FL

Christina has had a passion for the creative since she picked up a computer mouse and camera. Her love evolved into working towards a degree in Communications from Florida International University. During her time, she utilized her editing and marketing skills within her extracurriculars. Christina hopes her communication skills will further connect people through their passions. She hopes to use her skills to spread art and knowledge across all fields.

Christine Stearns-Houde SE Region Ambassador
Christine Stearns-Houde - Freeport, FL

When I was first diagnosed with lupus I felt alone and uncertain of where to find the best information about the disease. The work done by the Lupus Foundation of America is important to me, and for the communities around me. My husband I moved to Florida in the spring of 2022 from Colorado where we were longtime residents. Colorado is where I first became an ambassador for the LFA in August of 2022.

C Stiggins SE Region Ambassador
Crystal Dennis-Stiggons - Jacksonville, FL

I am a wife and mother of 3. I have 5 beautiful grandchildren. I have been a Registered Nurse for 20 years. I am a pet mom to my fur baby, Bella. I am a my of the Bethel Church. I am a Lupus warrior!

D Luke SE Region Ambassador
Diane Luke - Tampa, FL

My name is Diane Luke. I am 48 years old, and was diagnosed with Lupus at age 16. I was born in Washington D.C., but moved to Tampa, Florida at age 8, where I still reside. I miss teaching and have hope my health improves, and I can return to doing what I love. Life, love and family are the most precious commodities My fight with Lupus has not been easy, and 32 years has seen a lot of heartache. I battle depression along with disease. While it is never simple, I keep one guiding principle close: always look for the laughter. It is in remembering the joys in life that we will continue to overcome.

D. Nolan SE Region Ambassador
Dawn Nolan - Vanleer, Tennessee

I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus in 2008. I am currently a Support Group Facilitator for The Lupus Foundation of America, Orange County/Southern California Division. I recently moved from California to Tennessee (March, 2022). I was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey. I love animals, the outdoors, especially the beach. My Pronouns are Female Lupus Warrior.

D Ramirez SE Region Ambassador
Deivy Ramirez - Pembroke Pines, FL

My name is Deivy and I was diagnosed with lupus 2 years ago ever since I have dedicated my life to raise awareness and help other warriors in their lupus journey. I understand lupus can be a lonely disease, so I make myself available to all to lend a helping hand and a listen ear. I believe together we are stronger and can make a difference. I came to this country at 9 years old from Cuba with my mom and it was the beginning of my life. I am Grateful to have the opportunity to help and be there for so many warriors like myself

SE Region Ambassador Fartima B
Fartima Bowen Clark

Fartima Bowen-Clark was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. A graduate of Faulkner University with a BS- Business Admin, MS- Counseling (700 practicum hrs.) & MS- Business Mgmt. Fartima, earned the distinction to be listed in: Who's Who Among Executives & Professionals and Who's Who Among Colleges & Universities. She has annual Lupus Awareness events in Tuskegee, Alabama, “Paint the City Purple” and “Their Fight is our Fight”. She has two adult daughters: Nyia Symone & Mariyah Sinaye & a very smart granddaughter: Landri Symone. She attends church at the Pine Grove AME Zion Church.

Inmarie Garcia SE Region Ambassador
Inmarie Garcia - Tampa, FL

I am 34-year-old Latina, I have multiple autoimmune diseases but have not let any of them define me. I’m into fitness, I’m a full-time student, full time parent and work full time. At the moment I’m planning my wedding which is in October. I love helping others, love being a shoulder to lean on.

Keidra Bryant SE Region Ambassador
Keidra Bryant - McCalla, AL

Keidra Bryant is a lupus warrrior, born and raised in Birmingham, AL. She was diagnosed with lupus nephritis at the young age of 23 while pursuing her degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is married to her long-time sweetheart, Kortney, and mother to Kolton Isaiah and Bentley Coupe. She enjoys crocheting and spending time with family and close friends. Keidra is a member of Faith Church-Midfield under the leadership of Pastor Aubrey Miller. Keidra has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy infusions and today her lupus is complete remission.

Karisa L SE Region Ambassador
Karisa Lewczyk - Horse Cave, KY

I am 47, I have lived with SLE for 23 years. I'm from South Central Kentucky. I live with my husband Bruce of 11 years with our four babies two dachshunds and two cats. We are very close with our family. Spending weekends cooking out and playing corn hole or board games with my parents, my brother, his girlfriend and our two beautiful nieces and nephew in law. I am avid read of historic murder mysteries and very active in my church and community.

K Davis SE Region Ambassador
Karmeshelia Davis - Union Grove, AL

I was born in Louisiana but was raised in South Alabama. I have a sister and two brothers. I currently live outside of Huntsville with my boyfriend and our dog Millie. I work as a Medical Assistant at a cardiovascular clinic. In 2006, I was diagnosed with Lupus SLE. Until the pandemic, I was Walk Chair for Walk to End Lupus Now Huntsville. I love being around and meeting new people.

M Gonzalez SE Region Ambassador
Melissa Gonzalez Restrepo

Hello! I am Melissa Gonzalez Restrepo a Colombian American teenager living in South FL! I couldn’t be more honored to be part of this amazing journey as we solve a cure for Lupus with LFA. My mom was diagnosed with Lupus and had to get a knee replacement just a year into our moving. As I grew up with the disease, I found more hatred towards it every day. Going into my freshman year of High School I was able to create a fundraiser involving the LFA where I inspired others and myself to create a positive impact in the community! My dream is to help, and inspire others to help, all those suffering with this cruel disease. I want to thank everyone for this amazing opportunity, and I know we will solve the mystery!

N Kidd SE Region Ambassador
Nadine Kidd - Wilton Manors, FL

I was born and raised in Miami. My parents were born in Jamaica but immigrated, to the states when they were kids. I come from a very large family where faith and family always come first. My parents, my two sisters, and I lived a typical middle-class family life in Miami. No matter who I was or what I accomplished, my weight was always the center of attention. It may sound odd, but I see now that being obese throughout my childhood prepared me for the serious challenges I would face in my life, namely being diagnosed with Lupus and then Lupus Nephritis. Navigating through the bullies insults due to my weight helped me build endurance and resilience.

P Milazzo SE Region Ambassador
Pamela Klinger-Milazzo - Port St Lucie, FL

My journey with Lupus began in 1996 when I was “officially” diagnosed, after several years of tests & doctor visits. From the beginning, I was frustrated by the lack of accurate information about the disease, available treatments and how few “lupus aware “physicians there were. Even more frustrating was the lack of information from those living with lupus. Being a take charge type of person and with my experience advocating for individuals with Developmental Disabilities, I began to educate myself as best as I could and became involved with organizations that supported individuals with autoimmune diseases. I found support real practical information from others online, eventually becoming a lupus support group leader on several online platforms.

Rhonda H SE Region Ambassador
Rhonda Harris - Paducah, KY

Lupus warrior of 24 years. Became first time mom in 2019 at 39, with my husband and best friend who I meet while training to be a wrestler. I have worked in media in some form for 24 years as well. We love watching anime, listening to music, and outdoors. I love trying to craft and sew to relax.

SE Region Ambassador Sebrina
Sebrina Smith-Henry - Fernandina Beach, FL

My first walk was in 2015 & I walked in memory of my cousin, Felicia N. Cribb Brennan, who was 36 yrs. young when Lupus stole her away from her family, husband & daughter. I had not heard about Lupus until She passed away, but as long as I live, I will continue to Walk in honor of My Cousin, Felicia & remember that beautiful smile & dimples. I have endured the flare ups, the joint pain & all that Lupus has to offer. Now, Living with Lupus & I Walk, Talk & Advocate to bring Awareness to All Lupus Warriors! Yes, we have endured so much & some have gone to rest, but for Myself & many others in the Lupus Community the work continues, until one day We all can Say that “We Had!” Lupus! My Personal Motto is: “I have Survived to Thrive!” & This is why I walk!

T Thomas SE Region Ambassador
Tamisha Thomas - Altamonte Springs, FL

My name is Tamisha aka "TAMMY". I've been living with Lupus since 2006. I'm originally from St. John, USVI, but relocated to Orlando in 2017. While starting a new chapter in my life, I was diagnosed with Neuropathy (nerve damage). In 2018, I had two toes amputated due to poor circulation in my legs causing me to develop P.A.D (peripheral artery disease). I've also been diagnosed with, Narcolepsy, Sleep Apnea, Depression, Myositis and Raynaud's Syndrome. At the end of it all, I still manage to put a smile on my face and continue enjoying life to the fullest.

Tonya SE Region Ambassador
Tonya MacNicol - Wilsonville, AL

I'm a mom of 3 active boys (ages 19,17 & 13) and have been married to my best friend for 24 years. I was diagnosed in 2006 at 32 years old but suffered for 10 years prior. My sickest time came in 2012. I was on 24 pills a day and still felt terrible. That's when I decided to take charge of my own health. I researched gut health and the role it plays in Lupus and other autoimmune diseases. I swapped my diet for more nutritious options, started exercising and began to see improvements in my everyday health. I am passionate about helping others with Lupus to find hope despite their diagnosis. I love encouraging others to be an advocate of their own health - To learn to control the things that they can - stress levels, nutrition, exercise, sleep. It all matters.

Tracehel S. SE Region Ambassador
Trachele C. Shields - Jacksonville, FL

Trachele is a real estate broker associate and online content creator. She was on her way to becoming an attroney before she was diagnosed with lupus in 2014. Her diagnosis caused a shift in her life and led her down an alternate path. For years she felt lost and without purpose until she started advocating and raising awareness for lupus. Every May in honor of her birthday and for Lupus Awareness month, she organizes a fundraiser to donate to the Lupus Foundation of America. Trachele uses her platform to showcase her journey living with lupus.

Brandi R SE Region Ambassador
Brandi Rollins - Montgomery, AL

Hi, guys! I'm Brandi and I was born and raised in Alabama. I am currently medically retired from the federal government for the last 7 years. I have a 24-year-old son, Brandon, and I am dog mom to Luna. I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus in 2008. It affects my joints, blood platelets and kidneys. Fortunately, when I complained of shoulder pain and fatigue, my doctor did an ANA and it came back positive. She then referred me to a rheumatologist. One did not work out and that doctor actually told me I did not have enough going on but turns out my kidneys were indeed affected. I sought out another doctor and I have been with him since 2008.

C Hernandez SE Region Ambassador
Camille Hernandez - Davenport, FL

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Camille Hernandez, currently resides in Central Florida. She is one of the most authentic people you will meet. Camille is a mentor to both high school students and young professionals of all walks of life. Camille’s journey has been fueled by an unrelenting passion to empower people and educate them about Lupus. Camille is a lupus advocate who has lived with SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) since 2001. Since then, Lupus has affected her heart, lungs, and kidneys. She and her family have learned to navigate the world of balancing normalcy with Lupus. Throughout the years, Camille has spoken at several local seminars and been a mentor to patients and families learning about their Lupus diagnosis. Currently, Camille continues to be a voice while looking for new and innovative ways to educate and spread awareness.

C Williams SE Region Ambassador
Chriscynthia Cece Williams - Davenport, FL

Who is Chriscynthia Williams? She is also known as Cece Williams a native from North Carolina whose home is currently sunny Central Florida. She’s more than a mother and wife she’s also a nana and a friend to the community.
Cece has an intensive background in logistics, including 20+ years of driving cross country and managing a trucking business. Chriscynthia was diagnosed 10 years ago after so many blood test and weak limbs, organs and much more.
She’s helping rebuild the vision as she helps rebuild the community. She is driven by helping others especially in our lupus community with faith love and dedication to help not only find a cure but help build up that women or man with this disease.

Caitlin Collins SE Region Ambassador
Caitlin Collins - Miami, FL

I was diagnosed with Lupus in 2018 and it completely changed my life. At the time of my diagnosis, I was working as an attorney in NYC. My diagnosis forced me to slow down and re-evaluate my life and priorities. I learned to listen to my body and prioritize my health, both physical and mental. Now, I'm in the process of writing about my experience with Lupus and all the ancillary issues that arise as a result of having a chronic illness. I want to help educate others about Lupus, as well as normalize living with the disease. I believe that by sharing my story, I can help to inspire my peers who are affected by the disease, as well as improve empathy in those not personally affected by the disease.

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Janelle Brown - Tallahassee, FL

I was born in Miami Florida from two immigrant Caribbean parents. My greatest accomplishment in life was an event that occurred on May 13, 2013 when I became progressing parent of a little girl. I have dedicated my life to serve others and myself with the knowledge of health. I participate in 5ks for health awareness as well as assisting other community faith-based events. Miriam’s Kitchen, the local churches in my community, the National Urban League, Solar United, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, ACLU, Junior Achievement, Toastmasters International, Real Doctors Real Friends and of course the Lupus Foundation has taught me the greatest accomplishment in life is found in your desire to help others.

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Diane Updyke - Largo, FL

I am an RN with an MSN in Nursing Informatics and DNP in Leadership & Organizational Change- an RN for over 20 years. I am a Vermont transplant who loves bright colors, and the smell of patchoul! I now live in Largo, am married to my awesome husband, Sam and have 2 grown sons, Sammy, married to, Ally, and Wyatt, who is engaged to Ris; and a stepson, Mathew, who lives in London, UK, with his wife, Sarah, and 2 beautiful kids, Michael and Katherine. I have 2 dogs, a standard poodle, Rosie, and a sheltie, Toast. I am also owned by 2 cats, Tyrion and Arya. On my time off you will find me exercising in my heated pool, or binge-watching old movies, anything Marvel Universe/Star Wars or TV. I am a Disney-holic, spending as much time in their magic bubble as I can, but mostly love relaxing at home.

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