Judy Otter

Judith L. Otter

Executive Director

Judith Otter is Executive Director of the Gary Sinise Foundation (GSF) and has worked with Mr. Sinise since September, 2009. Prior to the Foundations’s formal launch, in June, 2011, Judith oversaw the full range of organizational, legal, financial and administrative requirements establishing GSF, and currently manages its ongoing operations. 

Over the past 25 years, prior to joining Mr. Sinise, Judith held a variety of senior level positions at leading financial institutions and board positions at philanthropic organizations.  For 10 years prior to joining GSF, Judith was a Vice President at American Home Mortgage and Washington Mutual and Managing Broker at Manhattan Mortgage Company in Southampton and East Hampton, New York. Her responsibilities included managing those offices with full P&L responsibility, recruiting and training staff, originating and/or placing loans, credit review, marketing and advertising.  Prior to moving into the mortgage origination business, Judith spent 9 years in commercial and investment banking at Oppenheimer & Co., Ensign Bank and the Tribeca Group where she advanced from an assistant to a senior money manager to Senior Vice President with responsibilities for a wide range of administrative oversight and real estate leasing responsibilities including the leasing of over 100 commercial properties.  Judith also served as Executive Director at Dances Patrelle, a professional Ballet company. A former professional ballet dancer herself, Judith, was educated at the Juilliard School in New York earned a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts. Following her graduation from Juilliard, Judith spent 4 years as a professional ballerina.

Buck Kern

Program Director, Snowball Express

Francis “Buck” Kern joined the Gary Sinise foundation as Program Director of Snowball Express in December of 2017.

Buck started serving Snowball Express in 2009 when the organization moved from Southern California to Dallas, Texas. He was a member of the Board of Directors, elected as Chairman of the Board, and then in 2012 left his corporate career with Neiman Marcus to become Executive Director of Snowball Express.

Before joining Snowball Express full time, Buck held a variety of executive leadership positions with several major retail corporations. For 17 years, Buck worked at Neiman Marcus, first as Corporate Director of Loss Prevention, where he was responsible for managing security/safety teams and programs, and leading major investigations. Buck was then assigned as Director of Operations for the company’s Flagship store, Corporate Executive offices, and the Company’s Buying and Planning Organization. In this assignment, Buck was responsible for managing business operations with full P&L responsibility. He also managed large-scale corporate events, including the company’s 95th and 100th Anniversary gala’s, major fashion shows, and charity events. Prior to working for Neiman Marcus, Buck was employed by Bullock’s Department stores and Macy’s in Los Angeles, where he held both store and corporate management positions in Operations, Store Remodel Operations, and Loss Prevention. Prior to his corporate career Buck attended Miramar College with a major in Administration of Justice. He was selected to attend the San Diego Police Academy. After graduating, he served as a Police Officer for five years.

Career highlights/honors include:
In 2007, Buck was selected to receive Neiman Marcus’ most prestigious award, the “NM BEST” honor is awarded. While working for Bullock’s Department stores in Los Angeles he was honored with the CEO’s “Profiles in Excellence” award for his achievements.

Buck has served on several community boards and committees, including:
Public Safety Committee for Downtown Dallas, Inc., Chaired the Dallas Police Surveillance Camera Planning Committee, Mayor’s Main Street Garden Planning Committee, Main Street Business Leaders Committee. Served as President; Retail Protection Alliance, (California, Arizona, Nevada), Board of Directors, Northridge Fashion Center, Northridge, CA. Chamber of Commerce Crime Prevention Task Force, Los Angeles Police Department Retail Task Force and Command Center, Los Angeles Police Department, LEAPS: Chief’s Law Enforcement & Private Security Conference. Buck continues to serve as Vice President, Board of Directors for the Neiman Marcus Employee’s Federal Credit Union.

Buck grew up in a military family and moved to new locations around the world about every two years when his father’s service assignments changed. Buck is the son of the late Commander Francis X. Kern III (USN ret., served from 1942 to 1970). CDR Kern served as a Naval Intelligence officer for more than 25 years. Buck was privileged to witness the example of his father’s service to this great country and to learn from the example he set.

Buck resides in Dallas/Fort Worth with his wife, Nina. They have two daughters and two granddaughters.

Amber Johnson

Associate Program Director, Snowball Express

Amber Johnson comes from a large military family with a passion for giving back to her community. She graduated from the University of Houston in 2006 and began working in non-profit in 2008 in Camp Lejeune, NC as an advocate for injured veterans.

Amber has a background in non-profit management and remained a leader in program development for wounded, ill, and injured veterans for more than eight years. Before joining Snowball Express Amber also managed a scholarship program for spouses and caregivers of injured veterans.

Amber is passionate about our nation’s military and dedicated to honoring the sacrifices of our fallen heroes. She is devoted to providing inspiration and healing opportunities for children of fallen military. Amber joined the Gary Sinise Foundation in December 2017 as the Associate Program Director for the Snowball Express program.

Rachel Brown

Rachel Brown

Director of Communications

Rachel Brown joined the Gary Sinise Foundation in October 2012. A graduate of Arizona State University, she majored in Communication with a minor in Theatre/Film. She also studied abroad at the Universidad Nebrija in Madrid. Prior to joining the Foundation, Rachel assisted in several philanthropic projects. In addition to supporting several local non-profit organizations, she worked with the community of Bahoruco in the Dominican Republic to help develop and construct a larimar jewelry workshop, the town’s main source of income. Rachel has also traveled to Australia to participate in community building all along the Gold Coast. She previously worked for Automatic Data Processing (ADP), a company recognized for their Training & Development program. In her role as a CPA Centric Account Executive, Rachel was responsible for building relationships with accountants and small business owners, developing new relationships and educating customers on all ADP products. Today, she applies these skills for the Gary Sinise Foundation as the Director of Communications.

Scott Schaeperkoetter

Director of Operations, R.I.S.E. Program

Scott Schaeperkoetter has been involved with the Gary Sinise Foundation (GSF) since 2012. At that time, a specially adapted custom Smart Home was being built in his town so he reached out to the Foundation for the opportunity to be the builder. Scott has owned and operated his design build construction company since 2002 which has provided him a wealth of knowledge in every aspect of home construction. He officially became part of the Gary Sinise Foundation as a senior project manager in 2013. In that capacity, he has overseen the planning, design, and/or completion of 12 homes.

In 2015, Scott made the transition to Director of Operations for the R.I.S.E. Program. He has been involved with all aspects including donor relations, lot selection and purchase, floor plan design, construction, and local grass roots fundraising campaigns.  

Scott graduated from the University of Missouri - Columbia with degree in Business Management. He continues to own and operate a design/build construction company, real estate development company, and custom cabinet shop in Jefferson City, MO.  Scott has been awarded many top building awards including 5 time winner of Jefferson City's CITY's magazine Best Builder, CITY Magazine's Ones to Watch, Jefferson City’s News Tribune Top Contractor, and Professional Builder's Top 40 under 40. He was appointed President of the Central Missouri Home Builder's Association during 2012 and 2013 and has been on the Board of Directors of that Association since 2010. Scott is married to his wife Bobbie and they have two sons, Brayden and Gavin.

Nathan Linhardt

Associate Director of Operations, R.I.S.E. program

Nathan Linhardt recently joined the Gary Sinise Foundation staff in 2016 as the Senior Project Coordinator for the R.I.S.E  team.  He attended Westminster College, playing on the football team all four years. Nathan graduated in 2005 with a degree in Business Administration and a concentration in Finance/Marketing. After school, he worked for Missouri Farm Bureau as a multi–line claims representative handling home, auto, injury, and liability claims. In 2006, Nathan transitioned to Farmers Insurance as an Auto Claims Representative. In that capacity, he was responsible for investigating claims and handling cases through settlement. He established many relationships with various vendors. Throughout his last five years with Farmers, Nathan was involved in many local and national committees as well as advisory boards focused on supporting the customer experience.

Nathan and his wife, Sarah, have one son and two daughters: Shay, Taylor and Alyx.

Brad Morris

Senior Project Manager, R.I.S.E. Program

Brad Morris is a former Marine and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he was attached to 3rdBattalion, 1st Marines in 2004. His experiences and esprit de corps he has with fellow veterans very much drives his desire to continue to serve. After returning home in 2005, Brad completed his degree at Texas A&M University and became a Commercial Real Estate Broker with Marcus & Millichap where he provided transactional services and detailed financial analysis to assist clients with decisions regarding their real estate portfolio.

He left Marcus & Millichap to start his own real estate brokerage firm where, by virtue of a contract he had with a Residential Land Developer, he discovered his passion for custom home building. Brad has been in the custom home building industry for the last 8 years and quickly climbed the corporate ladder to become Division President of one of the largest custom home builders in the state of Texas where he comprehensively managed all operations including sales, marketing, construction, warranty, purchasing, estimating and had full P&L responsibility for a 16,000 square mile division.

Brad went on to incorporate his experience and business acumen to create his own custom home building company where he currently builds homes throughout central Texas. Brad’s involvement with the Gary Sinise Foundation began with building of a custom Smart Home in Canyon Lake, Texas through the R.I.S.E. program and has now expanded to become a Project Manager where he can continue to serve. Brad is married to his wife Andrea and they have one son, Gage.

Pete Franzen

Senior Project Manager, R.I.S.E. Program

Pete Franzen grew up in a construction-oriented family in northern Minnesota and was part of the family business from an early age. After his education and apprenticeship, Pete began working for the family’s commercial construction business as a carpenter, carpenter foreman, project supervisor, and office side project manager. This afforded him a broad range of experiences, from fieldwork to the board room.

In 2000, Pete went into business for himself, shifting his focus from commercial buildings to the residential, design-build, custom home construction market. His company continues to thrive in a small market area, having built over 150 custom, turnkey homes. On most of those projects, the company worked with the client to design and draft the home as well. In 2014, he was awarded the Star Builder of the Year Award by his local builders association. Pete has 22 years of full time construction work background with 16 of them residential.

Pete’s first work with the Gary Sinise Foundation also came in 2014 when he had the privilege of designing and building a specially adapted custom Smart Home for triple amputee USMC Corporal Mark Lytinski outside of Duluth, MN. It was an experience that Pete will never forget. Today, he is grateful and honored for the opportunity to serve America’s veterans and their families as a Senior Project Manager for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program. Pete and his wife, Erin, have four sons and one daughter: Caleb, Joseph, Grant, Carson, and Torrie.

Tim Kirk

Senior Project Manager, R.I.S.E. Program

Tim Kirk has supported the Gary Sinise Foundation since 2013 as a licensed Realtor and Military Relocation Professional. Tim works to secure land on which to build homes for deserving veterans in Southern California. By enabling his clients to achieve their real estate goals, he has closed nearly $20m in sales to date. He makes his clients' mission his own, conducting his business with utmost integrity and doing whatever it takes to serve others.

In 2012, Master Gunnery Sergeant Tim Kirk retired from active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps to move on with his life’s next chapter. Over twenty-five years of service, Tim worked as an expert engineer, motor transporter, and recruiter. His decorations include two Meritorious Service Medals; the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and the Combat Action Ribbon. The year after retirement, Tim founded the nonprofit Hire Our Heroes in partnership with two other veterans. He currently sits on its board as Vice Chairman.

Tim has always enjoyed buying, building, and updating his own homes. It seems only natural to use his project-management skills to aid the veterans he so proudly supports. An exceptional communicator, Tim works to understand his client's business and build long-term, value-added relationships and business opportunities on the basis of trust. Tim holds an M.B.A. from San Diego State University, a B.A. in Management from National University, and an A.A. from Columbia College. He supports multiple VSO’s, and never passes up a chance to advocate for veterans.

Trevor Balough

Director of Operations

Trevor Balough began working with the Gary Sinise Foundation in late 2014. He is responsible for the development, implementation, and ongoing maintenance of the Foundations various databases and donor technologies. He applies his technology background by providing pertinent solutions and analytics that enrich the Foundation while retaining its core values.  Previously Trevor worked for Intuit, where he assisted a team of developers and analysts in building a database for a Quickbooks product.

Like Gary, Trevor is inspired by his family’s long history of military service including his brother who currently serves in the Army on active duty.

Trevor graduated from Marymount California University with Highest Honor’s where he was President of Delta Epsilon Sigma and a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor societies.

Hannah Hauserman

Director, Programs & Events

Hannah Hauserman joined the staff of the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2014 as the Event Coordinator.  In her tenure with the organization she has worked directly with each of the Foundation’s outreach programs, and now manages the Programs & Events department.  In her capacity heading the department, Hannah is involved from inception to execution of the 200+ events the Foundation puts on each year.  The granddaughter of a WWII veteran, Hannah finds it “a privilege to serve our nation’s defenders past and present.”  She is especially fond of the time she is able to spend with surviving members of the Greatest Generation through their Soaring Valor program.

Originally from Tahoe City, Hannah began getting involved in public service at an early age volunteering for many local organizations.  Her Grandfather upon returning from the war had moved to Tahoe City with Hannah’s Grandmother where they founded the Cobblestone shopping center.  With the addition of Hauserman Real Estate (now Coldwell Banker) and the Hauserman Rental Group, Hannah grew up in a family dedicated to serving their local community.

As a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, Hannah truly embraced their community service focused approach to education and has carried that forward to her professional endeavors.  After completing her degree in Business Management, Hannah was thrilled to join the Gary Sinise Foundation in their commitment to the mission of “Serving Honor and Need.”

Michael Schlitz US Army SFC (Ret.)

Military & Veteran Resource Manager

After 14 years of service, US Army SFC (Ret.) Michael Schlitz medically retired from the United States Army in March of 2010. Throughout his military career, he served in several positions from Rifleman to Platoon Sergeant. In addition to his Purple Heart, Mike has received several other awards including Meritorious Service Medals and Army Commendation Medals, each a reflection of his proud service to our country.
On February 27, 2007, Mike and his platoon were in Southern Baghdad performing a basic road-clearing mission to identify Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) when two artillery shells attached to a propane tank exploded. The blast killed his driver, gunner, and medic. Mike was thrown from the vehicle, sustained burns to 85% of his body, and lost both of his hands as well as the vision in his left eye.
In his mission to give back to the veteran community, Mike has regularly traveled the country for speaking engagements and events. He has returned to Iraq three times to mentor wounded and non-wounded veterans. Mike has supported the establishment of several new non-profit organizations and has had the honor of speaking at three US Army Ranger Graduations. He started volunteering with the Gary Sinise Foundation in early 2012 and was provided a R.I.S.E (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) specially adapted smart home in 2014. In the summer of 2017, Mike accepted a full-time position at the Gary Sinise Foundation as their Military and Veteran Resource Manager.
Mike shares in the passion and dedication to give back to veterans and first responders, a valued echoed by everyone at the Gary Sinise Foundation.

2017 Hurricane Relief

We’re thrilled to announce Snowball Express is now an official program of the Gary Sinise Foundation! More details will follow, but rest assured we will expand on this program’s important work while maintaining their many wonderful traditions.

give today