Board

The Board of Directors for i understand exists to ensure the organization’s ability to meet mission-mandated programming and to help foster conversations that will reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and mental/brain health illnesses.
Doug Meijer

Board President, Meijer Corporation

“The impact that i understand is having in our community and beyond is profound. Real change is happening. People are talking about mental health and suicide. Lives are being saved. We can all make simple changes that could result in big changes. I changed; so can you. Change can be beautiful. Change is beautiful.”

Todd Chassee

Board Member, Clinical Services at Emergency Care Specialists

As an Emergency Physician, I have witnessed the impact of mental health, substance use disorder, and suicide on countless patients and their loved ones. I have a particular passion for these issues among our youth. Despite all of these “work” experiences, I was most impacted by the loss of my grandfather to suicide.

“I am excited by the opportunity to partner with an organization that is tackling these issues head on.”

Andrea Forsyth

Board Member, Plunkett Clooney

Andrea is a partner in Plunkett Cooney’s Grand Rapids office. She focuses her practice in the areas of transportation law and general liability defense.

“I joined the board at i understand after losing her mother to suicide after she battled depression and addiction issues for many years. I believe in the importance of sharing one’s story, as this starts a dialogue about mental illness and helps remove the stigma that surrounds it.”

Alec Green

Board Member, Sanford Behavioral Health

Alec is the Managing Director of Sanford Behavioral Health, a residential and outpatient treatment center located in West Michigan.

“I am on the board of i understand because in order to fully integrate physical and mental health services we must reduce the stigma associated with mental health disorders.”

Kara Massa

Board Member, Spectrum Health

Kara is the Advisor to the Chief Human Resources Officer of Spectrum Health, a nationally recognized health system employing 31,000 individuals in Southwest and West Michigan.

“I am so grateful to be involved in the work i understand is championing, as far too many people are suffering in plain sight – silently battling a health crisis due to mental illness.”

Bill Russell

Board Member, Spectrum Health

Bill is a Nurse Care Manager, BS, BSN, RN, CCSM, at Spectrum Health a nationally recognized health system employing 31,000 individuals in Southwest and West Michigan. 

“My desire to be on the board is to assure those who need to talk have someone to listen. Together we can save lives.”

Joe Sadler

Board Member, Dematic

Joe is Senior Corporate Counsel, Dematic Corporation
“I serve on the i understand board to honor the memory of dear friends who were claimed by suicide/self harm – they gave so much to me, and have passed beyond my ability to return their love and care. My service is a tribute and gesture of gratitude to them.”

Craig Welch IV

Board Member, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Craig is a partner of The Smits Welch Group at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

“My mom died of suicide… I bet you winced a little when you read that. That is why I got involved with i understand. That wince you did, that’s stigma. I became a Board member because as a surviving family member of suicide I see a need for mental health advocacy.”

Staff

Vonnie Woodrick

Founder

“i understand is proud of our small but powerful women run organization. Each staff member works hard to move our mission forward by believing in our work to offer compassion, change and understanding to something so difficult to understand. You each have a heart of gold and we are so fortunate to have you on our team!”

Emily Powers

Assistant

“I love working for i understand because our mission speaks to me. Mental health care is crucial, and I want to break down the barriers that get in the way of people receiving the help they need. We all need support sometimes, and it’s key to get that help as soon as possible. I also want to help build empathy in people who do not have firsthand experience with mental illness and suicide because I truly believe love and understanding are necessary aspects of healing.”

Kim Rantala

Director of Development & Marketing

“Being able to provide help and resources for individuals who have experienced a devastating loss or who are struggling with a mental/brain health illness is both inspiring and humbling. I am honored to work for i understand and help reduce stigma through awareness and conversation.”

Whitney Rottiers

Graphic Designer

“After losing my dad to depression, I didn’t understand. This organization gave me an ability to talk about something I didn’t and couldn’t talk about. I am proud to be part of a team that is allowing others to live their truth and the loved ones of those who passed a chance to talk about their loved ones for how they lived, not how they died.”