Meet The Team

Sonia Chritton, President

Sonia’s sister has Type I diabetes (T1D), and her son was diagnosed with T1D when he was 20 months old. She has two other children participating in prevention trials. One of her sons has reversed his autoantibodies, and you can learn more at  Her son who has been living with T1D for over 30 years built his own artificial pancreas system, and you can learn more at  She is encouraged that parents now have tools and knowledge which is openly shared because of the open source community.  She has been actively donating, fundraising, studying, writing, and reviewing Type I research projects for twenty years and has several articles in peer reviewed journals. She previously served on the ADA and JDRF boards and helped review research grants for the JDRF. She has a B.S. in Finance and a M.S. in Systems Management from the University of Southern California.

Heather Speer, Vice President of Research

Heather Speer, MPH, CDE, became immersed in diabetes research, advocacy, and education when her daughter was diagnosed at a very young age.  She is now a proud grandmother. She continues her work at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County as a Senior Research Coordinator, assisting with multiple research projects and educational outreach. In addition to her contributions with our foundation, she also has been an active volunteer for the PADRE foundation, ADA, JDRF and other diabetes related charities. She also has been active with the Children With Diabetes Friends For Life conferences for many years providing education to families who attend from throughout the world.

Athena Pengg, Vice President Outreach

Athena was diagnosed with T1D at eleven years old and immediately became involved with the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami. She attends the Children With Diabetes Friends For Life conferences annually.  Athena enjoys travel, research, and has become very involved with the Montessori Model United Nations Program over the last three years.  Athena is currently a college student studying abroad in Australia.

Patty O’Donnell, Secretary

Patty became involved in diabetes research and fundraising when her son was diagnosed at age five.  Annual JDRF walks, diabetes camps, and fundraisers have been an important part of her journey with her son for over 30 years.  As a T1D-activist parent, she has advocated for the best care for her son and others. In addition to her diabetes activism, she is involved in numerous other clubs and activities.

Anne Branch, Director of Volunteerism

Anne Branch, MBA, is passionate about finding a cure for T1D.  She contributes her expertise to the foundation through her extensive experience in events, fundraising, and setting goals. She was previously a director at several non-profits to include The Heart Institute, University of Southern California (USC), and University of California, Santa Barbara among other entities. Anne earned the USC Widney Volunteer Award for her successful fundraising efforts.