Board of Directors

Rob Lapides

Board Chair

Rob brings to his role over 25 years of experience in the private sector, having successfully founded, financed, and eventually sold two separate companies in the high-tech and management services field. Rob is active in the investments world as managing director of Robert L Lapides Co, a boutique private equity investment management firm, where he oversees several private equity funds. Previously, he was Managing Director of OmniHolding A.G. in Zurich, Switzerland and CEO of OmniProperty, Inc. in New York City. He also played competitive tennis for several years, having competed in a number of satellite, qualifier, and main draw professional tour events. When he’s not looking after his investment activity, you can find him on the tennis court overseeing his tennis academy or providing board level assistance to several commercial and nonprofit organizations. Rob earned his Bachelor of Science and MBA degrees in International Business & Strategic Management from Babson College in Wellesley, MA.

Richard Spurling

Founder / Executive Director

Richard achieved his degree in International Business from Florida Atlantic University, where he played Division I tennis. After graduation, Richard continued to pursue a career in the tennis industry, teaching tennis and managing several high-profile tennis programs in Florida and Massachusetts. Richard earned his MBA from Babson College in 2008, with a focus on entrepreneurship. While living in Massachusetts, Richard and Dr. Shafali Jeste, an autism researcher, collaborated to create a program that was designed to use the sport of tennis as a means to provide unique social and developmental benefits to children with autism. The first program location of ACEing Autism launched soon thereafter at the Longfellow Club in Wayland, MA in 2008. Since its founding, ACEing Autism has grown into a vibrant, volunteer-driven organization that serves over 1,500 children in 34 states through 120 program locations. Richard currently resides in Los Angeles with his two children, Nischal and Kiran, where he is advancing the vision of ACEing Autism, with the aim of serving 3,000 children by 2024. He also serves on the USTA National Adaptive Tennis Committee and still enjoys competing on the tennis court!

Peter Kotsifas, CPA

Board Treasurer

Peter attended the University of Massachusetts, Lowell earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. Having grown up with a passion for golf, Peter spent more than 15 years in the golf industry where he held roles as controller and general manager at leading Massachusetts’ country clubs, overseeing golf and tennis programs as well as operations and financial functions. Also having earned his PGA card, he particularly enjoyed teaching youth the game of golf. Peter currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer at The Phia Group, a national firm leading in health insurance self-insurance cost containment. In addition to supporting ACEing Autism in a business capacity, Peter also serves as the treasurer.

Mira Tamir Spiegel

Board Member

Mira has been a member of the Board of Directors since ACEing Autism was founded in 2008, and her daughter, Zoe, was one of the very first participants. As a parent, she understands the challenges associated with finding quality recreational programs that can bring out the best in individuals on the autism spectrum. A lifelong tennis enthusiast, Mira played tennis and squash competitively in college for Tufts University and spent many summers teaching tennis to children through the Park & Recreation Commission in her hometown of Needham, MA. She has an MBA from the Roberto C. Goizueta Business School at Emory University. Mira has over 25 years of experience between the supplier and client sides of the market research & consulting industry with Burke, MYMOVE (formerly Imagitas) and Vistaprint. She currently runs her own independent business decisions consulting practice, Tamir Spiegel Insights, and is also the founder of the family-operated social enterprise called Zo Much More which focuses on leveraging her daughter’s strengths and giving back to organizations who are committed to improving quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum. Mira is a longtime officer in her district’s Special Education Parent Advisory Council and is involved in community initiatives around housing and meaningful employment opportunities for adults on the autism spectrum. Mira and her husband, Rob, live in Needham, MA with their two children, Zoe and Aaron.

Tom Darling

Board Member

When Tom was 11 years old, he was playing tennis on a court next to Richard Spurling in Falmouth, MA. When Richard was finished with his lesson, Tom promptly asked him if he would stay for a few extra minutes and hit with him. Sixteen years later, and many ACEing events and hitting sessions later, Tom joined the Board in 2018. Tom played tennis collegiately at Elon University in North Carolina and has spent much of his adult life coaching all levels of tennis. He participated in the early growth of ACEing Autism by helping start the Weymouth Club program in Weymouth, MA, hosting a round-robin tennis tournament while in college to benefit ACEing Autism, and assisting the programs in Washington, DC. Tom is the Proprietor of Darling Wines in Sonoma, CA where he and his wife, Ashley, and their two children currently reside.

Rebecca Falkner Axelrod

Board Member

Rebecca began playing tennis at the age of six after her mother exhausted all other sports options. Coaches in other sports did not want to work with her due to not being able to understand her since she was nonverbal. She did years of speech therapy and eventually graduated. Rebecca credits tennis for helping her find her voice and giving her a safe space. Rebecca played collegiate tennis (Augustana University) and now wants to give back to the sport that has given her so much. She is a recent graduate of ASU Law with a Masters degree in Sports Law and Business and serves on the USTA National Adaptive Tennis Committee. She is a co-program director of the Phoenix ACEing location.

Nancy Caroline Meidel

Board Member

Nancy brings broad skills and thought-leadership to ACEing Autism, embodying a deep commitment and passion for philanthropy.  Her dedication extends to supporting meaningful causes that encompass both pediatric healthcare and medical research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, with a particular focus on advancing methodologies in pediatric cardiovascular surgery and the education of dedicated cardiac nursing teams for improving heart surgery outcomes.  Additionally, she actively contributes to ensuring underserved families gain access to essential life necessities and medical access. 

Nancy has served as a patient parent ambassador for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for 14 years and has played pivotal roles on various governing boards and committees, demonstrating her fervent advocacy for children’s welfare. Beyond her contributions to healthcare, Nancy is a proactive advocate for women’s rights, equality, and increased access to venture capital for women entrepreneurs. She articulates her profound dedication to service as her life’s purpose, driving her involvement in initiatives that make a positive impact on society.

Her professional journey commenced at American International Group, where she served as an executive for 14 years, holding the position of Vice President of their Commercial Insurance Finance division. Thereafter, undertook the challenge of building a team from ground up for a new business within Credit Suisse’s Investment Banking Fixed Income Group.  In this role, she focused on structuring Life Insurance Financing loans, managing death bond instruments and overseeing the sales of time-sensitive life insurance portfolios to secondary markets – a task requiring delicate risk balancing. Her success in establishing this specialized business in Los Angeles positioned she and her team to be one of the most profitable new markets for Credit Suisse in the country.

Nancy earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications with an emphasis in International Political Science and Macro Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Family holds a special place in Nancy’s life, and alongside her husband Greg, she is the proud parent of two children, Katelyn and Blake. The family actively participates in the ACEing Autism program in Southern California, where they have witnessed the transformative impact of athletic sports on their daughter’s developmental progress and social interactions. The profound sense of interconnectedness with peers has brought about extraordinary changes in her daughter’s life.  Nancy is filled with gratitude as she joins the Board of ACEing Autism, a special team dedicated to advocating for children with special needs.

In Memory

Matt Schleichkorn

Board Member

Matt Schleichkorn passed away on June 26, 2023, and is remembered by his family and friends. Matt was always a positive and caring person, who greatly contributed to the success of ACEing Autism. To read more about his contributions, CLICK HERE