Our Team

Meet our founders

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!

Dr. Shafali Jeste


Dr. Jeste is a behavioral child neurologist specializing in autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders. She is Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at the USC Keck School of Medicine, and the Las Madrinas Chair, Chief of Neurology and Co-Director of the Neurological Institute at CHLA. After earning a BA in philosophy from Yale University in 1997 and her MD from Harvard Medical School in 2002, Dr. Jeste completed a residency in child neurology and a fellowship in behavioral child neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital. She joined UCLA in 2010. Dr. Jeste’s research is focused on developing methods to improve precision in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. Her lab studies neurodevelopmental disorders from early infancy through late childhood. Dr. Jeste has designed innovative studies in early predictors of autism in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) that integrate biomarkers with behavior to define atypical development prior to the onset of autism. This work in TSC has led to the first randomized controlled clinical trial of behavioral intervention for these infants and has paved the way for other early intervention trials in rare genetic syndromes. Dr. Jeste’s research is directly inspired by her clinical work. To address the many gaps in medical care for rare genetic forms of neurodevelopmental disorders, she developed the Neurogenetics and Developmental Disabilities Clinic at CHLA. Dr. Jeste’s work is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Simons Foundation. She holds several national and international leadership positions including the Board of Directors of the American Brain Foundation, Board of Directors of the National Organization for Rare Disorders, the Board of Directors of the International Society for Autism Research, and she recently served as the Chair of the International Baby Siblings Research Consortium. In 2019 she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for her innovations in research in early predictors and intervention for genetic neurodevelopmental disorders.

The ACEing Autism team

Philip Milburn

President and Advisor

In his role, Philip blends his personal and professional interests in the development of children and the powerful efficacy of sport to help change lives. As President, Philip supports our founder, Richard Spurling, and the ACEing team nationwide by managing the business affairs of the organization. Philip brings his 30 years of executive nonprofit organization management to help ACEing Autism serve many more families, children and communities. He is also a tennis player himself.

Laura Gambrell

Director of Development, Marketing & Communications

Laura Gambrell joins ACEing Autism as the Director of Development, Marketing & Communications bringing over 18 years of experience in the Greater Cleveland community. She has worked with several non-profits, fostering philanthropy and enhancing the experiences of clients, donors, and volunteers.

Previously, Laura was the Director of Development and Marketing at Argonaut, where she exceeded fundraising goals and advanced their mission. She has also raised funds for an Adapted Sports program at the Achievement Centers for Children.

An active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Grants Professionals Association, and Rotary Club of Cleveland, Laura is the President-Elect for 2024-2025 and has served in various leadership roles. She and her husband Brad love exploring Cleveland and spending time with their family.

Justin Belisario

Director of Program Operations

Justin was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. He received his BA in Neuroscience from the Johns Hopkins University, where he also played Division III tennis for a nationally-ranked program. He went on to work for Kaiser Permanente for 5 years until he decided to pursue a medical degree. He earned his MD from the University of the East in the Philippines. He has a cousin on the autism spectrum. His interest in the field of neurology and psychiatry coupled with his enthusiasm for the sport of tennis makes ACEing Autism a great match!

Mylene Martin

Marketing Communications Manager

Mylene was born and raised near Paris, France. She came over to the United States at 18 years old to play for the University of San Francisco women’s tennis team. She received her BA in Media Studies and also earned her MA from USF in Sport Management. She worked for the PAC-12 Network for 4 years before pursuing her marketing and communications career full-time with USTA Northern California. Her passion for tennis and making the sport accessible for everyone led her to her perfect match with ACEing Autism. On top of being a former NCAA Division I college tennis player, Mylene has several years of experience teaching tennis. Mylene most recently joined the USTA Northern California Adaptive Committee in early 2023.

Rachel Miskei

Program Manager

Rachel joined the ACEing Autism team in 2018 and now works as the Program Manager after she quickly grew to love working with the programs team, including our incredible team of Program Directors and volunteers across the country. She was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, with a brief stint in Bellingham, Washington after receiving her BA in English from Loyola Marymount University. Rachel returned home to Los Angeles with the desire to pursue a career that not only left her feeling fulfilled, but also one that made a difference. She feels very lucky that she gets to pursue her career at ACEing Autism, where she is constantly learning and interacting with incredible families, volunteers, and coworkers who care deeply about making the world a better place. In her free time, Rachel loves to write poetry and paint.

Caitlin Shoemaker

Program Manager

Caitlin joined the ACEing Autism team in early 2024, with a background in managing social and recreational programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Michigan. She is most energized by being involved in communities that are centered around inclusion, empowerment, connection, and fun, and aims to bring those qualities into her role as Program Manager. In her free time, you can find Caitlin out exploring the Pacific Northwest with friends, thrifting new home decor, or cheering on her favorite sports teams.

Ashlyn Penegar

Program Coordinator

Ashlyn joined the ACEing Autism in March 2024 and will work in conjunction with Rachel, Caitlin, and the programs team to support our expansion efforts and quality maintenance. She has a strong background as an Administrative Assistant, previously working for the Planning and Development Department with the City of Monroe and serving as the Clerk for the Board of Adjustment, Planning Board, and Historic District Commission.
Ashlyn currently resides with her family in Unionville, NC, and has a daughter in our Monroe program. She is excited to start her new role, connect with people, and forge new friendships.

Ashley Tolentino

Director of Finance & Operations

Originally from Massachusetts and a graduate of Babson College, Ashley joined the ACEing Autism team in 2021 as the Operations Manager, bringing 10+ years of experience in controlling company financials, resource optimization, and human resources management to the organization. With a diverse professional background across various positions at high growth start-ups, a commonality is a focus on ensuring operational productivity and effectiveness with the implementation of new tools, procedures, and strategies. She is thrilled to have joined the amazing and visionary team at ACEing Autism, and looks forward to leveraging her background and skill set to support the organization in making an impact on families and communities across the country. Outside of work, she loves playing beach volleyball and spending time with friends and family.

NuTrelle Toodle

Development Manager

As the Development Manager, NuTrelle is responsible for leading the development and fundraising efforts for the organization to strengthen and grow our engagement with new and current donors, foundations and corporations. NuTrelle joined us with more than 7 years of experience, having worked in the development department of other nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable populations in human services. She has expertise in donor and partnership management, grant writing, event planning, marketing, and more. NuTrelle received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Savannah State University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Valdosta State University.

Miles Vidreiro

Program Quality Manager, BCBA

Miles began working with ACEing Autism in 2013, bringing the first program to New York City. After a couple of years as a Program Director, he has since been involved in the development of the curriculum and visiting different programs to provide training and support. Miles is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and has a Master’s degree from Columbia University in Health and Behavioral Studies of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism. He has worked with children and young adults on the autism spectrum for 11+ years in a variety of environments. He was a NCAA Division I college tennis player at Monmouth University and has several years’ experience of coaching and teaching tennis.

Interested in joining the ACEing Autism team? View our current career openings.

Regional Program Directors

Regional Program Directors (RPDs) are responsible for overseeing a cohort of ACEing Autism programs in a designated region to ensure program quality. RPDs visit each assigned program at least once a year to train, conduct a Program Quality Evaluation, and provide feedback, and mentorship to Program Directors and volunteers.

Adrienne Bransky

Texas region

Adrienne is the proud mom of three children. Her middle child, Josh, was diagnosed with autism at 14 months of age. For years she volunteered with other autism-related organizations to help increase awareness and raise funds for research but wanted to do something that allowed her to see the impact firsthand. Adrienne loves using the game of tennis as a catalyst to transform the lives of the kids in the program.

Nils Weldy

Mid-Atlantic / Southern regions

Nils’ connection to ACEing Autism goes back to the Fall of 2005 when he first met ACEing Autism’s founder, Richard Spurling, at a Boston Chamber of Commerce tennis tournament. He stayed in contact after Richard relocated to Los Angeles and he moved to Charlotte in 2007. In the fall of 2013, Nils held a pilot clinic in Charlotte and then launched the first North Carolina program location in the spring of 2014. From 2015-2018, Nils served as ACEing Autism’s Marketing Director and now focuses on ACEing Autism program locations in the eastern region of the U.S. to plan and execute seasonal sessions, trainings, quality control, special events, fundraising, marketing, and PR initiatives.

Brian Browne

Northern California

Coach Browne has been working as a special education teacher for 21 years, and also coached tennis for 16 years in addition to playing in college many years ago. Brian was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up in California and is a Navy veteran. Currently, Brian’s biggest joy is working with ACEing Autism. He is a Special Education teacher at Laguna Creek High School.

Emma Famili

Middle States

Emma was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA where she began volunteering for ACEing Autism when she was 16 years old. She has been a volunteer for ACEing Autism for four years and was excited to become Program Director in 2019. Emma is also the Regional Program Director for the Middle States. Emma received her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University and works for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development as a Presidential Management Fellow. Emma has been a tennis player for twelve years and has been working in special education for five years. She began working with children who are blind, and then worked with infants born with disabilities, and has taught students with multiple disabilities. Emma has a passion for helping others, and hopes to continue supporting others by promoting inclusion and kindness.

Heather Richardson

Southern region

Heather is a Chartered Professional Accountant and has an MBA. Originally from Canada, Heather moved to Lexington, Kentucky, with her family in 2017. Both of her kids play tennis and she enjoys spending time watching them participate in tournaments both in Kentucky and across the South. She has a soft spot for children on the autism spectrum and a desire to provide them with safe and fun options to make friends and be healthy. Heather read about ACEing Autism while she was at a tennis tournament, and loved the idea so much that she decided to start a program. Combining her interest in tennis and love for kids on the spectrum was a perfect way to give back to the Lexington community. She founded the first ACEing Autism program in Kentucky in 2020, and it has been running consistently ever since.

Francesca Ortega

Intermountain region

Originally from Miami, Florida, Francesca grew up playing tennis with her family. In middle school and high school, her passion for sports on the court continued as she started to play competitive volleyball. She loves working with children on the court and helping them develop their social, team-collaboration, and physical fitness skills.

Most recently, Francesca served as Lead Instructional Assistant at The Joshua School, a nonprofit facility school for children, teens, and young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Francesca closely worked alongside Behavioral Analysts, Occupational Therapists and Speech Language Pathologists while developing extensive knowledge in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). As a Regional Program Director for ACEing Autism, Francesca is responsible for overseeing the quality of various programs and providing on-site training to volunteers. In addition, Francesca has held various internships where she gained an appreciation for working with children and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Francesca graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a Bachelors in Neuroscience and Psychology. Francesca now resides in Denver, CO and enjoys skiing, hiking, and exploring the mountains. Francesca is fluent in Spanish and enjoys Latin music.

Bob Migliorini

New England / Eastern regions

Bob Migliorini is an avid tennis player and has coached children from ages 5 to 22 for over twenty years. He is the Head Men’s and Women’s Tennis Coach at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT and the Girls Varsity Tennis Coach at North Haven High School, which provides the program with a great pool of volunteer resources. Bob is also a Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) certified tennis instructor in the areas of 10 & Under Development, 11-17 Development, Performance Development, and Adult Development. He holds USTA records for the longest single game not completed (1 hour and 45 minutes) and the longest single point not completed (50 minutes), both of which occurred during an extraordinary June 1995 USTA league singles match in Trumbull, CT.  The longest single point is included in the Bud Collins’ Tennis Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, to exemplify the definition of a “Rally” in Chapter 10 – Tennis Lingo. He is leading the North Haven, CT program in conjunction with his wife Maureen and his daughter Alyssa.  Bob also serves as Regional Program Director for New England ACEing Autism programs.

Sara Longo

Middle States region

Sara is a Regional Program Director with ACEing Autism, covering the Midwest territory and parts of the South. Sara is a former Therapeutic Staff Support, lifelong tennis player, and has been a tennis instructor for over 20 years, coaching juniors throughout Pittsburgh, PA. She opened the Pittsburgh branch of ACEing Autism in 2014, and is now a Management Consultant at The Hill Group. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Allegheny College, and has certifications in Executive Leadership from Carnegie Mellon University and Women in Leadership from Coro Pittsburgh. Sara is a Climate Reality Certified Leader and a National Geographic Certified Educator.

Pamela Rende

Middle States / Eastern regions

Pam has been with ACEing Autism as a Program Director for ten years.  A a multisport athlete, Pam enjoys studying the biomechanics of sport and teaching it in an understandable manner. She has taught for 15+ years from ages 3 to 89, and from beginners to nationally ranked players some of whom have played the Orange Bowl, US Open Qualifier and Wimbledon. A tactician, Pam enjoys honing players strengths while crafting new skills and adding depth and variety to their games. She is on the Executive Board of USTA Middlestates, the 2018 and 2020 College Coach of the Year, and the recipient of the NCAA Women’s Coaching Foundation award. 

Fun Fact: A true teacher, Pam taught swimming through College, and is a Level 1 Ski Instructor in Vermont! She also rescues racing greyhounds and Galgo Espanol.

Alexander Brandt

South region

Coming soon

Vasavi Ganesan

Midwest region

Vasavi began working for ACEing Autism in 2022 as an on-court support professional for Michigan programs. Currently, she is a Regional Program Director for the Midwest region. Vasavi is a doctoral student at the University of Toledo. Vasavi holds a masters in Clinical behavioral psychology from Eastern Michigan University, she holds a limited license in Psychology for the state of Michigan and is planning to sit for her Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam by the end of 2023. She has five years of experience working with children on the autism spectrum in clinical settings. She was also a NCAA Division 1 college tennis player at Eastern Michigan University for five years. She has played on top of the lineup in singles and doubles and received MAC Player of the Week several times at EMU.

Trey Mihal

Southern California region

Trey joined ACEing Autism in the fall 2022 as a volunteer and became a Program Director / On Court Support in the Spring 2023. He noticed the ACEing Autism banner at the Burbank Tennis Center and knew he needed to get involved with the organization. Trey has worked with autistic individuals ranging from 18 months to 23 years old for almost a decade. He works as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (i.e., BCBA) for a non-public agency providing applied behavior analysis therapy. In 2024, Trey took on the role of Regional Program Director of Southern California to further support ACEing Autism and their mission to connect kids through tennis! In his free time, he plays tennis and participates in events hosted by the Los Angeles Tennis Association. In addition, he plays in tournaments hosted by the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA) World Tour. Besides tennis, you can catch him at the beach, socializing with friends, and binge-watching reality TV.