We are pleased to be able to provide a wide array of topics thanks to our speakers who are lending their time and expertise to our event.

More speaker information to come. Stay tuned!

Keynote Speakers

NC Council on Developmental Disabilities and Alliance Health

Chris Egan

Executive Director, NC Council on Developmental Disabilities

Jeff Payne

Director of I/DD Care Coordination, Alliance Health

Walter Linney

Asst Director of I/DD Care Coordination, Alliance Health

General Session Speaker

NC ABLE Accounts

Mary Buonfiglio

Deputy Director of the North Carolina Supplemental Retirement Plans and North Carolina ABLE Program.

Mary Buonfiglio, CFA is Deputy Director of the North Carolina Supplemental Retirement Plans and North Carolina ABLE Program.  Her primary duty is to ensure financial preparedness for North Carolina’s public servants and citizens living with disabilities.  Mary’s responsibilities include strategic planning, plan compliance, fiduciary best practices, and vendor management for the 457, 401(k), 403(b) plans and NC ABLE Program.   Before joining NC Retirement Systems, Mary was Managing Director and Regional Investment Executive for Private Advisory Services at Bank of America, where she led a team assisting clients with their wealth management needs.  Her 25 years’ experience in investment services and wealth management includes working with individuals, corporations, and nonprofits.  Mary has a BS in business administration and an MBA in finance from the University of Florida, Gainesville. She is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and enjoys volunteering in her community as a mentor and advocate.

This popular session will provide detail information and updates about the NC ABLE Account, including ways to “Achieving a Better Life Experience” through use of the NC ABLE Account. There will also be time allotted to answer specific questions on this exciting new opportunity for individuals to build financial assets without losing needed healthcare benefits.

Breakout Session Speakers

Lynne Deese

Assistive Technology: making Life Easier at Home, School, Work, & community

This session provides an overview of Assistive Technology - what it is and how it is used to improve your life in your daily living and community… added bonus is to check out all the GREAT assistive technology on site!

Linda Kendall-Fields M. Ed.

Jordan Institute for Families, UNC Chapel Hill
Rethinking Guardianship

Come hear about the latest news and developments about guardianship options and alternatives in NC. This includes information on current efforts to reshape current guardianship system to encourage less restrictive alternatives.

Dr. Peggy Terhune

Chief Executive Officer, Monarch NC
Intentional Communities and Supported Living

Come to this session to learn about Supported Living and hear from families about how the service can be effective.  Also learn about intentional communities, what they are, and what efforts are happening in NC to make this type of residential option a reality.

Kenneth Kelty

Letting Go to Live My Own Life!
Kenneth Kelty lives in Raleigh and attended The WCU UP Program. He will share his story and the importance of self-advocacy and following your own dreams.

Betsy MacMichael

Executive Director, First in Families of NC
Creating and Living Your Life in the REal World

Betsy MacMichael, Executor Director of First In Families of NC, has worked in the field of Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities in NC for 18 years, dedicating her efforts to promoting self-determination, inclusion, and positive community awareness of families and individuals, whether in a service or policy context. First In Families complements the formal service system to meet the needs of over 2,400 families or individuals each year, particularly those not receiving services or those whose critical needs do not fit the normal service array. As a parent, Betsy has promoted and created inclusive options for and/or with her daughter Janie since Janie was 2. Most recently, Janie has been living in the North Street Neighborhood of Durham, a very inclusive, non-programmed intentional community in downtown Durham.

Jane Desmond

Creating and Living Your Life in the REal World

Jane Desmond, a graduate of UNCG, is an aunt to two little ones, a volunteer at the animal shelter, a spiritual person, a job seeker, a dancer, a weight trainer, a swimmer and a girlfriend. Janie lives a rich, full life in Durham, NC, sharing since 2016 an apartment with her roommate Suvya in the North Street neighborhood of downtown Durham. Friendly, helpful and creative neighbors share in this community, and every member both gives and receives help as needed. Janie’s waiver services complement the many natural supports in her life. Eight years ago, Janie chose with her parents to be her own guardian when she turned 18, and has been learning since then and before, how to make key decisions for herself, with support from advisers. Living in this natural setting has given her lots of practice. Janie is currently seeking paid or volunteer positions in the greater Durham area.


Karen Hamilton

Coordinator, NC ADA Network
Your Rights as a Job Seeker

Karen Hamilton has more than 20 years experience in disability advocacy including expertise in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) training, technical writing and community organizing.  As coordinator of the NC ADA Network, she supports grassroots groups to promote the ADA in local communities across North Carolina. Through this initiative, Karen enables disability advocates to learn about their rights and make change in their local communities.

Gerri Smith

MPA, QP, Community Educator and Family Supports Manager, The Arc of North Carolina
Financial Empowerment for Individuals and Families

gsmith@arcnc.org, (800)662-8706, ext 112

I have several academic degrees; but my greatest and most beneficial learning experiences are gained from being the parent of an adult son with a developmental disability. I advocate with and for families and self-advocates; ensuring that they have the opportunity to live, learn, work, play, worship, etc. in the communities of their choice. I am a teacher, speaker, lifelong learner, volunteer, advocate and true believer in the civil rights of all people.  I am passionate about future planning because it empowers families, caregivers and individuals with disabilities.