Board Members

Board Members

Renee Darrow, President  


Mrs. Darrow is a Registered Nurse who actively supports programs for children and adults throughout her community. She is a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Habitat’s Women’s Leadership Initiative, MCCC Foundation Board and supports many initiatives in the Promedica and Michigan Medicine Hospital systems.


Gary Banning, Treasurer    


Mr. Banning, a University of Michigan graduate and retired accountant, is a lifelong resident of Monroe County and was the owner of The Banning Company until his retirement. Mr. Banning is one of our longest serving board members having served since the inception of Gabby’s Ladder. He and his wife Margaret are enjoying retirement and their 7 grandchildren.


Amy Zarend, Secretary


Mrs. Zarend is the Director of the Monroe County Great Start Collaborative group, which is an early childhood advocacy and networking initiative in the state of Michigan. The group is comprised of schools, businesses, parents and local agencies working together to ensure all children enter school ready for success. I have been with the program for almost 13 years. I have been married to my husband, David, for 20 years and we have 2 children.


Lisa Bates, Board Member   


Ms. Bates has retired from Human Resources at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, MI. Lisa has experienced loss through losing her mother and father at a young age and in more recent years, her youngest son, Ryan. She is excited about volunteering in any way that supports our mission and provides support to the grieving. She has three other adult children and five grandchildren.


Laurie Berry, Board Member   


Mrs. Berry grew up in Monroe and is a graduate of Monroe High School. She has worked in       the healthcare field for over 40 years. She and her husband opened the Monroe Home Care Shoppe in 1995, and it has serviced Monroe County’s medical equipment needs for the past 21 years. She and her husband retired in 2016. Laurie was an original member of the Gabby’s Grief Center Board of Directors and is very excited to able to add her support again. She has facilitated four monthly support groups in Monroe and is a past Monroe Chamber of Commerce President. Laurie continues to be an advocate for the senior citizens of Monroe through her involvement with many other boards and committees. Laurie and her husband, Rob, have 2 adult children and 5 grandchildren.


Dr. John Brooks, Board Member    


Dr. Brooks received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology; Master of Arts degree in    Counseling from Siena Heights University; a Doctorate Degree in Clinical Psychology, and a Specialist degree in Humanistic and Clinical Psychology from the Michigan School of Professional Psychology. He has been a lifelong resident of Monroe, Michigan and has been in private practice as a psychotherapist, working with a variety of populations since 2006.


Nicholas Capaul MA, TLLP, Board Member    


Nicholas Capaul received a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the Michigan School of Professional Psychology in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and is currently working at attaining a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Michigan School of Psychology in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He and his wife just welcomed their first child.


Maureen Castiglione, Board Member   


Mrs. Castiglione is a graduate of St. Mary Academy and Western Michigan University holding a Bachelor in Elementary Education with a Masters from Marygrove College.  She is married to John Castiglione, has two children and is a lifelong resident of Monroe where her family runs a small drywall company.  She is an elementary school teacher in Livonia Public Schools and her passion is her students.  She has been teaching for 25 years and has loved every minute of it.


April Kassuba, Board Member 


Ms. Kassuba is an Office Administrator for DTE Energy, Monroe Power Plant and is a member of the DTE Monroe   Area Task Force, volunteering at many community events. She is also a board member of Selah’s Center of Hope in Monroe.


Justin Miller, CFSP, CCO Funeral Director, Board Member                


Mr. Miller joined Bacarella Funeral Home in Monroe in June 2018. Mr. Miller graduated from   Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science degree. He is an active   member of the National Funeral Directors Association, Michigan Funeral Directors Association and the Michigan Mortuary Science Foundation. He and his wife, Katelyn reside in Dundee, Michigan with their two sons, Austin and Brock.


Executive Director 

Kaye Lani Rafko-Wilson, Director    

Mrs. Wilson is the Executive Director for Gabby’s Ladder. She is a professional nurse and was crowned Miss America 1988.  Her platform as Miss Michigan and Miss America was Hospice and Family Grief Support.  She is a public speaker and continues to promote the need for these services on national speaking tours.

Board Members

Jan Baden, Co-Founder/Past Executive Director


Mrs. Baden is Co-Founder of Gabby’s Ladder.  She was a licensed professional counselor and professional nurse and certified in trauma and loss with over 20 years of experience in bereavement counseling. She touched many throughout the Monroe County area and continued providing grief support until her death in June 2010. We treasure her gifts and miss her dearly.


Ellie Mruzek, Co-Founder


Mrs. Mruzek is a professional nurse and author. She is the Co-Founder of Gabby’s Ladder and creator of the image of Gabby. She is certified as a trauma and loss facilitator.


The Honorable Joseph A. Costello, Jr. 


Judge Joseph Costello is a judge of the 38th Circuit Court in Michigan. He is a strong advocate for children and families throughout Monroe County.


The Reverend Dr. Ellen McGormley


Reverend Dr. McGormley served as co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Monroe

before retiring with her husband.  She was a committed pastoral supporter of

Gabby’s Ladder.


Jeff Rupp


Mr. Rupp is a Funeral Director at Bacarella Funeral Home. He has been a dedicated volunteer since the beginning of Gabby’s Ladder and provides assistance when needed in our Children/Family Workshops.


David Taylor


Mr. Taylor was the Superintendent of Monroe Public Schools for 19 years before his retirement in 2010.  He was a dedicated educational leader who valued the grief support services of Gabby’s Ladder for students and their families until his death in October 2011. He was one of our first board members and we continue to appreciate his past contributions.

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