Board of Directors:

President:            Ryan Allen
Vice President:   Julie Lohr
Treasurer:           Timm Funk
Secretary:            Jada Kurth

Board Members:
Beverly Wharton
Lisa Niebuhr
Amy Derby
Jennifer Macklem
Lisa Whitehead
Gina Sitzmann
John Schmitz

Ryan Allen


“My name is Dr. Ryan Allen and I am a nonfiction and “Voices of the Great Plains” editor for The Briar Cliff Review, co-owner and chief executive of Lumin Therapy, LLC, and the author of two books of poetry that have appeared in a variety of magazines, alt-weekly’s, and academic journals. I live in Sioux City, Iowa with my wife and three kids. I am part of the FIRE Foundation of NW Iowa because I believe what makes us different makes us unique. As a parent of a child with Down syndrome and the President of the FIRE Foundation, promoting and facilitating trauma and resilience-informed care, fostering diverse, equitable and inclusive learning spaces, and advocating for accessibility and universal design for learning are my passions and my heartfelt mission. I live out this mission as an educator, consultant, artist, advocate, and coach, and primarily through Lumin Therapy, an integrative healthcare and education provider dedicated to helping individuals, families, teams, organizations, build resilience and accelerate transformation.” — Ryan Allen

Julie Lohr

Vice President

“My name is Julie Lohr and I am a child of God. I am a wife to Chris, and a mother to Jack, Savannah, Landon, and Charlotte. I am a passionate dentist and business owner. I am the vice-president of the FIRE Foundation and serve on the Public Relations, Advocacy, and Marketing committee. The FIRE Foundation of NW Iowa is importnat to me because I feel a strong moral obligation to help the Catholic Church fulfill its mission to teach and welcome all children who desire a Catholic education into our schools. Jesus demonstrated inclusion in his daily life, and we must strive to follow his example. I am humbled and grateful to serve this non-profit organization.”
— Julie Lohr

Timm Funk


“My name is Timm Funk. I am a native of Moville, Iowa and a graduate of Briar Cliff University. I have been employed and self-employed in the Siouxland area as a business person for the last 40 years. My role with FIRE is as an officer of the corporation. I serve as Treasurer and am a member of the Finance Committee. The Foundation is important to me as I have strived to help children through the years. I believe in giving, through various ways, to missions that help children help themselves with the challenges ahead of them. The FIRE Foundation is a perfect example of a cause that aligns with that spirit. Including children that have disabilities in the full experience of a Catholic education is a tremendous blessing to them and to our community.”
–Timm Funk

Jada Kurth


“I’m Jada Kurth. I am a life long Catholic, and Sioux City native. I was born and raised in Morningside, attended Mater Dei, and then graduated from Heelan. I did my undergrad at the University of St. Thomas and then moved on to the University of Iowa where I earned my doctorate in dentistry. My husband Joe and I moved back to Sioux City in 2010, where we started our medical and dental practices. We have four children that all attend Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools. Hayden, fourth grader at Holy Cross Blessed Sacrament; Elliott, second grade, St. Michael’s; Pierce, kindergarten; and Geneva, who is in the 3 year old preschool program, also at St. Mike’s. I am currently on the Board of the FIRE Foundation of MW Iowa serving as Secretary, and I also sit on the FIRE Grants Committee. I am encouraged by the momentum of FIRE and seek to ignite our Catholic community in Northwest Iowa as we strive to tear down barriers to providing a Catholic education to all those who seek to learn. For me, since Catholic education seeks to provide for not only the academic advancement of our youth, but also works to tie in their mental, spiritual, ethical and moral growth, it is imperative that it be shared with all persons regardless of their abilities.”
— Jada Kurth

Beverly Wharton

Development Committee, Finance Committee

“My name is Bev Wharton. I am retired after serving 15 years as President of Briar Cliff University and I am a member of the FIRE Foundation of Northwest Iowa Board. My husband and I were involved in discussions a number of years ago about the value of inclusivity for children with learning disabilities. I am pleased that we are now an active organization and spreading the word about inclusivity for those who may be on the margins.” — Bev Wharton

Lisa Niebuhr

Public Relations, Advocacy, and Marketing Committee

“My name is Lisa Niebuhr. I am the chair of the Public Relations, Advocacy, and Marketing Committee (PRAM). My husband, Paul, and I have three children, Elias, Elisabeth and Evan. They graduated from Gehlen Catholic. We have many band students over the years who are our ‘kids’, from Eastern Iowa to now Holy Cross. Our son, Evan, was diagnosed with dysarthria at the age of 2 by a specialist at the University of Iowa. Evan was smart and wanted to speak like his peers. We worked tirelessly with Evan’s speech therapists through Mercy and the Area Education Agency, classroom teachers, and fine arts moderators to overcome his challenges. We were thrilled when he graduated from Gehlen Catholic and studied Industrial Engineering at Iowa State University. It has been our family’s mission to pay it forward to every child and family we have served alongside. We know every child is talented and gifted in one area. Every child needs help in another area. The FIRE Foundation is one more opportunity for us and others to assist every child in achieving his/her dreams.” — Lisa Niebuhr

Amy Derby

Development Committee

My name is Amy Derby and I am the Interim Vice President of University Advancement at Briar Cliff University. I am a lifelong resident of Sioux City and member of the Sioux City Diocese. I went to Blessed Sacrament and graduated from Heelan High School. I’m the proud mother of two daughters, Emily and Alicia, both of which went 13 years through Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools. Emily recently graduated from Briar Cliff University, and Alicia is a senior at University of St. Thomas, both Catholic Universities. As a strong believer of Catholic education and openness to all, I feel blessed to serve as the Chair of the Development Committee to help to continue the growth of the FIRE Foundation of NW Iowa.”  — Amy Derby

Jennifer Macklem

Public Relations, Advocacy, & Marketing Committee

My name is Jennifer Macklem. I am a board member for the FIRE Foundation of NW Iowa. My husband, Mike, and I live in LeMars with our 2 boys, Easton and Collin. Easton is 18 and currently attending Mount Marty University in Yankton, SD. Collin will be 14 on Halloween and he’s an 8th grader at Gehlen Catholic. Collin is my “why”. He has taught me so much in his 13 years. He has opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at things and learning. He’s also taught me so much about inclusion and why inclusion belongs in our Catholic schools. He has made me a better person and a better mom. He is my gift. He is the reason I’m so passionate about the FIRE Foundation. He’s the reason I will never quit fighting for all kids no matter their abilities to be able to attend their Catholic school.” — Jennifer Macklem

Gina Sitzmann

Grant Committee

“I’m Gina Sitzmann, I retired from Security National Bank after 34 years and joined the FIRE Board as Chair of the Grants Committee.  My husband and I have always felt life is about what you give not what you get.  We value and support Catholic Education, after benefitting from it ourselves from first grade through college. We would like as many children as possible to have the same opportunity.”
— Gina Sitzmann

John Schmitz

Development Committee

“My name is John Schmitz and I am the Director of Stewardship & Development for the Diocese of Sioux City. I am a husband to Traci, and a father to Michael, Madeline, Carson, Carys, and Evan. I joined the FIRE Foundation Board as a Development Committee member. I value and support Catholic education, having benefitted from 16 years of Catholic education myself from first grade through college. I am a graduate of Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll, IA and Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, IA. The FIRE Foundation of NW Iowa is important to me because I value the inclusivity for children with learning disabilities to experience and enjoy a Catholic education. I am humbled and grateful to serve as a board member and to help continue the growth of this wonderful organization.” — John Schmitz