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Our Staff & Board

Meet the HOPE LIVES! team.

The Hope Lives! Staff and Board is made up of caring and dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to provide support and resources to those affected by breast cancer. It is our goal to provide HOPE above all else.




Elise Carver

Executive Director

Elise is thrilled to be a part of the staff and mission of Hope Lives! Not only does she have a passion for helping people and giving back, but unfortunately like most, she too, has had various family members and friends affected by breast cancer. Elise brings more than 20 years of managerial, training, and customer service experience in both the corporate and non-profit sectors. Most recently, she held the position of Volunteer Coordinator in Weld county for Pathways Hospice.

According to Elise, “I enjoy companioning with clients and the community providing much needed support, especially during these challenging times when world events can often overshadow everyday needs. Since moving back to Northern Colorado, I have been reminded about what a generous and special place this is and I’m excited to see what our future holds!”


Nikki Houser

Program Manager

Nikki has a career that includes teaching, public speaking, event management, retail purchasing and marketing management. She brings a unique perspective to the Hope Lives team. Born and raised in Chicago, she moved to Tampa where she married JW, who hails from Laramie and had her two beautiful children, Damen and Dalia. This rolling stone worked her way to Colorado, where she resides in Loveland with her husband, two kids, two cats and a dog. Aside from being a good fit professionally, Nikki is also a Breast Cancer Survivor! She was diagnosed in 2020 at age 44 with Stage 1C IDC, ER/PR+, Her2-, ATM+ and is currently in remission. 


Nikki says, “My favorite poem, The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver has this GREAT line that resonates now more than ever; ‘Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’.”

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Lana Schueler


Lana moved to Fort Collins in 1982 to attend Colorado State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 1986.  Since then, she’s been the assistant controller of a local grocery chain before starting her own Accounting and Bookkeeping business in Fort Collins.  She married a local guy and has two daughters and one very active puppy. 


Lana says: “I am deeply moved by the struggle those with cancer go through and am so honored to be a part of Hope Lives!.  The compassion and care given the participants is truly heartwarming.  It is so inspiring to see those in the community helping through their donations of time and money and I look forward to all the upcoming fundraising opportunities.  Northern Colorado is a wonderful, generous place to live!”


Disco Pup Houser

Emotional Support, Companion and Champion Napper

Disco Pup is a 6 year old Black Lab mix who joined the team in 2022. His purpose is to alert us when visitors arrive,  but most days you'll just find him sleeping. He will greet you, then promptly return to his nap. However, his senses are indeed keen, and if he feels that you are upset or are in need of some extra loving, he will not leave you alone and insist you shake his paw endlessly.


Disco loves wearing pink, even though he often gets mistaken for a girl. He's chill about it, though. The only thing that makes him grumpy is when you pet his bottom when he's napping. No one likes that, so we totally get it.


Disco loves treats, so feel free to bring him some when you come in for your appointment. And please let us know in advance if you prefer he stay home on your scheduled day.

Our Board of Directors


Lydia Dody

Founder & Board Member

Starting a new organization was my creative vision but making it a reality took a village. While fighting an arduous battle with breast cancer in 2001, my experiences and struggles during treatment led me to reach out to many complementary care providers to ease my Chemotherapy side effects and help me endure my treatments physically, psychologically and emotionally. These services improved my recovery and quality of life so much that it moved me to start The Lydia Dody Breast Cancer Foundation non-profit to help other women in treatment. 

My mission was to support and strengthen those affected by breast cancer by providing care, guidance and education. We serve as a partner as they heal in mind, body and spirit.


The need for services continues as statistically 400 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Weld and Larimer Counties each year.  According to Lydia, “We want to provide free post diagnosis services to all women in northern Colorado. We are committed to continuing our important work with the supportive help of our professional providers, generous donors, committed board members, staff and volunteers.”

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Mark Koepsell

Board President

Mark is the owner/operator of Xanadu Med Spa in Fort Collins which he purchased in 2015.  He takes great pride in managing a team that is client focused with phenomenal results.  Prior to that, Mark was the CEO of a non-profit management company with offices in Fort Collins and St. Paul, MN.  He and his staff provided overall leadership, board, financial, marketing, and event management for 18 different national and regional non-profit organizations. Mark began his career in Higher Education.  It was a position at Colorado State University that brought him to Fort Collins from Saint Louis University in Missouri.  Mark received his bachelor's degree at Carroll University in Wisconsin and a master's degree in educational psychology and counseling from Eastern Illinois University.  He is the father to two beautiful college aged daughters. 


Mark says, “I am proud to have this opportunity to serve on the Hope Lives Board of Directors.  I am inspired to do this work on behalf of the important women in my life.  Hope Lives! plays such an important role in our community and I am pleased to be able to play a small part in its success!”

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Melissa Venable

Vice President

Melissa Venable is a Fort Collins nonprofit executive and community leader who currently serves as board vice-president of Hope Lives!


Melissa is also a published author and certified Life Coach. She resides in Fort Collins with her husband and is mother to two young-adult sons. Melissa served as the Executive Director of Hope Lives from 2010-2015 and is still passionate about the vital mission of the organization.


Melissa says, “No one battling cancer should have to face that battle alone. Hope Lives is here to make sure that breast cancer patients in Larimer & Weld counties receive the tangible support and  guidance that they need as they navigate their recovery.”

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Jill Rickards

Board Member

Jill Rickards is deeply rooted in our local Fort Collins community for 40 years and now serves as a board member for Hope Lives!. Jill has continually owned and operated an accounting practice where she has provided accounting, management and tax services to non-profits.


Jill has served on numerous non-profit boards in the community and understands the unique challenges nonprofits face each day.  Hope Lives! truly CARES about the people they serve and provides amazing support for a healing environment. 


Jill says, “It is my pleasure and privilege to be on the board.”

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Gretchen Johnson

Board Member

Gretchen was born and raised in Duluth, MN where she spent most weekends at her cabin in the Northwoods, exploring, canoeing, hiking, roasting s'mores, and showing up for supper when the dinner bell rang. Her childhood home was the "Kool-Aid" house. She and her two kids relocated to Fort Collins about 6 years ago when her daughter chose CSU.  As outdoor enthusiasts, they all love everything Fort Collins and Colorado has to offer and they’re thrilled to call Colorado home!

Her professional career began as an RN in the OR at The Mayo Clinic in the GYN Oncology department. During this time, she was presented with an opportunity to enter the Surgical Device industry for post operative pain management. She grew her career into the Director of Strategic Alliance, creating many educational opportunities for surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses caring for surgical patients. She was fortunate to travel and explore our country during her medical career. That is when she fell in love with the West! You can often find her hiking, camping, skiing, and enjoying a bunch of outdoor activities. Serving her community has always been important to her. She has volunteered at Loveland Habitat for Humanity, Colorado Youth Outdoors and the Susan G Komen Foundation. She’s always looking for opportunities to help out and is looking forward to serving on the board for Hope Lives!


Carol Lacert

Board Member

Carol retired in 2001 from a hospital and clinic.  She was the Director of Resource Management and Patient advocate.   Carol says, "Was a great experience."


After she retired, she became an ambassador of a nonprofit in 2014, Inheritance of Hope.  She did this to send Northern Colorado families to a retreat to help families handle the changes in their lives with one parent that had a terminal illness.  She did this for 7 years and sent 19 families to the retreats.  Every family that went, let her know how great the retreat was. She has since retired from Inheritance of Hope and has now joined Hope Lives!  Her daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 33 years old. In 2006, she helped Hope Lives! with fundraising. 


Carol says, "Hope Lives! helped Marci deal with the challenges and she was happy to have some of the services to help her. Marci was excited to help Lydia raise funds too.  I am excited to be part of the board".

Exciting Changes to the Hope Lives! Board and Staff

Hope Lives! The Lydia Dody Breast Cancer Support Center is excited to announce recent changes to the organization that will position Hope Lives! for growth and success in 2023. If you are interested in joining our Board of Directors, please reach out to us today!

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