Photo by Ray Ambler

Holly Teixeira


Holly has over 20 years experience as a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA). She specialized in cosmetic dentistry and enjoyed putting dental systems in place. Most importantly she loved the interaction with the patients. Holly has been a CPR and First Aid instructor for community rescuer through EMS Safety Services for over 18 years. She managed a restaurant dealing with every aspect of management from recruiting, training and supervising to customer services. She is a community activist and volunteers on various boards.

Holly is an active member of Equippers Church in Arroyo Grande, CA. She loves the Lord, being a mom, and a wife to her husband of 23 years. They live on a working cattle ranch in Pismo Beach, California and consider it a little slice of heaven. Her newest and most precious passion is making ‘17 Strong’ as successful as Ryan would have made it, because as her son, Ryan, would jokingly say, “I’m kind of a big deal!”

Steve Teixeira


Steven Teixeira is Holly’s husband and the proud father of Ryan and Aaron. Steve would do anything for his family and he considers maintaining Ryan’s legacy an honor! A fifth generation native of the Central Coast of California, Steve brings to the board a wide variety of experience from working in the medical profession, farming, purchasing, sales and service, the hospitality industry and much more. He has also been involved with numerous nonprofit boards and is an active member of his church and community.

Daniell Miller


As part of a generations long local family, Daniell Gularte Miller was born and raised in the Arroyo Grande area.  Currently a dental office manager, she has been in the dental field for over twenty years.  Daniell is a committee member for the Arroyo Grande Hospital and has served on several non-profit fundraising committees, as well as being involved in 4-H and Portuguese celebrations.  She and her husband, John, have two daughters and are grandparents of two grandsons.  A cancer survivor herself, Daniell and Ryan had a special bond and her heart is to keep Ryan’s legacy alive.

Jennifer Hawley

Board Member

Jennifer Hawley is a lifelong Californian, graduating from Arroyo Grande High School and planting roots here on the Central Coast. Jennifer is a devoted wife to her husband of twenty-five years (Russ) and together they have two children, Taryan and Aaryn. She is most excited about being grandma to the newest member of the Hawley family, grandson Aadyn. Jennifer’s years of managerial experience in the retail and hospitality industry are an asset to our board. When not busy working or being grandma to Aadyn, she can be found volunteering for numerous non-profit organizations on the Central Coast. Being very service oriented, both Jen and Russ enjoy giving back to their community and to those in need. They have been Teixeira family friends for too long to remember and are eager for the opportunity to help carry Ryan’s message of hope for years to come.

John Sparrow

Board Member

John has served as youth & young adults pastor and now lead pastor of Equippers Church Central Coast. He is back in school pursuing a bachelors in Christian Leadership & Management through Regent University online. John has been married to his wife Lenae for nearly four years and they share a love for people, church, travel, and most of all, Disneyland. To John there is nothing that satisfies more than seeing other people flourish which is why he is excited to be a part of 17 Strong.

Marlene Schaefer

Board Member

Marlene has lived on the Central Coast since 1971. She currently lives in Arroyo Grande with her husband, John, and her youngest daughter Carissa. Her oldest daughter, Jalyn, is currently attending Cal Poly State University. Marlene also attended Cal Poly, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She worked for Hughes Aircraft Company and Raytheon while attending college. She currently works part-time at Gold Coast Packing as a packaging specialist.

She’s been actively involved in the community as a volunteer, member, or sponsor of the following: Arroyo Grande High School Athletic Booster, Arroyo Grande High School Athletic Auction Committee, New Life Community Church, and more. She is humbled and honored to be part of 17 Strong and look forward to contributing to the legacy that Ryan envisioned.

Randy McGehee

Board Member

Randy McGehee comes to us with a long list of qualifications.  As the owner/founder/CEO of Everflight (an airplane brokerage firm) he is not just an airline pilot, he flies for the UN World Food Program and is an instructor for the Department of Homeland Security.  His entrepreneurial expertise makes him a perfect board member for our organization, looking to make it’s presence known as a provider of hope in a hurting world.  Randy likes running, weight lifting, golf and has even started horseback riding lessons.  Randy and his wife Audra are parents to three beautiful daughters, they reside in Santa Maria, California.

Chris Centeno

Board Member

Chris Centeno works for David Crye General Engineering, in Morro Bay. He and his wife of sixteen years have three children, Mackenzie, Asher and Clayton. Chris is involved with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Committee and is an ElCamino 4-H project leader. His priorities are much like Ryan’s were…God, family and hunting and he says this about being on the 17 Strong board: “To be on the board of 17 Strong has been nothing short of amazing, I feel that by having the opportunity to serve on this board it is an opportunity to serve to such a bigger cause and purpose and that’s to do anything and everything possible to help grow our organization so that we can help others fulfill their dreams and desires that have been affected by life threating diseases.”

Melissa Ward

Board Member

Melissa Ward comes to us from Santa Maria. She has been married to Justin for twenty years and they have three boys, Jake, Charlie and Sam. Charlie is the one who coined our name. Immediately after Ryan was diagnosed, he had ‘17 Strong’ embroidered on his baseball cap in support of Ryan, and the catchy title stuck! Melissa has been director at St Patricks Mercy Preschool in Arroyo Grande from it’s opening in 2008, and has worked for St. Pat’s for 18 years. Melissa shared this with us, “I love to watch my boys play their various sports, gardening and cooking. I am also passionate about giving back, volunteering/serving . When I was baptized at the age of 12 years old, one of the elders in my church wrote Phil 4:13 in my bible. Since then I have lived my life with this bible verse as my foundation: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” Phil. 4:13
Ryan was an amazing role model to my boys. I am honored to serve on the 17 Strong board and be a part of Ryan’s vision to provide Victory trips to young adults who have endured a life threatening illness.”

Tracey Vardas

Board Member

Tracey has lived on the Central Coast since 2002. She currently lives in Pismo Beach with her husband, Kris, their daughter Alyssa and their son Andrew. Tracey attended UC Davis, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Toxicology. She has worked in the field of emergency management since 1994 beginning her career with the California State Office of Emergency Services and continuing currently with Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

Tracey is actively involved in multiple charitable organizations providing goods, services and support to some of the county’s most vulnerable populations, including the homeless, at risk youth and both mentally and physically disabled youth.  Tracey watched Ryan and his brother Aaron grow into amazing young men and is beyond grateful to be able to be a part of the wonderful foundation that Ryan envisioned. 

Nicole Pitman

Marketing & Graphic Design

Nicole Pitman graduated from Cal Poly with a major in Graphic Communication with a minor in Integrated Marketing Communications.  She works at the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo as the Graphic Designer and Marketing Assistant.  A lifelong resident of Arroyo Grande, Nicole attended Arroyo Grande High School where she met Ryan. They dated for four years, planning on spending their lives together.  She loved the passion Ryan had for helping others and is eager and excited to continue the legacy of her best friend and forever love.

(805) 595-1412
P.O. Box 1712, Pismo Beach, CA 93448

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