MEET OUR DEDICATED TEAM
BRETT D'ALESSANDRO - Founder & President
After serving 6-years with the United States Marine Corps., Brett has found himself giving back to his brothers and sisters by serving the homeless and at risk veteran community. Brett deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and returned to realize a large gap in the care that was provided to veterans coming home from war. From this, Backpacks For Life was born.
Holly Stoll is an 8-year Navy veteran and mother of two. After finding out her own father, a Vietnam veteran, was hiding from her that he was homeless, Holly realized veterans like him needed our help. Holly works as an advocate for all veterans, with a primary focus on females. In 2013, Holly was one of 6 female veterans who helped to have two bills passed in New Jersey that support the way that veterans receive care.
ALEXA MODERO- Founder & Vice President
Upon Brett’s return home from Afghanistan, Alexa saw first hand just how challenging it was for Brett to reintegrate back into civilian life. Alexa works closely alongside Brett to ensure our veterans and their spouses are taken care of. Alexa oversees the general operations & communications of Backpacks For Life.
As our Design and Systems Engineer, Tim Johnson is responsible for developing the various features and accessories that make up the BFL backpack. Tim graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He moved on to work for Machine Design and Maintenance, specializing in automation and robotic systems. On the side, Tim helps people with prototyping ideas for inventions.
JAMES DIPIAZZA - Treasurer
James M. Di Piazza is CEO/Founder of Bond Street Mortgage LLC. He has been in the financial services industry for over 20 years and founded Bond Street Mortgage LLC in 2009. James has a passion for helping people realize the American Dream of homeownership. He assists Backpacks For Life with veteran housing initiatives.
As an attorney turned businessman, Greg has advised Backpacks For Life in all legal and financial matters from its inception. Greg is the brother of our founder, Brett and has been a true supporter of Brett’s mission to serve our country and now our veterans. When Greg isn’t supporting Backpacks For Life at events or in weekly meetings, he is either snowboarding or golfing.
KARA DESMET- chief project officer
Kara is dedicated to ensuring our initiatives are comprehensively researched, implemented, and progressing accordingly. Kara graduated from Vermont Law School with a Juris Doctor and a Master's Degree in 2017. When Kara is not supporting Backpacks For Life, she is spending time outdoors, doing yoga & rock climbing.
Mike is a US Navy Veteran who served in the Gulf War during Operation Enduring Freedom. Mike specializes in the VA Home Loan arena after spending time in a different area of the mortgage world and realizing he could better help people and most importantly, veterans looking to use their benefits to purchase a home. Mike’s mission is to educate veterans through the process of obtaining a VA Home Loan.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Don is a Retired U.S. Army Veteran of 3 tours. Having been homeless by the age of 15, Don overcame the odds to become an accomplished and results-driven serial entrepreneur, executive leader, real estate strategist, and public speaker. He has over 20 years of experience leading teams to their full potential and proven success in business intelligence, startups, real estate, business development, non-profits, public relations, media, publishing, and franchises.
Susan Brown joined the Backpacks For Life team in January 2018. She brings veteran advocacy, community outreach and writing skills. She currently works for Shore Heart Group in the billing department writing appeals, and acts as the insurance liaison. Her personal experiences with PTSD in the military family is an added bonus as she can relate to our veterans’ situations. She recently moved to Maryland where she is a Backpacks For Life ambassador at local events.
Michael is a retired Sergeant of the United States Marine Corps and Policeman of Union, NJ. During his time at the Union Police Department, Michael has organized numerous fundraisers to raise money and awareness for Autism, Disabled Veterans, Special Olympics and other various causes. Michael is also the Founder & President of New Jersey Veterans Network, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans and their families live a better life.
Steve Baureis, Founder & CEO of Hotseat Warmers, graduated from Moravian College in 2000. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice, and has spent his career in the private sector in Sales & Business Management. Hotseat Warmers has been a proud supporter of Backpacks For Life, providing seat warmers for each backpack we distribute to our veterans. Steve and his wife are the proud parents of a daughter & son, and currently reside in Essex County, NJ.
Darren is the Founder & President of The DSM Group, a marketing, public relations & advertising firm based in New Jersey. He is a longtime supporter of Backpacks For Life, helping us to launch our Annual Golf Outing which is our largest and most successful fundraiser. He has been an integral part of the success of Backpacks For Life. Darren is a huge soccer fan and enjoys attending games at Red Bull Arena with his 3 kids.
Steve is a Certified Public Manager, who is currently the Director of Administration and Economic Development. He has served as a volunteer firefighter on the Verona Fire Department for 10 years, serving as a Lieutenant and most recently as Captain. Steve also chairs Sustainable Verona, a committee which strives to promote sustainability and environmentally friendly initiatives throughout Verona and beyond. He is a lifelong resident of Verona, NJ where he currently resides with his wife Ashley and daughter Addison.