MEET OUR DEDICATED TEAM
Brett is the founder and President of Backpacks For Life. After serving a 6-year term 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. When Brett isn’t speaking at events, working with veterans around the clock or hosting fundraisers, he is working as a Checker in the International Longshoreman Association.
James M. Di Piazza is CEO/Founder of Bond Street Mortgage LLC. James lives in Nutley, NJ with his wife, Costanza, and two children, Sebastian and Daniela. 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 and has made it his goal to help all those that are willing to work at achieving this dream. He has made it a goal to assist Backpacks For Life in helping veterans obtain housing.
Holly Stoll is an 8-year Navy veteran and mother of two. When she is not serving with Backpacks For Life, Holly is a warehouse manager for NAPA Auto Parts. 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 within Backpacks For Life. In 2013, Holly was one of six female veterans who helped to have two bills passed in New Jersey that support the way that veterans receive care and their access to resources.
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.
Alexa is the co-founder and Vice President of Backpacks For Life. She is also Brett’s girlfriend. 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 all communications, events and operations for Backpacks For Life. Alexa recently took on a full time role with the organization and works everyday to continue serving our veterans in new and improved ways!
Mike is a US Navy Veteran who served in the Gulf War during Operation Enduring Freedom. Mike is employed at Bond Street Mortgage and has been in the industry for 14 years. He 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.
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. While Tim is a civilian, he feels passionately for our veterans, as his grandfather was a Veteran of 3 wars.
As part of our Program Development and Advancement Team, 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. She is currently a Law Clerk in the Superior Court of New Jersey. When Kara is not supporting Backpacks For Life, she is either doing yoga, rock climbing, or making tapestries for her Etsy Shop.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
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 towards Autism, Disable Veterans, Special Olympics ,Multiple Sclerosis 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
Don is a Retired U.S. Army Veteran. He is currently the Chief Development Officer of PadScouts, a digital real estate brokerage firm & Executive Director of Bunker Labs, New York City, a nonprofit that empowers military veterans as entrepreneurs and leaders. Don has experience as a Veteran Entrepreneur, having owned a Subway Franchise for several years.
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 veteran's situations. She recently moved to Maryland where she is bridging NJ, the two states and any states surrounding the areas so that we can reach as many veterans as possible. In Susan’s spare time she enjoys sharing her gardening skills with the locals, sight-seeing and time spent with loved ones.
Steve Baureis, Founder & CEO of Hotseat Warmers, graduated from Moravian College in 2000. There, he played Center for the Moravian Greyhounds Football Team. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice, and has spent his career in the private sector in Sales & Business Management. Born in Walnut Creek, CA. Steve was raised in New Jersey. 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 to 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 has been employed at the Township of Verona for over a decade and 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. His mission in life is to connect the right people together to form positive and beneficial partnerships which can elevate the community at large, which is why is his excited to be a part of the Backpacks For Life team and mission. He is a lifelong resident of Verona, NJ where he currently resides with his wife Ashley and daughter Addison. In his spare time he enjoys a variety of outdoor activities and spending time with family.