Working to help volunteer-driven organizations achieve their goals for over 30 years, Chris is a mission-guided leader and partner with a strong drive for results. Chris comes to FIRST from Project Lyme where he led planning and development efforts to further grow the organization’s impact on the quality of life for those living with Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses.
He began his voluntary health organization work with the American Cancer Society in Fairfield County, Connecticut. He later became Vice President of Development in Massachusetts. He then joined the American Diabetes Association as Executive Director where he was responsible for field development and program activities in New England. In his last role at ADA, Chris served as Territory Vice President and led all field operations for 18 states on the east coast.
Growing existing sources of revenue and innovating into areas of emerging potential, Chris and his staff and volunteer partners have raised over $200 million through major gifts, corporate sponsorship, foundations, planned giving, special events and peer-to-peer fundraising.
Chris graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BS in Finance.
Denise Gass, Advancement Director
Denise joined FIRST at birth: she is the second in a family of four children affected with ARCI-CIE ichthyosis. As interim Director, Denise worked with the staff to execute on the organization's near-term goals and deliverables, while helping the FIRST Board make an updated assessment of resource needs. Previous to joining the staff, Denise served for 4 years on the Board of Directors in a volunteer capacity. Her professional background includes advertising, marketing, and communications roles, including founding a social media marketing agency. She brings a passion for pushing research, connecting with families, and ichthyosis advocacy.
Lisa Breuning, Director of Operations
Lisa joined the FIRST team in September 2007, after nearly ten years of raising her two children. Prior to having children, Lisa also worked as Office Manager and Women’s Division Coordinator at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia Bux-Mont Regional Office. She joined FIRST as an Administrative Assistant and is currently Director of Operations. Her duties include managing and maintaining FIRST’s database of members and associates, overseeing all of FIRST's financial aid programs, as well as maintaining all website content.
Christine Wassel, Community Engagement Director
Chris joined the FIRST staff in 2010. Prior to FIRST, Chris worked in the Pharmaceutical, Insurance and Non-Profit sectors, in the areas of Database Management, Marketing, Communications and Social Media. After having 5 daughters of her own, Chris felt drawn to the non-profit world and luckily found FIRST. Many members have worked one-on-one with Chris as she initially launched FIRST’s grassroots fundraising arm and managed its growth and sustainability. Chris is now excited to move into her new role as Community Engagement Director where she will be working with all of our members, sponsors and Pharma companies while coordinating FIRST’s social media outlets and communications.