Kaaren’s advocacy for children with special needs began in her days as an early child educator, when she became increasingly aware of both the challenges children with special needs and their families face and of the strength and resourcefulness of these same children and families. Kaaren has been with the Family Support Network- High Country program since its inception in 1988, and she became the program director in 1998. Working with many others through the years who also believe passionately in support for families of children with special needs, Kaaren has seen the Family Support Network-High County program grow from its beginning stages of serving one county to its present capacity of serving seven counties across the High Country. Likewise, she has witnessed the program’s increased support and recognition throughout the communities which it serves and from within its own Appalachian State University community.
One of the most rewarding aspects of her directorship has been the increased and dedicated involvement of Appalachian students in the program as interns and as volunteers. Kaaren lives in Valle Crucis with her husband of more than 50 years, and she is the proud grandmother of five granddaughters. When she is not working, Kaaren enjoys spending time with her family, baking bread, and walking the family dog.