Board of directors

Jorge Pongo, Board Chair
Jorge is a sales leader currently heading up sales for an International Education software company. Previously, he spent 14 years leading and developing teams in the Marine Corps. Jorge received his MBA in Entrepreneurship and Strategy from IE Business School in Madrid and his Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Arizona, in Tucson, AZ. Jorge and his wife live in Denver, Colorado, where they love camping, hiking, and doing other fun mountain things year-round.

Aaron Leal
Aaron Leal works for a major lending company in Tucson, AZ. He lives in Tucson with his wife and three children.

Jean Gribbon
Jean is a former pediatric oncology nurse and has served the mission of Beads of Courage, Inc. since she founded the non-profit corporation in March of 2005. Jean developed the Beads of Courage Program while working on her dissertation at the University of Arizona College of Nursing. The first Beads of Courage Program was piloted at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in February of 2003. She holds two degrees from the University of Arizona College of Nursing including a Bachelors in the Science of Nursing and a PhD in Nursing. She is passionate about advancing the science of caring for children coping with serious illness through evidence-based interventions. In her spare time, Jean is learning to play the banjo, and enjoys the occasional long bike ride. She lives in Tucson with her three children Luke, Aiden and Brooke Ellen.

Jessica Boettner is the Human Resources Business Partner for the Vascular Business at W.L. Gore & Associates based in Phoenix, Arizona since June 2019. W.L. Gore & Associates was founded more than 60 years ago, has $4 billion in annual revenues and over 16,000 employees worldwide. The company is most widely known for its innovation in fabrics and medical implants. Boettner has over 15 years of experience in Human Resources in varying industries to include automotive, financial and defense industries. She has been actively supporting Beads of Courage, raising money, making polymer clay beads and current member of the Board of Directors.

Photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

Deb Gaustad
Deb has recently retired from over 30 years in the mortgage industry. Prior services for non-profits include: Rotary Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Women’s Council of Realtors. Deb lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband.

Kaitlin Elledge
Kaitlin received an MBA from the University of Texas and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration and Spanish from Austin College in Sherman, Texas. She currently resides in Dallas and works for a leading insurance company, where she consults employer groups around employee attraction and retention through wellness and benefits packages. Kaitlin is an avid triathlete, soccer player, world traveler and Carry-a-Bead supporter.

Shelby Gaither
Shelby is a Director at Tomlinson Financial Group, a Tucson-based CPA firm specializing in outsourced CFO work. Shelby is a licensed CPA in the state of Arizona with 14 years of experience. She is actively involved in masonic fraternities, holding multiple leadership positions in The Order of the Eastern Star. She has previously served 5 years on the board of The Junior League of Tucson including as President and as Treasurer. She also spent 5 years on the board of The Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, including as Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. She was a 2014 recipient of the Tucson 40 under 40 Award. In her spare time, she enjoys camping, running and spending time with her husband, Logan and their dog, Denney.


Leah Boyle
Leah is a pharmaceutical sales representative in Colorado and has been part of the pharmaceutical industry for the past nine years. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2003 and MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2006. She is a Bead Mom (parent of a child who received beads while undergoing treatment) and has been familiar with Beads of Courage for many years. Her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at 11 days old where she immediately started treatment and began earning her Beads of Courage over the course of the next two and a half years. This created a personal connection with Beads of Courage, and she is honored to serve on the Board of Directors. She lives in Castle Rock with her husband and two sons, where they enjoy all the outdoor activities Colorado offers.