Who We Are

Roots Colorado, Inc. was established in 2008 by a small group of dedicated parents whose sons and daughters with developmental disabilities faced uncertain futures. They became a 501(c)3 charitable organization in 2009. Their mission to build sustainable futures for persons with developmental disabilities, like autism, includes strong relationships with clients, their families and their communities. Through Roots and our community partnerships with like minded organizations, we're able to cultivate stronger foundations and brighter futures for individuals with developmental disabilities across Colorado.


What We Do

Roots offers a variety of programming and opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. We strive to cultivate personal growth with a focus on developing meaningful relationships while providing a fun and safe environment. Whether it's a cooking class, monthly social group or an overnight camp, our participants learn what it means to be valued and supported. Come grow with us! 


Our Board of Directors


Lauren Burgess, M.Ed., Chairman of the Board and Executive Director

Lauren comes to the field with over eight years of experience and an undeniable passion to enrich the lives of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She brings with her knowledge and experience in the field as Founder of a local organization, Garden, Inc., and Co-Founder of Dirt Coffee Bar. Both organizations have been recognized in the community as trailblazers providing quality care to those in need. We're excited for the passion and vision Lauren brings to Roots.

Jennifer Harris, Vice Chairman of the Board

Jennifer is a leader of Special Education in Denver and continues to push the envelope encouraging local schools to provide more inclusive and quality driven programming for students with autism and related disabilities. Specialized in program development, Jennifer is excited to be involved with an organization that is focused on creating new and enriching opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities in Colorado.

Sharon Klebba, Secretary

Sharon is a Special Education teacher in Denver and an enthusiastic advocate for people with disabilities.  Sharon comes from a family of teachers and has found her passion working with students with Autism.  Sharon has previous experience managing restaurants and coffee houses, and is excited to connect these two life experiences working with an organization that empowers young people with Autism with employment and community involvement.

Bennett Parnes, M.D., Co-Founder and Board Member

Bennett is a founding member of Roots Colorado, Inc. (previously known as Pinyon Ranch) and parent to a fun-loving teenager with autism. Bennett is a physician and faculty member at the University of Colorado in Geriatrics. He provides guidance and oversight for grant submissions, programming and fundraising. With Bennett's education, experience and personal connection to the organization, he continues to be a great asset to the board. 

Check out Bennett's Latest Research on Traveling with a Teen with Autism

Ashley Mellichampe, Board Member

Ashley has been connected to the developmental and intellectual disabilities community since her first position out of college in 2005. She has worked closely with individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities in a variety of roles; including direct residential and community based care, case management, and as an administrator of in-home and community based services. Her passion for helping others have always kept her close to this community and she is looking forward to working with Roots Colorado, Inc. to find new and exciting ways to enrich the lives of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. 

Alaina Schupbach, Board Member

Alaina is a parent to a sweet boy with autism and also a fun-loving little girl, and is involved in the community with a passion to encourage and support families touched by autism. She is a member of The Living Spectrum, an organization for parents of individuals living with autism. She also attends Jefferson County School Board meetings with a group of parents that have children with autism in Jefferson County Public Schools. The group presents facts and personal stories and makes recommendations for improvement. Alaina is also a Resource Mom in her MOPS group to provide guidance for other moms that have children with special needs or behavioral challenges. Alaina has 5 years experience working as a contract administrator, and has experience working as a grant writer for a non-profit. She is looking forward to working with Roots to provide opportunities for individuals with autism to grow, learn, thrive, and live to reach their full potential. 

Emily Wallace, M.A., Board Member

Emily began working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders in high school, which led her to pursue a degree in Special Education. Her passion for improving the community for the sake of this population increased as she worked as a therapist and job coach. After understanding the needs of those living with autism, she co-founded Dirt Coffee Bar in 2013. She has since completed a Master's degree in Educational Technology, with the goal of continuing work with at-risk populations through assistive technology. 

Ryan Dore, Board Member

Ryan has a background in finance and has supported the community through volunteer work with early childhood education. He grew up in Highlands Ranch and currently works for Great West Financial in the Denver Tech Center. Ryan attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, graduating with a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance. He is a CFA charterholder and is excited to bring his background and experience to make a difference in the lives of individuals with Autism and their families. 

Robby Chaney, Board Member

An individual with high functioning autism who started working with Dirt as an intern, Robby is also a part time videographer who has produced videos for Dirt and its partnering organization, Garden. He recently produced a video for a non-profit group called BlueStar Recyclers while working full time at Goodwill Industries. Robby is currently living with his parents and is in the process of getting ready to live independently. We're excited to have him serve on the board as a self advocate.