Sarah Man (Executive Director)
Executive Director Sarah Man was born and raised in Chicago, lived in New York for 20 years and moved to Honolulu in 2009. She is a graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana and holds a Masters of Science in Early Adolescent Education from Bank Street College in New York. After moving to Hawaii she worked at University of Hawaii Center for Disability Studies. Soon after she became State Director of Best Buddies which promotes friendship and inclusion in schools. Sarah helped grow Best Buddies to 25 chapters statewide. Best Buddies impacts nearly 10,000 locals with and without disabilities through friendship and leadership opportunities. Sarah is married and has three kids. Her daughter has autism and she is passionate about helping improve the quality of her life and others living with autism.
Dennis C. Maher (President)
President Dennis C. Maher was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He arrived in Hawaii 25 years ago and made the Islands his home. He is currently the Secretary of the Board at Trump International Hotel™ Waikiki Beach Walk® and is also an active member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Trump Waikiki. He serves as Vice President and Treasurer for the Hawaii Hotel Visitor Industry Security Association and President of the Board of the Engineers Advisory Council for the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. He coaches athletes with intellectual disabilities in soccer, basketball and softball. He is married and the father of five.
Sarah Beppu (Vice President)
Vice President Sarah Beppu, was born and raised in Hawaii. She is a graduate from Kamehameha Schools and received her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, CA. After 17 years of clinical nursing experience, she is currently a Clinical Systems Trainer at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. She is the mother of 3. Sarah volunteers her time with Surfers Healing, Susan G. Komen Hawaii, as well as advocates for bullying prevention through a program she created called Embrace Uniqueness. She also authors a blog called “My Life in a Snow Globe” to help others going through the grieving process after losing a spouse.
Jessica Militich (Director)
Jessica Militich is originally from the Pacific Northwest and migrated to the Aloha State pursuing a degree in psychology. She is currently a junior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and is interested in neurology and neuroscience. As a person with autism, she understands the challenges people with autism face first hand. Past employment as a lifeguard and swim instructor gave her the experience of working with children impacted by autism. From that experience, she gained a passion for helping those who like her, have autism. She has made it her life’s goal to heal challenges people, particularly children with autism face first hand, through integration and acceptance. She is honored to be a board member for the Autism Society of Hawaii and excited to work with families of Hawaii impacted by autism.
Ember Freitas (Director)
Ember Freitas is originally from Texas and moved to Hawai’i in 2010. Ember is a 2016 Graduate of St. Joseph’s University with a BS in Professional and Liberal Studies: Autism Concentration with a Minor in Psychology. She received her Master of Education in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from Grand Canyon University in April 2019. Ember is also a Board Certified Cognitive Specialist and Advanced Certified Autism Specialist. Ember will be attending Arizona State University Online to pursue a Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis.
Ember is a mother of four, both of her sons being on the Autism Spectrum. She is excited to be on the board for the Autism Society of Hawaii and is passionate about advocating for children on the spectrum and supporting their families!
Robert (Rob) Paulele (Director)
Ivalee Sinclair (Honorary Board Member)
Honorary board member Ivalee Sinclair has over 40 years’ experience helping students with disabilities. She received the lifetime achievement award from the Mental Health America of Hawaii and served as chairwoman for the Special Education Advisory Council. She was nominated for the Jefferson Award in 2008 and served on the Coalition for Children with Special Needs. She has fought for services for her own children when they were in school.
HAWAII ISLAND (BIG ISLAND)
Naomi Ka`ae Tachera (Secretary)
Secretary Naomi Ka`ae Tachera was born and raised on Hawai`i Island, and has two children with autism. She is also a parent representative for Hawai’i Association for Behavioral Analysis. Naomi is from the first graduating class of Kanu o ka `Aina a Hawaiian-focused, bi-lingual Public Charter School. Naomi has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, and is currently attending graduate school at the University of West Florida in Exceptional Student Education specializing in Applied Behavioral Analysis. Her goal to become a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) are to deliver behavioral analytic services on Hawai’i Island to the under served and rural communities.
Charlissia (Charli) Abihai (Director)
Charli Abihai is a Hawai’i local girl, born and raised in Honolulu. A graduate of The Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Campus, she pursued her college education at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Howard University in Washington D.C. and Hawaii Pacific University with a major in Marketing and Corporate Communications.
For the past 16 years, Charli and her family have made Maui their home. She is a wife and mother of 3. Her journey with her eldest daughter, diagnosed on the Autism spectrum at age 5 and is now a young adult, has served as her motivation over the years for pursuing opportunities to help support and encourage other families on their Autism journey as well.
Charli and her husband serve as the Campus Leads for Word of Life Hawaii – Kahului campus and soon coming Word of Life Hawaii – Lahaina campus. Their family is actively engaged serving the Valley Isle in ministry through weekly church services, leadership development classes and community outreach.