Melinda Lauffenburger

Founder and Executive Director, Autism Oklahoma

Melinda embarked on this transformative journey in 2002 within the walls of the Edmond Public Library. Throughout her dynamic career, she has engaged in a multitude of fulfilling and adventurous endeavors, and has greatly enjoyed the season of giving back to this cherished charity. She is most proud of the heart behind AutismOklahoma and the collective efforts of the dedicated team and esteemed partners who, together, have played an instrumental role in positively impacting lives and enhancing overall quality of life.  

Melinda reflects, “It has been truly amazing to have a front-row seat in seeing the difference that connecting can have on the quality of life for everyone!”

Beyond her professional pursuits, Melinda shares a fulfilling family life with her husband Dean and their two remarkable daughters, Joy and Sarah. Joy serves as the inspiration behind the inception of the organization while Sarah has seamlessly transitioned into the role of Multimedia and Communication Specialist.

Michael Panas

Chairman of the Board, AutismOklahoma

CIO, Feed the Children

Michael Panas is the Chief Information Officer of Feed The Children

Mike is a business, healthcare, non-profit and information technology executive and strategist with over thirty-five years of successful leadership in technology management, strategic system planning & implementation, project management, product development, operations and establishing & developing new businesses. 

Joining Feed the Children’s executive team in June 2016, he continues to serve as Chief Information Officer for the non-profit. He leads a dedicated staff of IT professional supporting over 500 employees located in five US offices and 10 International countries. 

John Davis

Board Vice President, Autism Oklahoma

John Davis serves as the Central Group Leader and Pastor of Logistics at Life Covenant Church, also known as Life.Church, located in Edmond, Oklahoma. John has worked at Life.Church since 2004 and currently oversees various vital functions within the church, including Technology Solutions, Security and Campus Safety, Purchasing, Logistics Support, Broadcast Support, and the Experience teams.

 John holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he earned a Juris Doctorate.

 John is happily married to his wife, Deborah Davis, and together, they are blessed with a son named John. The Davis family calls Edmond, Oklahoma, their home.

Dusty Burchfield

Board  Treasurer, Autism Oklahoma

Dusty Burchfield is the Founder and Managing Broker of Burchfield Commercial Real Estate. He received his Bachelor’s of Science in Agribusiness from Oklahoma State University all the while operating Burchfield Productions that he founded in 2000 while still in high school at Fairview High School. In 2008 Dusty founded Burchfield Commercial Real Estate and became Managing Broker and has been ever since.

Burchfield Commercial Realty specializes in representing tenants and buyers of commercial real estate. The company prides itself on representing the business owner that needs 1,000 – 100,00 SF of office space as well as the organizations that require 5,000 to 500,000 SF of industrial real estate.

Additionally, Dusty is a founding partner of RACK59 Data Center ( which specializes in providing organizations with a first-class environment to house their IT infrastructure.

Dusty is a graduate of Leaderships Oklahoma City’s LOYAL Class VII. His interests include triathlons, cycling and golf and continues to participate in them whenever possible. He currently resides in Edmond with his wife Ande and daughters Dagny and Jane.

Dr. Beth DeGrace

Board Secretary, Autism Oklahoma

Beth DeGrace is an occupational therapist of over 30 years; 20 years of which she worked in Higher Education.  She has extensive scholarship in the area of autism and family life.  Beth currently works as a Kids Pastor for Crossings Community Church, partnering with families to support the faith development of their children.  Beth provides leadership for AutismOklahoma as a program developer for autistic teens and adults.  These programs focus on creating a space where individuals with autism feel comfortable, seen and valued for who they are in order to promote connections and friendships.  Beth is married to Derek DeGrace and together they have three young adult children.  Beth enjoys running and gardening in her free time.

Karen Wicker

Board Member, Autism Oklahoma

Karen Wicker is the Founder & CEO of Candor, a fully integrated marketing and communications agency located in Oklahoma City. She is a native Oklahoman and graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a Master’s degree in Human Relations. As a former television reporter, Karen loves the art of video storytelling and is a certified crisis communication coach. She also sits on the board of Salient Global. 

Currently, Karen and her husband Jim split their time between OKC and their mountain home in Larkspur, CO. Together they have three adult children, the youngest with high-functioning ASD. Karen was also raised by a parent on the spectrum and has great appreciation for the family dynamics resulting from autism.

Sarah Teague

Board Member, Autism Oklahoma 

Sarah is the Tulsa manager at the Riata Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at OSU located at 36 Degrees North. Her efforts are spent working with community partners and funders to create impactful projects that lead to economic development for the Tulsa community as well as the state. She is also the co-director of LeadHERship Spears, the first-ever women’s leadership program for the Spears School of Business.

In her spare time, she serves on the board for 36 Degrees North and Stephenson Cancer Center Board of Advocates. Sarah and her husband have been involved with AutismOklahoma’s Drive Fore Autism event since 2022.

Sarah holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Oklahoma. She lives in Broken Arrow with her husband Bryan, and they have one son who was diagnosed with autism in 2020.

Dale Spoonemore

Creator, From Seed to Spoon (

Dale Spoonemore is an esteemed advocate for sustainable living and creator of Seed to Spoon, a popular gardening app

Dale and his wife, Carrie, started Seed to Spoon to help people grow food.  As an individual on the autism spectrum, he ensures that his work permeates deeply into the community, marrying his personal journey with his mission to make food growing simple for all. His thoughtful approach to mental wellness and sustainable practices emanates from his own experiences and insights, enabling him to guide and inspire others genuinely. Dale plays a crucial role in aiding Autism Oklahoma by providing an invaluable viewpoint—ensuring that initiatives and support are crafted with a keen understanding and embrace of the spectrum’s diverse experiences. His commitment spans from the digital world to tangible outreach, fostering an inclusive community where gardening and sustainability are within everyone’s reach.

Max Harned

Max Harned

Board Member, Autism Oklahoma

After retiring from a successful career in sales and marketing as a Corporate Executive, Max devotes time to being with his wife and family and serving the community on many non-profit boards. Their philanthropy has benefited many organizations, and the Harned Family name graces prominent education buildings, programs and scholarships that benefit student education in the State of Washington. Max was also involved in the opening of a food pantry at a college where he was on the Board of Directors and the opening of a non-profit Kidney dialysis center. Max and his wife Margi, a former educator, jointly support the needs of their community through service, giving back and philanthropy. Max is currently on the Board of Directors of Ronald McDonald House OKC and is a Trustee for the Oklahoma City Community College.

” We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Michelle Cross, Program Advisor