This is no different for the year-old Santa Barbara nonprofit, the International Chiari Association (ICA). One thing which sets the ICA apart from other nonprofits however, is the rare, common bond their board shares. Why such great chemistry? Each of the nine members of the ICA’s Board of Directors graduated from Santa Barbara High School.
ICA Founder/President Pete Dal Bello, who has the serious neurological disorder known as Chiari malformation, has been friends with each of them for more than two decades. Six of the nine board members including Dal Bello, graduated from the Class of 1990, this includes ICA Secretary Jason Floyd, and Board Members Krista C. Gulbransen, Katherine (O’Connor) Morgan, Jennifer (Entzminger)Sanchez, and Norma L. Uriarte. In addition, Vice President/Treasurer Robert Mislang and Board Member Marco Farrell graduated in 1991. Finally, Board Member Ruben Mislang graduated in 1992. Each of the nine board members bring with them a field of experience and expertise which will benefit the ICA and help to bring the organization to the next level, establishing them long into the future.
“I am grateful to have so many long-time friends helping me,” Dal Bello said. “Not only are we all graduates of the same high school, but we were all there at the same time. I’ve known all of them for more than 20 years –and I’ve known the Mislang brothers since we went to grade school at Cleveland Elementary.”
Dal Bello was born with Chiari, but it took 36 years before he was finally diagnosed. In 2000, his health forced him to resign from his job as a magazine editor. Over the next eight years, he went from doctor to doctor before an MRI revealed the malformation. Dal Bello underwent major surgery on May 11, 2009. While living with Chiari remains a daily struggle, the operation saved Dal Bello from needing a wheelchair.
“I think that the persistence in adversity and dedication to help others that has been shown by Mr. Dal Bello, and his supportive SBHS alumnae friends, in his effort to raise awareness about Chiari is an excellent example of what is best in the Santa Barbara High Don’s spirit,” said David Hodges, Assistant Principal of Santa Barbara High School. “Thank you for allowing our school to be a part of your effort to raise international awareness about the presence and treatment of Chiari in children and others.”
The origin for the ICA’s history goes back to the Class of 1990’s twenty-year high school reunion (organized by future ICA board member, Jennifer Sanchez) whichwould ultimately bring the board together. At first Dal Bello did not plan to attend, but Sanchez convinced him otherwise. Little did Dal Bello know what an impact this would have on his life. While at the reunion, Dal Bello reconnected with Floyd, Morgan, and Farrell (who attended as a guest). It was through this fortunate meeting that the founding board was chosen by Dal Bello. The ICA was formed the following year.
Even though 300,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with Chiari malformation, it is still a little-known, and under-diagnosed disorder. The ICA is determined to change that by raising awareness and support to help both those who suffer with the disorder, and the people who care about them.
It is this spirit – the Don’s Spirit – that drives the Santa Barbara-based nonprofit in helping people throughout the world.