Our hosts understand firsthand the demands of caregiving, the loss of dreams, and the need for respite and self care. Your Host works in conjunction with the B&B or Innkeeper to ensure that the mission of David’s Refuge is carried out. They will contact you before your stay to introduce themselves, be there to greet you when you arrive, and join you during breakfast time each morning.
So often parents have a need to share their story with someone who has walked down a similar path in life. Our desire is to have a trained host, who has walked a similar journey, readily and unobtrusively available to every guest that stays at David’s Refuge.
As you leave, it is our prayer that you would be refreshed and ready to head back to the task of caring for and loving your children.
Warren and Brenda Pfohl
Meet Your Hosts
Warren and Brenda Pfohl understand firsthand the need for respite and self care, as they cared for their son David during his 13 year battle with Batten Disease.
Before starting David’s Refuge, Warren served 15 years as a pastor at Eastern Hills Bible Church with his primary focus on Caring Ministries. Prior to being in ministry Warren worked as a Recreational Therapist in a psychiatric hospital. He enjoys roasting coffee, cooking, reading, playing with his grandson, and has a refreshing sense of humor. Brenda has been Warren’s wife, partner, and best friend for over 30 years. She loves gardening, decorating, painting, and exploring various arts. Brenda graduated as an Occupational Therapist from the University of Kansas and prior to children worked for several years as an OT in home care.
Tom and Lara Capuano met as college kids and have been married for 14 years. In their wild adventure together, they have welcomed five incredible children into their lives.
Their three daughters came to them biologically while their two sons came to them through adoption. Tom’s background is in online education and he currently works as an Instructional Designer for Monroe Community College. Lara is a writer and speaker and, admittedly, doesn’t really even know what an Instructional Designer is, but thinks it sounds very impressive. Tom and Lara are fun and playful, yet seriously passionate about their faith, their family, and loving people through hard times. For the past nine years, they have learned to juggle “regular” life with five kids in the midst of countless appointments with specialists for their youngest son’s hearing loss, damage to the brain, and developmental delays caused by ototoxicity (an overdose of antibiotics at birth) as well as intensive therapy for adoption trauma and Reactive Attachment Disorder with their older son. They have experienced the all-consuming effects of navigating life with children with special needs and this has given them a deep desire to support other families when a time of rest and refreshing is so desperately needed.
Fred and Ellie Weir are filled with a wealth of wisdom and insight. They have been happily married for over 50 years and have been actively involved with helping people throughout their lives.
During Fred’s years as a school administrator he began one of the first integrated programs for special needs children. Over the years they have been involved in pre-marital mentoring, teaching literacy classes, and working with advocacy groups. Fred and Ellie have also been guardians of a special needs adult for over forty years. Although they never had a child with a disability, Fred and Ellie understand the pain and loss of losing a child. Since losing their adult son suddenly to a heart attack, they have walked side by side with others through the grief process. Both Fred and Ellie like to travel and are enjoying grandparenthood. In the south during the winter they sing in a large choir. Fred loves gardening and baking, especially breads. Ellie is an avid reader and loves to mentor younger women.
Rob and Dana Bisnett know firsthand the stress of lengthy hospital stays, juggling childcare, and managing a household. They are busy parents of three boys and a girl, two of which have special needs.
Their middle son, Ben has aspergers, dyslexia, and dysgraphia. Their daughter Giana was born with Spina Bifida and 9 missing ribs, resulting in 17 surgeries so far. They first visited David’s Refuge for rest, rejuvenation and privacy as they have around-the-clock nursing in their home. They loved their time together at David’s Refuge including the opportunity to get to know other special needs parents. The awesome mission of David’s Refuge inspired them to get involved as hosts. Rob is a B2B Sales Consultant for Staples. He enjoys coaching his sons’ football and basketball teams and managing the hockey team. Dana has been a stay-at-home mom for 11 yrs and is nearing completion of her degree in Health Administration at Roberts Wesleyan College. Dana enjoys reading, cooking, and cheering at all of their children’s sporting events, including Giana’s special needs dance class where she is able to attend using her wheelchair. The Bisnett’s faith and marriage have both been strengthened through their challenging experiences, causing them to view their circumstances as a calling. Rob and Dana have been married 13 years.
Sasha and Sarah Hallock first visited David’s Refuge as guests and were amazed at the care they experienced. It was during the hardest year of their lives as they struggled to care for their son Judah who had recently been diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, called CDG.
Learning to manage therapies and doctors appointments, surgeries and lack of sleep, David’s Refuge was a refreshing time for them to connect as husband and wife and reflect. They now have a second son Oliver and are adjusting to being parents of two boys. Although married only five years, Sasha and Sarah are incredible listeners with an amazing ability to connect with others. They are a huge asset to our team. Sasha is an artist who enjoys oil painting, running, drinking coffee and listening to classical music. Sarah is also an artist who enjoys interior, furniture and fashion design as well as cooking new recipes. They planted a garden for the first time last summer and hope to have a small one again this year. They live in Rochester and work as chaplains at the University of Rochester.
Hal and Careen Talbot know the pain and exhaustion caregivers experience, as they cared for their daughter Tracey and her young son for over ten years.
Tracey suffered many serious complications from Juvenile Diabetes, which required total care. She passed away in 2007. Hal and Careen recently celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary. They are both retired educators. Careen retired from the East Syracuse Minoa district where she was a Pre-Kindergarten teacher. Hal taught Biology in the New Hartford school district and then served as High School Principal at Chittenango for 20 years. The Talbots live in Fayetteville. They love to collect country antiques and before their caregiving years, were antique dealers. They look forward to meeting families who are experiencing the life of caregiving and are really enthused to become part of David’s Refuge.
Tony and Sara Paredes found David’s Refuge at just the right time in their lives. On his 5th birthday, their son Ethan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
After months of chemotherapy and hospital stays, the Paredes’ were running on empty. That’s when they were introduced to Warren and Brenda Pfohl and the services at David’s Refuge. After their initial respite weekend, they set a goal as a couple to one day serve as hosts to nurture others caregivers facing similar situations. Tony and Sara have been pastors since 2004. In 2012 they moved to upstate New York and currently serve as Senior Pastors of South Bay Chapel in Canastota, NY. They have been married for 15 years and are the parents of 2 beautiful children. Tony loves reading, listening to music, and being a dad. Sara loves photography, baking, and being a mom.
Steve and Gail Healy feel privileged to be a part of David’s Refuge. They both work in the human service fields; Steve as a program Specialist for individuals who have sustained a TBI and Gail as a Music Therapist – private practice.
Their careers have allowed them to experience the struggles and joys of families who care for a child with special needs. Having been David’s Music Therapist, Gail has a special connection to the vision of David’s Refuge. When not at work, you may find Steve with his guitar or in his art studio, and Gail in the garden, cooking “healthy” food, or making her own music. They have been married for 28 years and have two grown children.
Kevin and Melissa Linck look forward to the relationships they will make as a host couple while at the same time giving support and encouragement to other special parents in need.
They first came to David’s Refuge as guests, in need of encouragement and rest to help them continue to care for their daughter with special needs and two active typical boys! During their stay they not only felt loved and refreshed, but also had the amazing opportunity to connect with another couple whose child had special needs. They loved the time they spent with them, sharing their stories and encouraging one another. Kevin is currently an Administrator in a local school district and has been an educator for 15 years. He is an avid NY sports fan and loves spending time with his family and coaching his sons in soccer, basketball, and baseball.Melissa is a Physical Therapist, but has been home with her children for the past 10 years. She is involved in a local mom’s group and is currently working part-time as a preschool teacher. She loves spending time with her husband and three beautiful children as well as running and reading. Kevin and Melissa have been married for 13 years.
Jeff and Janelle Fields experienced the pain of watching a child suffer through traumatic illness when their 6 year old daughter Anna spent 3 months in the hospital due to a rare flu virus that attacked her heart.
Throughout Anna’s illness, which included multiple surgeries and two years of rehab, the Fields’ were supported by a caring community of friends and family who prayed for Anna and shared their love in many ways. In joining the David’s Refuge caregiver community, Jeff and Janelle hope to offer that same concern to other parents who may be struggling with a child’s illness. Janelle also has a sister with disability, whom she has recently moved to New York from her home state of Minnesota. Married since 1979, the Fields have three grown children and one grandson. Janelle is a gardener and cook. Jeff enjoys outdoor pursuits, including hunting, fishing and hiking.
Ben and Jamie Nodine know firsthand both the joys and the challenges of living day to day life as parents of a child with special needs. Their oldest son, Joshua, was diagnosed early on with spastic, quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
Their youngest son, Caleb, is typically developing. Both of their boys are equally amazing, but after several years with no breaks, Ben & Jamie discovered David’s Refuge and realized the absolute necessity of making time for themselves to invest in their marriage. They are looking forward to encouraging other couples who are walking a similar path.
Jamie is a full-time wife and the mother. She volunteers as the chair of her local Special Education Parent Teacher Association (SEPTA) and has recently begun working part-time as a Family Support Specialist with The Family Autism Center in Rochester. Ben spends his days working as a preconstruction manager with a national real estate investment trust. For the last several years, he has volunteered in the kid’s ministry at their local church and served as president of a local professional society. When he has some free time, Ben has been working toward his goal to hike all of the trails in Monroe County with his sons. Jamie and Ben have been married for 13 years.
Tom and Judie Murphy have been married 15 years and are the proud parents of three beautiful children, the youngest of whom has special needs.
First experiencing David’s Refuge as a couple in need of respite, Judie and Tom now hope to give back to other couples who may share a similar journey. Judie is a former teacher and financial advisor who is now a full-time student and mom, soon to become a licensed school psychologist. Their youngest child’s disabilities sparked Judie’s interest in returning to school to better serve him and other children with unique needs. Her loves include music and anything sports. Tom is an assistant principal at a youth detention center, a former college football coach, and current basketball coach. When not at work or coaching, you’ll find Tom on the golf course. The true joys of their lives however are their three children Adrianna (13), Kaedyn (11) and Thomas (9) who keep them busy with all sorts of activities.
Brian and Doni Dwyer met while studying at Roberts Wesleyan College. They have been married for 15 years and are the parents of two beautiful daughters, Brooklyn and Isabella.
The Dwyers understand the mental and physical challenges parents experience while caring for and raising a child with a life long illness. The couple first started their journey at David’s Refuge as guests over 5 years ago, and they have developed a deep understanding and appreciation for what the respite weekend provides.
Their oldest daughter, Brooklyn, has a very rare autoimmune/genetic disorder. Her body is fighting itself and destroying several endocrine glands, and she is one of about 250 children in the United States with this diagnosis. Isabella loves playing outside, especially with her sister. Brian is a science teacher and the head JV football coach at a local school district. After teaching Head Start for 14 years, Doni recently resigned to take care of their children. In addition to serving as hosts for David’s Refuge, Brian and Doni are co-chairs for the Syracuse area Fresh Air Fund.
Dewey and Gloria Hakes have encountered and enjoyed people from all walks of life throughout their 50 years of marriage. Gloria has been teacher, test kitchen dietitian, seamstress, stay at home mom, and farm wife.
Dewey has been an engineer, Illinois grain farmer, contractor, dairy farmer, and financial consultant for farm families. Having lost their 29 year old son to leukemia, the Hakes know the pain of loss. They as well can relate to the rewarding yet exhausting role of a caregiver, having been the primary caregivers to both sets of parents and Gloria’s aunt.When they are not busy caregiving or enjoying their 14 grandchildren, they love traveling, motorcycle and convertible riding, and hunting. Both are lifelong churchgoers and serve wherever needed.
Jeff and Bitsy Namy have experienced many hardships throughout their 36 years of marriage. After rearing four children, they understand the pain and suffering of disability, disease and death.
But in the midst of life’s storms, the Namys have experienced many victories and blessings.
Their oldest daughter is a cancer survivor while sadly their son, Joel, passed away from cancer at age 21. The couple lived through years of doctor reports, needles, sleeping on hospital floors, neutropenia, low microbial diets, flushing and dressing Hickmans, waiting for test results, and sleepless nights tending to the needs of a very sick child. The Namys would say that the blessing was knowing that God loves us all and He carries us through life. God doesn’t make mistakes.
Today Jeff and Bitsy are loving life with their three remaining grown children and enjoy the blessing of God’s promise of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
Dave and Karen Richardson have been a part of encouraging families of children with special needs throughout the past 20 years.
Their experience teaching a class for persons with diverse abilities and disabilities grew into a deep passion to care for and support families caring for children with special needs. Their recent experience caring for Karen’s mother at home as she descended through Alzheimer’s has increased their understanding of the stresses of full-time caregiving. Karen is an avid encourager, through notes, gifts, prayer, and friendship. She has a Master’s Degree in Library Science. Dave is a retired economics professor and Washington policy wonk who enjoys bowling, camping, riding (bicycles and horses), singing (tenor), and giving historical tours of areas he knows well.Dave and Karen have been married since 1967 and love their Chicagoland and CNY daughters as well as their collie, Hope.
Steve and Laurie Mitchell became involved with David’s Refuge through Eastern Hill’s Bible Church. Both have special needs siblings so they understand the value of a ministry that provides support to the families served through David’s Refuge.
Steve is a Partner in BME – Business Machines and Equipment and Laurie is a retired from Madison-Oneida BOCES as a Special Education Teacher. Steve and Laurie have been married for 28 years and have two grown children and a daughter-in-law. They enjoy outdoor actives such as going to the beach and Black Lake. They have served in several ministries and have seen amazing things get accomplished through God’s love and grace and look forward to serving and being part of God’s continued blessing through David’s Refuge.
David and Judy NuHavun understand the effect loss can have on a family. After losing their daughter Emily in a tragic car accident in 1995, they experienced the stress and struggles losing a child can put on a marriage.
This gave them the dream of helping others who were on a similar journey. In 1996 they began Emily’s Foundation with the mission of saving and strengthening the marriages of parents enduring the tragic loss or life-changing illness or injury of their child. During the next 11 years the Foundation counseled and sent over 500 couples to Family Life Conferences.
Unable to continue in their ministry and still make ends meet personally, Dave and Judy made the tough decision to step away from the formal organization, yet they have always remained available to counsel. Over the past years they prayed God would bring them back into a more active role with emotionally burdened couples. When introduced to David’s Refuge, they were immediately drawn to its similar vision and enthusiastically joined our team in the 2015.
David and Judy met in 1990 and in 1993 joined their two families, totaling 11 children! They have been blessed with 22 grandchildren, also enduring the heartbreaking loss of one granddaughter, Hannah Grace. They live in Camillus and are the owners of Central NY Real Estate Group. David and Judy love their work as realtors because they are passionate about helping people. They also enjoy Karaoke, camping and traveling throughout North America.
Mike and Helen Littlejohn offer a wealth of life experience caring for children and adults with various special needs. After giving birth to four healthy children, they felt called to expand their family through adoption.
Over the next nine years they brought into their family eight more children, all with needs ranging from mild mental health issues to severe developmental disabilities.
With all of their children now adults, they have been dealing with the challenges of transitioning them from home to living in the community. Mike and Helen are a capable resource for those on all spectrums of their journey as they have first hand experience in advocating for the needs of their children for many decades.
Helen works as a Service Coordinator and in her spare time enjoys painting, reading and playing scrabble. Mike works as a Foreman for a local fencing company. As a hobby he designs, builds and races kayaks.
Helen and Mike have been married 32 years. In addition to their 12 children, they have 13 grandchildren, two cats and two dogs. They live in King Ferry, NY with their son Isaac who requires around the clock care. They are happy to share their compassion, knowledge and experience with other parents who are in the midst of caring for their loved ones.
Chuck and Gerry DiCosimo have been married for 43 years. Their first child, Christine, was born with Prader –Willi Syndrome, a complex multi-system disorder which presented a lifelong series of challenges for her and her family.
Chuck is an Oral Surgeon practicing in Manlius, New York. He has dedicated much time and effort to benefit people with special needs in his office as well as the community. Gerry is a Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist who has critical expertise in developing specialized programs for people with special needs. Through her love and dedication, Gerry was able to arrange for and be directly involved in Christine’s education which resulted in Christine becoming certified as a Nursing Assistant in New York State. Chuck and Gerry have established a private residence for Christine in Manlius, New York through many years of hard work. The DiCosimos have learned through years of experience the importance of offering support to others. They are honored to be a part of the David’s Refuge team and enjoy sharing their compassion and knowledge with other families.
Chris and Tom Doughty For 32 years of their 37 year marriage Chris and Tom have been caring for their son Scott at their home in Chili, New York (a suburb of Rochester). The challenge of striving to provide a ‘normal’ life for their three children when one requires special care is one that Chris and Tom have faced for years.
Chris had been raised in a large family where their ‘normal’ was not the world’s ‘normal’. Much of the caregiving for two of her siblings with special needs fell on her shoulders.
In the fall of 2015 Chris and Tom opened a non-certified group home staffed 24/7 in their neighborhood for Scott and two housemates with similar care needs. They are continuing to be both challenged and blessed by this adventure.
In the years of caring for their son in their home, the opportunity for their own caregiving respite was rare. They felt blessed whenever an opportunity came along for a little respite. Never, never did any opportunity come along like that of David’s Refuge. Chris and Tom feel God has truly blessed their lives and their marriage with the opportunity to be involved in this ministry.
David and Kristin Coffee have been married for 15 years and are the parents of 5 children. They adopted four of their five kids, all of whom have special needs ranging from Down Syndrome to deafness to global delays.
Dave and Kristen share that while they have a passion for children with special needs, it is a lot of work! The rest and renewal they found through David’s Refuge has been a huge blessing in their lives. After experiencing the love and encouragement given by their David’s Refuge hosts, the Coffees had a desire to pay that forward by sharing their story openly and being available to support others as well. They write, “We know God has a plan for each of our lives and we trust Him to guide us in all that we do.”
Eric and Daidra Hamlin came to David’s Refuge first as parents of a special needs child in need of respite.
After receiving plenty of encouragement and care from their own stay, the couple wanted to “pay it forward” and help David’s Refuge restore and refresh as many caretakers as possible.Eric has been in pastoral ministry for the past 14 years. He has been involved in youth ministry throughout New York State and currently serves as lead pastor of Living Hope AG in Waterloo. He enjoys reading, hiking, playing with his twin boys and eating his wife’s Italian cooking. Daidra loves cooking, hosting events in her home and anything that has to do with her kids. She and Eric have been married for over 13 years. Daidra received a degree from Bryant & Stratton College in Business Management and has put it to good use helping lead offices, churches, coffeehouses and her own home.
Andy and Lori Russo have been married for 43 years. They are the parents of three adult children, a son and two daughters.
Lori and Andy have five grandchildren ranging in age from 8 to 20 years old, and their youngest grandchild Mila has Down Syndrome. The Russo’s greatest joy is living close enough to be involved in all of their grandchildren lives as they grow up.
Andy is a former small business owner who is semi-retired and very happy to have a reduced schedule. Lori dedicated her life to caring for her family, including her mom, who lived to the age of 92. Andy and Lori have been involved in many different ministries through the years both at their church and in the community. They have been friends to Warren and Brenda throughout their journey in ministry and are excited to serve as hosts for David’s Refuge!
Bob & Cheri Hawkins first experienced David’s Refuge as guests and were amazed by the encouragement and support they received. They have been married for 20 years and have adopted three of their six beautiful children, four of whom have special needs.
The Hawkins know firsthand the joys and struggles that come with raising children with special needs. Juggling multiple doctor, therapies, 504, and IEP appointments can be exhausting. Being a part of the David’s Refuge community has been invaluable. Bob and Cheri look forward to making connections and long-lasting friendships as part of this ministry.