We see caregivers.

We believe supporting the caregiver is the best way to support individuals with special needs.

Jess Ronne headshot

Meet Our Founder & CEO, Jess Ronne

Jessica Ronne is a wife, mother, author, and advocate. She lives in Michigan with her husband Ryan and eight children where they cultivate the simple life, which they’ve discovered isn’t really all that simple. She is the author of Sunlight Burning at Midnight, her memoir of beauty from ashes, and her latest book Blended with Grit and Grace. She can be found at jessplusthemess.com, blogging about faith, grief, food, simplicity, special needs children, blended families, and everything else in between.

Our Story

The Lucas Project was a dream that began with Lucas, who was miraculously born to Jess Ronne after he suffered a stroke in utero.  

After surviving brain surgery at 3 days old, he has continued to thrive and grow, although his life with profound special needs has been challenging at times.

Jess’s desire was to start a non-profit in Lucas’s honor, but she lacked direction and focus for what this would involve or how it would look.

In 2013, the Ronne family moved to rural Tennessee to pursue a dream of a simple life.

Luke as toddler
Jess, Ryan and Lucas Ronne

While Lucas thrived in many aspects, Jess and her husband Ryan noticed a lack of resources and accessibility in other areas – particularly in the area of respite opportunities for caregivers.

The Lucas Project was born out of a desire to bridge this gap by offering awareness to the general public in regard to the difficulties and challenges that caregivers face and respite to the caregivers.

Meet Our Board

Kate Swenson

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Kate Swenson is a Minnesota-based wife, mother, and author. She started her blog, Finding Cooper’s Voice, to share her family’s story with severe, nonverbal autism nearly 8 years ago. Since then, she has had many essays and videos go viral, and is using her platform to create a place for people to celebrate the unique struggles and beautiful joys that go into the secret world of autism. She has been featured on many notable sites such as The Today Show and Love What Matters and is currently writing her first book to be published in 2021.


Laurie Hellmann

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Laurie Hellmann is a published author, podcaster, wife and mother to two incredible teenagers. Her 18-year-old son, Skyler, has severe, non-verbal autism, Ulcerative Colitis and a smile that lights up any room he enters. Laurie lives in Indiana and when she is not advocating for resources, blogging, writing her next book or hosting her podcast, she manages a sales team of 25 representatives. You can connect with Laurie on Facebook @Welcome to My Life – Autism Warrior Mom or Instagram @welcometomylife_lauriehellmann. To learn more about her publications and podcast, visit lauriehellmann.com.

Vance Goforth

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Vance has been a formidable advocate in the disability community, specifically focused on serving caregivers with children who have profound autism or extensive special needs. He is the founder of the awareness group, A Voice for Joshua, and he and his wife are strong believers in speaking the truth about caregiver life. He is also a dad to 5 children and resides in TN.

Ryan Ronne

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Ryan Ronne is a husband, dad of 8, house flipper, and advocate for special needs families.

Carrie Prater

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Carrie is a mother of 4 children, ages 12 to 25 years old, and a grandmother of two. She is working close to full time, continuing her education and raising her family in partnership with her husband of 18 years. Her youngest son, Gibson, was born with Mowat-Wilson syndrome with a secondary diagnosis of Autism.  This syndrome includes impairments ranging from mild to severe with Gibson falling in the moderate to severe range. With his diagnosis, life changed in a dramatic fashion in good ways and more challenging ways. One of her passions is to help provide support in respite for families like hers.

Melissa Larson

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Melissa believes an organization is only as successful as the relationships that are formed, inside and outside. That is why she is dedicated to building authentic and meaningful relationships in all aspects of her life and work. Her career has been focused in strategic marketing in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Currently she serves as a Strategy Director for the Christian marketing agency Kumveka. She takes great pride in coming alongside her clients to help them move their mission forward. Working together, she helps equip ministries to make better decisions, maximize limited resources, and make their mission clear and compelling. She lives with her husband and three boys in Sparta, Michigan, where she enjoys spending time with family and friends, baking, the outdoors, and a good cup of coffee!

Help us support special needs caregivers.