We see caregivers.

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

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 Staff

Jess Ronne headshot

Lucas Ronne

Chief Inspirational Officer

Lucas Ronne is the namesake behind The Lucas Project.  Lucas suffered from a stroke in utero at 20 weeks old, and doctors told his parents that there was very little hope; however on August 12, 2004 he was born.  He underwent successful brain surgery at 2 days old and spent fourteen days in the NICU. When he regained his strength, he was sent home with his parents who would become his forever guardians. Despite his many obstacles in life including hydrocephalus, chiari malformation, scoliosis, autism, ID, limited vision, and low muscle tone, Lucas’s story continues to not only inspire people but also serve special needs families through recognition, respite, and residential support.    


Jess Ronne headshot

Jess Ronne

Founder & CEO

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.


Administrative Assistant

Danielle is a wife, mother of four, and advocate. She lives with her family in Ohio and in her spare time enjoys reading, visiting new places, spending time outdoors and trying out new recipes.

Meet Our Board

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.

Ryan Ronne

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

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.

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!

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.

Marna Pacheco family

Marna Pacheco

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Dan and Marna honored a calling to adopt their daughter from China expecting the challenges of a cleft lip and cleft palate, but could not have possibly anticipated the massive impact Millie’s neglect and trauma would have on their lives and family (including their other daughter, Maddie).

EXTREME is the word that applies to it all:  behaviors, challenges, rages, meltdowns, lack of options, fatigue, obstacles, treatments, learning curve, and costs. They know what it’s like to want just one drop of hope to endure the challenges of caring for a loved one with extreme, long-term needs.

Despite being in the trenches themselves– to meet Marna is to not only feel seen and heard, it is to leave empowered.  She wants caregivers (moms AND dads) to know It’s OK to have brokenness and be messy because it’s in this reality where God moves.

Marna’s fierce passion for her daughter resulted in the invention of a weighted pink cape that not only helped Millie self-regulate, but also feel and look cute and capable. Learning all she could about neuroscience, the polyvagal theory, deep touch pressure, the nervous system and more, Marna founded CapeAble Weighted Products in Ft. Wayne IN to help transform lives with gorgeous, easy-care weighted blankets, wearables and sensory tools to serve a broad spectrum of people.  These industry disruptive products are patented, clinically proven, and highly sought after for classrooms, medical settings, offices, and homes. 

Lindsey Criswell

Lindsay Criswell

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Lindsay Criswell is a daughter, a big sister, a wife, a friend, a mother of three young boys, and the owner of Branch and Stone Studio

Lindsay’s boys inspired her studio and blog. Her oldest shares her love of art and writing. Her middle child can be found with his head in a book and is on the Autism Spectrum. While her youngest child was born medically complex and is diagnosed with Apraxia of Speech, it does not stop him from keeping everyone on their “toes” while talking their “ears off.” He also loves to get messy and creative in the studio.

As a visual artist, instructor, writer, illustrator, advocate, business owner and now a cancer survivor, Lindsay’s mission is to share knowledge, encouragement, and love. Fueled by much faith in God, a hubby she can count on, and ample amounts of coffee. Lindsay balances the time challenges of family and running Branch and Stone Studio, a creative haven, and blog for all ages and abilities where everyone is celebrated. 

Lindsay also partners with the local Board of Developmental Disabilities, and many local schools to help bring awareness, support, and art. She currently runs a support group where parents of children with additional needs receive resources and an opportunity to share struggles while their children including siblings get to create art. She has headed numerous large events for caregivers and families with different themes and purposes. 

Lindsay released a children’s book she authored and illustrated for young elementary students in 2022. She is currently working on a middle-grade novel. She is thankful for the opportunity to serve her family, friends, community, and readers while doing what she loves. Lindsay hopes to make a larger impact outside of her local community while continuing to help locally. 

Help us support special needs caregivers.