Staff

Karen Thompson has served as the Executive Director at ASK since 2010. She works across all projects and serves on a number of federal and statewide boards and committees representing persons with disabilities and their families in the areas of healthcare and education. Karen is thrilled to be part of such a passionate, expert staff team! She credits the board members and staff with making the organization what it is today and considers herself lucky to be a part of it. Karen has worked in disability advocacy, rehabilitative training/counseling, and public program administration serving people with disabilities for twenty-nine years. She holds a Bachelor's in Psychology from Nebraska Wesleyan University. Her family experience with disabilities spans three generations. She is the daughter of a massive stroke survivor, the mother of two children with Attention Deficit differences, and a person with Dyslexia. She sees her disability as an attribute and challenges others to do the same.

Mari Brown is The Transition Iowa Project Coordinator and Data Coordinator for ASK Resource Center.  She worked with families as a Family Support Coordinator for 15 years.  She has developed and provided training and resource materials to empower families and the professionals who support them with the goal to advocate for a child’s needs.  Mari has served on the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Council, the Olmstead Consumer Task Force, Family Peer Support Advisory Council and Trauma Informed Care Stakeholder group.  She has a younger brother with multiple disabilities. 

Anthony Nguyen is a Finance Manager at ASK. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from University of Economics in Vietnam, Associate Degree of Accounting from Des Moines Area Community College and Master of Accounting from Drake University, both in Des Moines, IA. With many years working in the accounting industry, Anthony has discovered his passion in numbers and calculations. Accounting is a career, not just a job for his earnings. He has joined ASK since 2016. He enjoys digging in issues for solutions and procedure improvements as well as setting up a clean and healthy finance system which provides the Management with reliable and informative data for decision making. In his spare time, Anthony enjoys workouts and traveling around the world.

Alicia Karwal and her husband live in Adel with their two daughters. Alicia holds degrees from the University of Northern Iowa in Elementary and Special Education (BA) and Curriculum and Instruction (MAE). Formerly a special education teacher, Alicia works for ASK Resource Center as a Family Support Coordinator and RESPECT Training Project Coordinator. She feels privileged to work with families with children with disabilities to help guide, support, and empower families on their journey. Alicia also enjoys the opportunity to work with the many professionals who serve these individuals. Alicia has always been passionate about advocating for individuals with differing needs and has lived experienced with disabilities. Her husband lives with a spinal cord injury and their youngest daughter has several diagnoses that require her to learn differently.

Sarah Stiemsma is a Family Support Specialist for ASK. Sarah has a background working in schools in a variety of roles: as a social worker, substitute teacher and associate. She earned her Bachelor of Social Work degree at Dordt University. Sarah’s son was diagnosed with Autism a decade ago, and more recently with an Intellectual Disability. Sarah feels this lived experience aids her in her current role, working to support all families in their advocacy journey and as a RESPECT trainer. 

Erin Farquhar is a Family Support Specialist and Social Media Coordinator for ASK. Erin has a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design from Grand View University as well as an AA in Computer Programming. Erin serves on the Children at Home Advisory Board and advocates at the state and federal level for access to life-changing medicine. Her son has UBE2A Deficiency Syndrome which caused him to have a rare seizure disorder with cognitive and physical disabilities, who is also non-verbal and struggles with self-harming and aggression. Erin feels that her son’s diagnosis changed her life for the better and that he taught her about life, love and how to celebrate all the little things.

Mikki Johannes is an Administrative Assistant for ASK Resource Center. She is dedicated to empowering individuals with disabilities and their family members. With a passion for organization and a commitment to facilitating smooth operations, her role ensures a seamless functioning of our team’s initiatives. She excels in providing essential assistance to both our team and the individuals we serve. Mikki has 2 adult children with disabilities and also lives with disabilities of her own that impact her daily life. Therefore, she has a compassionate understanding for those served by our organization.

Kasey Vermillion is a Family Support Specialist that oversees the ASK Each Other Mentor program.  She lives in Waukee, Iowa with her three boys, Peter, Elijah and William.  She earned a BA in Early Childhood Education and Special Education at Iowa State University.  Kasey began as a classroom teacher and then moved to the Early ACCESS program where her main focus was children with Autism and other social delays.  This all showed her the school side of special education, but having three children with critical medical needs along with one having a diagnosis of Autism and Anxiety are what truly taught her the need for knowledge and skills in advocacy for all parents.  Kasey has experienced firsthand the blessing and value of others that “get it” on the journey and has a passion for helping other parents find that support as well.