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Meet Our Team

Rachel Malec, FNP-C

Executive Director/Co-Founder









Rachel received her Master’s of Science in Nursing from Ursuline college and became a Family Certified Nurse Practitioner in 2015 after obtaining her RN in 2009 and is an inductee of  the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honor society.   Currently, Rachel works as a nurse practitioner and medical content expert for a preventative medicine newsletter. 

Throughout her career she has always enjoyed speaking engagements and guest lecturing which includes volunteer work for The Cleveland Clinic Speaker's Bureau and lecturing nursing students.

In 2018, while of planning her son’s first birthday she received devastating news,  her son had an incurable brain condition.  There were no words more hopeless then, incurable.  September 18, 2018 Rachel surrendered her son to a cold operating room table and did the hardest thing she ever had to do, turn her back on sleeping son and walk out.  Trusting her son’s life in a team of strangers.   

After the initial shock and devastation of his diagnosis Rachel vowed, she could not let incurable steal her family’s happiness and chose to fight.  Determined to become as knowledgeable as possible she began networking within the Hydrocephalus community and saw the direct impact of what could be done when you chose hope.  Her goal is to empower those affect by hydrocephalus and let them know that they do not fight alone and to always CHOSE HOPE. 


Paul Malec











Paul Malec received his Master of Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University in 2016 where he also holds an undergraduate finance degree and is an inductee of the Wolstein Society.  He was active in Sigma Phi Epsilon serving as both undergraduate and alumni board president as well as Vice President of Service for Case’s Interfraternity Congress.  Currently Paul serves as Director of Capital Markets at The Riverside Company.  Paul's former experience focused on raising debt capital for Healthcare companies.  Paul has also enjoyed several real estate investment ventures.

Paul is the co-founder of Hope for Hydro and father to Roman a hydro warrior.  His life was forever changed after receiving his son Roman’s incurable hydrocephalus diagnosis.  Despite his initial despair, he was emboldened to fight for a cure and improve the lives of the millions of affected individuals and their families of this disease.

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Cassidy Crowder

Board Member







Cassidy is a graduate of The Kent State University where she studied marketing.  She has had different roles as a member of the Alpha Phi sorority however learned most about herself when she de-affiliated from the sorority to be a recruitment counselor and a member of Panhellenic Counsel.  Through this process she provided leadership, support, friendship and individual guidance to women.

Cassidy has loved participating in philanthropy for many years including supporting various fundraisers, volunteer work at The Cleveland Food bank and recruitment. Cassidy has a passion for individual growth and promotion. Giving back has been a large part of her career in retail management. 

  Currently she leads the northern Ohio market for Harbor Freight Tools.  She is involved in a comprehensive compensation pilot,  supporting her locations networking, recruiting and retaining talent into a privately held organization.  Cassidy has a diverse background of leadership at many levels and brings an innovative approach to our non profit and to The Cleveland Derby for a  second year in a  row. 


Cassidy enjoys meeting local moms and navigating motherhood together.  She is motivated and inspired to support Hope For Hydro and the families involved with this disease.  She dreams of taking Hope for Hydro to the next level.  Cassidy has a love for yoga, traveling and chasing her sweet toddler around with her husband Adam by her side. 



Karen A. Perez, JD

Director of Patient Advocacy






Karen is a graduate of Cleveland Marshall College of Law and recieved her undergraduate degree in Intelligence Analysis at Mercyhurst University.  She is a licensed attorney specializing in insurance defense and  serves as an adjunct faculty member for the Paralegal Studies Program at Lakeland Community College.   As a Trial Attorney,  Karen is used to standing up and advocating for and behalf of her clients both in and out of the courtroom.

 Karen is also a mom to two beautiful girls,  Isabelle and Olivia.   In April 2017,  two weeks after her first birthday,  Olivia was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and underwent her first brain surgery for the placement of a V/P shunt on May 5, 2017.   At first Karen felt lost and alone – having never heard of hydrocephalus and having no idea how manage a child with a complex, life threatening medical condition.  It didn’t take long for her advocacy skills to kick in and quickly learned that as a parent, you are your child’s best advocate.   Her goal is to educate and empower parents and patients to be their best and most powerful advocate as they navigate their hydrocephalus journey.



Kara Samblanet

Board Member







Kara recieved her Masters in Early Childhood Lieracy Education in 2014 where she also holds an undergraduate degree in early childhood education.  During her time at The University of Akron she volunteered for several years with AmeriCorps and served as a lead at POWERCorps.  This organization specializes in creating a positive place and experience for all adults in the MRDD programs througout Summit and Stark counties.  As an early childhood educator she is not only experienced  but  a passionate   advocate for familes and children with special needs.  


Fostering her passion for philanthropic activitied, she currently serves as the VP of the local MOMs organization and focouses on fundraising and giving back to the community.   



Jason Samblanet, JD

Board Member








Jason was born and raised in Northeast Ohio and currently practices law in Cleveland, Ohio.  He received his undergraduate from Malone University in Canton, Ohio and went on to receive a law degree from the University of Virginia.


Jason’s undergraduate degree is in psychology and he spent two years prior to law school working for a community-based non-profit focused on mental health. In addition, Jason has extensive experience both working and volunteering with the developmentally disabled community.


Jason, his wife Kara and their two small children, Amelia and Louis, live in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio and both are passionate about, and excited for, the change Hope for Hydro will bring.



Mandy Smith, RN

Board Member






Mandy has been a registered nurse for over 10 years specializing in both pediatric and critical care.  Inspired to serve the pediatric community while working in the pediatric catherization lab she saw first handedly how life-threatening diseases impacted families.  She shared in their stress, sadness and highs of success.

Mandy is involved in philanthropy throughout the Cleveland area including hosting fundraisers for Rocky River Schools and The Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.  She serves as President for Rocky River’s Parent Teacher Association and currently is the Marketing Director of Lakewood, Dental. 

Mandy is the mother to two beautiful girls who have also participated in her philanthropic efforts and is married to her husband, Dr. Matt Smith.  Mandy hopes to raise funds to impact research for those affected by hydrocephalus so the burden and stress of this disease can be of the past. 

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