Who We Are

The mission of the Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research is to raise funds that will directly benefit the fight to eradicate sarcomas. By supporting local, innovative research with a relentless commitment to excellence, we open a pathway for scientists and other research professionals to develop and offer cutting-edge treatment options to more sarcoma sufferers. Thus, helping to expand global hope for cures.

The Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research was born out of Paula Takacs’ love of life, love of family, and love of her circle of friendship. This circle continues to grow through the work of this foundation, the people whose lives we touch, and the differences we strive to make towards finding cures, for patients locally and throughout the world.

Our foundation invests your donations in sarcoma research and clinical trials being conducted at Levine Cancer Institute and Levine Children’s. To read about Levine Cancer Institute and Levine Children’s, and the sarcoma research initiatives at these centers, click here.

We thank these Board members for their dedication to this foundation, their passion for improving the lives of patients around the globe, and their relentless commitment to finding a cure for sarcoma.

If you would like to inquire about joining our Board, or serving our organization in any other capacity, please contact us.

Board Member Sue Udelsoon photo

Susan Udelson

Susan began volunteering for the Paula Takacs Foundation in 2011 after spending a year as a caretaker and advocate for her brother Alan during his painful battle with Rhabdomyosarcoma, one of hundreds of expressions of sarcoma. Losing her sibling to a disease that had caused him much suffering, and offers so little hope for a cure, fueled her passionate commitment to make a difference for others in their battle against this rare cancer.

As a volunteer for the Foundation, Susan also developed a deep and loyal friendship with Paula Takacs. She was moved by her strength, courage, conviction, and limitless dedication despite the ravages of the cancer growing inside her. Joining the Board in 2012, Susan worked alongside Paula to structure a sarcoma research funding initiative at the recently opened Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte. Together they began a new chapter in advocating for local research and local treatment options.

After beloved Paula succumbed to sarcoma in April, 2014, Susan accepted the honor to become the Executive Director of the foundation. Her unique experience and passionate vision for the foundation allows her to continue Paula’s work by supporting sarcoma research within the region and expanding hope throughout the world.

A resident of Charlotte along with her husband and two daughters, Susan’s professional highlights include careers in institutional brokerage at Morgan Stanley & Co. and fraud investigation at the NASDAQ Exchange.  When she is not working to forward the mission of the foundation, Susan can be found behind the lens of her camera communing with nature, or taking long walks with her husband, Steve.

Board Member Geoffrey Takacs

Geoffrey Takacs

Geoffrey, along with Paula Takacs, formed the Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research in 2010.  He has served in numerous capacities at the Foundation at an operational level, and has served on the board every year since its inception.  Professionally, Mr. Takacs is a credit research analyst at Barings, where he has worked since 2004.  For fun, Mr. Takacs enjoys both playing and watching sports, is an avid Crossfitter and enjoys a good rollercoaster.


Lee Ann DeCarlo

Lee Ann DeCarlo has served on the Paula Takacs Foundation Board of Directors since 2016. Additionally, Lee Ann volunteers with Thompson Child & Family Focus and the Urban Ministry Center. After graduating from Georgia State University with a degree in Risk Management & Insurance, Lee Ann worked as a reinsurance broker for Guy Carpenter & Company in Atlanta. After relocating to Charlotte in 1999, Lee Ann became extremely active at Charlotte Latin School. For the next 12 years, she took on several roles at Charlotte Latin including grade level advisers, organizing & facilitating the middle school service program, coaching Girls on the Run, serving on the Drug & Alcohol Task Force & fundraising. Her true passion was the Foreign Exchange program where her family housed over 20 exchange students. Lee Ann enjoys outdoor activities including destination running and hiking, tennis & golf. She served as president of the neighborhood swim & racquet club including running the swim team for several years. She has a true passion for dogs and has worked with several rescue organizations in the transport, foster, and fundraising care of hunting dogs. Lee Ann and her husband, Steve, are the parents of three grown children and four dogs.

Suzanne Levine

Suzanne has been a real estate broker and manager at Mathers Realty since 2005. In addition to serving on the board of the Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research, Suzanne is a troop leader with the Girl Scouts. In the past, Suzanne has served on the board of the Hornets Nest Girl Scouts Council and on the Outreach Committee at Carmel Country Club. In addition to the time spent developing her professional and philanthropic passions, Suzanne enjoys life with her husband Chad and their two Chihuahaus, traveling and playing tennis.

Ashley Smith

Ashley met Paula Takacs shortly after Paula’s diagnosis in 2004.  The two became close friends after their children became friends and classmates.  After volunteering at the Sarcoma Stomp every year since 2011, she decided that she wanted to do more than just volunteer at the event.  She wanted to honor her late friend and be a larger part of the fight against this disease. 

Ashley is the owner of AWS Fitness.  When she is not training her clients, you can find Ashley on the tennis court or with her husband Aaron cheering on their two children at one of their many sporting events.

Dr. Joshua Patt, MD, MPH, FAOA
Carolinas Medical Center, Atrium Health
Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
Vice Chair of Education Atrium Musculoskeletal Institute
Levine Cancer Institute Sarcoma Section Chief
Musculoskeletal Oncology and Spine Surgery

Josh is an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in sarcoma and spine tumor surgery at the Levine Cancer Institute. He is originally from Denver, Colorado and obtained his BA from Brown University. He then received his MD and MPH degrees from Tulane University before coming to Charlotte for his orthopaedic surgery residency. Josh and his wife Rhonda (a local pediatrician) then spent two years in Seattle where Josh completed fellowship training in orthopaedic oncology and sarcoma care, followed by an additional year of training in spine surgery at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. They then returned to Charlotte for Josh to join the CMC Department of Orthopaedics and begin caring for sarcoma patients in the Charlotte region. Professionally Josh also stays busy in his role as the Residency Program Director of the Orthopaedic Surgery Training Program at Carolinas Medical Center and Atrium Health. He also serves as the Division Chief for Orthopaedic Oncology and is a member of a fantastic team of doctors and others caring for sarcoma patients as well as other cancer patients suffering from skeletal complications of cancer and other benign bone conditions. Josh is strongly vested in the work of the foundation and is excited for the opportunity to serve sarcoma patients and families in a new capacity. He and his wife Rhonda have three children who also love the Sarcoma Stomp — and have been participating in the event since they were in strollers!

Dawn Whitmore

Dawn met Paula on the tennis courts in 2008 and they became fast friends. She was impressed by Paula’s tenacity and passion and has been inspired by her ever since. Dawn, her husband Don and their three small children moved to Charlotte in 2000. She became an active volunteer at Charlotte Latin School, serving on both the Booster Club and Latin Arts Association Boards. She also served in various liaison roles in the administrative, athletic and arts departments. In her earlier years, Dawn was a Vice President at Merrill Lynch & Co in New York, working in both Capital Market and Money Market divisions over the course of ten years. In her free time she enjoys many recreational sports, reading and painting.


Heather Lopane

Heather learned of the Paula Takacs Foundation in 2017 after being diagnosed with Stage 3 myxofibrosarcoma in her right calf. As a sarcoma patient who underwent chemotherapy, radiation and limb salvage surgery, Heather saw firsthand the need for new and more effective treatments for sarcomas. Heather’s friends and family formed team “Heather’s Heroes” annually for the Sarcoma Stomp to support Heather as well as the Paula Takacs Foundation’s efforts to advance research in this devastating disease. Additionally, Heather decided to further her contributions to the work of the foundation by joining the Board of Directors in 2019.

Previously, Heather served for 7 years as the Director of Women’s Ministries at StoneBridge Church Community. She served numerous volunteer roles at StoneBridge such as Vacation Bible School Director, Bible Study leader, Life Group leader and Stephens Minister. Before moving to Charlotte, Heather was a Director of Human Resources.

Heather and her husband Frank have 3 grown sons (Matthew, Andrew and Sam) and 1 daughter-in-law (Madeline). Heather’s happy place is on water, either on a paddle board or skis.


Jim Barnes

Jim grew up in London and emigrated to the United States in 1980. In 1989, he moved to Charlotte and became co-owner of a business that was purchased by AmWINS Group in 2004. Today, Jim is a Senior Vice President of  AmWINS Group.

Jim first found out about the Paula Takacs Foundation when his granddaughter, London, was diagnosed with sarcoma and learned that AmWINS Group had been a significant sponsor of the foundation’s annual Sarcoma Stomp for a number of years. Attending this fundraiser, and listening to London as the featured speaker in 2019, solidified his desire to serve the organization in a really personal way. Jim was proud join the PTF Board in early 2020.

Jim lives in Charlotte, NC near his kids and grandkids. He also has a beloved daughter in Atlanta, GA. When Jim wants to kick back, you can find him playing golf (well, trying anyway) or cooking with his wife, Judy.

The Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research | Charlotte, NC 28271 | (704) 516-5113