About NF Forward

Who We Are

Dan and Jennifer Gilbert

Dan and Jennifer Gilbert have been passionate advocates in the fight to end NF since their oldest son, Nicolas, was born with NF1. They have been long-time supporters of NF research initiatives at the Children’s Tumor Foundation, Children’s National Health System and the University of Alabama Birmingham. In 2015, they established the Gilbert Family Foundation to further advance their NF research efforts.

In 2017, the Gilberts established NF Forward, a nonprofit 501c3 organization. It shares a vision with the Gilbert Family Foundation to eradicate NF by funding groundbreaking, cutting-edge NF research. NF Forward strives to raise awareness about NF among a wide range of individuals and invite their support of this innovative vision.

NF Forward’s signature event is the beNeFit, a major gala held at TCF Center in downtown Detroit every November. Since 2013, beNeFits I-IX raised over $45 million for NF research and attracted more than 1,700 supporters annually to join the fight to end NF.

What We Do

NF Forward funds NF research with audacious, high-reaching goals to bring us closer to a cure for NF. NF Forward focuses on three major areas:

  1. Co-funding pioneering research alongside the Gilbert Family Foundation. Projects include:
    • Vision Restoration Initiative – Inspired by Nick’s loss of vision as a result of an optic nerve tumor caused by his NF, a consortium of twelve top researchers works to regenerate the optic nerve and develop first-in-kind vision restoration therapies.
    • Gene Therapy Initiative – Since NF is a genetic disease, the search for a ‘cure’ will focus on replacing, repairing or otherwise addressing the mutated gene.  A network of nine outstanding researchers pursues the most promising strategies.
  2. Supporting innovative work of NF organizations such as the Children’s Tumor Foundation, a national organization funding broad-based NF research and advocating for the NF community.
  3. Fostering the creation of critical research tools needed to advance breakthrough science.

NF Forward accepts applications for support by invitation only.

Board of Directors & Officers

Jennifer Gilbert

President and Board Member

Matt Rizik

Secretary, Treasurer, and Board Member

Jeff Morganroth

General Counsel, Rock Family of Companies

Jennifer Gilbert

President and Board Member

With more than 20 years of experience in interior design, Jennifer Gilbert has evolved her expertise to serve as the Founder and Creative Director of Detroit-based POPHOUSE, a commercial design firm specializing in utilizing data and industry research to provide cutting-edge workplaces for clients across a broad spectrum of industries.

In 2015, Jennifer founded Amber Engine, a home furnishings services and solutions technology company. Amber Engine’s mission is to provide the most accurate, complete and timely record of product data for the $275B industry through its easy-to-use, flexible and affordable cloud-based SaaS solutions.

Prior to Amber Engine, Jennifer founded Doodle Home, a digital platform for residential interior designers. Doodle Home was sold to Dering Hall in 2015.

Jennifer is active with a number of nonprofits focused on the arts, Jewish causes and finding a cure for neurofibromatosis (NF). She is President of NF Forward, Chair of the Cranbrook Academy of Art Board of Governors and serves on the board of the Detroit Institute of Art. Jennifer founded the Detroit Art Collection to beautify and inspire public spaces and structures in downtown Detroit with sculptural and mixed media works from local, as well as national artists, galleries and dealers.

Jennifer earned her Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design at Michigan State University. She resides in the Detroit area with her husband, Dan, and their five children.

Matt Rizik

Secretary, Treasurer, and Board Member

Matthew J. Rizik is the Chief Tax Officer at Rock Ventures LLC, the for-more-than profit organization formed to strategically vet and pursue opportunities, align interests and provide key services to Dan Gilbert’s Family of Companies and other investments. Matt has responsibility for Gilbert’s Family of Companies tax method and compliance efforts as well as providing his expertise in the areas of financial planning, philanthropic giving, legal structure and tax compliance. Matt is also a Board Member for Rocket Companies.

Matt came to Rock Ventures after a successful career with PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC). In his 31 years with the firm, he worked with high wealth individuals and established a professional sports and entertainment practice. He developed a specialization in major automotive corporate work and served as the General Motors Global Relationship Partner, the Ford Motor Company Global Tax Partner and the Ford Estates Lead Tax Partner. Prior to PwC, Matt served in various tax positions with Coopers & Lybrand.

He is active in the Detroit community and serves on the boards of Motown Museum Legacy Council, City Year, Gilbert Family Foundation, and NF Forward.
Matt earned both a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Business Administration from Michigan State University. He is an active business professional in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants.

Matt was born in Flint, and currently resides in Birmingham, Michigan with his three children.

Jeff Morganroth

General Counsel, Rock Family of Companies

Jeff is the General Counsel of Rock Ventures LLC and General Counsel of Rock Holdings Inc. Jeff also is chief outside litigation counsel for Dan Gilbert and the FOC through his law firm, Morganroth & Morganroth, PLLC, which he formed in January 1989 with his father, Mayer Morganroth.

Jeff earned his bachelor’s degree in English Literature from The University of Michigan with Distinction, and his Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center, Cum Laude, where he also was a member of Law Review as an Associate Editor for The Tax Lawyer. Jeff has been successfully representing Dan Gilbert and many companies within the FOC as chief outside litigation counsel for the past 15 years. Jeff started the additional role as General Counsel of Rock Ventures in September 2019 and the additional role as General Counsel of Rock Holdings in March 2020. Jeff’s approach to his representation of Dan and the FOC is to fight for what is right, protect their interests and win.

When Jeff is not practicing law, he enjoys golf, tennis, skiing, watching sports, music and traveling with his wife and two daughters.

Meet The Team

Kayleigh Roy

Director

Mar Paricio Sunyer

Grants and Operations Manager

Caroline Poole

Associate Grants and Operation Manager

Dorienne Sherrod

Associate Grants and Operations Manager

Julia Sommers

Associate Grants and Operation Manager

Hanna Anderson

NF Forward Intern

Kayleigh Roy

Director

Kayleigh has been with the NF Forward Team for the past four beNeFits wearing a number of different hats from revenue management to database architecture. These days she’s captain of the NF Forward ship steering towards what is sure to be the most successful fundraiser yet! In addition to being able to cite almost any piece of donor information by memory, she also has a strong working knowledge of Detroit’s restaurant scene and can be found out and about as soon as the day’s work is done. Her favorite NFF moment each year is the joy of entering the full transformed ballroom for the first time on beNeFit day and seeing a year’s worth of work come to life!

Mar Paricio Sunyer

Grants and Operations Manager

Mar graduated from Clemson University (Go Tigers!) and joined the team in 2019. Since then, she has managed a number of different workstreams: donor management, auctions, and all things operations. Her favorite memory with NFF was beNeFit VII when Aidan Fraser received the Strength and Honor award. She is currently working towards earning her Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University. If you ever need her, you can find her reading a book with a glass of wine—fun fact: Mar was born in Barcelona, Spain, and can fluently speak three languages.

Caroline Poole

Associate Grants and Operation Manager

Caroline Poole came to the NF Forward in 2022 with years of nonprofit management experience in fundraising, outreach, and donor relations. In her role, she acts as a sponsorship manager and supports many event related planning efforts including working closely with the honorees to make them feel prepared and welcomed. Caroline received her bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing from Michigan State University and Master’s in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University. In her free time, Caroline enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, and working towards her goal of visiting every National Park.

Dorienne Sherrod

Associate Grants and Operations Manager

Dorienne joined the NF Forward team in 2022 after working for various organizations in the Detroit area. Dorienne is elated to bring her experience to support the NF Forward mission of finding a cure for neurofibromatosis. She supports the silent and live auctions for the beNeFit Gala, acts as a sponsorship manager, and leads the NF Forward’s social media channels and annual newsletter. Dorienne holds a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University. When she is not working, Dorienne loves discovering hidden gems in Detroit, working out, throwing pottery, and traveling. 

Julia Sommers

Associate Grants and Operation Manager

Julia joined NF Forward in 2022 and became a key part of the hard-working team. With a primary focus on the beNeFit auctions and her role as a sponsorship manager, she supports the team with an all-hands-on deck attitude. She takes inspiration from the beNeFit’s special honorees, using it to fuel her passion for NF research. Julia has a professional background in the nonprofit sector, working in volunteer management, donor relations, and fundraising; she has a degree in Philosophy from Oakland University and a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management from Eastern Michigan University. When not at work, Julia can be found enjoying the great outdoors with her family and beagle

Hanna Anderson

NF Forward Intern

Hanna Anderson is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Hanna joins the Grants and Operations Team as an intern for the 2022 beNeFit X. Hanna supports many gala related activities including preparing for the auction, assisting our sponsorship managers, and leading social media activity for the gala. Hanna grew up in the Metro Detroit area and loves to travel to Lake Michigan with her two golden retrievers.

About NF Forward