Board of Directors

Claire Wineland, Founder

At age 13 Claire Wineland founded the Claire’s Place Foundation, a 501c3 non-for profit organization that provides emotional and financial support to families living with Cystic Fibrosis- a disease that Claire has had since birth. With the help of a dedicated Board of Directors, Claire has grown the Claire’s Place Foundation from a small charity to an award winning Nonprofit that aids many struggling families each year. Now 19, she has gone onto become a renowned advocate and public speaker. Since birth claire has loved being in front of an audience to tell stories. At four years old she performed her first on stage role in the Music Man and was hooked to the performing arts ever since. As the years passed claire’s love of performing encouraged her to tell her story to bigger and bigger audiences; incorporating all she had learned from the theatre into her advocacy work. Being a nerd at heart she spends her free time painting, traveling, decorating hospital rooms or simply curled up with massive sci-fi novel and a cup of tea. Born in Austin Tx but raised in LA Claire has a love of both the forest and the ocean. She loves hiking and swimming and biking around her home in venice beach for as long as her lungs will let her. Claire’s unique way of viewing her life has made her a role model to those living with disabilities and illness.  She believes that the quality of our life is not determined by whether we are healthy or sick but by what we have to offer to the world around us. Claire’s dreams for the future are to create a more welcoming and inspiring hospital experience for children with illness and disabilities and wishes to study the fascinating field of anthropology at U.C Berkeley.


laura for clairesplaceLaura McHolm, Chairman of the Board

Featured in Ladies’ Home Journal as one of 16 women making the world a happier place and one of the few women at the helm of a moving company, Laura McHolm had an unlikely start as co-founder and marketing director of NorthStar Moving Company.

Laura began university at the age of 16. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, she worked for Lawrence Hall of Science teaching computer programming and mathematics and was approached by Atari Computer Division in its infancy to work in consumer marketing. She continued her work in the marketing department during the sky rocket growth of Atari. Encouraged by the Atari legal team to attend law school, Laura graduated from law school and also obtained an emphasis in computer law from Oxford University. While in law school she began working for Intel in their legal department. She worked for various inventors as a general counsel and marketing director coordinating international intellectual property attorneys and marketing efforts on their behalf. In the mid-1990s she moved away from the Fortune 500 to fulfill her more creative, entrepreneurial spirit and partnered with Ram Katalan to launch NorthStar Moving® Company in Los Angeles.

Laura has been consistently nominated for multiple awards including: Los Angeles Business Journal’s and San Fernando Valley Business Journal’s Business Owner of the Year, Executive of the Year, Business Woman of the Decade, Philanthropist of the Year and won Trailblazer of the Year award.

Laura has been a member of the Claire’s Place Foundation Board since it’s founding and was elected Chairman of the Board in March 2016.


Melissa Mitchell Nordquist, Co Founder and Executive Director

Since the planning stages of Claire’s Place Foundation, Melissa Nordquist has spent countless hours working for the cause and, of course, raising her two children, Claire (the foundation’s namesake) and Ellie.  With many years experience in project management and event planning, she has the drive and the experience needed to get the foundation off the ground as well as the personal history of raising a child with cystic fibrosis.  Melissa is also a strong supporter of many charities and fundraising activities in her community.

Founding Claire’s Place Foundation has been a way for Melissa to give back and share her experience with other families living with cystic fibrosis.  “We have always been blessed with a supportive family and a wonderful group of friends.  It is my hope that we can provide the same type of support to families walking this path alone.  It definitely takes a village or in this case a foundation to raise a child with a chronic, life threatening disease like cystic fibrosis””

As the Executive Director of Claire’s Place Foundation, I report to the board of directors and am responsible for the organization’s consistent achievement of its mission and financial objectives.  I also maintain official records and documents and ensure compliance with federal, state and local regulations.  I constantly strive to develop a climate which attracts, keeps, and motivates a diverse group of top quality board members, volunteers and supporters.  In addition, it is my responsibility to publicize the activities of the organization, its programs and goals to supporters, community members and potential corporate partners.  The most rewarding function of my job is reaching out to and making a difference in the lives of families and children living with cystic fibrosis.


pic-ifeinbergIrwin B Feinberg, Vice President

Irwin B. Feinberg is a lead litigator and a partner at FMBK. He completed his undergraduate work at UCLA in 1976 and earned his J.D. from the University of California at Davis in 1979. He clerked for the Honorable Bertram Janes, Justice of the California Court of Appeal. Before founding FMBK, he originally practiced at the law firm of Buchalter, Nemer, Fields, Chrystie & Younger. Mr. Feinberg has an AV rating with Martindale-Hubbell

He is the former Board Chair and currently serves on the Board and Executive Committee of Our House, and serves as Chair of the Board of Westview School. He is also a former BoardMember of Kayne ERAS and Cure FD Foundation.  He was named as a Super Lawyer by Los Angeles Magazine, 2005 through 2011. Mr. Feinberg lives in Pacific Palisades with his wife, Deb, and has three sons.


TrishDixonTrish Dixon, Treasurer

Trish Dixon is acting CFO of Los Angeles-based Dixon Construction, Inc. a builder of high-end custom homes in Southern California.  She helped start and has managed the family-owned company for over 19 years.  A mother of three boys, Trish also donates her time and accounting expertise to several organizations. She served on the “Parents Working with Children” (effectively the PTA) board of St. Paul the Apostle School from 2005-20011 as Treasurer and then First Vice President.  She currently serves on the St. Paul Foundation and has been the Treasurer of Mothers Guild at the prestigious Loyola High School in Los Angeles, for the last four years.

Even with this demanding schedule, Trish can be found cheering her sons on at any one of a number of football, baseball, basketball or Lacrosse games in the greater Southern California region.  She is the epitome of the phrase, “If you want something done right, give it to a busy person!”  A devoted friend to so many, she has participated twice in the Avon Breast Cancer 39 Mile Walk to support friends who’ve battled the disease.  She is deeply committed to and involved with many charities, including the Claire’s Place Foundation.

A first generation Irish American, Trish hails from a large Catholic family in New Jersey.  She attended Trenton State College in New Jersey as an accounting major in 1984 and moved to California in 1993 when she met her soon-to-be husband Nathan Dixon.  They have been married for 20 years.


head shotSean Smith, Secretary

Sean has practiced and taught Critical Care, Prehospital, and Emergency Medicine for over 15 years.  His career and service is diverse and notable. Sean holds advanced certifications in critical care, pediatric emergency nursing and flight nursing among other medical specialties. He has researched molecular neuroendocrinology, served on multiple international humanitarian missions and in the US Navy, as well as provided medical support to NASA. Sean recently returned from serving in the Ebola Emergency Response in West Africa and makes monthly medical trips to Haiti where he is working to make long term improvements in healthcare, particularly for newborn and pediatric patients. Sean has followed Claire’s journey for a number of years and shares her passions for counting blessings and providing support to chronically ill children.


John Wineland picJohn Wineland, Co Founder and Director

John is an entrepreneur who serves his community by donating his time and money to Recovery Groups, Men’s Group and Youth Empowerment Projects in Los Angeles.  He is founder and owner of Milagra Floral  Imports, $2 million dollar per year  wholesale floral import company located in the heart of the Los Angeles Flower Market.

He founded and leads monthly mens groups serving over 150 men on the topics of relationship, mission and contribution.     All proceeds from these groups are donated to Youth Charity Programs including The Wolf Connection, a Wolf Rescue and Youth Empowerment Foundation that brings together troubled teens and Wolves in a natural habitat in order to foster confidence, pride and understanding of nature.   The Wolf Connection is an initiative of Spring of Evolution, Inc, a nonprofit of which he is a founding Board of Directors member.

He recently launched the Claire’s Place Foundation, with his daughter Claire Wineland, and her mother, Melissa Mitchell Nordquist.   Claire’s Place is   a non-profit charity aimed at improving the lives of children with Cystic Fibrosis and their families.     Claire’s Place Foundation has been recently spotlighted on Fox News, and the soon to be launched ABC Show “Everyday Health Heros.”



Gary Sommerstein, Director

Recognized by California Law Business as one of the top entertainment lawyers in Los Angeles, Gary is principal of the Law Office of Gary I. Sommerstein. With over 25 years of experience in the full service representation of clients in film and television, Gary’s clients have included MGM, Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate, Nintendo, Miramax, IM Global Television, Sonar Entertainment, A&E Networks, Yahoo!, Quincy Jones, Nous Modeling Agency, six time Oscar winning producer Arthur Cohn as well as several lead cast members of the Real Housewives. Gary is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Beverly Hills Bar Association, and is an Advisory Board Member of the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery. We met Gary shortly after the airing of “My Last Days” on the CW Network, a show that touched his heart and inspired him to get involved with Claire’s Place Foundation and the families we support.


Dr Leila Yoonessi, Director

Dr. Leila Yoonessi is currently a pediatric pulmonology fellow at Miller Children’s Hospital, Long Beach. Dr. Yoonessi holds a BA in psychobiology with a minor in religious studies from Occidental College. She graduated cum laude and was awarded a psychobiology departmental award for her academic achievements. She then studied at the University of Southern California where she earned Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in health care promotion. She then went on to complete her medical degree at New York Medical College. She relocated to California to rejoin her family where she completed her pediatric residency at Los Angeles County University Southern California. She is currently a board certified pediatrician. She has several research interests with several publications pending including Progression and Prognostic Indicators of Bronchial and Alveolar Disease in Children with Sickle Cell Disease, Cortisol levels as predictors for need for vasopressor support in the first 48 hours of life, environmental factors contributing to lung function and growth velocity decline, and inflammatory cytokines as predictors of respiratory disease in Cystic Fibrosis related metabolic syndrome. She remains committed to patient advocacy, research, complementary medicine, preventive medicine, holistic health, and non-profit work.

Practicing locations:
Miller Children’s Hospital, Long Beach
New York Medical College, 2009
Pediatric Residency, University of Southern California, 2012
Professional society memberships:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Thoracic Society


David Martell PhotoDavid Martell, Director

David Martell is a veteran in the financial services industry with experience and a passion for fundraising for charitable organizations. Currently, David is an account executive with a large firm in the commodities industry where he is responsible for the buying and selling of new and rare precious metals. Previously, David was the primary fundraiser for an outreach educational organization. He conducted fundraising strategy and outreach trained other fundraisers.  On a personal note, David has been a long time friend and supporter of Claire Wineland and her family.  He believes in and is committed to helping her further her mission to support families living with cystic fibrosis.