Laura Lee Franks, Founder and Executive Director
For years, Laura Lee was the person stray dogs seemed to find. Before Austin became a no-kill city, she wasn’t comfortable taking her foundlings to Austin Animal Center, so she set out to rehome them herself, eventually aligning with a local mixed-breed rescue group for guidance and kicking off her dog rescue experience. She has volunteered as a foster (and three-time adopter) for Heart of Texas Lab Rescue since 2004 and a walker and foster for Austin Animal Center since 2014. She also works with her tracking Labrador, Rufus, to search for lost dogs alongside the Trapping, Rescue, and Pet Recovery Service (TRAPRS).
Laura Lee has also held long-term volunteer positions with such human-centric organizations as The Safe Alliance, Project Transitions, and Hospice Austin. An engineer and project manager by training, she enjoys yoga and artistic pursuits in her spare time; Laura Lee is dedicated to leveraging her left- and right-brain experiences to create an organized, sustainable nonprofit that is as resilient as her blind dog, Maverick, whose journey from uncertain to unstoppable opened her eyes and heart to the potential of differently abled dogs.
Danna Price, Board Member
Danna's passion for differently-abled dogs took shape in 2020 after she adopted Adira, a mobility impaired dog. Having no prior experience with mobility impairment and misleading information on Adira’s condition, she took to the internet in search of answers and support to help her learn how to navigate life with a special needs dog.
Danna quickly became overwhelmed and frustrated when she was met with hostility and shamed for adopting a dog she “didn't know how to properly care for,” and she struggled to find resources online because she simply didn't have the knowledge to even know what to look for. With the help of her vet and therapy team, Danna began to grow more confident in understanding Adira’s needs, but when everyone was left scratching their heads or commenting how odd Adira’s situation was in comparison to many other mobility-impaired dogs, she knew she needed the help of the experts - other wheelchair pup parents!
It didn't take her long to fall into the differently-abled community on Instagram. Danna was able to network with others all around the globe who helped answer questions, give suggestions, and offer support. Remembering the struggles she faced when first bringing Adira home, she wanted to use social media as a way to welcome others to reach out for support. It was a place to openly share the ups and downs of living with a disabled pet. Adira has provided Danna with a new outlook and perspective on life and she wanted to be able to offer that same insight to others, both animal and humans!
Danna now devotes a large portion of her time to providing others with resources, answering questions, and bringing awareness for mobility-impaired dogs. All this while being a mom to four human children, as well as attending college full time, completing a degree in Vet Tech with plans to return to school to complete certifications for canine rehabilitation.
When the opportunity to get involved with The Unstoppables Project presented itself, Danna did not hesitate! She looks forward to working alongside an amazing team of people who all have a passion for helping differently-abled dogs. Working together the Board can continue to provide support, education, and awareness for dogs that many times get overlooked for their differences and the humans who care for them.
Karli Waldrip, Board Member
Karlie and her Australian Cattle Dog, Rhett; are both deaf and from Texas! Karlie fell in love with dogs early on because one of her elementary deaf education teachers had a deaf therapy dog that she brought to school. The instructor taught her students about deaf dogs, how to train them, etc.
After graduating college and getting her first job as a Deaf Education teacher, Karlie was ready to adopt a deaf dog. A co-worker sent her a picture of Rhett at a shelter. She had to meet him, and once she did she knew he was the one! Ever since he has been Karli's shadow and best friend.
Karli and Rhett love educating others about their deafness and how they live a “normal” life communicating in sign language. When people tell Karli they are ready to adopt a deaf dog, she loves helping them find the best fit for their lifestyle/family. It is so rewarding to hear and see people give deaf dogs a chance!
Karli will soon be publishing a children’s book called “I Deaf-initely Can, Rhett the Heeler” that is written from Rhett’s perspective as a deaf dog! Check out the website and subscribe for updates.
Cyndy Lopez, Board Member
Cyndy has been volunteering for decades with a variety of local and national programs, such as the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Girl scouts and RED HORSE. Cyndy has probably spent more time volunteering than working in a paid position, thanks to her amazing husband, his work and dedication to family. Family participation has always been a key part of volunteering for the Lopez family, everyone had to be involved, creating memories while helping others, experiencing unique opportunities, traveling, camping and meeting some fascinating people.
So, you may be wondering, what brought Cyndy to The Unstoppables Project? After losing her dog, Denali, her husband thought Denali needed a Legacy of Love. When Denali was rescued, she was found in a bad situation, literally skin and bones. Denali had several issues with skin infections, crystals in her eyes, heart murmur, MRSA and extremely fragile bones due to years of malnutrition. Denali even had her tail amputated after a wagging incident, leaving her a boxer tail. Denali loved her family and protected them fiercely. No one dare get close to Cyndy’s truck when she was inside.
To honor Denali, Cyndy and Jesse wanted to adopt a dog that would normally be overlooked for medical issues. Jesse saw a video of two young pups running and falling on YouTube and remembered their names. They found additional information on The Unstoppables Project website. These beautiful dogs are siblings with cerebellar ataxia (hypoplasia), also known as wobble dogs. They definitely aren’t Weebles, because they do fall down! Tessa and Jessa were not listed as a bonded pair, but at 9 months old and still together; how could we separate them (or even choose between them). Cyndy inquired about both girls, their needs and discussed the unique challenges of living in rural Alaska with a neurological condition. A few days later we were approved for adoption and our journey began. Travel challenges during covid, required Cyndy traveling in 7 states, 6 flights and 26 hours of driving, to get them home to Alaska.
The Mal Gals, Tessa and Jessa, have taught us a lot about perseverance. They may move differently and have some falls, but they are happy and healthy. They are truly unstoppable, and they are the reason Cyndy is here now, to help other animals that have challenges to overcome.
This is a journey of love. Learning that, no matter how often you fall, the simple act of getting back up makes all the difference.