Meet the Team
Carrie Hay, Co-Founder
Carrie Hay- mother to Luella, was born and raised in East-Central Illinois and graduated from Mahomet-Seymour High School in 2003. She attended Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL and earned her B.A. in psychology with a minor in health in 2007. Carrie then completed two terms with AmeriCorps, one with Habitat for Humanity in Jacksonville, FL and one year with Chicago Health Corps. Carrie then returned to the Champaign area to earn her Master’s in Social Work at University of Illinois. She currently lives in Oakwood, IL with her husband Ben and her living children Lochlan and Lettie. Carrie works with University of Illinois as a social worker and currently serves as the volunteer Executive Director of Luella's Lodge. Carrie's passion is planning and implementing events and retreats where she is able to connect with other grieving parents and hear about their wonderful children. She hopes Luella's Lodge can be a beautifully safe space for grieving parents to honor their children and their complex grief journeys.
Benjamin Hay father to Luella was born and raised in Illinois and graduated from Sandwich High School in 1999. He earned a B.A. in Speech Communications from University of Illinois in 2004 where he was a student-athlete on the varsity wrestling team. As a man of the outdoors, a multi-instrumentalist musician and craftsman, Ben is determined to use his talents to help parents heal with the magic of Luella’s Lodge. He currently lives with his partner/teammate/wife Carrie, his son Lochlan and his daughter Lettie Jo in the woods of Oakwood.
Benjamin Hay, Co-Founder
Ryan Berger, Board Member
Ryan Berger, uncle of Luella, was born and raised in East-Central Illinois graduating from Mahomet-Seymour High School in 1998. He then earned a B.S. in biology in 2003 from the University of Illinois where he was a student-athlete on the varsity wrestling team. His love for the outdoors led Ryan to further pursue his academic career by obtaining a M.S. degree in 2007 from Georgia Southern University where he examined seasonal manatee behavior and distribution in Crystal River, FL. In 2010 he moved to the San Francisco Bay area in California to pursue non-profit conservation work focusing on marine mammal ecology. After 10+ years of middle/upper management in the non-profit sector, Ryan is poised to take lessons learned and apply them to the success of Luella’s Lodge. He couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this process and proud of his family for their efforts to achieve the goals and outcomes detailed in the Lodge’s mission and business plan. Currently, Ryan lives with his wonderful wife, Katie and lovely dog, in their house nestled among the redwoods in the Russian River area of Sonoma County.
MaryBess Gordon is a fellow bereaved mamma and joined Luella's Lodge as a board member in September 2022. MaryBess was born and raised in Champaign, IL and graduated from Champaign Central High School in 2004. Since earning her Bachelor's degree from Eastern Illinois University and has been busy working in the non-profit and financial services industries. MaryBess is the Director of Client Services and Operations at Bluestem Financial Advisors in Savoy, IL. Over the years she has been involved with several local non-profits and has always been drawn to helping others. She lives in Champaign with her husband Jason and their twins, Annie & Owen.
MaryBess married her husband in 2008 and after several years of infertility treatments became pregnant with their first child, Margaret Kimberly. Sadly, Maggie was stillborn at 36 weeks gestation on October 4, 2019. Not one to let tragedy get the best of her, MaryBess and her family have dedicated themselves to helping other bereaved families in Maggie's memory. In March of 2021 Jason and MaryBess welcomed their double rainbow babies, Annie & Owen. From the moment she stepped foot on the property, MaryBess has felt connected to the mission of Luella's Lodge. She is thrilled to be part of this team and help bereaved parents like herself find some peace as they navigate their grief.
Dr. Jennea Bivens Klingenberg, Board Member
Dr. Jennea Bivens Klingenberg joined Luella's Lodge as a board member July 2021. Dr. Klingenberg is an accomplished, self-directed, and driven Licensed-Eligible Psychologist with hands-on experience that spans more than 18 years in counseling, consulting, coaching, teaching, community and youth development, and research distinguished by commended performance and proven results. Over the years, she has worked with diverse institutions in clinical consulting, teaching roles, private practice, community mental health, DCFS/Fostercare and post adoption, and Headstart/K-8 schools.
Dr. Klingenberg's areas of interest are Mental Health in schools, Mental Health Development among youth, Youth Development, Cognitive Skills Enhancement, Brain Training, Advocacy for education issues among African American youth, Violence Prevention, Youth Coping Strategies, and Youth advocacy.
Dr. Klingenberg has proven skills in providing comprehensive psychological evaluations aimed toward diagnostic clarity and related treatment services; supporting behavioral health policy and training development; providing support and supervision to less experienced behavioral health professionals; developing and implementing clinical mental health and intervention program; designing and implementing training/education courses; leading high-quality scholarly research, and propelling academic excellence; building and leading high-performance teams to ensure success and achieve goals, and coaching individuals, business owners, entrepreneurs, not-for-profits, and teachers on how to get to "The More" of what they do.
Caroline Wagner is a fellow bereaved momma and met Carrie and Ben through a support group for bereaved parents. She is the Alumni Events Coordinator for Luella's Lodge, where she coordinates online meetings to keep retreat participants in contact with one another. You may also see her around the Lodge during retreats leading different discussion groups and lending a hand wherever she is needed.
Caroline moved to Champaign in 1990 and graduated from Centennial High School in 1998. She then went on to earn a degree from Parkland in Veterinary Technology. She was an Animal Imaging Technician at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine for 15 years working with veterinary students and both large and small animals.
In 2007 Caroline married her amazing husband, Wayne, and in 2009 they became pregnant with their son, Ian. At their 18 week ultrasound they found out that Ian had multiple anomalies. He was born on December 19th, 2009 and was amazing. Throughout his 4.5 years, Ian endured eleven surgeries and multiple hospital stays. He was always so brave and impacted everyone that met him. He passed away on June 3rd, 2014.
Caroline resides in Monticello, IL with her husband and three children. She is a stay at home momma and wouldn't have it any other way.
After she met Carrie and Ben, she fell in love with the idea of Luella's Lodge and is so excited that she is able to help support bereaved parents on their individual
Board Member/Alumni Events Coordinator
Laurel Smith was born and raised, alongside Carrie, in East-Central Illinois graduating from Mahomet-Seymour High School in 2003. She then earned a Bachelor’s in International Business from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2007. Since earning her degree, she has worked in New York City and Chicago in account management and people leadership in the finance and technology industries. In 2011, she married her wonderful husband, Jeremy and they share two children together; Kellen and Monroe. They currently reside in Wheaton, IL.
As a support sister to Carrie and a witness to losing sweet Luella, Laurel has been a longtime supporter of Luella’s Lodge through fundraising and volunteer opportunities. She has seen the
immense impact that the Lodge has had on bereaved families and is looking forward to leveraging skills gained in her profession (social media, campaign outreach, team and project
management) to deepen her volunteer contribution through community outreach and donor relations.