Our Team

Partners and Team

Help Me Grow San Mateo County is a collaborative system led by First 5 San Mateo County in partnership with community organizations Gatepath and Stanford Children’s Health. Many other valued partners in the community are part of the Help Me Grow San Mateo County network and are vital to its success. Help Me Grow San Mateo County recognizes the tremendous value of all our partnerships, including those that provide funding. Together we are committed to achieving and maintaining a system that partners with parents to promote the full potential of all children birth through five.

Sonia ValenzuelaCall Center Manager, Gatepath

Trained in evidence-based family engagement methodologies, Sonia has been supporting families and providers for almost 18 years. She oversees care coordination for families served through Help Me Grow and helped to develop and launch the Call Center. She is passionate about serving parents and providers, and enjoys using her personal and professional experiences to bring communities together.

Emily Gudaitis, MPHProject Coordinator, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford

Her experience at Stanford Children’s Health prepared Emily for her current partnership-building role with Help Me Grow, where she coordinates outreach efforts to pediatric healthcare providers. Her passion is to bridge the gap between families and the resources in the community to ensure that all children have equitable access to healthcare services.

Margarita Sandoval, BACare Coordinator, Gatepath

With 20 years of experience working with families in the Redwood City area, Margarita joined the Help Me Grow team in October 2019. Along with promoting Help Me Grow San Mateo County through outreach and events, she is responsible for processing the Ages and Stages questionnaires, providing referrals to community resources and answering phone calls for the Call Center. Margarita is currently working toward her Masters in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about connecting families to community resources.

Mara McGrath, MPHConsultant, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford

Mara has trained and provided technical assistance to over five hundred pediatric healthcare providers. She’s now channeling this experience in her current training role. The parent of a 36-year-old son with cerebral palsy, Mara’s passion is to enhance services to children with special health care needs and other populations facing challenges.

Cheryl OkuConsultant and Initiative Manager

For over 20 years Cheryl has supported quality improvement in programs and initiatives for children 0-5. Cheryl is the co-lead for the Help Me Grow in San Mateo County, coordinating and supporting the continuing development of our system. Her experience as a young child with special health care needs fuels Cheryl’s passion to ensure that every family receives the support they need.

Emily Roberts, MSW, MPHHealth and Development Specialist, First 5 San Mateo County

Emily brings nearly 20 years of experience in the child- and family-serving professions. With a passion for working with children and families, deepening community connections and promoting equity through increased access, Emily co-leads the Help Me Grow San Mateo County system. As a mother of two, Emily also knows firsthand the importance of having trusted professionals to turn to for advice and support.

Neel Patel, M.D.Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Pediatrics

Dr. Patel is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and has previously served as the Co-Chair for the Northern California Section on Young Physicians. His professional interests include pediatric infectious diseases, developmental screening and early intervention, co-management with specialists, ambulatory safety/quality, and the patient experience. Dr. Patel is fluent in English, Spanish, Hindi and Gujarati. The patient and family experience is what ultimately drives his passion in health care.

Carol ElliottDirector, Family Support Services, Gatepath

Also an elected Trustee of the San Carlos School District, Carol has been in nonprofit management since 1991. In her role with Gatepath, she oversees administration, operations, fiscal and strategic planning for three programs including Help Me Grow. Carol is passionate about building systems that support all children reaching their fullest potential.

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