Board & Officers

  • David C. McKnight, owner and founder of Emerald City Designs, THE SPECIAL EVENT GROUP, has operated his business since 1993, and has built his reputation on “exceeding expectations” and creating events with “personality and style. From wedding receptions and mitzvahs, to corporate parties and charity fundraisers, David C. McKnight provides high-end floral designs, accessory rentals, unique stationery concepts and full planning and event coordination.

    McKnight has grown his business with the commitment of “bringing visions to life,” and combines his cutting edge originality and attention to detail with innovative and creative floral designs. The end results are often referred to as over the top and totally unique. From a one person operation (1993) to a vibrant, highly regarded event firm with staffing dozens of employees seasonally, Emerald City Designs sets the standard for professionalism within the special event industry. In 2011, McKnight created an online store, the poppy shoppe – AN ECD FLORAL BOUTIQUE, servicing local and national floral delivery. In 2009, David re-connected with school mate from Lake Orion, Shelly Lang Burton. At that time, Shelly and David became very close and learned of Shelly and Jim’s daughter, Nicole Marie Burton. She was diagnosed with Leukemia on September 11, 2008. Through her life altering experience, Nicole finished treatment on March 23, 2011, and then relapsed on May 17, 2011. At that time, through many hospital and doctor visits, Nicole received a bone marrow transplant on January 16, 2012. With a perfect matched donor, Nicole was in and out of the hospital in 30 days – she was expected to stay at least 100 days or more. Nicole had 18.5 great months until rejection to the bone marrow set in, she then started treatment in September of 2013. During this difficult time, the idea of KIDSgala arose from Shelly and David’s communication and the first idea started to become a reality. On October 23, 2013, Nicole relapsed again, making it even more important for her to receive the first KIDSgala gifted party to a child. With now the rejection in full force as well as her leukemia returning, she didn’t qualify for any trials. When Nicole’s parents Shelly and Jim told her that the cancer was back, she stated “I want to go home mumma”. In full force, David worked with many colleagues on obtaining a date, venue, vendors, etc. and on October 31st, 2013, Nicole was discharged for the last time. It was with great sorrow, that on November 8th, 2013, she peacefully passed away at home with her parents, uncle, grandmother and David. Unfortunately, the KIDSgala event that was being planned turned into a memorial luncheon for Nicole Marie Burton. In memory of Nicole, KIDSgala – A David C. McKnight Foundation was created in her honor. The foundation would not be possible without the endless hours of the ten volunteering Board Members and Officers. Since late 2013, David C. McKnight, President and the Board of Directors have raised thousands of dollars with fundraising events, and in 2014 KIDSgala started gifting “celebration of life” parties to children. With the help of generous sponsors, donations, and volunteers of KIDSgala continues to grow.

  • Kimberly’s most fulfilling career, however, has been that of wife and mother. Her 15 years of marriage has brought her three wonderful children and has kept her very busy supporting a variety of school and recreational activities. Having taken a hiatus from her medical career, she has had the opportunity to enjoy every moment she has been able to spend with her children. When the time is appropriate, she plans to continue her career as a Nurse Anesthetist.

    Kimberly Britt is a proud graduate of Michigan State University. It was there that her lifelong dream of serving in the medical field was realized. The Nursing program offered her the opportunities to a rewarding and enduring career path. Kimberly graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which provided her the opportunity to join the staff at the Detroit Medical Center in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Harper Hospital. Taking care of the high acuity critically ill patients sparked her desire to advance her education. She accepted full time enrollment into the Nurse Anesthesia program at Wayne State University and two years later received a Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia. Continuing her employment with the Detroit Medical Center, Kimberly provided care in the Surgical Suites at Hutzel Women’s Hospital. She enjoyed an emphasis in regional anesthesia as it pertained to labor and delivery. Those experiences in maternal anesthesia led to her aspiration to present the Obstetrical Anesthesia didactic curriculum in the Wayne State University Nurse Anesthesia Master’s Program. She enjoyed lecturing for the next 14 years while working with individual students in the clinical setting. That background paved the way for her to assist students in applying the didactic component with the individual needs of each patient undergoing anesthesia. In 2013, Kimberly’s longtime friendship with David C. McKnight and Shelly Burton brought her to KIDSgala. Shelly and Jim’s love and dedication to their daughter Nicole and the struggles they all endured proved an inspiration to her. Coalescing her years in medicine and the compassion one feels from working with children battling diseases or congenital medical problems compelled Kimberly to get involved with KIDSgala. Her experiences have taught her children need to feel the joy of simple things such as birthday parties with friends, attending sports events and reveling in school functions. KIDSgala brings joy and happiness to children who have or are currently enduring a life-altering event with an individualized celebration. Seeing the happiness these celebrations bring to the children and their families is why Kimberly is very proud to be a board member of this dedicated organization.

  • Erinn O’Connor is currently The President and owner of The O’Connor Group, an executive search firm that specializes in placing top talent with great companies mainly in the Metro Detroit Area. The O’Connor Group celebrated it’s 18th year this year and is headquartered in Lake Orion, Michigan. Erinn has been actively recruiting in the staffing business for 26 years. She has three children ages are 28, 18 and soon to be 8. Erinn joined the KIDSgala family in 2016.

  • Sandy Hughes O’Brien serves as legal counsel to the President and Chairman of the KIDSgala Board of Directors. In this capacity, she advises on corporate governance, nonprofit law, tax matters and best practices for nonprofits. Sandy is also a devoted public servant, elected to serve an eight-year term on the Wayne State University’s Board of Governors in 2012. She is the first person of Latino heritage to be elected statewide to the Wayne State University Board of Governors. Sandy currently serves as the Deputy County Clerk and Register of Deeds for Oakland County. She is an active member of the Michigan Bar Association and several professional organizations and speaks frequently on the topic of women and minorities in law careers. Sandy is a frequent speaker and panelist at conferences related to education, empowerment and inclusion. She serves on numerous community boards and committees. She is a graduate of the Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University (J.D., cum laude, 1998) and received her undergraduate degree from Grand Valley State University. Sandy grew up in West Michigan and now resides in Northville with her husband, Barrie, their three children, Faelan, Fiona, and Rory; and their dog, Lola.

  • Kathleen Reid is currently the Assistant Director of Catering at the Royal Park Hotel. She has years of experience in hospitality, hotel and, event management. Kathleen has been with the Royal Park since 2012. She enjoys helping others and brings light and love to everything she does. Kathleen has been a KIDSgala Officer serving the Board and the children in our community for five years. She enjoys assisting with projects and celebrations that supports the KIDSgala bottom line which is providing memorable celebrations and joy to children in need of a smile.

  • Dorothy Kinnunen is a self-employed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She graduated with a BSA from the University of Michigan – Dearborn with a double major in accounting and finance in 1994. Dorothy has spent most of her career in industry as a controller, the most recent being a $160 million company nationwide. She left industry 3 years ago, to start her own company providing accounting to small businesses and individual tax preparation to a limited number of clients. Dorothy was treasurer of her own non-profit for over five years, raising over $100,000 for breast cancer and providing funds to organizations that assisted with out of pocket costs for those men and woman suffering from breast cancer. Dorothy is married to Craig, who has been an engineer at Detroit Diesel for 20 years. They have three kids, the oldest of which is a member of the Army National Guard, the middle which is currently a part time student at Livingston County Community College seeking a career in engineering, and the youngest who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Psychology at Central Michigan University. Dorothy was introduced to KIDSgala by David McKnight when he requested her assistance with the accounting. She has volunteered her time for over a year now as the treasurer and enjoys being part of an organization providing smiles and joy to children in need.