About

Dan and Jennifer Gilbert’s passionate belief that big problems require big solutions informs both their commitment to curing neurofibromatosis and building opportunity and equity for Detroit residents.

Dan and Jennifer’s commitment to NF research began when their oldest son, Nicolas, was born with NF1. They established the Gilbert Family Foundation in 2015 to advance groundbreaking, cutting-edge NF research and are focused on supporting the best ideas, no matter how radical they may seem at first.

Dan and Jennifer’s commitment to building opportunity and equity for Detroit residents is rooted in their love and long-time passion for their hometown. The Gilbert Family Foundation’s $350 million, 10-year commitment to support the Detroit community builds on a decade of impactful investments, including the historic decision to relocate the Rock Family of Companies to downtown Detroit in 2010.

Learn more about each of these areas and the passionate teams that are helping see the future we believe is possible.

Our Founders

Dan Gilbert

Founder and Chairman

Rocket Companies

Jennifer Gilbert

Founder and CEO, Amber Engine

Founder and Creative Director, POPHOUSE

Dan Gilbert

Founder and Chairman

Rocket Companies

Dan Gilbert is Founder and Chairman of Rocket Companies, which went public on August 6, 2020. He is also Founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Founder and Chairman of the Rock Family of Companies, a portfolio of technology businesses and real estate investments, and Chairman of the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship. The Rock Family of Companies and its more than 100 affiliated companies across the country employ more than 30,000 team members, including more than 17,000 in Detroit’s urban core.

From 2013 through 2018, Detroit-based Quicken Loans closed nearly half a trillion dollars in home loan volume across all 50 states, and in 2019, for the tenth consecutive year, earned J.D. Power’s highest rating for client satisfaction among all U.S. mortgage lenders.

Dan is also an active investor in fintech, sports-related and consumer direct companies. Dan is a Founder and Principal of Detroit Venture Partners (DVP), a venture capital firm that funds startup and early-stage technology companies and a Founding Partner of Detroit-based private equity group Rockbridge Growth Equity.

In February 2016, Dan co-founded Detroit-based StockX, the world’s first ‘stock market of things’, combining the visible, liquid, anonymous, and transparent benefits of a stock market with the online consumer secondary market.

Dan began moving his Family of Companies to Detroit’s central business district in 2010 in an effort to help lead the transformation of a great American city. In 2011, Dan co-founded Detroit-based Bedrock, a full-service real estate firm specializing in acquiring, leasing, financing, and managing commercial and residential space. Since its founding, Bedrock and its affiliates have invested and committed more than $5.6 billion to acquiring and developing more than 100 properties, including new construction of ground up developments in downtown Detroit and Cleveland, totaling more than 18 million square feet.

Dan serves on the boards of the Cleveland Clinic and the Children’s Tumor Foundation. In 2015, Dan and Jennifer Gilbert established the Gilbert Family Foundation and in 2017, formed NF Forward to fund cutting-edge research dedicated to finding a cure for neurofibromatosis (NF).

Dan earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his law degree from Wayne State University.

Jennifer Gilbert

Founder and CEO, Amber Engine

Founder and Creative Director, POPHOUSE

Jennifer Gilbert is Director and Board Member of Rocket Companies, which went public on August 6, 2020.

In 2015, Jennifer founded Amber Engine, a home furnishings services and solutions technology company. Amber Engine’s mission is to make product data easy to manage for businesses of all sizes across industries through its “easy to use,” “fast to deploy,” and “accessible to all” cloud platform.

Prior to Amber Engine, Jennifer founded Doodle Home, a digital platform for residential interior designers. Doodle Home was sold to Dering Hall in 2015.

Jennifer also serves as the Founder and Creative Director of Detroit-based POPHOUSE. With more than 20 years of experience in interior design, she brings her expertise in leading the commercial design firm that specializes in utilizing data and industry research to provide strategic, unconventional and human-centric design for clients across a broad spectrum of industries.
In addition to her business interests, Jennifer is active with a number of nonprofits focused on the arts and finding a cure for Neurofibromatosis (also known as NF). She is President of NF Forward and serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum.

Along with her husband, Dan, Jennifer has a true passion for the city of Detroit; an area where she directs a large portion of her philanthropic efforts. Jennifer founded the Detroit Art Collection in November 2015 to beautify and inspire public spaces and structures in downtown Detroit with sculptural and mixed media works from both local and national artists, galleries and dealers. Additionally, she directs the philanthropic efforts of the Gilbert Family Foundation, which in addition to its work on NF, recently announced a $500 million effort to assist the residents of the City of Detroit.

Jennifer earned her Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design from Michigan State University. The Gilberts reside in the Detroit area. They have five children.

Our Team

Darnell Adams

Director

Detroit Community Initiatives

Brandi Brown

Associate Program Manager

Cayla Chamberlin

Senior Program Manager

Leah Counts

Program Manager

Jasmin DeForrest

Director

Arts & Culture

James Feagin

Director

Economic Mobility

Laura Grannemann

Executive Director

YooRi Kim, MS

Scientific Officer

David Mitchell, PhD

Project Manager

Gene Therapy Initiative

Kinnus Paul

Program Manager

Caroline Poole

Associate Grants and Operations Manager

Kayleigh Roy

Director

Grants and Operations

Dorienne Sherrod

Associate Grants and Operations Manager

Julia Sommers

Associate Grants and Operations Manager

Mar Paricio Sunyer

Grants and Operations Manager

JJ Velez

Director

Public Spaces

Kalyan Vinnakota, PhD

Project Manager

Vision Restoration Initiative

Darnell Adams

Director

Detroit Community Initiatives

Detroit native Darnell Adams is the Director, Detroit Community Initiatives for the Gilbert Family Foundation. He brings more than 10 years of community development, strategic planning, and thought leadership experience to his role. Throughout his career, Darnell has strived to build and adjust resources that directly affect Detroiters.

Prior to joining the Gilbert Family Foundation, Darnell served as Vice President, Neighborhoods at Invest Detroit where he led equitable investments in the city’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund districts with a special focus on supporting BIPOC developers. Previously, he served as the Director, Inventory for the Detroit Land Bank Authority where he oversaw the strategic disposition of 94,000 publicly owned parcels.

Darnell is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Urban & Regional Planning. Darnell continues to push community development work forward as a board member of several community development organizations across Detroit and shares his work through local, national, and international forums.

Brandi Brown

Associate Program Manager

Brandi Brown is an Associate Program Manager on the Economic Mobility Team with the Gilbert Family Foundation. Through the lens of community and family development, Brandi focuses on building strategies that remove economic hardships and lack of financial opportunities across generations.

Brandi began her service career as a AmeriCorps member with City Year Detroit, where she spring-boarded learning partnerships with Detroit Public School Community District. Brandi’s equitable collaborations with Youth on the Edge of Greatness, Matrix Human Services and College for Creative Studies helped to launch Detroit Neighborhoods Arts Workshops, the first Detroit joint initiative aimed at creating entrepreneurship pathways for young artists. With dual background in holistic health, Brandi’s professional principles are founded in supporting Detroiters through trauma-informed practices and partnerships.

Brandi’s work with the Gilbert Family Foundation’s Economic Mobility Team fosters co-designed initiatives that helps Detroit households reimagine their ability to grow and maintain their income through increased wages, skills attainment, and pathways to entrepreneurship. Prior to joining Gilbert Family Foundation, Brandi programmed the over-arching Rocket Family of Companies’ team member-facing initiatives at Rock Connections. Brandi attends Wayne State University, where she is earning a degree in Psychology and Urban Education & Equality Studies.

Cayla Chamberlin

Senior Program Manager

Cayla Chamberlin is a Senior Program Manager with the Gilbert Family Foundation. A passionate public space professional, she works to create safe, inclusive, and active parks and public spaces in Detroit. In her role on the Public Spaces team, she works with neighborhood organizations, non-profits, and government entities to invest in public spaces throughout the city.

She has experience working on a variety of projects in Detroit including the building of the Esplanade in downtown Detroit, the redevelopment of McDuffy Park in the Piety Hill neighborhood, and has been leading the Downtown Detroit Markets in Cadillac Square since their creation in 2017. Chamberlin is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in English and an additional degree in Communications.

Leah Counts

Program Manager

Leah Counts is a Program Manager with the Gilbert Family Foundation. She supports the Arts & Culture team’s work to enrich Detroiters’ quality of life by providing universal access to diverse arts and culture experiences that create social bonds and fuel the vibrancy of Detroit.

Leah joined the Rock Family of Companies in 2015 and is passionate about the investment and development of the city of Detroit where she has been a lifelong resident. She has a bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in Sociology with a focus on Urban Development and a Master of Business Administration from Wayne State University.

Jasmin DeForrest

Director

Arts & Culture

A Detroit native, Jasmin leads a diverse portfolio of Detroit-based community investments that support arts and culture programming and the creative workforce. With extensive experience in sponsorship, event production and partnership development, she manages funding decisions that enrich the quality of life of Detroiters by providing access to culturally enriching experiences.

In 2017, she created the Rocket Community Fund’s Small Business Murals Project, which connects art and entrepreneurship by pairing local artists with small business owners to bring art to their space and neighborhoods. To date, nearly thirty small businesses throughout the city have been gifted murals. Moreover, Jasmin is passionate about the importance of representation and works to break down barriers to the arts by ensuring Detroit youth are provided opportunities to explore creative career pathways. This passion resulted in a dynamic partnership with the College for Creative Studies that includes the Gilbert Family Foundation’s first-ever, endowed scholarship that focuses on Detroit high-school students of color.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she developed the Digital Access for the Arts Program to provide arts and cultural organizations with the tools needed to safely service their communities. She lives by a simple work mantra, “do what I can, while I’m here,” and it is her hope that she’s made an impact on the city and people that she loves so much.

James Feagin

Director

Economic Mobility

James Feagin serves as Directory of Economic Mobility for the Gilbert Family Foundation. The Economic Mobility team helps Detroiters improve their ability to succeed in the future economy by deploying investments that focus on increasing wages, growing opportunities for skills attainment, and providing pathways to entrepreneurship.

Prior to joining the Family of Companies in 2020 as Director of Entrepreneurship for the Rocket Community Fund, James served as Lead Strategist for Projects +PEOPLE. His former clients include the New Economy Initiative, the Knight Foundation, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. He also previously consulted with Rock Ventures, supporting the development and launch of Detroit Demo Day.

With over 20 years of experience in economic & community development, James serves as a strategic advisor both locally and nationally and is an entrepreneur at heart.

Laura Grannemann

Executive Director

Laura Grannemann is the Vice President of Rocket Community Fund and Executive Director of the Gilbert Family Foundation. Laura joined the Rock Family of Companies in May of 2014 after graduating from Georgetown University with a degree in International Development.

In her dual roles, Laura focuses on breaking down complex systems related to economic development and neighborhood stabilization, including Detroit’s tax foreclosure crisis, the mortgage market in the city, and creating education programs that prepare students for 21st century jobs in Detroit. She also oversees all volunteer engagement and giving initiatives for the Rock Family of Companies via the Rocket Community Fund.

Throughout her time with the Rock Family of Companies, Laura has led projects that bring together community, public and private partners such as Rehabbed & Ready, Motor City Mapping, Neighbor to Neighbor, the Make It Home program, and the Detroit Tax Relief Fund. This work has affected tens of thousands of Detroit residents, allowing families to stay in their homes, become homeowners, and build equity and opportunity.

YooRi Kim, MS

Scientific Officer

YooRi Kim is Scientific Officer of the Gilbert Family Foundation, where she is on a mission to find effective treatments for neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). She develops and oversees the Foundation’s research portfolio, which is focused on vision restoration for individuals with NF1 optic pathway glioma, treatment of NF1 brain tumors, and NF1 gene therapies. Previously, she served as a medical philanthropy advisor at the Milken Institute, helping philanthropists strategically invest in biomedical research in various fields, including neurology, oncology, psychiatry, genetics, and precision wellness. YooRi graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a minor in Spanish. She received her master’s degree in physiology and biophysics from Virginia Commonwealth University.

David Mitchell, PhD

Project Manager

Gene Therapy Initiative

Dave Mitchell is the manager of the Gilbert Family Foundation’s Gene Therapy Initiative. Dr. Mitchell trained and has over two decades of experience as a basic researcher in the areas of yeast genetics and biochemistry. He has served in academia as a Research Professor (University of South Florida (USF), Molecular Medicine Department) and as USF’s Director of the Professional Science Masters’ Program in Biotechnology & Intellectual Property.

In the industrial sector, he held roles as Senior Discover Scientist and Manager of Clinical Diagnostics Translation and Validation. His major scientific contributions revolve around the area of posttranslational modifications. Dr. Mitchell was the first to: construct inducible GST chimeric fusion vectors for protein expression and purification in S. cerevisiae, demonstrate the regulation and specificity of phospho-tyrosine phosphatase activators in yeast, discover the genes and elucidate the molecular mechanism(s) of zDHHC palmitoyl transferases, and identify potential pharmaceutical interventions for diseases that are due to defects in palmitoyl transferase activity. He is dedicated to addressing the unmet needs of patients and the education of junior scientists and students.

Dr. Mitchell holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.S., Genetics) and the University of Iowa (Ph.D., Biochemistry).

Kinnus Paul

Program Manager

Kinnus Paul, is a lifelong Detroiter and graduate of Detroit Northwestern Highschool. Kinnus has over 13 years of experience in talent pipelining, small business support and program management specific to skilled trades. Supporting Detroiters as an ecosystem partner is his mission and fuels his appetite to be the change he wants to see in the community he loves.

Caroline Poole

Associate Grants and Operations Manager

Caroline Poole oversees the logistics and behind-the-scenes work of the grantmaking process at the Gilbert Family Foundation. As the Associate Grants & Operations Manager, she supports the Economic Mobility team in executing projects that create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in the city, invest in small businesses and skills training, and build economic opportunity for Detroit residents. Her work is also directed towards Curing NF where she collaborates with scientists to manage research projects for the foundation’s Vision Restoration Initiative. Caroline comes to the Gilbert Family Foundation with years of experience in the nonprofit industry. In her previous role as the Communications & Strategic Initiatives Manager at Global Ties Detroit, she was responsible for leading projects to improve the organization’s infrastructure and outreach. Caroline received her B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University and her M.A. in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University.

Kayleigh Roy

Director

Grants and Operations

Kayleigh Roy manages the day-to-day and long-term operational planning of the Gilbert Family Foundation’s grants across pillars as well as for NF Forward, a nonprofit founded by the Gilberts. Acting as Director of Grants and Operations, she interfaces with all members of the Foundation’s team and grantees to cultivate and maintain strong partnerships across the Curing NF and Building Opportunity and Equity pillars of the Foundation. Kayleigh previously worked in an operations and grants management role at the Quicken Loans Community Fund, and prior to joining the Family of Companies, she supported urban development research at the Virginia Department of Transportation. Kayleigh graduated from the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture with a degree in Urban and Environmental Planning.

Dorienne Sherrod

Associate Grants and Operations Manager

Dorienne Sherrod is the grant and operation manager for Art & Culture and Gene Therapy initiatives for the Gilbert Family Foundation. She will be handling all aspects of grants and sponsorships from the organization. Additionally, she will be supporting NF Forward, the sister organization to the foundation. Prior to joining the team in 2022, Dorienne has worked in nonprofits and program management in Detroit. Dorienne graduated from Arizona State University in 2016 with a degree in Public Policy and Public Service with a concentration in Business and Global Health.

Julia Sommers

Associate Grants and Operations Manager

Julia works passionately on the Grants and Operations team to ensure the daily and long-term success of the Gilbert Family Foundation and NF Forward. She manages the Public Spaces pillar of the Building Opportunity and Equity initiative, as well as scientific research grants on Neurofibromatosis (NF) brain tumors. Julia has a professional background in the nonprofit sector, working in volunteer management, donor relations, and fundraising; she has a degree in Philosophy from Oakland University and a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management from Eastern Michigan University.

Mar Paricio Sunyer

Grants and Operations Manager

Mar Paricio Sunyer works hand in hand with the Grants and Operations team to manage the day-to-day operations of the Gilbert Family Foundation and its sister nonprofit, NF Forward. As Grants and Operations Manager, Mar has experience working in all aspects of the organization: from managing grants, coding a website, managing Salesforce instances, to executing a silent and live auction. Mar joined the Gilbert Family Foundation in 2019, shortly after graduating from Clemson University with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Nonprofit Leadership.

JJ Velez

Director

Public Spaces

is the Director of Public Space for the Gilbert Family Foundation. JJ joined Rock Family of Companies in February of 2022 after serving as the Deputy Director of the City of Detroit’s Parks & Recreation Department.

In his role, JJ comes to his work and volunteer activities with unbridled enthusiasm and positive energy to unlock inclusive and equitable access through community engagement and robust (and sometimes atypical) partnerships. He has an appreciative grasp of the critical role that quality programming – especially sports and after school – has had on his own life’s trajectory. He remains committed to giving back and creating opportunities for everyone, no matter their ability, race, gender, or socio-economic status.

Kalyan Vinnakota, PhD

Project Manager

Vision Restoration Initiative

Kalyan Vinnakota manages the grants funded by the Gilbert Family Foundation’s Vision Restoration Initiative. Dr. Vinnakota is a bioengineer with over a decade of post-PhD experience in academia, military medical research, and the biomedical research industry. His major scientific contributions are in the areas of computational modeling of biochemical pathways and cellular transport processes. He has developed computational and experimental approaches to study a wide range of problems including regulation of mitochondrial metabolism, localization and mobility of Ras proteins, and pharmacokinetics of small molecule therapeutics in translational animal models. He is passionate about applying his interdisciplinary research experience towards advancing therapeutics for patients with unmet needs.

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