Meet the Team

ashley-owen-final-headshotAshley Owen, Purple Community Senior Event Coordinator

Ashley has made a career of fundraising and helping others to achieve philanthropic success. After graduating with a degree in Organizational Communication from Western Michigan University, Ashley started her career working as an Event Coordinator with Bankmark, which provided logistics for the IPO of Grand River Bank in Grandville, MI. She later served as Development Associate for the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids and as Event Coordinator and Senior Event Coordinator for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. There she oversaw a $2.1 million event budget and over 200 committee members which produced a variety of events annually, including galas, golf outings, a Chicago Marathon running team and the Spirit of Saint Nicholas Ball. After several years, she returned to Grand Rapids and served as Event & Corporate Relations Manager for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids and Gilda’s LaughFest. In her current role with Purple Community, Ashley is thrilled to be able to use her years of fundraising experience to provide support to individuals and organizations that want to raise funds and have a passion for cancer and Parkinson’s disease research. Having lost a grandfather to prostate cancer, an aunt who is a 20 year breast cancer survivor, a 10 year old cousin recently diagnosed with Leukemia and countless friends on cancer or neurodegenerative disease journeys, raising funds for Van Andel Institute provides her with the opportunity to be proactive in the fight against these devastating diseases. Ashley is ready to help YOU join the fight today!

Contact Ashley at or 616.234.5390.

img_2834Hannah Acosta, Purple Community Event Coordinator

Hannah is a graduate of Aquinas College with a dual major in Business/Communication, a concentration in Marketing, and a minor in Spanish. She was first introduced to the Van Andel Institute as a college sophomore when she was selected to participate in the VAI Creative Marketing Challenge. During her senior year, she served as a Purple Community Intern. As an intern she engaged with many community members and created several events and partnerships including a Hockey Fights cancer game with Grand Valley State University, Hope College, and Aquinas College, as well as a fashion fundraising event with Jb and Me, to name a few. Following her graduation from Aquinas College in May of 2016, Hannah was hired as a full time Purple Community Event Coordinator. She is passionate about raising funds for VAI so that our researchers can continue their work and find a cure for cancer, Parkinson’s and several other neurodegenerative diseases. Having watched her close friend lose his mother to breast cancer, losing her great aunt to colon cancer, and hearing countless stories from community members, Hannah finds great joy in raising funds for the incredible research happening at Van Andel Institute!

Contact Hannah at or 616.234.5598.

allyson-huttenga-photoAllyson Huttenga, Volunteer and Community Relations

Allyson is a recent graduate of Aquinas College with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Community Leadership and a minor in Developmental Psychology. Allyson has had three very close family members affected by cancer throughout her life which drives her passion for Purple Community. Allyson started as a Purple Community intern in August of 2016 and is now a full time employee of the Institute. Her role at Van Andel Institute (VAI) consists of managing Purple Community’s volunteer program, assisting with events both internal and external to VAI, and providing support to different focus areas of the Institute’s Development Team. Allyson is devoted to showing others compassion, and she is able to utilize this trait and connect with community members through her position at Van Andel Institute.

Contact Allyson at or 616.234.5767.

Michelle Bacon, Purple Community Intern

Michelle is currently a student at Kuyper College studying Business Leadership and also obtaining her TESOL (teaching English to speakers of Other Language). She is also a Sergeant in the Army Reserves where she trains and leads a group of soldiers. Michelle has past experiences in marketing and social media coordinating. When she is not in school or working, she enjoys traveling, cooking, reading and the outdoors. Michelle also has also worked in the medical field and has a heart for those that are dealing with ailments of all kinds. Cancer has affected her life since she can remember. Most vividly when her mother’s good friend struggled through cancer and passed away when she was six. In the past few years the mother of a close friend also lost her life to cancer. “If there is anything I can do to help bring the research closer to a cure, I’m in and for it!”

Contact Michelle via email at

Cheyann Oliver, Purple Community Intern

Cheyann is a senior at Central Michigan University, planning to graduate in December 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Event Management and Professional sales. Her internship career began as a promotions intern at iHeart Media, assisting with numerous events in the Grand Rapids area. This internship helped peak her interest in the event world. She also has previous experience in fundraising and promoting numerous philanthropic events held at Central Michigan University. This helped drive her passion of caring for and helping others. Cheyann has lost one family member and a very close family friend to cancer, which draws her near to our mission. As a Purple Community intern she is excited to not only learn, but to use her previous experience and passion for helping others to strengthen and build Purple Community’s events and grow the volunteer program.

 Contact Cheyann via email at