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.

elenaElena Winger, Purple Community Intern

Elena is a senior at Grand Valley State University and is expected to graduate in April of 2017 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing. Her internship career began as a Development Intern for ArtPrize where she assisted with several different fundraising projects. This past semester she served as a Marketing Intern for Serendipity Media where she worked on developing the social media platforms for several different brands. As a Purple Community Intern, she is excited about developing an effective social media strategy that will increase community engagement in the events that Purple Community hosts! After hearing the numerous community members and individuals that have shared their stories, Elena looks forward to raising funds for cancer and neurodegenerative disease research at Van Andel Institute.

Contact Elena at or 616.234.5767

allysonAllyson Huttenga, Purple Community Intern

Allyson is a senior at Aquinas College and is expected to graduate in April 2017 with a degree in Community Leadership and Developmental Psychology. Allyson has had three very close family members affected by cancer throughout her life which drives her passion for Purple Community. She’s participated in community engagement activities throughout the Grand Rapids community through internships and volunteering which led her to Purple Community.  Allyson started as a Purple Community Intern in August of 2016 and will be part of our team through the spring of 2017. Allyson is devoted to showing others compassion and is able to utilize this trait through Purple Community by sharing emotions whilst listening to others who’ve been effected by cancer just as she has. Allyson aspires to assist in strengthening relationships and develop a lasting volunteer program during her time with Purple Community.

Contact Allyson at or 616.234.5767