KSI Ambassadors

KSI has the content area expertise, but we join forces with our Ambassadors for their first-hand personal accounts/stories, and support of our mission to continue to allow KSI to thrive. We rely on our ambassadors for assistance with marketing, public relations, fundraising and networking for the continued growth and well being of KSI.

Michele Ciancola

Exertional Heat Stroke Awareness & Prevention Advocate

Michele Ciancola currently holds the position of Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Research & Development at Medtronic. She has 25 years’ experience in the executive administrative support field is highly-organized, conscientious and loyal. Michele is dedicated to raising awareness in exertional heatstroke among athletes.

After the death of her son in 2011, Michele started working with Dr. Doug Casa, CEO, Korey Stringer Institute at UCONN to bring awareness and advocate for proper protocol and emergency action plans in hopes that they are adopted across the country for all athletes.

She is currently working on her first publication to share her son’s story. She has contributed to the Korey Stringer Institute at UCONN Pertinacity magazine. With the help of CT legislation, she helped pass a bill which mandates that immediate point of placement of an automated external defibrillator, or AED, to be on site at any state or private college/university within the state of CT; and, a provision that any athlete collapsing from apparent heat exertion or sports related collapse should be taken to a hospital with a trauma unit.                           .

Michele takes time to be involved with community and professional organizations.  She is a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) and volunteers for the Ronald McDonald House and various charities. Michele holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.  She is also certified in CPR and AED training by the American Red Cross. Michele lives in Wallingford, CT and has a daughter, Lindsay.  When Michele is not working, she likes to garden and visit her home in Naples, Florida.


Danielle Class

Co-founder of YOLT Foundation; Governing Board of Trustees, Living Legacy Foundation

Danielle resides on a farm in Monkton, Maryland with her husband Jonny. She is caretaker of her families retired steeplechase horses. 15 years ago Danielle co-founded ERA- Equine Rescue Ambulance, and is a current board member. Danielle has worked with show and steeplechase horses most of her life.

Danielle’s son, Gavin, suffered an exertional heat stroke in August 2013 while playing football for Towson University, Maryland. He had complete organ failure and required a liver transplant. Today he is an advocate for heat stroke and organ donation and is currently a Strength and Conditioning Coach for college athletes. You can read about Gavin’s full story in KSI’s issue of Pertinacity.

Danielle also sits on the governing board for The Living Legacy Foundation, the organ procurement organization for Maryland. Danielle is a co-founder along with her husband, Jonny, and son Gavin of YOLT Foundation (You Only Live Twice). They bring the awareness of organ donation and heat stroke illness to the broader community. They are also trying to develop a Transplant House for the Baltimore area transplant hospitals. In 2018 they started The Class Strength Scholarship along with Donate Life. This program sends young transplant recipients to The Transplant Games of America. Danielle is honored to be an ambassador for The Korey Stringer Institute.


Richard Dodakian, CPA, MBA

Executive Vice President, Fiberon Technologies, Inc

Richard Dodakian is an exertional heat stroke survivor.

Richard was successfully treated by the Cape Cod Healthcare Medical Team and by Dr. Rob Huggins and other Korey Stringer Institute personnel when he collapsed at the finish line of the 2013 Falmouth Road Race with a body temperature of 107.7 degrees.

Thanks to the immediate action by the KSI Team, Richard fully recovered from his heat stroke and continues to be athletically active today. Richard was the subject of a research study and subsequent published paper tracking his performance at the 2014 Falmouth Road Race one year following his heat stroke.

Richard has been a guest speaker at the University of Connecticut Department of Kinesiology as well as the Guest of Honor at the 2014 KSI Annual Gala.  His story has been chronicled in USA Today, Headsntales Podcast, and on YouTube.

Richard is an Executive Vice President at Fiberon Technologies, Inc.  He is a Certified Public Accountant and also holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.


Laurie Martin-Giordano

President, Zach Martin Memorial Foundation

Laurie Martin-Giordano attended Hodges University, School of Allied Health in Florida, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences in 2010. She started the Zach Martin Memorial Foundation, a non-profit foundation, in 2017 after her son’s death from exertional heat stroke. Much of her work experience is in finance, analytics, and real estate law and her unique combination of education and experience allows her to serve in multiple roles and areas of responsibility.

The mission of the Zach Martin Memorial Foundation is to provide education and awareness to athletes, coaches, and parents about Exertional Heat Illnesses (EHI). Towards this end, Laurie speaks at several committee meetings each year, including SMAC (Sports Medicine Advisory Committee), FASMed (Florida Alliance for Sports Medicine), JSMP (Jacksonville Sports Medince Program), ATAF (Athletic Trainers’ Association of Florida) and NATA (National Athletic Trainers’ Association), sharing her story and vision for heat illness policy changes for high school athletics. In a combined effort with these committees and other bereaved parents, Laurie directly addressed the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletics Association) Board of Directors requesting heat illness policy changes to protect high school athletes in 2018. In response, the FHSAA Board implemented mandatory exertional heat illness education for all high school athletic programs in Florida.

Under Laurie’s leadership, the Zach Martin Memorial Foundation donates cold water immersion tubs to Florida high schools and is raising public support for athlete safety and awareness of exertional heat illness. The Foundation awarded its first scholarship to a Florida athletic training student in 2018. Additionally, it provides exertional heat illness education to athletes, parents, and club sport participants and funded the video production of “Cold Therapy Guide for Heat Illness.”


Carole Knighton

Carole Knighton is a Flight Attendant, mother of four, and an advocate for the prevention, awareness, and education of Exertional Heat Stroke after her son Hunter Knighton, a redshirt freshman at Miami University, nearly lost his life on February 24, 2014. Miraculously, he not only survived after his temperature reached 109°F but he eventually returned to the football field.

Passionate to support her son’s return and ensure his health and safety, Carole sought the expertise of The Korey Stringer Institute to help guide Hunter’s recovery process. With the help of KSI and Hunter’s determination, Hunter returned to Miami Football for the 2015 and 2016 season.

Carole was the guest speaker for the 2015 KSI Gala. She was featured on an ESPN college gameday feature with Tom Rinaldi called “Miracle in Miami.” She was a speaker for 2017 Collaborative Solutions for Safety in Sports and a panelist for Exertional Heat Stroke Working Group in Washington DC in February 2017. She continues to be an avid advocate and supporter for the implementation of best practices to prevent sudden death from exertional heat stroke.



Hunter Knighton

Hunter Knighton joined the University of Miami football team in January 2013. During the beginning of his redshirt freshman year Hunter suffered a heat stroke during an offseason workout. The episode caused Hunter’s temperature to rise to 109 degrees.  Hunter went into kidney failure, liver failure, and become unresponsive. He spent 12 days in a medically induced coma. After losing 65 pounds and battling pneumonia Hunter was released from the hospital. Shortly after coming home, he decided he wanted to continue his football career. After a long six months without much progress Hunter came to the Korey Stringer Institute to begin a rehabilitation program. After working with KSI Hunter returned to the football field in August 2015. He played in all 12 games. After graduating in December 2016 Hunter decided to transfer to Tulane University. Hunter played in 25 games over the next two seasons. He graduated in December 2018 with his Master of Business Administration. He continues to advocate for safe monitoring and proper treatment of heatstroke in athletes to prevent similar instances from occurring again.


MBA in Finance and Data Analytics ~ Tulane University

BBA in Economics ~ University of Miami


Brian Piccolo Award for Most Courageous ACC Player (2015)

College Football Writer’s Association Courage Award (2015)


Savannah Knighton

Athletic Training Student, Louisiana State University

Savannah became involved with the Korey Stringer Institute after her brother, Hunter Knighton suffered an exertional heat stroke during an off-season workout at the University of Miami. After her brother’s experience, Savannah wanted to become an athletic trainer, in order to help prevent athletes and families from experiencing catastrophic injuries in sport. She enrolled at Louisiana State University as an athletic training student, where she gained clinical experience with LSU track and field, LSU football, and LSU indoor volleyball. During her undergraduate career, Savannah served on the NATA Student Leadership Committee as the chair and district 9 representative. Savannah also served as the Korey Stringer Institute Summer Research Fellow in 2016, where she gained valuable research experience which has only furthered her desire to advocate for the prevention of sudden death in sport. She also served as a medical volunteer for the Falmouth Road Race in 2018 helping to treat numerous runners with heat related illnesses.

Savannah graduated from LSU in May of 2019 and is a certified athletic trainer. She is continuing her education at Boise State University gaining a master’s in athletic leadership while also working as a graduate assistant athletic trainer with the Boise State track and field team. She continues to be avid supporter of athletic trainers and the proper prevention, treatment, and recognition of exertional heat stroke.


Zoe Wallis

Zoë Wallis is a former Division 1 student-athlete from St. Louis, Missouri. In August 2014, she suffered an exertional heat stroke as a direct result of a five mile, intensive conditioning workout with her women’s basketball team.

Due to the physical and psychological side effects of her heat stroke, she was forced to end her collegiate athletic career in 2015. Ultimately, she transferred to University of Missouri- St. Louis, where she completed her undergraduate degree in May 2018. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication with a minor in Gender Studies.

Presently, Zoë is an active advocate of heat stroke education and prevention. She feels compelled to help educate others about exertional heat stroke, the associated signs/symptoms, and how to maximize survival while also minimizing the potential long term damage, as she understands firsthand, how detrimental it can be on the individual. Additionally, she had the distinctive honor of being a keynote speaker at the KSI Annual Gala in 2018.


Jacob Williamson

Medical Student, Year 3-University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine
Bachelor of Arts in Biology-University of Missouri-Kansas City
Basic Life Support certified via American Red Cross

Jacob Williamson was born and raised in the metro area of Kansas City, Missouri. Throughout high school, Mr. Williamson was involved in a number of athletic events including wrestling, football and shotput. As an unfortunate happenstance of his high school athletic career, Jacob suffered from an exertional heatstroke in August of 2014. This event led Mr. Williamson to develop a working relationship with the Korey Stringer Institute. In addition to his athletic endeavors, Mr. Williamson is a two-time National Tournament Qualifier in speech and debate, and a six-time academic letter winner. After completing his high school education, Jacob entered the six-year B.A./M.D. program at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, where he currently studies. Throughout his time at UMKC, he has been a Peer Mentor for young medical students and a Biochemistry Supplemental Instructor. He served as the Administrative Secretary in his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, in addition to holding the position of Vice-President of the Fraternity system at UMKC. Jacob is most proud of his current team lead position at The Cause Church in Kansas City.