Debbie Parsons grew up in Africa where she developed a deep appreciation of wildlife and the outdoors. Her childhood home was filled with pets, including rabbits, cats and dogs, who were her best friends. Her grandmother Ruth showed her the incredible joy that a dog can bring to your life.
As a vegetarian athlete at UC Berkeley, Debbie made it to the Pac-10 finals in her track and field event. After college she studied law, then wrote criminal appeals until she became a parent.
Debbie was forever changed by her beloved dog Frasier, who was a happy and loving dog despite a debilitating injury. Frasier inspired her to transition from vegetarian to vegan and to advocate for a kinder, healthier, and more sustainable world.
Karen Estensen Rubio is an animal rights and food system activist. Her career stints include high-tech marketing writing, co-founding a data center, and dog boarding.
Her animal advocacy started early: As a youngster, she found injured birds and nursed them to health, gathered signatures to petition the King of Norway to stop whale and harp seal hunting, and become vegetarian in 1974 at age 13. In 2013, after suffering for years from chronic, debilitating arthritis, her friend Lynette suggested a whole foods plant-based diet. Within one week of changing her diet the arthritis disappeared, never to return. Once Karen stopped eating meat and dairy, her eyes were opened to the immense suffering of farmed animals and our broken food system that is dominated by large corporations that promote foods incompatible with good health.
When she’s not singing the praises of plant-based nutrition, Karen can be found hiking with her husband and three boys, backpacking, camping, writing and visiting her legion of doggo friends. Email: email@example.com
Kathleen Willey grew up in San Jose, California in a neighborhood that was previously a cherry orchard when Santa Clara Valley was filled with agriculture. The youngest of six kids, she grew up with a love of the outdoors since her family went on so many camping trips. She loved all the family dogs throughout the years and this led to her love of all animals. In her younger years she had terrible asthma that often prevented her from doing PE with her friends. Once she went Whole Foods Plant Based she started placing in her age group in various runs in the Bay Area, running faster than she had 20 years earlier! She also enjoys road biking, having completed many 50 mile and century rides with her husband Mark. She also traveled extensively with her previous job with a large travel company, with her favorite being Italy.
She has passed on her love of outdoor fitness to her family recently hiked to the top of Half Dome with her husband and 11 year old twin boys. Some of her favorite pastimes are watching her boys play baseball, hiking with her beloved dog Honey and going on family trips to Oregon.
After being vegan for a while she posted a message on Next-door in early 2018 to start a support group and was so pleased at the response! This led to the creation of the Facebook group Plant Based Friends and then meeting the current members of Plant Based Advocates that she is so thankful for! At that point she was ready to go back to work after staying home with her twin boys and found a job educating kids about their food choices and the impacts it has on our environment, their health, and the animals.
She is passionate about creating a more compassionate and sustainable world for her young boys through education and positive outreach to the community.
Lisa Wade is a teacher, community organizer, and environmental and animal rights activist. She grew up with her sister Debbie in Africa, where she developed a deep love and respect for nature and animals She had many beloved childhood pets, including her cat Snowy who was her very best friend.
Lisa taught in the public school system for seven years before homeschooling her two boys all the way through high school. Lisa co-organized and ran a small homeschool center in Los Gatos providing classes for the local community. It was her children’s pet rats who really opened Lisa‘s eyes to the beauty and intelligence of all animals. The love and friendship she received from these remarkable creatures inspired her to work for the rights of all animals.
Lisa became active as a community organizer for Santa Clara County Activists for Animals, where she helped organize outreach to educate the public about the cruelty and environmental degradation involved in animal agriculture.
Currently, Lisa is active with her sister Debbie and other like-minded friends as an organizer for Plant-Based Advocates. Lisa is passionate about preserving the biodiversity of animals and plants. Her interests include birdwatching, native plant gardening, and promoting coexistence with wildlife. Her other passions include hiking, yoga, growing food, spending time with her family, and walking her dog Frosty Bear. Lisa’s goal in life is to help create a healthy planet to sustain her own children and future generations.
Mary Mackey always had sweet pets around her while growing up, both cats and dogs. She loved her pets but it wasn't until visiting the Gentle Barn in Los Angeles that she learned about the horrific treatment of animals in factory farms and the effect of animal agriculture on our planet. After touring The Gentle Barn they served yummy vegan hot dogs. She realized how easy it would be to eat vegan, especially if it meant saving the lives of animals. Mary then delved into veganism and made the transition.
When her mother got sick and had to receive more care in a nursing facility, Mary saw first hand how many sick people there were and wondered if there was something she could do to help. She read the book How Not to Die by Dr. Greger and learned how eating a plant-based diet can significantly reduce the risk of top chronic diseases that are plaguing our country. She was shocked to learn that most doctors don't learn about nutrition in medical school. This impassioned Mary to further her education and become a certified Holistic Nutritionist. She now teaches people how to incorporate a more plant-based lifestyle, helping them avoid the top chronic diseases resulting in a happier healthier life. More information on Mary’s nutrition services can be found at www.thewholesomevegan.com
Mary is also an actress and teaches presentation skills in the San Francisco bay area.
Shailaja "Shai" Venkatsubramanyan grew up in Mumbai, India in a vegetarian household. Twenty-five years ago, Shai switched to a vegan diet when she realized that dairy in her diet was exacerbating her cystic acne. Later, on realizing the cruelty toward cows in the modern dairy industry, she regarded the skin condition as a blessing in disguise.
Shai has a Ph.D. in Information Systems from the University of Arizona and has taught at Tulane University and San Jose State University. Besides teaching, Shai's passions include writing, yoga, cooking, and being a mother to her two children. Shai considers herself to be a lifelong learner.