About Our App
Wolf + Friends is pleased to announce our new lifestyle app for moms raising children with special needs.
The Wolf + Friends app is designed for women to connect with like-minded women in their neighborhoods who are also raising children with special needs such as autism, anxiety, ADHD, sensory processing issues, developmental delays, mental health issues, down syndrome, and other learning differences.
In a judgement-free space, members will create a peer to peer support system via direct messages and group chats, making connections with new friends and mentors who are a few years ahead of them on their parenting journey. The community will also have access to a curated content feed where they can read relevant news, shop stylish and developmentally appropriate products, and get lifestyle tips from occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, child psychologists, behaviorists, financial advisors and other experts.
+ Our Founders
Carissa Tozzi: I've spent my career in editorial development, celebrity casting, and public relations, working with major media outlets such as Refinery29, Seventeen magazine, Youtube and MTV, and being obsessed with my job. Then I had my son, Wolf, and suddenly my life refocused on all things, baby and child. I immersed myself in the world of toys, décor, and fashion for kids. But when Wolf was in preschool his teachers suggested he may have some sensory sensitivities and I was promptly handed a folder of catalogs for some “stuff” that might help. After extensive research, I realized that many of the toys and therapeutic tools I found on these terrifying, clinical websites, were also on Amazon and design-inspired kids shops. So I started curating these sensory tools (rocking chairs, swings, cute headphones, teepees, etc.) on Pinterest and Instagram in a way that felt friendly and fashionable. Then I approached Gena (We have known each other since elementary school and I knew she was raising two boys on the autism spectrum in addition to two girls.) with my idea to create an online shopping platform that was inclusive, informative + modern – and she immediately wanted to help. During the first two years of working on our concept, we connected with and really listened to the moms in the special needs community. When asked, they all remarked about the feeling of isolation they experienced as special needs moms. They really needed a way to connect with moms, mentors, and experts in their neighborhoods who they could relate to and trust. Thats when we realized we had to create an app to bring them the community they were craving.
Gena Mann: I spent 10 years working as a Photo Editor in New York City for Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine, and CosmoGIRL! but I left magazines shortly after my second son was born and my first child was diagnosed with autism at 2-years-old. I moved to Weston, Connecticut to create a therapeutic program for my son. Carissa came to me shortly after I’d had my 4th child (two girls followed the boys!). I was a bit overwhelmed in my new role as a mom of four. But when she showed me an early prototype of Wolf + Friends that she’d designed herself, I was immediately determined to become involved. It can be a lonely, terrifying, and costly experience trying to navigate everything that comes with having special needs children and I knew there had to be moms like me who felt the same way. Ever since we’ve been building and hustling.
+ Our Advisors + Experts
Paul Caine, Founder PC Ventures, is a results-driven C-suite executive with extensive track record building, operating, transforming and investing in small and large scale public and private businesses to maximize profit. Best known for his leadership roles as Chairman and Interim CEO of Tremor Video, CEO of WestwoodOne, Founder of PC Ventures and EVP of Time Inc. Caine lives in Tenafly NJ with his wife and three children.
Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATP is an Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Practitioner with 15 years of pediatric experience. She specializes in educationally-relevant interventions with a focus on sensory integration and assistive technology supports to learning. Alescia recently founded Adapt & Learn, LLC. on the mission that children of all abilities can play, learn, adapt, and develop with the right therapeutic and educational supports. Alescia strives to help children along this continuum by fostering a love of learning.
Tara Covais Varsov is a psychotherapist in private practice and has spent much of her nearly 20 year career helping the most vulnerable children and families – including those with developmental special needs, in the foster care and family court system, Head Start, and many who have experienced severe and ongoing trauma. Tara was one of only 20 professionals selected nationwide for a fellowship by the National Association for the Education of Young Children to participate in the Strengthening Families Program for Child Abuse Prevention. She has been a mental health consultant for Bank Street Head Start in New York City and was previously the Director of Family Services for Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. Tara studied psychoanalysis and psychotherapy at the Institute for Child, Adolescent and Family Studies, holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development from the University of Rhode Island. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.
Dr. Gwen Lopez-Cohen is a board certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in Westport, Connecticut with clinical expertise in anxiety, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders. Prior to her career in medicine, Dr. Lopez-Cohen was an early childhood educator..
Susan Kaplow is a digital editorial executive with more than 17 years experience developing large content organizations and multi-platform programming for media companies including SheKnows Media, Refinery 29, The Huffington Post, Conde Nast, and Alloy Media and Marketing. Susan currently serves as Chief Content Officer at Apartment Therapy Media, the publisher of shelter and food sites Apartment Therapy and Kitchn. Susan lives in Brooklyn with her husband Mark, her two daughters Evan and Claude, and Ori, the world’s best rescue pup.
Courtney T. Gessin, MS, CCC-SLP, has been working with NYC children and families for the last 10 years. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communicative Sciences and Disorders from New York University and her Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Hunter College, The City University of New York. She has worked with children of all ages and is passionate about helping children find and develop their motivation, confidence, intelligence and self-awareness.
Alyse Kelly is an accomplished credit analyst with more than 15 years of experience analyzing the business and financial profiles of companies within the Media & Entertainment industries. Alyse is currently a Director at Valcour Capital Management LLC. Her experience includes making investment decisions pertaining to corporate loan transactions, assessing companies’ business plans and cash flow capabilities, and communicating with investors. Alyse lives in Connecticut with her husband James and her two daughters, who are begging her to get a dog.