+ Our Mission
We believe that all children's developmental needs are special. Our mission is to create an informative, imaginative + inclusive shopping experience that will give parents the unique opportunity to design a lifestyle that will match where their child is in their development. In acknowledging the individualized needs of a child, our goal is to educate families about shopping for specialized toys, decor, furniture, and clothes for children, especially their children with sensory sensitivities, learning differences, developmental delays or other diagnoses with intention and compassion. Our approach is to sell modern + stylish items from mainstream, independent, and specialty retailers that are curated by a team of parents, kids + child development specialists and demonstrate how they can be used as therapy and learning tools to support their child's social, emotional, sensory, language, motor, and cognitive development at home, school—and in the world.
+ Our Founders
Carissa Tozzi is a Brand Consultant, Trend Forecaster and Special Projects Director from New York City with more than 15 years of experience in editorial development, celebrity casting, and public relations, working with media and fashion companies such as Refinery29, Seventeen Magazine, Madewell, YouTube, and MTV. Carissa recently moved from Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Easton, Connecticut with her husband Dino, their son Wolf and rescue pup, Pepito. After having Wolf, she became obsessed all the cool brands for kids on Instagram and Pinterest, but found that the shopping sites she loved didn't offer thoughtful gift ideas or helpful advice for kids like Wolf, who needed some extra support for his sensory sensitivities when he was in preschool. So with her childhood friend and former colleague, Gena Mann, she created WOLF + FRIENDS, a shopping and lifestyle destination for families that was inclusive, informative, and fun.
Gena Mann spent 10 years working as a Photo Editor in New York City for Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine, and CosmoGIRL! She left magazines shortly after her second son was born and her first child was diagnosed with autism at 2-years-old. She moved to Connecticut to create a therapeutic program for her son. She spends her days running around with her four kids (two girls followed the boys!), photographing them, and pouring over Instagram and Pinterest for cool kids clothing and design ideas. She and her husband, Billy Mann, are passionate about helping families who have children with special needs lead happy, fulfilling lives.
+ Our Advisors + Friends
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.
Ariana Speyer is an experienced Editorial Director who is currently overseeing the editorial content and brand voice of the new app, dearduck. She has over 20 years of experience in media, including roles as the Editorial Director of the 5-million member shopping site Ideel, a Contributing Editor for Domino Magazine and Sherman’s Travel magazine, and as an Editor-in-Chief of the independent art magazine, index. As a copywriter, she has created brand books, web content, email marketing, and much more for clients that include Waterworks, Keds, and Adidas. Ariana lives in Manhattan with her husband Patrick and 4-year-old daughter Calliope, who is the inspiration for her involvement with WOLF + FRIENDS.