Sarah Merrefield appointed as Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer.

Thomas E. Smith Foundation Appoints Sarah Merrefield as Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer

Tenured non-profit leader to further Foundation’s impact for paralysis community

BOSTON, MA – March 28, 2024 – The Thomas E. Smith Foundation (“TESF”), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to better the lives of those affected by and living with paralysis through financial and emotional support, announced today that Sarah Elizabeth McNeil Merrefield has been appointed as its inaugural Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer. In this new role, Sarah will spearhead strategic initiatives and operational functions vital to the Foundation’s mission. 

Over the last 13 years, TESF has surpassed $1,450,000 in donations and 2023 marked its most impactful year since founding with significant donations made to Journey Forward, New England’s most comprehensive and aggressive outpatient rehabilitation program for individuals with paralysis, and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, sponsoring 40% of the Brain-Controlled Neuromodulation Therapy project. As TESF prepares for another transformative year, Sarah’s leadership will usher in a new era of impact. 

Sarah brings over fifteen years of experience developing and managing impactful grant programs and community health initiatives. She has held leadership roles at two nationally recognized foundations, including RIZE Massachusetts Foundation where she led grantmaking endeavors and programmatic strategy, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, known for its impactful initiatives and actionable policy research. There, Sarah directed a portfolio of grants to expand access to health and health care and advance racial justice in health. 

Sarah was also a member of the community health team at Mass General Brigham where she managed the Partnership for Community Health, a multi-million-dollar investment in community health centers. She started her career at MDRC, a leading public policy research firm. As part of the program development team, Sarah collaborated with some of the nation’s top philanthropies to build evidence to alleviate poverty. 

“Over the years we’ve earned a profound reputation for impacting both the short-term and long-term healthcare needs for individuals with paralysis. However, as a volunteer organization, our bandwidth at times is constrained and the need for us to grow is tremendous,” said Thomas E. Smith, Foundation President. “Having Sarah as our Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer will significantly increase TESF’s ability to impact more families within the paralysis community. Sarah is aligned with our vision and will leverage her impressive experience to execute our strategy and build upon our legacy during this historic period of growth. Her passion for improving access to necessary healthcare will serve our grantees extremely well.” 

“As an organization, we are at an inflection point as it relates to growing our grant program and broad support for those with spinal cord injuries,” added Tucker Mullin, co-founder, TESF. “Sarah joins us at a critical time as we transition from a volunteer-led organization into a larger and more sustainable resource in the paralysis community. We are extremely proud to have Sarah leading our efforts moving forward.” 

In her leadership role at TESF, Sarah will formulate a comprehensive strategy aimed at fostering growth, initiating innovative programs, and advancing critical research and rehabilitation initiatives that lead to better outcomes and, one day, a cure.

“I’m thrilled to join the founders and TESF’s incredible board of directors to meet the needs of those affected by spinal cord injuries — by investing in people and innovation – while growing the foundation into a national leader in the fight for a cure,” said Sarah E.M. Merrefield.

Originally from Portland, Maine, Sarah attended the Tilton School in New Hampshire before earning a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Vermont. She was a recipient of the Barbara Rhodes Memorial Scholarship and the University of Vermont Presidential Scholarship. She is a graduate of LeadBoston, a mid-career, year-long experiential leadership program that focuses on developing inclusive leaders and driving social innovation. Sarah is a Master of Public Health candidate at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. 

About the Thomas E. Smith Foundation

The Thomas E. Smith Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to better the lives of those affected by and living with paralysis through financial and emotional support, as well as supporting preventive innovations that decrease the risk of spinal cord injuries. Co-Founded by Thomas Smith and Tucker Mullin from Thomas’ hospital room in 2009, the TESF’s mission includes dynamic platforms that target specific issues in the Spinal Cord Injury Community. Each facet of our preventative, motivational, and reactive mission is meant to provide substantial support to individuals and families, and the TESF is fully committed to creating influential solutions that make a difference for those in need.

Media contact:

Chris Smith 



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