Board Members and Operational Team
  • Zina Lara
    Zina's journey in helping others started when she joined a gene therapy fundraiser for a Canavan disease patient a few years ago. Since that time, Zina was involved in many complicated cases of SMA patients helping to raise money on time including baby Sofia. After Sofia's fundraiser, Zina created a nonprofit to help other babies like Sofia worldwide.

    Zina resides in Austin, TX with her husband and four-year-old daughter. Besides helping children, she likes to spend time traveling and eating delicious food at the local restaurants in the Austin area.
  • Nataliya Miller
    Board Member
    Nataliya's journey in serving children started when she was in her 20s helping children from an orphanage located in her hometown in Ukraine. When Nataliya moved to the United States she continued to help children.

    One morning Nataliya learned about a little boy who suffered from a rare genetic disease, SMA Type 1. Nataliya immediately started looking for a way to help this baby and found out about BFS. Nataliya joined the team inspired by the BFS's mission.

    Nataliya's favorite cartoon character, Ariel, said: "I don't see how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad". As a society, we can inspire each other to find the means to help, open our hearts and be willing to provide whatever we generously can.
  • Dina Minibaeva
    Board Member
    Dina is a small business owner and a student majoring in molecular biology at SEAN University, NJ. Dina's journey in helping others started many years ago when she supported orphans with disabilities in her hometown.

    One day her close friend called with terrifying news. He told over the phone: "Dina, the daughter of my childhood friend is dying". He was talking about six-month-old Sofia Darbinyan. Sofia needed a life-saving treatment that cost $2,125,000 for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

    Dina helped to launch an original #birdsforsofia campaign on social media that became viral. Now Dina can't imagine her life without helping children.
  • Matt Lambert
    Board Member
    Matt got involved in Birds for Sofia in 2022 right after the Ukraine conflict broke out, in the darkest times for Ukrainian kids with rare diseases. "After studying the situation with the SMA kids, it quickly became clear to me that we had a very brief window to really help these kids and it was unlikely anyone else or any other program was going to get to them in time, if at all." In his proactive manner, Matt was instrumental in finding the US hospitals that would help our USA Resettlement Program patients.

    Matt received a Bachelor's of Arts in English from Brigham Young University. He also holds a Master's of Arts in International Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master's of Business Administration from the Wharton School of Business also at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife Whitney. They have five children. He and his family enjoy skiing, swimming and hiking.

  • Cameron Ballantyne
    Executive Director
    Cameron's journey as an advocate for children began much earlier than expected. He was born 10 weeks prematurely weighing just 1 pound, 3 ounces at the University of Utah Hospital. Cameron's professional career began as a journalist in print, radio and television. He has held non-profit executive leadership positions with the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Muscular Dystrophy Association and Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

    He is proficient in Russian after living in Moscow and Voronezh, Russia. Cameron holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Journalism-Electronic Media and Russian from the University of Oregon. He also holds a Master's of Public Administration with a concentration in Non-Profit Management from Marist College.

    One of his favorite quotes is by author Bryce Courtenay: "Changes can come from the power of many, but only when the many come together to form that which is invincible...The Power of One."
  • Polina Nazaykinskaya
    Polina Nazaykinskaya is an award-winning American composer, an Adjunct Lecturer of Composition at Brooklyn College Conservatory, and a Teaching Artist at the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven.

    Polina's music has been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Russian National Orchestra. She has collaborated with top conductors, including Osmo Vänskä, Teodor Currentzis, Fabio Mastrangelo, Hannu Lintu, and internationally renowned choreographers such as Pascal Rioult, Jonah Bokaer, and Ulyana Bochernikova.

    One of Polina's latest chamber works, the trio "Songs for Tasya", was dedicated to Tasya Larionova, a child with SMA from Russia with denied access to life-saving medicine. Polina and her energy were crucial in Tasya's campaign. Today Tasya is alive and has received her life-saving therapy thanks to Polina and hundreds of other musicians worldwide who helped spread awareness about Tasya's problem. Since then, Polina is an irreplaceable friend and ambassador of the "Birds of Sofia" foundation.

    • Katya Kramer-Lapin
      Charismatic concert pianist and recording artist Katya Kramer-Lapin enjoys multiple careers as a professional classical musician, philanthropist, educator, and mother of four children.

      The talented graduate of Gnessin School of Music, Hochschuele Fuer Musik in Cologne, Oberlin College Conservatory, and Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Katya Kramer-Lapin held a position of an Adjunct Professor of Music and Collaborative Pianist at DePauw University School of Music.

      Katya's solo concert appearances include UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC, as well as performances in major halls of Taiwan, Russia, and Europe.

      Katya's life credo is: "A person's a person no matter how small" by Dr. Seuss. Her passion is to help children worldwide. Through her music, Katya believes to raise as much as possible funds to benefit BFS's programs.
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