Although born in Michigan in 1981, Tracy was raised in Minnesota since she was two years old, and considers herself a Minnesotan native. Tracy loves all the seasons Minnesota provides, including the cold blustery winters. In her professional career, Tracy has worked as a Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant registered nurse at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital for ten years. Tracy feels lucky to have landed in a career in which she loves and is passionate about. When not working, Tracy cherishes spending time with her family, scrapbooking, repurposing furniture, and other hands-on projects. Tracy also owns a small business on etsy making headband holders.
Tracy is also the proud mother of her daughters Sophie and Charlotte. Unfortunately, and the reason for this organization coming into existence, was after Charlotte’s passing at the age of two in November 2016. Charlotte valiantly fought a battle with the SCN2a mutation which caused a catastrophic form of epilepsy and other associated serious medical conditions. After Charlotte’s condition had been revealed at a young age, Tracy and her husband, Junji Umezu, turned their focus to brining and surrounding their children’s lives with joy. As a family, the Umezus created a “Joy List” of things that they wanted Charlotte to experience in her life, knowing that her life could be taken away at any moment. In her short time, Charlotte was able to accomplish some amazing things, sliding down a slide, be pushed in a stroller through an entire marathon, and traveling to Hawaii. After Charlotte’s passing, the Umezus extended their focus to spreading the joy and bringing light to the world around them. Through Seize Your Joy, the Umezus wish to spread joy to children and families facing similar devastating health concerns.
Founder and President
Lindsey Van Hoven
Lindsey was born and raised in Minnesota and has a true passion for the outdoors. She can often be found camping, hiking, geo-cashing, and running in the great outdoors that Minnesota has to offer. She is considered a faithful and loyal friend and family member to the Umezus, and would do anything she could to help a person in need. Lindsey works as a social worker in Minneapolis, and receives great joy in helping children and families in the Twin Cities through struggles and helping them reach their full potential.
Lindsey is also Sophie and Charlotte’s aunt, and she has spent countless hours helping with Charlotte’s intense medical care required when she was at home. Lindsey deeply loves both of her nieces and is excited to be a part of spreading joy with the Seize Your Joy to honor the legacy of Charlotte.
Rachel has been involved with Seize Your Joy since its beginning in 2016. She was one of the running participants in the Twin Cities Marathon to support Charlotte. Rachel is also Charlotte's god-mother and spent many hours supporting and loving Charlotte. Rachel is a registered nurse and has worked at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital for eleven years. She focuses in pediatric blood and marrow transplant, and is the primary care giver to children with metabolic, genetic, and blood disorders. Rachel is excited to be a part of Charlotte's legacy. Rachel saw how the Umezu family made Charlotte's life more than just about her disease. The family not only raised awareness for SCN2a, but also inspired people to find their own joy and to give it to others. Rachel looks forward to spreading this same joy to children and families in similar situations by volunteering with Seize Your Joy.
A native Minnesotan, Ann has lived in five US cities, before settling for good back in the Twin Cities. She is passionate about Minneapolis and can usually be found running or biking around the city. For more than twelve years, Ann has been a neonatal intensive care nurse in hospitals throughout the country. Coinciding with her work as a nurse, Ann fulfills many different roles through her extensive volunteering. Ann volunteers at Mary’s Place, Higher Ground, MyTeam Triumph, Habitat for Humanity, and healing Haiti Maternal Program. Ann became connected to Seize Your Joy when she ran the Twin Cities Marathon alongside Charlotte as her medical support person. Ann maintained a relationship with Charlotte and the Umezu family after the marathon and felt a pull to spread the joy that Tracy and Junji were spreading to all. Ms. Ann is enthusiastic to bring more joy to this community that she loves so much.
Mary Kardash is the mother of three beautiful children who keep her very busy. Mary owns a home staging business, which allows her to pursue her passion for interior design and decorating. Mary has known the Umezus for nearly five years, and considers Tracy Umezu one of her closest friends. Seize Your Joy is near and dear to Mary’s heart as she observed and participated in the courageous journey the Umezu family went through and wishes to serve as board member to help Seize Your Joy provide joy and courage to other families. Mary saw firsthand the amount of Joy Charlotte brought to the world and look forward to continuing to spread her joy amongst others.
Nicole Johnston resides in Rogers, MN with her family. Nicole is a social worker and knows that her skills of working with children and families experiencing difficulties will be a tremendous asset to serving on Seize Your Joy’s board of directors. In her free time, Nicole is passionate about photography. While Nicole has been a family friend to Tracy and Lindsey since their middle school years, she became even closer to the Umezus while photographing Charlotte and their family, capturing beautiful images both Sophie and Charlotte that radiate the love shared in the family. Her ability to capture the raw emotion of love and Joy has provided the Umezu family with images they will treasure for a lifetime. She is thrilled to continue her involvement with Seize Your Joy as a board member.