Bringing People out of Darkness
Into the marvelous light

Mental Health Awareness & Suicide Prevention

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Our Board of Directors

Cheryl Deas

Founder and President

Cheryl Deas serves as the Founder and President of the Darnell Deas, Jr., Marvelous Light Foundation.  Cheryl has a passion for bringing awareness to mental health and suicide prevention. 

“When my 16 year old son Dj died by suicide I knew I could not be silent. I could not sit back and watch this happen to another family.”

Cheryl has a background in healthcare administration that spans 10 years.  She is currently a Strategic Anaylst for a health information technology company.  Her education includes a B.A. in Business Administration and she is currently enrolled as a graduate student to obtain her Masters in Social Work.  Cheryl also volunteers as a mentor with Big Brother Big Sisters of Northeast Florida and has a desire to help youth throughout the country. 

LT Darnell Deas, Sr., MBA

Vice President and Director of Finance

LT Darnell Deas serves as Vice President & Director of Finance for the Darnell Deas Jr., Marvelous Light Foundation.  Darnell enlisted in the Navy in July 2000.  He successfully completed Naval Aircrew Candidate School (NACCS) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (AW) “A” School.  LT Deas completed additional flight training at the Navy’s only P-3C Fleet Replacement Squadron VP-30 located in Jacksonville, FL.

In February of 2002, LT Deas was assigned to Jacksonville, FL.  He held leadership positions that allowed him to train others while completing 3 successful deployments as a leading Acoustic AW/Instructor.  LT Deas led 4 Combat Aircrew Teams and trained junior students, while completing over 250 missions during his 5 year tour.

During another tour, LT Deas was selected as one of the Navy’s first Surface Warfare Weapons Tactics Instructors (ASW WTI). After this tour ended successfully, LT Deas used the knowledge gained in his new assignment which lead to him being assigned to COMMANDER DESTROYER SQUADRON FIFTEEN (CDS-15) in Yokosuka Japan.

LT Deas next tour was conducted at the Naval Post Graduate School (NPS) in Monterey Ca., were he obtained a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) with focus in Financial Management (FM). He also completed the Naval War College (NWC) Joint Professional Military Education (JMPE) Phase 1.

During LT Deas most recent shore tour was in Pensacola FL. During this tour LT Deas assisted seriously wounded, sick, and ill active duty service members and their families with non-medical needs. LT Deas last tour was spent in Newport RI.

LT Deas’ personal awards include Naval Accommodation Medal (2), Navy Achievement Medal (3), Sea Service Ribbon and various unit awards.

Niesia Garza, LCSW

Clinical Social Worker, Therapist

Niesia serves as the Director of Compliance for the Darnell Deas Jr., Marvelous Light Foundation. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a Masters of Social Work.  She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers & Association for Play Therapy. Niesia specializes in trauma, grief, depression, and anxiety.

“I have an extensive experience working with children, adolescents, teens and families dealing with issues of trauma, grief, and loss. This type of work holds a special place in my heart and fuels my passion for helping families create a new normal. I’m an active duty spouse, veteran and understand the difficulties of military life.

You’re the driver and I’m the GPS, I help navigate you through your journey. As a therapist, I focus on client center, compassionate, empathic, nonjudgmental, and encouraging means to assist as you restore yourself to a new beginning.

If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be. I believe every client is amazing and I’m truly honored to have the opportunity to watch you soar.”

Dr. Jevetta Stanford

Director of Fund Development

Dr. Jevetta Stanford serves as Director of Fund Development for the Darnell Deas, Jr., Marvelous Light Foundation.  Dr. Stanford is a community advocate, with more than 14 years of experience as a research and program evaluation professional. Dr. Stanford received a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Florida State University in 2001, a Master of Regional and Community Planning from Kansas State University in 2004, and in 2012 she received a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, with an emphasis in public health, from the University of North Florida.  Her dissertation research involved employing a quantitative, non-experimental, multivariate correlational research design to test a hypothesized model examining associative paths of influence between ecological factors and weight status of urban, African-American adolescent females.

Dr. Stanford began her professional career in 2004, with the Baker County Health Department. She was the health educator for an outreach program designed to connect limited resource residents with health resources, such as disease specific health education, primary care, mental health, and substance abuse services.  During her tenure with the Health Department, she also lead a county wide health needs assessment and health improvement initiative to raise awareness of identified health priorities.  

Dr. Stanford joined the University of Florida in the Institute of Food Agricultural Science in 2005, as County Extension Faculty for the Youth EFENP program in Duval County.  In this role, she worked hard to develop community partnerships to propel the program into a variety of settings such as after schools, summer camps and community outreach venues. In 2009, she accepted the position as State Specialist and Nutrition Education Coordinator for the Family Nutrition Program. In this role, she provided leadership to 60 county faculty members and staff in nutrition education curriculum selection, program development and evaluation. 

Dr. Stanford later went on to work in the College of Medicine in Clinical and Translation Science Institute, Community Engagement and Research Program as a community Research Associate and Research Assistant Professor from 2010 to 2016. Dr. Stanford currently is a member of the staff at Edward Waters College as the Data Analysis Manager for the New Town Success Zone and assists in analyzing the program’s collaborative efforts and generating grant resources. Her greatest accomplishment to date is parenthood and is the proud mother of two beautiful girls: Nyla, age 21 and Zion, age 12.


DJ Deas Marvelous Light Foundation, Inc.
1478 Walnut Creek Dr.
Fleming Island, FL 32003
Phone: (904) 716-3674


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-8255
(Available 24 hours everyday)