The CARE Project Staff

Johnnie Sexton, Founder and Executive Director

Johnnie Sexton, Au.D., has worked with children who are deaf and hard of hearing for almost 4 decades. He received his B.S. (1977) and M.S. (1979) degrees from East Carolina University and his Au.D. Degree (2010) from A. T. Still University/Arizona Health Sciences. Dr. Sexton has focused throughout his career on pediatric/educational audiology service development, implementation and management and served on a team to design the early intervention system for audiology in North Carolina (including the newborn hearing-screening program) from 1999-2001. He has devoted his energy in recent years to redefining counseling for families with children who have hearing challenges and the professionals who provide services for them. Dr. Sexton created the nonprofit agency, The CARE Project, serving as Executive Director, for the advancement of family, professional and pre-professional training opportunities in emotional/adjustment counseling. The CARE Project has become a national standard for family engagement for the unique family retreat experiences which provide emotional support and education for family empowerment.

Throughout his career, Dr. Sexton has been very involved in state licensure under 5 Governors in NC with a clear focus on making sure that the consumer of speech and hearing services are protected from unethical and illegal practice. The North Carolina Speech, Hearing and Language Association has twice awarded Dr. Sexton the State Clinical Achievement Award, in 1996 for his pioneering work in educational audiology and in 2017 for his pioneering work in emotional support for families.

Dr. Sexton owns a private practice specializing in educational audiology services and educational sign language interpreter services (John E. Sexton & Associates, Inc./JESA). JESA is 30 years old and employs 14 audiologists who live in regions around the state of North Carolina. He also owns a private practice in specialty speech pathology services (Specialty Speech & Education Services/SSES) which provides specialized speech services for children (auditory verbal therapy, augmentative communication services, etc.) in Southeastern North Carolina.

As of January 1, 2018, Dr. Sexton is the Co-Chair of the NC Early Hearing Detection & Intervention (EHDI) Advisory Board which oversees the newborn hearing screening program in all birthing hospitals in NC. 


Xris Kessler, Media Director

Xris Kessler was educated at the Art Academy University of San Francisco and has been the creative force behind the development of The CARE Project components. He is well-known for his beautiful paintings and sculptures. He is responsible for the following

  • Videography
  • Film editing
  • Creating the original music score
  • Designing all packaging
  • Overseeing the production aspects
  • Original art design


Jorge Ceja, Hispanic Liaison

jorge photo

Jorge Ceja is a Behavior therapist at A Small Miracle Raleigh. He has obtained a Bachelors of Science Degree in Psychology from California University of Channel Islands. Jorge has worked with children and adults along the autism spectrum and also has experience with other disorders/disabilities. Jorge will be the Hispanic Liaison for The CARE Project.






John DiDonato, Technology Specialist

Together with his wife, Cathleen, and two year old son, John Thomas, the DiDonato family’s first experience with The CARE Project was participating in the 2013 family retreat at Bald Head Island. John assists The CARE Project in all technological aspects, specifically developing the foundation’s website.