Abilities Expo Presents Experienced, Highly Knowledgable Speakers
In order to bring you a stellar conference program, we have selected presenters whose individual lives are as relevant to the Community as the issues they are addressing. The majority of our speakers hold advanced degrees in their field. Their accomplishments precede them and many are recognized nationally and within their state for their ongoing work with people with disabilities. All our speakers have apparent and non-apparent disabilities, work in the disability field or are the sibling or parent of a person with disabilities.
Here are the speakers for the Abilities Virtual Experience in June. Stay tuned for the new line-up!
Star of Sundance Channel's Push Girls
In 1992 Auti Angel, a professional dancer on her way to stardom, faced devastation when she experienced a life-threatening auto accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. However, through years of many trials, Auti Angel has been able to reinvent herself as shining star. Auti Angel has experienced life challenges that would later become her tool to help mentor others through their struggles. Returning to her first love of dance, she pioneered wheelchair hip-hop dancing worldwide and has continued to pursue her career in music and acting; showing this industry that she is Unstoppable!
One of the stars on the critically acclaimed docu-series "Push Girls" (Critics Choice Award Winner), Auti has also appeared in the HBO film "Musical Chairs," where she not only stars as Nicky but also wrote, sang, and co-produced the movie's song "Baile Baile" (available on the movie soundtrack at iTunes). Auti Angel has been seen on several major TV talk shows sharing her story of triumph over tragedies. She has been featured on: "Good Morning America", "The Marie Osmond Show", "The Jeff Probst Show", "OMG Insider", "Access Hollywood Live", "CNN", "The Katie Couric Show", "Latina Magazine", "US Magazine", "New York Times", "Los Angeles Times", and "Los Angeles Magazine" just to name a few.
Auti Angel has become a true symbol of survival and overcoming adversity. She inspires, motivates, and empowers audiences. She shares how perseverance and setting goals have helped her overcome obstacles, embrace change, and how to maintain a productive life. "Once a dancer … Always a dancer!"
Learn more at www.autiangel.net and www.autiangel.com
Executive Director, Social Impact Center
Felicia Carbajal is a spinal cord injury survivor, cannabis patient, community organizer, social entrepreneur, change-maker and an innovator in the cannabis industry. Based in Los Angeles the cannabis capital of the nation they have over two decades of experience in California's cannabis market, getting their start in both the LGBTQ liberation and the medical cannabis movement in the mid 90's. They have worked with world renowned cannabis medical professionals, consulted on numerous cannabis brands, and are a trusted resource for multiple patient and consumer communities. Currently they are the Executive Director of the 501c3 Social Impact Center. They take pride in fighting for a fair, just and equitable cannabis industry to heal the harms from the war on drugs and honor the shoulders they stand on.
Jackie is an Accessible Yoga Ambassador providing Adaptive Yoga classes to promote inclusion for adults (and children) with special needs since 2015, partnering with the County of San Diego and St. Madeleine Sophie's Center. She teaches Yoga at local libraries, the YMCA, and privately. Jackie has multiple accreditations in children's yoga, with an E-RYT200 and Perinatal Yoga Certification from Yoga Alliance, plus one for Teaching Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis. She has a vested interest in understanding and explaining the connection between yoga and functional movement to maximize the mind/body/breath experience. Jackie says, "I have found that I am most happy when I am in the service of others, and therefore, journey to share yoga as much as possible."
Kendra Garcia COTA/L, ECHM, "The OT Strategist" is an Amazon's #1 bestselling author of the book Life beyond the Diagnosis. She works as a pediatric-adult occupational therapy provider, Autism mom-advocate. She is also a home modification consultant, public speaker, workshop host Autism parenting expert/coach and contributor for the Huffington post and Autism Parenting Magazine. Want Kendra to host your next workshop, event or for all other inquiries contact her at: Kendra@TheOTStrategist.com You can connect with her on social media at @TheOTStrategist on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To check out all of Kendra's articles, books and upcoming projects visit linktr.ee/TheOTStrategist
Kelly L. Green
Executive Director, Help Hope Live
Kelly L. Green joined Help Hope Live as its executive director in November 2017. The daughter of a transplant recipient, Kelly not only believes in the mission of Help Hope Live, she once used the service and it "completely changed her life." She feels honored and proud to lead an organization that provided hope and help to her family during her mother's journey to transplant in 2007.
Kelly describes herself as a mother, a daughter of her hero, a battle-tested unifier, and a thought leader. She has more than 20 years' experience working in and leading nonprofit organizations and has dedicated her life to civic engagement.
Executive Director, Canines for Disabled Kids
Kristin has worked for many years to expand public acceptance and understanding of service dogs and the valuable role they play in expanding the independence of many people living with disabilities. In 2001 Kristin was partnered with her first service dog and she has never looked back. Working one on one with individuals or families considering service dogs to help them understand all the options available to them and to find the training program which can best serve them, is an important part of her work - speaking across the country at schools, expos, conferences and businesses is another - she is a living example of how successful service dog partnerships are.
Henry Viscardi Wheelchair Basketball Program
The Henry Viscardi School Wheelchair Basketball Program was created to allow children of all levels of physical disabilities to play together as a team and to reach their highest potential as athletes. The program gives children a chance to have fun, learn to respect individual needs, as well as learn good sportsmanship and teamwork. Our goal is to encourage individuality, heighten self-esteem, and provide a safe environment for each member of the team. Our basketball league consists of two teams: "Cubbies" for grades 2 – 6 and "Cougars" for grades 7 – 12, as well as students in the RAMP program. The Cubbies focus on skills and drills, and the Cougars are more competitive and play in tournaments with other local area wheelchair basketball teams. The Henry Viscardi School Wheelchair Basketball Program hosts an annual tournament every December and also participates in the Empire State Games for the Physically Challenged in the Spring. Our Basketball program culminates in an annual awards dinner in June. Learn more about this and other club and activity programs at the school at http://www.henryviscardischool.org/for-students/clubs-and-activities/
Mental health advocate and author of Struggling with Serendipity
Cindy Kolbe has been a lifelong disability advocate—even before her daughter's spinal cord injury. Cindy ran a nonprofit and managed group homes. She volunteers for the Reeve Foundation as a peer mentor for caregivers and supports other disability nonprofits.
Cindy's memoir, Struggling with Serendipity, shares unexpected adventures and her battle with depression after her daughter's injury, from their small town in Ohio to Seattle, Harvard, Capitol Hill, and around the world. She also published more than 54 articles since 2016 in 22 different media, including Power of Moms, Motherly, AbleThrive, The Mighty, Grown & Flown, and more. Cindy's serendipity newsletter and blog may be found on her website at www.strugglingwithserendipity.com. She hopes her writings will help others with challenges. Find her on Twitter (@cindy_kolbe), Facebook (Struggling with Serendipity) and Instagram (@cindybkolbe).
ParaCheer is the inclusive sport of CHEER and DANCE for athletes with and without a disability. ParaCheer Spirit is a nonprofit organization based in the Midwest providing opportunities for athletes to work together in a mainstream activity for all abilities and strengths and spirit. Seeing a need for energetic, outgoing persons to have an outlet for their abilities, we formed our ParaCheer organization to provide that spirited opportunity. In 2019, we achieved the ultimate honor - becoming World Champions and winning the Gold Medal for the USA! We focus on making the maximum of strengths and abilities of all our members. Our members and volunteers provide the momentum that helps us show the power for all activities.
Learn more: https://paracheerspirit.org
Rollettes Dance Team
Founded in 2012 by Chelsie Hill, the Rollettes are a group of young women making a difference - breaking new ground and inspiring the next generation. They are a community, a sisterhood, a family. Role models and trail blazers in dance, fashion, make-up and fitness. These women have created a community that redefines what it means to be strong, female, and resilient. With dance they dazzle and push the boundaries that others place in the way.
Learn more at www.rollettesdance.com.
Disability & Special Needs Planner, Disability & Special Needs Project
Andre Sam is a comprehensive Disability & Special Needs Planner with the Disability & Special Needs Project. Andre has 15 years of experience working with individuals who have a disability or special needs and has been in the industry for 8 years now working and planning with individuals and families with special needs and disabilities. Andre works with 120+ organizations nationwide that cover approximately 60 various types of disabilities, disorders, and diseases, speaks at conferences annually, and works with families throughout the country to help them plan for a better future.
Dr. Linda M. Schultz (Nurse Linda)
Linda M. Schultz, PhD, CRRN is a leader and provider of rehabilitation nursing for 40 years, most recently developing Activity Based Rehabilitation strategies. She has directed programs at an international level including the Christopher Reeve recovery project at Washington University in St. Louis. She is certified by the Association of Rehabilitation Registered Nurses. Dr. Schultz writes the interactive Ask a Nurse Blog, an evidence-based community forum, conducts monthly international webinars hosting discussions and questions from individuals with paralysis and has created emergency pocket cards concerning the topics of sepsis and Autonomic Dysreflexia, in coordination with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation. As a researcher, Dr. Schultz focuses on the concepts of promoting bladder and bowel continence and skin integrity. She has completed a national analysis of urinary continence in the elderly population utilizing NIH data. The results of these findings have been used to establish protocols by the AHCPR.
SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program
Jodie Diegel RN, MBA is the Founder and current President of the SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program, as well as past President and Founder of Mane in Heaven. The SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program, located in Barrington, is a non- profit organization whose mission is to enrich lives by promoting the unconditional love and healing of the human-animal bond, while advocating for animal therapy standards of excellence. We offer the Barrington-area's most experienced animal-assisted miniature therapy equine teams who have been visiting since 2013.
"I believe a difference is made when there is a soul-to-soul connection" (between humans and animal) said Jodie and it is through her passion for animal therapy that individuals throughout the Chicagoland area are able to receive care and experience that incredible soul-bond with her animals.
Through working with volunteer animal handlers, Jodie and her team bring miniature horses and dogs to locations such as Rush University Medical Center, The Garlands, Markland, GiGi's Playhouse and Barrington High School.
Host of TV program "Happy Yoga with Sarah Starr"
Along with her TV Program, "Happy Yoga with Sarah Starr" (appearing nationwide on Public Television, Amazon Prime, & ION Life TV) Sarah's inspiring work has also landed features in national and international publications, radio and news segments including contributing yoga expert for SELF Magazine, Mondetta Performance Gear, AntivewearUSA, YogaVibes and MindBodyGreen& a mention in Vogue. Having began her Ashtanga based practice in 1998, Sarah excels at making the ancient practice of yoga an accessible, safe and effective practice for beginner to experienced yoga enthusiasts. Lean more: https://www.happyyoga.tv
Associate Director of Architecture Services, Paralyzed Veterans of America
Mark R. Thompson, AIA, is PVA's Associate Director of Architecture Services. He joined PVA in 2016 after thirty years of private sector architectural design and construction experience as a lead project designer, business owner and real estate developer. Mr. Thompson developed his architectural expertise delivering public and private projects in the commercial, healthcare and educational markets valued in excess of $800 million.
Since being with PVA, Mr. Thompson has successfully advocated to maximize accessibility on multi-family housing, commercial, government and healthcare projects serving veterans throughout the United States. He has also provided technical assistance to veterans and civilians who are planning renovations to their homes specifically focused on improving accessibility.
Mr. Thompson is a licensed architect in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies and a Master of Architecture from Oklahoma State University.
Ericka L. Polanco Webb
Motherhood Journalist, Master IEP Coach
HEY! I'm Ericka! I am a married mama to five children. I have a blended family that is composed of three teenagers and two toddlers, we are also a special needs family. Our only son has severe Cerebral Palsy, amongst other complications due to his diagnosis. You can typically find me pushing the wheelchair and pulling a wagon, THAT'S HOW WE ROLL (pun intended). I love to read, indulge in a glass of wine and a latte (no foam). I am a (freelance) motherhood journalist, writing about all things motherhood and womanhood. Additionally, I am a Master IEP Coach™ who helps families navigate the IEP process and journey. I utilize my online platforms to build up mothers by reminding them they aren't alone. I was a teen mom and now I am sharing my motherhood journey with others in hopes to inspire families that look like mine to some capacity. I am not an influencer, I am Mom Coach & Motherhood Journalist. Serving as a voice of reason to give moms the inspiration and motivation needed when they feel like your heels are SINKING IN MOTHERHOOD.
Tracy Williams has her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Dominican University. She is a five-time recipient of nutrition education grants from the Kids Eat Right campaign of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She enjoys public speaking, writing on nutrition topics. She enjoys debunking myths related to nutrition issues for all people no matter how they may experience life. She has been a two-time presenter at the Abilities Expo Chicago. She has presented at nonprofit organizations, schools, rotary clubs, garden clubs, libraries, as well as a few churches. She is a strong advocate for all diversity in the world around her, especially for people with disabilities because she happens to have cerebral palsy. You can connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn and her website. Her website is www.tracysplate.com. She is also a freelance contributor to the online magazine Push Living. She loves to inspire people to live a healthier lifestyle. She is open to discussing any paid virtual partnership given the times we are experiencing right now.
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