Rebecca Christiansen is the founder of Celebrate Differences. She is a graduate of Elmhurst College with a Bachelor's of science in nursing and business administration. She is currently employed full time as a registered nurse.
After the birth of her fourth child Ryan, who has Down syndrome, she got the idea to start Celebrate Differences in hopes of showing the world that individuals with disabilities are more the same than different than others.
Jeff Christiansen, one of the original founders of Celebrate Differences, is a graduate of Lewis University with master degree in criminal/social justice. He is currently employed as a part of the command staff at a local Sheriffs Office.
Along with being the father of Ryan, he has developed programs and training to assist fellow law enforcement officers with their response to persons with special needs. The Illinois Attorney Generals Office has had him present his training at their Elderly Service Officer 40 hour certification class. He has also completed SAR (Search and Rescue) training to become a trained search manager in the event someone with special needs becomes lost/missing.
Olivia has both a Master of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Illinois - Chicago as well as a Bachelor's. She is currently employed in the public accounting industry and is working on becoming a licensed CPA in the state of Illinois. Olivia has been with Celebrate Differences since 2011, but has been a longtime advocate for the special needs community when her brother, Ryan, was born with Down syndrome in 2004. With the support and love Celebrate Differences has to offer through the focused efforts of many, Olivia strives to make the world a better place for special needs individuals and their families.
Julie has a Bachelor's in Healthcare Administration from Lewis University. She has undergone some major life changes over the last six years, having been diagnosed with a pituitary brain tumor in 2004. Today, having fully recovered from the removal of her tumor, Julie has dedicated her time to furthering her education and assisting others in need. She dreams of helping others in reaching their fullest potential with the same hopes and opportunities that she was blessed with.
Terry is the father of four, one of which has Prader-Willi Syndrome. His daughter's syndrome has led to his focus on a better understanding of the environmental issues affecting all of us. Understanding those issues and problems that our children face is just part of the journey, getting involved to assist and promote an improved quality of life is also very important. Terry is not only an involved member of the Celebrate Differences organization, but he is also an active board member of the Prader-Willi Syndrome - Illinois chapter.
Bre has lived in Oswego for 10 years with her husband, Paul. She has a Bachelor`s degree in Special Education and a Master`s degree as a Reading Specialist. She has worked as a kindergarten and first grade special education teacher for the past 6 years. Bre is excited to be a part of the Celebrate Differences family.
Missy Paoletti has a Bachelors degree in in speech language pathology from Illinois State University and a Masters Degree in Speech language pathology from governors state university. She also holds a Masters Degree in educational leadership. She currently is a speech pathologist at Gombert Elementary School and works part time at SPOT 4 kids in Oswego. She has co-taught & collaborated with regular education teachers in an inclusion setting as well as provided pull-out services with early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school students. She also has experience with the birth to three population.
Missy has dealt personally with her own disability being born with cerebral palsy. She has dealt first hand advocating for herself and for others with disabilities. She does define the fact that anything is possible. She is excited to be working for such an amazing foundation as Celebrate Differences.
Dennis Hildebrand is President and Founder of Hildebrand Creative, a marketing company he started in 2002 that specializes in online video marketing and digital storytelling with a purpose. Hildebrand Creative focuses on telling real stories of real people, many of their video series subjects are non-profits, charities and those that pay it forward.
He is a father of four whose youngest son Brett, currently 20 years old, is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, Epilepsy and OCD. Dennis has worked throughout Brett's life to manage his IEP since kindergarten, fought bulling and discrimination in his main-stream schools, obtained educational placement, and currently advocates for his vocational training and independent living skills.
Dennis' focus for Celebrate Differences is bringing his vast advocacy experience to help those that participate and support our organization and to forward our programs in the areas of independent and self-sufficient adulthood for our children.
Kim has lived in Aurora for the past 15 years with her husband and two children. Kim has a Bachelor's degree from Marquette University and a Masters in Health Administration from St. Louis University. She has spent the past 11 years at Ernst & Young where she is currently an Executive Recruiter focused on bringing Partner talent into their Advisory consulting practice. She has over 20 years of HR and recruiting experience in both public and private companies. Kim's daughter was born a congenital amputee and is missing a hand, some fingers and all of her toes. Because of her daughter's disabilities and her initial curiosity on how corporate America receives individuals with disabilities into the working world, she has had a strong focus on hiring individuals with disabilities at Ernst & Young. She was a founding member of AccessAbilities, which is an EY network focused on helping people of all abilities and disabilities to do their best work so that the firm can develop the highest performing teams. She has also been a firm representative at the Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD) annual conferences, where she helps students with resume writing and interviewing skills to help them be successful in the job market. Kim is excited to share her knowledge of HR and recruiting with the Celebrate Differences organization as they continue to grow and provide additional outreach to the community.
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