Beth Deiter is an experienced pediatric speech-language pathologist whose home-based service delivery model holds a unique niche in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. As a therapist who sees the big picture, Beth also acknowledges the isolation that can accompany the responsibility of caring for a child who receives therapy services and appreciates the reassurance that can be gained from participating in a group of individuals with shared experiences and ideas. Therefore, over the past several years, Beth has become a strong advocate for establishing an inclusive community of compassionate and supportive caregivers both online and in-person. She looks forward to continuing this initiative as the Founder and Board Chair of C.I.T.Y. of Support, and she is so very appreciative of her own family’s support in this endeavor. Her husband, Chris, and her two children, Cecilia and Elliott, have been beyond patient in understanding her new time commitments, and yet they are just as excited to see what new adventures lie ahead.
Dana Schafer is an elementary school teacher and mother to a remarkable, feisty 5 year old daughter who was born at 24 weeks. As a fierce advocate for NICU families, she is the founder of A Feisty Little Miracle foundation, which brings gift bags to families enduring an extended stay in the hospital. Therapy services have been a part of her family’s life ever since Ayla came home from a 121 day NICU stay. Seeking advice from a variety of professionals as well as learning strategies to facilitate Ayla’s growth is something that Dana and her husband Matt have great experience with. Dana is passionate about advocating for her daughter’s needs as well as providing support to families in need of interventions for their child. She marvels watching Ayla reach milestones at her own pace. As a mother of a child who receives a variety of therapy services, Dana provides a unique perspective in understanding that every child has great potential for success.
James Weedon is a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician and works with families to evaluate, diagnose, and manage ongoing developmental or behavioral problems for children. He is the father to three young children who help keep him up to date on all the newest trends and video games to give him street cred with his patients, although he is young at heart himself. Dr. Weedon works with families to navigate the maze of Early Intervention, Special Education, private therapies, and medical interventions. He is a strong supporter of building communities where knowledge and acceptance of children with special needs is the norm and community programs and activities are accessible to all.
Maria Papanastassiou is an assistant manager/youth librarian in the NW suburbs of Chicago. She has worked with Beth and C.I.T.Y. of Support for the last several years developing programming and services focusing on supporting families with children who receive therapy services. Maria is part of her library's Disabilities Inclusion team and a member of SNAILS (Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services). Maria previously worked in special education as an inclusion teaching assistant at the middle school level instructing youth with various disabilities and/or learning differences by collaborating with classroom teachers and therapists to provide a supportive educational environment. Maria hopes that her involvement with C.I.T.Y of Support encourages other libraries to concentrate additional efforts on developing resources and services that are accessible and inclusive for all families in their communities. Maria is supported in her endeavors by her husband, Aleks, and two daughters, Sophia and Eliana.
Jillian Burgard is a small business owner in the field of applied behavior analysis in the Chicago suburbs, and has worked in the field of education as a special education district leader, teacher, counselor and administrator. Jillian finds supporting families with children in therapy throughout the education system, as an advocate and parent educator, to be the most rewarding part of her work. Finding solutions for children and families, and bringing together the village that supports a child in meaningful ways is incredibly important to Jillian. She has active teenage twins, Evan and Isabella, who were born prematurely, and have come a long way since their days in the NICU. Jillian is honored to be joining the board of directors, and is looking forward to helping the C.I.T.Y. community grow!
Sara is the Head of People and Culture at Mursion, an ed-tech startup leveraging virtual reality to improve human interactions. She champions Mursion’s culture and leads efforts in finding, developing, motivating, and retaining Mursion’s talented workforce. She transitioned this role after serving as the company’s Director of Education Services, where she worked with her team to build out robust simulation offerings for Higher Education and K-12 districts. Prior to joining Mursion, Sara was a Director of Academic Strategy at TNTP, an education consulting firm. In her role she worked alongside central office staff, school administrators, and teachers in developing leaders to be advocates for equitable systems and student achievement. She strives to be a strong advocate for her 5 year old who is brilliant, charming, Autistic, and Apraxic, as well as her 3 year old who is artistic, daring, and full of joy. She hopes to lend her perspective and talents to support the growth of the C.I.T.Y community!
Molly has over 20 years of experience practicing law including as an attorney for the Iowa Supreme Court and thereafter as a shareholder in a boutique intellectual property law firm with offices in Illinois and Wisconsin. Molly was a member of the founding team of the Center for Patient Partnerships at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where her passion for facilitating patient advocacy in the field of health care began in earnest. Molly, mother to three energetic young children, recently became a member of C.I.T.Y. of Support, although she and her husband have been navigating pediatric therapies, early intervention and early childhood programs since 2015. Molly is excited to join the board of directors and to work to ensure that all children and families in therapy receive the support they need to succeed.