Suzanne is an Information and Outreach Specialist for the Illinois Life Span program for Northern Illinois. She has worked and volunteered in the areas of disability advocacy and family support since 2008. She and her husband are the proud parents of a young adult with I/DD and Autism. Her passion is helping families access and understand services that are available to them so they are empowered to build an included and meaningful life with their loved one with disabilities. She is a 2018 graduate of Illinois Partners in Policymaking and has navigated disability services in the states of Illinois, Ohio and Indiana.
Illinois Life Span Information & Outreach Specialist
Ruth Aguilar, QIDP
Ruth Aguilar has over fifteen years of combined experience advocating for people with disabilities. She holds a B.S Psychology from the Illinois Institute of Technology and Professional Graduate Studies in Non-Profit from Harvard University. Ruth’s professional experience stems from working previously in an ISC Agency and then as a Self-Directed Assistant serving the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Moreover, with her personal expertise as a mother of a teen girl with Rett Syndrome and Seizure Disorder, Ruth brings a wealth of knowledge to the families by assisting them in how to obtain services and understanding their options by being assertive, yet professional. Ruth is inspired by her husband and her daughter to be a servant leader who helps those around her without hesitation.
Ligas Family Advocate
Shakari collaborates with organizations that focus on underserved communities and individuals with I/DD, among other duties. She keeps the team focused and in touch with diverse audiences, ensuring our materials are understandable.
FSN Administrative Assistant
Heidi Booth, MBA
Heidi joins The Arc of Illinois with over 15 years of experience in Marketing and Event Management. Her professional expertise has prepared her for the successful execution of events and outreach activities as well as marketing initiatives to build awareness and social media presence. She carries a Marketing undergraduate degree and MBA from Northern Illinois University. A mom of a daughter with a disability, she is passionate about advocating for all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is dedicated to providing all people a happy and productive life to serve in our community.
Marketing & Communications Manager
Traci Dawodu, CPA
As a CPA who has dedicated her career to serving non-profit organizations, Traci is devoted to helping mission-driven organizations maximize the impact of their dollars for the communities they serve. Throughout her career, Traci has become an expert on building highly effective finance teams with a commitment to efficiency, collaboration, and strong operating integrity. Traci attended Bradley University where she graduated with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Accounting. Outside of the office, you can find her gardening, experimenting in the kitchen and going on hikes with her family.
Traci Dawodu, CPA
Director of Finance
Mary Dixon, JD
Mary has served as the Director of the Family-to-Family Health (F2F) Information Center since December 2020, assisting families of children with disabilities/chronic illness up to age 22 and the professionals who serve them, through one-to-one assistance and virtual/in-person trainings on health insurance -public and private -pediatric waivers, and health care programs from Early Intervention to waiver services for children/teens enrolled in Medicaid with complex behavioral needs. She is an attorney with prior criminal justice experience in state court, and extensive policy experience, having served as the ACLU of Illinois’ Director of Health Justice Policy and State Legislative Director since 1992. She has a Bachelors Degree from Purdue University, a J.D. from Valparaiso University School of Law and a Certificate in Health Disparities Research through the School of Public Health, UIC. As a Ligas Family Advocate for The Arc of Illinois, from 2018 to December, 2020, Mary shared information with families about the options available through the Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver for Adults with I/DD. Mary has personal experience as the mother of two young adult sons whom she assisted in accessing necessary education and health resources throughout their lives.
Project Director, Family to Family Health Information Center
Amie Lulinski, PhD, FAAIDD
Dr. Lulinski has worked with and for individuals who have IDD and their families since 1995 when she began her career as a Direct Support Professional in central Illinois after graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University with a BA in psychology. Since then, she has served in various roles in Illinois, Missouri, and the Washington, DC metropolitan area ranging from Individual Service Coordinator to Director of Research and Evaluation at The Arc of the United States. Amie is currently serving as the Executive Director of The Arc of Illinois. Previously, she served as Project Director for the State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Project at the University of Colorado. Amie was the 2011 Disability Policy Fellow at the Association of University Centers for Excellence and received her PhD in Disability Studies in 2014 from University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Disability and Human Development, where she is an Adjunct Assistant Research Professor. Her research interests include deinstitutionalization, the home and community- based Medicaid waiver program, and mental and behavioral health needs of people with IDD. Amie served as a member of the board directors of the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities from 2018-2022.
Faye Manaster, M.Ed.
Faye has been with The Arc of Illinois for over 13 years. Her unique qualifications include over forty years of professional experience in the areas of special education, family support, early intervention, and public health. Faye is the parent of an adult daughter who is deafblind, and has cerebral palsy. She became involved as a volunteer with Family Voices, Inc., our national umbrella organization, in 1992 based on her experiences as the parent of an uninsured child with multiple special healthcare needs.
Illinois Life Span Information Specialist
Troy has worked at the Division of Developmental Disabilities and brings problem-solving expertise for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, working closely with our Advocacy Liaison.
Family Advocate Specialist
Karin Mentzer started at The Arc of Illinois in December 2018 as an administrative assistant. Previously, she worked as a paraprofessional at Elim Christian School for almost five years in both the elementary and middle school settings. Karin became the office manager in April 2020, where she assists with our daily office needs, memberships, various stipend programs, and assisting The Arc of Illinois’ other programs as needed. Mother to two toddlers, Karin and her husband enjoy entertaining friends with weekly dinner gatherings and being outdoors. She also enjoys reading and creating. Karin also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science, with a minor in History, from North Central College, where she graduated in 2010.
Megan Mutti, MA, QIDP
Megan is the Senior Ligas Family Advocate for the Central/Southern regions of Illinois. She joined the Arc of Illinois in September of 2018. Megan attended the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she completed both her BS and MA in Human Development and Family Studies. She spent many years as a member of the Pediatric Supportive Care Team at Children’s Hospital of Illinois, where she focused on patient and family centered care. Megan, who resides in Germantown Hills, IL, is the mom to two daughters, one of whom is a young adult with a developmental disability. Megan has a strong interest in developmental disability advocacy, transitioning from school to adult services systems, family centered communication, and community-based inclusion.
Senior Ligas Family Advocate
Rocio Perez, MSW, LCSW
Rocio is Director of the Illinois Life Span Program. She is married and has two adult children. Her oldest is an adult with Autism. Her background in Social Work complements her lifelong goal for her son Tony to have as many choices as possible. Prior to joining, The Arc of Illinois, Rocio worked at well-known not for profits such as Metropolitan Family Services, Community Support Services, and Community Alternatives Unlimited. She has worked for the Arc of IL since December 2018. She started out working for both The Illinois Life Span Program and The Family to Family Information Center where she was mentored by Deb Fornoff and Faye Manaster. She moved over full time to The Illinois Life Span Program in 2019 and was promoted to Assistant Director in 2020. Today, she is the Director of the Life Span Program and looks forward to continuing the legacy of Ms. Fornoff and her co-workers.
La Sra Perez es casada y tiene dos hijos adultos. Su mayor es un adulto con autismo. Su experiencia en el campo de Servicio Social complementa su objetivo de toda la vida de que su hijo Tony tenga tantas opciones como sea posible. Antes de unirse al Arc of Illinois, Rocío trabajó en conocidas empresas sin fines de lucro como Metropolitan Family Services, Community Support Services y Community Alternatives Unlimited. Ella ha trabajado para el Arc of Illinois desde diciembre de 2018. Comenzó a trabajando para the Illinois Life Span Program y El Centro de Información de Salud. Sus mentores han sido Las Sras. Deb Fornoff y Faye Manaster. En 2019, se dedico tiempo completo al Programa Life Span de Illinois y fue promovida a directora asistente en 2020. Hoy en día, es la Directora del Programa Life Span y espera continuar el legado de la Sra. Fornoff y sus compañeros de trabajo.
Illinois Life Span Program Director
Shirley A. Perez is the Program Director of the Ligas Family Advocate Program and the Family Support Network. Ms. Perez has thirty-five plus years of advocating and working with individuals and their families with disabilities. She is a business graduate of Metropolitan Business College and Kaplan University. She operated her own business, worked at an ISC Agency where she advocated for and assisted families in locating services by navigating the State system. In conjunction with the City of Chicago, Federal Home Loan Bank and The Illinois Housing Development Authority, she implemented a home-buying program for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities. She has worked as a Special Project Advocate with the Illinois Life Span Project; met with families/guardians to explain the transition process and listen to their concerns as their family members’ transition into the community from State Operated Developmental Centers.
She currently serves on various Department of Human Services Committees and is an active volunteer in both her community and church. She is the proud mother of an adult daughter (Tamekia), who lives in the community. Tamekia is diagnosed with multiple disabilities, intellectually and developmentally delayed. She is non-verbal, diagnosed with Autism and suffers from a seizure disorder. Ms. Perez’s passion for advocacy is fueled by her desire to help her daughter and others with disabilities reach their full potential. Her philosophy is, “everyone can succeed with the right support!” She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Ligas Family Advocate Program Director
Family Support Network Director
Carole’s diverse background in advocacy includes having served as The Going Home Coalition Manager at The Arc of Illinois and is currently an Advocacy Program Specialist. Carole served as a Governor appointed member to The Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities from 2014 until 2020. While serving on the Council, she served on its Executive Committee and chaired the Community Housing and Inclusion Committee. Additionally, she serves on the board of Collaborative Community Housing Initiative, a grassroots collective comprised of families who have young adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Carole has served on New Trier Township’s Funding Committees and has organized community-wide events promoting affordable community-supported inclusive accessible housing. Her driving belief is that Community is strengthened by diversity and inclusion. In addition to her Masters of Interior Design degree, she is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist with additional coursework in Universal Design. Additionally, Carole became certified as a Financial Wellness Trainer for people with disabilities through the National Disability Institute. She is an award-winning photographer with work having been shown in numerous regional and national photography exhibitions. Carole and her husband, William, have a daughter who has developmental disabilities and a nondisabled son.
Advocacy Program Specialist
Rebecca Schroeder joined The Arc of Illinois in January 2019. She previously worked at the McGaw YMCA Children’s Center as their Admissions and Data Manager, where she was responsible for registration and billing, and worked with state agencies, the local university, and other organizations to help families receive financial assistance. This experience has helped her as the Events/Marketing Manager at The Arc of Illinois where she continues to provide her expertise with marketing, training events and data management. Rebecca moved up to Director of Development in July 2021. She is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago.
Director of Development
Erica Stearns resides in Southern Illinois and serves as an Information and Outreach Specialist for the Illinois Life Span Program. Erica has a career history in healthcare management, a passion for helping others, and life-long personal experiences in advocating for those who identify with the community of disabilities. Growing up disabled and now as the proud mother of two children with disabilities, Erica has a unique and multi-dimensional perspective of navigating life with disabilities. These experiences have led her to a life of advocacy which she exercises through her career at The Arc of Illinois and in her roles as the chair for the Patient and Family Advisory Councils for the Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. In 2022, Erica was the recipient of the Care Fellowship through Caring Across Generations (Illinois cohort). Most notably, Erica is the creator and host of Atypical Truth (podcast) which explores the storied experiences of life as a caregiver and person with disabilities.
Illinois Life Span Information & Outreach Specialist
Tiffany Steinhauser, M.Ed.
Tiffany has been a special educator for 21 years in Quincy, Illinois. Advocacy is something that is close to her heart and has led her to spend her life teaching, advocating, and supporting parents. As an educator of children with disabilities for many years, she has found there to be a huge need for more family resources and supports.
Tiffany is a parent to two children. In her free time, her husband and she both enjoy camping and boating. Tiffany also enjoys reading and being outdoors.
Tiffany holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Special Education from Quincy University (IL) and a Master’s Degree in Education Administration from Williams Wood University (MO).
Illinois Life Span Information & Outreach Specialist
Kim Swanson has previously worked at the American Cancer Society as a Senior Coordinator, supporting many events raising money for the fight against cancer, including athletic events and galas. She recently moved to Illinois to help take care of her mom. She loves volunteering wherever needs to help make a difference. She has four grown children who live all over the country and loves to travel and spend time with them. Kim holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Advertising from Northern Illinois University.
Events & Outreach Coordinator
Greg is an accomplished Operations Manager with 35+ years of experience in nonprofit leadership and program development, particularly as it relates to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Greg’s experience ranges from direct, hands-on training in life skills enrichment programs to managing supports for over 400+ people with IDD across four divisions, four congregate work sites, and over 20 community-integrated living arrangements.
Importantly, Greg has a very unique relationship to his work that drives his passion for advocacy. As a father of an adult child who has physical and intellectual disabilities resulting in high support needs, Greg truly understands the value of maximizing the quality of life through community involvement for people he supports by providing them with the necessary support structures to lead dignified and fulfilling lives.
Director of The Family Transition Project
Sabrina has a passion for advocating, ignited at a young age when they became the older sibling to Rachel, who has Down syndrome as an attribute. Sabrina has diverse experience in local, state, and federal politics ranging from health and education legislative policy, campaigning, and working with elected officials’ district offices for outreach events to improve voter turnout. Paired with becoming disabled as a young adult, Sabrina is passionate about policy that supports people with disabilities.
Legislative Advocacy Coordinator