President: Alyse Mastrodonato
Vice President: Joe Brogni
Treasurer: Henrik Turk
Site Director: Shannon Powell
Additional Board Members: Jill Rabin, Lisa Strons, Kathy Eiring, Chereesca Bejasa, Julie Waltz, Alejandra Aguirre, Cheri Spath, Kelli Guthrie
Outreach: Chereesca Bejasa, Julie Waltz, Alejandra Aguirre
Programs: Jill Rabin, Alejandra Aguirre
Marketing and Community Engagement: Julie Waltz, Kelly Guthrie,
Finance: Henrik Turk, Joe Brogni, Cheri Spath, Chereesca Bejasa
Facility: Cheri Spath, Alyse Mastrodonato, Kelly Guthrie
Fundraising: Alyse Mastrodonato, Joe Brogni, Chereesca Bejasa,
Volunteers: Kelly Guthrie
Alyse Mastrodonato, President
Alyse & her husband Nick found GiGi’s Deerfield after the birth of their son, Conner. With a passion to make a difference, Alyse is excited to be a part of the Deerfield team. Currently a stay at home mom with a love for the outdoors, music & her family, she is anticipating a return to work as an Occupational Therapy Assistant. She strives for everyone’s potential to shine, which is exactly what she plans to do for Conner, his friends & the playhouse. “Let’s make this playhouse ROCK!
Joe Brogni, Vice President
Joe Brogni grew up in Buffalo Grove and currently resides in Twin Lakes, WI. He coached football for nine years at Holy Cross High School in Deerfield. Joe currently works in sales at Reqourdit INC. His passion is to help local organizations and kids in his community.
Henrik Turk - Treasurer
Henrik Turk and his family (wife Bethany, daughter Vivian, and son Carlyle) live on the northwest side of Chicago in the Edgebrook neighborhood. Henrik was introduced to Gigi’s Playhouse shortly after Vivian was born in 2017. Since then, Henrik and his family have been active participants in classes and events at multiple Gigi’s locations including Chicago and Hoffman Estates, and most recently Deerfield as their “home” playhouse.
Henrik works for Ernst and Young, LLP in the Financial Accounting Advisory group. He received a BA from Valparaiso University and an MBA and MS in Accounting from Loyola University Chicago. He is a CPA in Illinois.
In his spare time, Henrik enjoys spending time with his family outdoors especially at the beach (Chicago, Northern Michigan, and Florida are their favorites!). He also enjoys playing guitar, soccer, and running.
Jill Rabin, Board Member
Jill Rabin is a pediatric speech pathologist and international board certified lactation consultant who works with infants to three year olds. She has a private practice in the Chicagoland area where she primarily sees at-risk and special needs breastfeeding patients, children with Down syndrome and children with feeding aversion through the early intervention system. She often follows her patients with Down syndrome as breastfeeding newborns until they age out of the early intervention system. She also counsels pregnant mothers of babies with a prenatal diagnosis about how to establish breastfeeding. She utilizes the Baby-Led Weaning approach in transitioning babies to solid food feedings, and has found great success in using this approach with babies with Down syndrome and feeding aversion. She has lectured nationally and internationally on topics related to breastfeeding at-risk infants, feeding aversion and the impact of Baby-Led Weaning as a method to transition to solids. She has authored chapters in a book called Nursing Down Syndrome which is due to be published in the fall of 2018. She has also been a guest blogger writing posts on facilitating breastfeeding in babies with Down syndrome for Julia’s Way. It is her goal to build a collaborative relationship between speech pathologists and lactation consultants in hopes of increasing the possibility of successful breastfeeding, especially for at-risk infants.
Lisa Strons, Board Member
Lisa Strons is married to Eric, and is mother to two beautiful girls, Kelly (11) and Avery (8). Avery was born with Down Syndrome. Lisa is an alumnus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa with a degree in Life Sciences. Upon retiring from Abbott Laboratories with 26 years of service, she has started a new career at Abbvie. Lisa feels honored to be part of the Board of Directors for GIGI’s Deerfield. She looks forward to positively impacting the families of the North Shore of Chicago who have been touched by Down Syndrome.
Kathy Eiring, Board Member
Kathy has been a Police Officer for twenty years and is currently at Lake Forest College. She enjoys time with her wife Mary and two step kids Emma and Cole. Kathy has volunteered with Special Olympics for 15 years and found a passion for supporting people with disabilities. She is also a huge advocate for elderly citizens. When she is not protecting and serving her community she is rooting on the Chicago Cubs!
Julie Fiocchi Waltz - Board Member
Julie Fiocchi Waltz was first introduced to GiGi’s Playhouse in 2015, after the birth of her 3rd child, Leilah. A lifelong resident of Deerfield, she was thrilled when her hometown was added to the list of Playhouse locations. Julie has been a supporter of the Deerfield Playhouse since its beginning, and is most thankful for the friendships she and her family has gained through this special community.
Personally, Julie and her husband Larry enjoy spending time in nature and traveling with their 3 children, Autumn, Parker, and Leilah.
Professionally, Julie is the owner of Big City Wellness, a health and wellness studio in Deerfield.
Julie is a strong advocate for positive change, and she embodies the concept of ‘being the change you wish to see in the world’. She hopes to inspire positive action in others around her, and believes that through volunteer opportunities at GiGi’s Playhouse, people will get to experience for themselves the wonder and beauty that Down syndrome brings to our world.
Chereesca Bejasa - Board Member
Chereesca is a technologist and the Founder and CEO of Zenevate, a wellness startup and online platform. She has over 20 years of experience leading custom software initiatives across many industries, and holds a BS in Computer Science and Math from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Chereesca also served on the board of a Chicago non-profit for over 5 years including several years as the Secretary of the Board.
Chereesca is the proud mom to Bodhi who received his Trisomy 21 diagnosis prenatally in 2020. Since then, she dove into the community, exploring resources, and connecting with others. She even started a Facebook group to facilitate further sharing of resources between parents that has almost 500 active members. Chereesca brought Bodhi for his first LMNOP class when he was 6 months old, and they were both immediately hooked. Since then, Chereesca has organized fundraising teams and participated in activities to benefit Gigi’s playhouse. She is passionately dedicated to improving the outcomes for people with Down syndrome and has put her full support into the Gigi’s Playhouse mission.
Kelly Guthrie - Board Member
Kelly and her family – husband and son (2) – reside in the Northwest Suburbs. She has been an attorney for over fifteen years and runs her own law practice in Arlington Heights. Kelly is looking forward to bringing the same passion for helping her clients to helping those with Down Syndrome and their loved ones. She is proud to be a part of the Board of Directors for GiGi’s Playhouse Deerfield.
Kelly earned her B.S. from UW-Madison and her J.D. from UIC John Marshall Law School (now known as University of Illinois Chicago School of Law).
In her downtime, Kelly enjoys spending time with her family and friends, camping in the great outdoors, reading books and traveling.
Cheri Spath, Board Member
Cheri Spath is from Lake Bluff, and mom to Grace, our Speech Pathology intern. Grace’s enthusiasm and passion for GiGi’s was infectious, and inspired her to volunteer when Grace returned to school. She has enjoyed helping out behind the scenes, loves ‘getting things done’ and is honored to officially join the Board. Cheri has a degree in Pharmacy, and has recently retired after 28 years in the pharmaceutical industry, primarily at Abbott/AbbVie. She also sits on the Program Council for the Project ADAM affiliate at Lurie Children’s hospital, advocating for CPR/AED education in schools and communities. “I am excited to learn more about Down syndrome, support the acceptance mission and be a part of the continued growth and success of GiGi’s Deerfield”.
Alejandra Aguirre, Board Member
Born and raised in México. Relocated to the Windy City due to Edwin´s (my husband) job.
Proud mom of Thiago. I have a bachelor´s Degree in Nutrition with a diploma in maternal and child nutrition, 15+ years of experience owning my nutritional private practice and worked for the Mexican government designing nutritional school programs for kids.
I love to be with my family and friends. I´m passionate about nutrition, fitness and traveling. I also enjoy cooking, baking, and dancing on my free time.
Shannon Powell, Site Director
Shannon started at the GiGi's Playhouse National Office in 2015 as a place to learn and grow doing something positive while she figured out her long term career goals. Within a few months of her position at GiGi's she "drank the kool-aid" and realized that this was no longer a stepping stone but a life mission. Shannon worked as the jack-of-all trades in many different departments at the National Office but found her niche in marketing and supporting the start-up teams. Working with the Deerfield team inspired her and when the opportunity arose to run the new location she jumped at the chance. She looks forward to connecting to families at the new playhouse and helping to change the way the world sees Down syndrome.