LABS 2020 is so thrilled to have esteemed disability sport influencers lead educational and enlightening discussions throughout the event.
Check out these stellar speakers…….
Cheri Blauwet, MD
Cheri Blauwet, MD is an Assistant Professor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and an attending physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. She serves as Director of the Kelley Adaptive Sports Research Institute. Dr. Blauwet is also a former Paralympic athlete in the sport of wheelchair racing, competing for Team USA in three Paralypmic Games (Sydney ’00, Athens ’04, Beijing ’08) and bringing home a total of seven Paralympic medals. She is also a two-time winner of both the Boston and New York City Marathons.
Translating her background as an athlete to the clinic setting, Dr. Blauwet now serves as a Member of the International Paralympic Committee’s Medical Committee and serves on the Board of Directors for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) as well as numerous other leadership roles throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Movement. In 2016, she was the recipient of the Harvard Medical School Harold Amos Faculty Diversity Award and was named one Boston’s “Ten Outstanding Young Leaders” by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. She has become a global advocate for the use of sport and physical activity to promote healthy lifestyles for all individuals with disabilities. She was a guest at the White House as well as the keynote speaker at the Boston celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Victor Calise, Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities
As Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Victor Calise advocates for the disability community in all City decision-making.
Commissioner Calise chairs the Accessibility Committee of the City Building Code and leads efforts to integrate people with disabilities into the workforce through the NYC:ATWORK employment initiative. He also ensures that disability is at the forefront of the city’s emerging technologies including communication modes, autonomous vehicles, and digital accessibility.
Recognized as an expert on disability, the Commissioner frequently participates in national and international conferences. A dedicated public servant, Calise previously led efforts within the Department of Parks and Recreation to make the city’s park system—one of the most complex in the world—accessible in accordance with the Inclusive Design Guidelines.
Calise—an avid athlete—competed in the 1998 Paralympic Games as a member of the U.S. national sled hockey team. A native New Yorker, he is married with two daughters.
Ann Cody, Special Advisor, International Disability Rights, U.S. Department of State
Ann Cody is a Special Advisor for International Disability Rights in the Office of Multilateral and Global Affairs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. Department of State. The International Disability Rights team is responsible for the Department’s bi-lateral and multi-lateral engagement globally to combat discrimination and abuse against persons with disabilities, and to protect the rights, dignity, and inclusion of all persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.
After more than twenty years in the private and non-profit sectors, Ann joined the State Department in 2014 to oversee the “Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative” in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). She infused disability rights into ECA sports envoy and sports visitor programs and developed a sports mentoring program focused on promoting disability rights through sport. Ann assumed responsibility for the International Disability Rights team in January 2017.
Widely known and respected as a leader in disability, sport, and human rights, Ann led national and international disability advocacy campaigns. She testified before the U.S. Congress on implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. Prior to joining the State Department, Ann oversaw the Washington, D.C. office of BlazeSports America where she shaped the organization’s policy strategy and helped lead its international development initiatives.
A Paralympic gold medalist, Ann previously held leadership positions at the highest levels of the Paralympic movement with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, and International Olympic Committee. She is a recipient of the Paralympic Order – the highest honor bestowed by the International Paralympic Committee; George M. Steinbrenner Sport Leadership Award recognizing significant contributions to Olympic and Paralympic sport in the U.S.; the University of Illinois Alumni Association’s Humanitarian of the Year Award; and an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York at Cortland. Ann holds bachelor of fine arts and Master of Science degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign.
Greg Fante, Special Advisor, VP of Sports Development, Louisville Sports Commission
Greg Fante has been a leader in the Louisville hospitality industry for more than 30 years. He currently serves as the vice president of sports development for the Louisville Sports Commission where he has worked since 2007. Prior to that, Fante served as national sales manager and senior sales manager for the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
He has been an integral part of a team of professionals who have helped lead Louisville’s strategic planning, marketing, and sales efforts for sports event attraction and creation for the region. In the last 17 year, he has helped the Sports Commission attract and support more than 700 events that have generated nearly $500 million in local economic benefits for the community. He has served on the board of directors for Louisville’s lodging association, the Louisville hotel sales association, and the National Association of Sports Commissions.
Blaze Foster, Paralympic Hopeful, Para Powerlifting
Blaze Foster has been participating in Para Powerlifting since November 2017. Sports and being physically active has always been a part of his life. Foster competed in his first international competition in December of 2018 in Bogota, Colombia. Coached by Caitlin Brown, he continues to train towards his goals to medal for Team USA at an international competition and compete at the Paralympic Games.
Born and raised in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, Foster was born with a genetic disorder for bone growth called Achondroplasia, a form of Dwarfism. Foster graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2013 with a degree in sports management. Outside of powerlifting, he enjoys bike riding, reading, swimming, and hanging out with friends and family. When his competing days are over, Blaze would like to be more involved with the administration side of Paralympic sports.
Jason Gewirtz, Editor & Publisher, SportsTravel
Jason Gewirtz is the editor and publisher of SportsTravel, a publication devoted to serving the sports-event industry. A veteran daily newspaper journalist and editor prior to joining SportsTravel in 2008, Gewirtz previously worked for the Long Beach (California) Press-Telegram, where he started as a city hall reporter and was promoted to the position of executive city editor in charge of city and business coverage. He also worked as a reporter at the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and at the Broomfield Enterprise in Broomfield, Colorado.
He is a former member of the board of directors for the National Association of Sports Commissions. Gewirtz graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder and has won numerous awards as both a writer and editor.
David Grevemberg, CEO, Commonwealth Games Federation
David Grevemberg CBE is Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), the organization responsible for the Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Youth Games and numerous other initiatives. He provides inspirational leadership of the CGF and ensures the development and delivery of strategic and operational plans consistent with the CGF vision, the CGF’s strategic plan (Transformation 2022) and the CGF Constitution and policies.
David joined the CGF from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games where he was Chief Executive of the Organizing Committee and oversaw the hugely successful multi-sport event for Scotland. He was previously the Executive Director of Sport and International Federation Relations at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) headquartered in Bonn, Germany. A former competitive wrestler, during his career he has also served as a coach, athlete agent, team administrator, consultant and Board member.
Nate Heckman, President, Stitch Marketing Research
While his business card reads marketing and research, Nate Heckman is at heart a social scientist. “Mass market does not exist without mankind,” said Heckman. Obvious, he agrees. “But in my line of business, it’s often ignored, with numbers taking the place of a nervous system.” His belief in the de-evolution of market intelligence even extends to his agency’s tagline, highlighting what his team does differently with their data: Tested on Humans. Nate is known for his passion, candor, competitiveness and ardent objectivity. For him, it is personal, which is what clients appreciate most.
Beyond stints internally running corporate market intelligence efforts for global brands, Heckman also has worked in a consulting capacity with a myriad of product and service entities, including AT&T, Wells Fargo, Starbucks, Disney and others.
Nate serves on the Advisory Board to the Fermanian School of Business at Point Loma Nazarene University.
Mike Mushett, CEO, Turnstone Center
Chief Executive Officer of Turnstone, Mike Mushett has devoted more than 35 years to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. He has been a national leader in the development of adaptive recreation and Paralympic sport programs at the community, national, and international levels.
Mike holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Recreation & Leisure Services and holds a certificate from the Olympic Sport Leadership Program from the Northwestern University School of Management.
Dan O’Connell, CEO, Turnstone Center
Dan O’Connell is President and CEO of Visit Fort Wayne, the official convention & visitors bureau for Fort Wayne and Allen County, Indiana.
Dan has been a leader for several cities over the past 40 years to develop their destinations for more convention and tourism business. He has worked in CVBs in Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois and for the past 30 years in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Recently, Dan and Visit Fort Wayne in partnership with Turnstone have worked to host more adaptive sporting events. Since Turnstone was named an Official Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in 2016, together they have hosted the Endeavor Games, the Junior Nationals and last year they hosted the International Goalball Society’s US qualifier for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
Phil Pangrazio, CEO, Ability360
Phil Pangrazio has been the President & CEO of the Ability360 for over twenty years. Phil is a longtime disability rights advocate both in Arizona and nationally. Ability360 is one of the largest Center’s for Independent Living in the U.S. with an annual budget of more than $48.5 million. Ability360 offers a wide array of programs that empower people with disabilities to live independently in the community.
Phil oversaw the planning, construction and fundraising for both the Ability360 Center and the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center that opened in 2008 and 2011 respectively, and which are located on a six-acre campus in Phoenix.
Phil served for ten years as a Board member of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL). He presently serves on the Boards’ of Centene Corporation’s National Disability Advisory Council, Protecting Arizona’s Families Coalition (PAFCO), Diversity Leadership Alliance (DLA), and the City of Phoenix Citizens Transit Commission.
A quadriplegic and wheelchair user for nearly 41 years, Phil earned a master’s degree in Health Services Administration from Arizona State University.
Jon Schmieder, Founder/CEO, Huddle Up Group
Jon has over 20 years of direct experience in the sports tourism industry having held the top role with three different sports commissions; Phoenix, Tulsa, and Denver. Schmieder brings a wealth of experience in sports tourism and economic development having also served in lead staff positions for the Senior Olympic Games and Pop Warner Football and Cheerleading.
Schmieder twice served as Chairman of the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) and was on the organization’s Executive Committee for six years. While Schmieder served as the President of the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission, the NASC chose the organization as the 2012 Large Market Sports Commission of the Year. Schmieder was named the 2012 CEO of the Year by the Phoenix Chapter of the Organization of Non-Profit Executives. In 2016, Connect Sports honored Schmieder as an industry “Game Changer”. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in higher education leadership from Northern Arizona University.
Loren Worthington, VP of Communications & Marketing, Ability360
In addition to being Ability360’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Loren is also the publisher of LivAbility magazine.
Prior to joining Ability360 he worked in marketing in the hospitality and resort industry. He has an extensive portfolio of work as a photographer with an emphasis on sports photography. He was an official photographer for TeamUSA at the Summer Games in Rio. You’ve seen his work in numerous Arizona-based outlets and nationally in New Mobility Magazine and Sports N’ Spokes.
As an avid outdoorsman, he sits on numerous committees that work to improve the accessibility of the outdoors.
Worthington has a bachelor’s in economics from Arizona State University.