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.
McKenna Geer, Paralympic Bronze Medalist (Shooting), 2016 Paralympic Games
Born with Amyoplasia Arthrogryposis, McKenna started shooting at the age of 12 during a summer camp for kids with disabilities called Camp Access. This summer camp, run and mentored by various individuals with disabilities in the community, ignited a spark that could not be put out.
One week after graduating from Lakewood High School, and earning her Associate’s Degree through dual enrollment at Everett Community College, McKenna moved to the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center. The International Paralympic Committee named her one of the “Top 10 Para-Athletes You Should Like Before 2016” noting “expect her to be huge come Rio 2016.” McKenna won a Bronze medal in the 10m Air Rifle Prone Mixed SH2 event at the Rio Paralympic Games. Her sights are set firmly on competing in three shooting events at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
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.
Mary has been involved with disability sport since 1988 when she started a local team with cerebral palsy with United Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County. She was named head coach of USA Para Powerlifting (USAPP) in 2003 and High Performance Manager in 2013. She’s coached Team USA at four Paralympic Games (2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012) and was Team Leader for the past three Paralympic Games, six World Championships and five Para Pan American Games. Mary was recognized by the USOPC as Volunteer Coach of the Year in 2018 and was named Paralympic Powerlifting Coach of the Year in 2012.
Jyoti Jhita, Project Director, Stitch Marketing Research
Jyoti is most curious about the human decision-making process. She has spent the greater part of her career exploring the psychological and emotional drivers of the individual, and uses her academic research expertise to understand consumer motivations.
A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Jyoti is trained first and foremost as a researcher, ensuring the validity and precision normally associated with scholarly studies. From longitudinal diaries, to in-person group studies, Jyoti takes any opportunity to puzzle-piece the best methodology to tackle business issues.
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.
J.C. Poma, Director of Sports Relations, Richmond Region Tourism
J.C. is a Richmond, Virginia native and has a deep passion for the role sports plays with Richmond Region Tourism’s funding jurisdictions, community partners and constituents. In his spare time, J.C. is deeply committed to leadership – holding numerous Board positions including serving on the Advisory Board for both U.S. Sports Congress and Sportology, the Board of Directors for Richmond’s Paralympic Sports Club, Sportable, serving as a Cabinet Member for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and serving as Commissioner for the local Men’s Softball League in the Richmond Region. J.C. holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and also holds a master’s degree from Georgetown University.
John Register, CEO, Inspired Communications International
John Register failed to clear a hurdle as he trained for the Olympic Games—a move that led to a tragic accident and altered his life forever. He shifted his mindset and embraced a “new normal.” The Persian Gulf War U.S. Army veteran world champion became a two-time Paralympic Games Silver Medalist, motivational speaker, and global influencer. He now gives business leaders the tools to navigate the Coronavirus pandemic and racial and social justice.
Jaleen Roberts, 5x World Para Athletics Medalist & Paralympic Hopeful
As a black female with a disability (cerebral palsy) who is a member of the LGBT+ community, Jaleen uses her platform to show others similar to her that with determination they can succeed in any aspect of their life.
Since beginning her Paralympic career in 2017, she has experienced immense personal and athletic success. Winning multiple medals in the 2017 and 2019 World Para Athletics Championships and 2019 ParaPan American Games, Jaleen is now training for the 2020 Paralympic Games. Jaleen is the first American in the T37 classification to jump over 5 meters in the long jump.
The most important lesson she has learned throughout her journey is to not compare herself to her able-bodied peers but instead to focus on growing, learning, and becoming stronger as an individual, “because it’s not my disability that defines me, but how I deal with the challenges that it brings.”
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.
Katie Moses Swope, Founder, MoSwo PR
Katie Moses Swope founded MoSwo PR in 2013 after 25 years of working in the PR and sports events industry. From 1997-2013, Moses Swope was part of the communications team for ESPN – seven of those years as Director of Communications for ESPN.
The work Moses Swope is most proud of during her ESPN time is 1) her contributions to the V Foundation for Cancer Research committee, 2) fulfilling Make-a-Wish requests with athletes, and 3) her experience and success with crisis management.
Because of these three things, Moses Swope founded and built MoSwo PR based on a business model focused on helping others through storytelling, educating her audience on adaptive sports and athletes with disabilities, and protecting athletes, brands, and companies when crisis situations arise.
During MoSwo PR’s seven years as a boutique PR firm, Moses Swope has worked as a publicist for action sports and soccer events, NGBs, Olympians and Paralympians.
Will Waller, CEO, National Wheelchair Basketball Association
Will Waller is currently the CEO of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. He’s been involved in the sport for 25 years, becoming involved after being shot and sustaining a spinal cord injury growing up in Chicago in 1992, as a result of inner-city violence. Will has had success on every level of the sport, including 2 Paralympic Bronze Medals, 2 World Championship Gold Medals and 1 World Championship Bronze Medal.
Prior to his current endeavors, Will was a Human Resource executive with experience at 3 Fortune 150 companies: Honeywell International, Whirlpool Corporation and The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. A customer focused leader, Waller is most well-known for his passionate approach to teamwork, driving change and building relationships.
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.
Deja Young, 2x Paralympic Gold Medalist, 100m and 200m, 2016 Paralympic Games
Born with brachial plexus that caused nerve damage and limited mobility in her right shoulder, Young excelled as a high school track star lettering all four years. Deja earned a track scholarship at Wichita State University where she was All-Conference. She learned about Paralympic Track and Field at a college meet and the rest is history. In 2018, Deja traveled to Nigeria to serve as an athlete mentor within the U.S. State Department’s Sport Envoy Program. Young received her Bachelor’s Degree in 2018 in Social Work from Wichita State University.