Paralympian, USA Wheelchair Rugby Athlete
Chuck Aoki is a three-time Paralympian in wheelchair rugby and helped lead Team USA to the bronze medal at the Paralympic Games London 2012 and silver medals at the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. He has also helped the team earn gold at the 2010 world championships, as well as two bronzes at the 2014 and 2018 world championships.
Off the field, Aoki is a Ph.D student at the University of Denver – focusing on comparative politics, international relations and civil-military relations. In his free time, he enjoys watching his beloved Minnesota sports teams, reading books about the Civil War and U.S. Presidents, doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, and playing with his 1-year-old cavapoo, Winnie.
Aoki earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and earned his master’s degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota.
Cheri Blauwet, MD is an Associate Professor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and the Chief Medical Officer of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. She is an attending sports medicine physician at Mass General Brigham, where she also serves as Founding Director of the Kelley Adaptive Sports Research Institute. Dr. Blauwet is also a former Paralympic athlete in the sport of wheelchair racing, competing for the United States Team in three Paralympic 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 clinical setting, Dr. Blauwet is a pioneer and change agent in the area of disability and health equity, with a specific focus on sport and physical activity for health promotion and chronic disease prevention. She is deeply committed to ensuring that opportunities for achieving optimal health are equitable and universally accessible to all, inclusive of people with disabilities. She 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. In 2019 she was named by the Boston Business Journal as one of the “40 under 40” community leaders.
Head Coach, University of Illinois Track Team
Adam Bleakney has served as the Head Coach of the University of Illinois Wheelchair Track and Road Racing team since 2005. In that time his athletes have won 55 medals across four Paralympic Games while setting 14 world records on the track, and have won the Boston, London, Chicago Marathon, and New York City Marathons. In recognition of such performances, he has been named the USOPC U.S. Paralympic Coach of the Year on three occasions.
In 2017, he established the UIUC Human Performance and Mobility Maker Lab, an interdisciplinary lab where students with and without disabilities collaborate to design and develop assistive technology. Adam is faculty in the School of Art + Design at UIUC and a research affiliate at the UIUC Beckman Institute.
Adam has consulted with BMW, Toyota, Bridgestone Americas, and several Champaign-based start-ups in advancing racing wheelchair and other accessible technology research and development initiatives.
Founder & CEO, All In Sport Consulting
Dawna Callahan has been involved with adapted sport professionally for 20+ years. Most recently she founded, All In Sport Consulting, a national adapted sport consulting group. Prior to starting her business, Dawna was the Director of Programs with the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). Within the United States Olympic Committee, Paralympic Division, Dawna held positions in Sport Outreach and Development and the Paralympic Military Program. With both roles she played a vital role in growing and developing the Paralympic Movement across the United States.
In 2020, Dawna conceived of and presented the inaugural Adapted Sport Leadership & Business Symposium (LABS), a conference that connects leaders from the adapted sport industry and beyond for progressive sessions and meaningful conversations to advance the adapted sport movement and expand its impact. As a part of LABS, she led the first-ever economic impact study for the adapted sport industry.
U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Emerging Athlete Coach
BethAnn is a Minnesota native, but lived both on the east coast in Maine and further west in Boulder, CO. BethAnn competed as a biathlete for 15 years before working with the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing team. She has worked with the USPN team in since 2012. Her roles on the team have included: biathlon coach, guide, development coach, and a schlepper of gear among many others. She loves working with athletes on all different levels, especially introducing new athletes to the sport of Nordic skiing and to the amazing community that makes up the Para Nordic world.
When BethAnn isn’t working with the team, she can be found back in Minnesota getting outside as much as she can, staying active and having fun with her husband David and son Lucas.
Stitch Marketing Research
For over 10 years, Julie has been helping businesses reach their goals faster through market research. As a member of the Stitch Marketing Research team, she has worked with companies in a variety of industries from business services to consumer goods to higher education. Her expertise lies in making information from a variety of research sources useful and actionable.
Her career has been anything but a straight line, starting in corporate consulting and telecommunications, then becoming an entrepreneur by opening a retail fitness center and publishing fitness training guides, and now working as a market research consultant.
Julie and her family currently live in Florida, enjoying the sunshine and never ceasing to be amazed at seeing alligators around their neighborhood.
Michelle Dusserre-Farrell, OLY
Sr. Dir., Athlete, Curatorial and USOPM Programs
Article: Museum Wins Top Award for Inclusivity and Accessibility
Strategist Inclusive Design, Interbrand
Anna Johannes was born without her left hand and forearm and started to fight for disability rights and social justice at a young age. After a professional career of swimming and participating in the 2012 London Paralympic Games – coming away with a Bronze medal – she took her skills from the pool to the realm of business to continue that same fight.
Currently, she works as the Strategist for the Inclusive Design Team at Interbrand. Prior to Interbrand, she worked at Porter Novelli on the internal marketing team. She also served as their leader for the Disability Inclusion Task Force, was the DE&I champion for the Boston office, and was part of Porter Novelli’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Advisory Services Counsel. Before Porter Novelli, she worked at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she fought to make sure every patient’s story was told. She started her corporate career at Speedo, where she helped guide them to sign their first Paralympic athlete while consulting with sister brand, Tommy Hilfiger, on their Adaptive clothing line.
Center for Sport Psychology
Roberta Kraus is President of the Center for Sports Psychology in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Center specializes in helping individuals and teams develop mental training strategies that lead to a consistent peak performance. Olympic, world and national champion coaches and athletes, collegiate and club programs, and high school athletes along with their coaches or parents have used these strategies successfully. She has adopted these techniques for individuals who help/coach/influence others to fully understand the neuroscience of resilient peak performance under pressure on a consistent level regardless of what life pressures they face on a day2day basis.
Her international reputation comes from extensive experience with designing and implementing specific mental training programs on the subject of peak performance, team leadership, developmental coaching, group dynamics, communications, and motivation. In addition, Roberta facilitates custom client work in the area of individual, team, and organizational performance issues.
She was the Sports Psychologist for the USA Men’s and Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball teams who both won the Gold medal in RIO Paralympics.
Roberta has published a mental training drill book for coaches to assist them in customizing a specific mental training program for their athlete(s) throughout the competitive season. She has also co-authored a new portable deck of coaching cards utilized to help develop coaches’ effectiveness. This “Coaching Leaders Out-of-the-Box” training tool is a useful way to enhance your skills as a coach in any walk of life.
Roberta has earned two master degrees in Education and Sports Psychology, and has a doctorate degree in Communications, specializing in its application to individual performance and team effectiveness in Sport Performance. Currently, she has received numerous international certifications in the field of neuroscience and brain-based performance coaching. She played competitive tennis and basketball at Montclair State University. She was an alternate to the Women’s Olympic Basketball team and maintains an undefeated college tennis record. She has coached at the collegiate and high school level for 15 years.
MD, Coach USTA wheelchair tennis team
Johan Latorre is a PM&R Sports Physician at UAB. He recently completed his residency and fellowship at the University of Michigan. At the University of Michigan, he played an integral part in the development of the adaptive sports and fitness program. As coach of the collegiate wheelchair tennis team, he led the team to a second-place national finish in their first year. Johan hopes to continue working with adaptive sports and fitness programs in the Birmingham, AL area, combining his knowledge as a coach and a physician to provide adaptive athletes with optimal care.”
Global Director of Accessibility and Disability Inclusion, Nike
Director of Inclusive & Adaptive Sports, CUNY
Ryan is the Executive Director of the international nonprofit organization, The Ryan Martin Foundation (RMF) – the mission of RMF is to help youth and adults with disabilities to live independent, impassioned, productive and full lives through sports training, mentoring and education.
Ryan is also the Director for the City University of New York. He currently plays for the NWBA back to back reigning national champions, the New York Rolling Knicks. Previously, Ryan played professional basketball in Madrid and Paris for ten seasons.
He also serves on the NWBA Board of Directors which oversees the Team USA High Performance Program for both the Men’s and Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Paralympic Teams.
Inclusive Play Specialist, Landscape Structures
Jill works with the LSI team in adding user voice within product development, as well as inclusive design practices. With a specific focus on merging lived experience with universal design principles, Jill promotes and educates on integrating inclusion in play, and bringing people with disabilities into the conversation. As an accredited educational presenter- both in the classroom and the playground; play has become her full-time role. During her lifetime, she has represented Team USA as a multi-sport athlete, bringing perspective on the importance of the formative role of recreation- and how imperative equitable access to play is for all.
Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami (Dr. O)
MD, Director of Student Accessibility and Accommodation Services, University of Michigan
Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami or “Dr. O” is the Director of Student Accessibility and Accommodation Services at the University of Michigan, where he oversees the office of Services for Students with Disabilities and the Adaptive Sports & Fitness Program. He is also an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Urology at Michigan Medicine, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
“Dr. O” was born in Nigeria and immigrated to the United States at a young age. He attended Stanford University and then earned his MD from the University of Michigan before going into Orthopedic Surgery at Yale. At the beginning of his third year, he experienced a spinal cord injury, paralyzing him from the chest down. After two surgeries and intense rehabilitation, he regained some motor function, and now navigates the world as a proud wheelchair user.
He went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, and completed his Family Medicine Residency at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. He served on the St. Joseph County Board of Health, appointed by then Mayor, now current Secretary of the Department of Transportation Pete Buttigieg; and is on the board of the River City Challenged Athletes, a non-profit supporting the area adaptive sports teams.
Nationally, he serves on the steering committee for the Group on Diversity and Inclusion at the Association of American Medical Colleges, sits on the National Medical Association’s Council on Medical Legislation, and was invited by the White House Office of Public Engagement to participate in the Health Equity Leaders Roundtable Series. He was appointed to the America250 Foundation Health and Wellness Advisory Council and speaks around the country on topics related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He has been featured on CBS News, PBS News Hour, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and is passionate about adaptive sports and fitness, striving to provide access to physical fitness and inclusive recreational and competitive sports for all.
Founder & CEO, Huddle Up Group
Jon has over 25 years of direct experience in the sports tourism industry having held senior leadership roles 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
City of Los Angeles, ADA Coordinator for Pedestrian Rights of Way
Natalie Sparrow is the ADA Coordinator for the Pedestrian Rights of Way with the City of Los Angeles, California. She is the primary administrator and advocate on disability access for the City’s public pedestrian facilities and manages the fulfillment of the City’s $1.4-billion Willits Settlement Agreement.
Natalie also provides disability access consulting services, specializing in the evaluation and implementation of accessibility programs for large-scale temporary events, such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Pasadena Tournament of Roses’ Rose Parade.
Natalie serves on the Board of the Certified Access Specialist Institute (CASI) and the Steering Committee of the Pacific ADA Center’s CA Network of ADA Coordinators. She is a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) and has earned a Master’s degree in Public Health from Tulane University and ADA Coordinator Certification from the ADA National Network.
Chief Brand and Communications Officer, International Paralympic Committee
Craig is an award-winning communicator who joined the IPC in September 2010. He is responsible for all communications functions at the IPC and acts as the organisation’s official spokesperson. His work in helping to reposition Paralympic sport as high-performance sport has enabled the Paralympic Games to grow into the world’s third biggest sport event
Through using the Games as a platform to transform attitudes towards disability, the Paralympics are now regarded as the world’s number one sport event for driving social inclusion. In 2021, he helped spearhead the launch of WeThe15, a campaign which aspires to be the world’s biggest human rights movement for the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities.
In 2016 he was awarded European PR Professional of the Year, while the IPC Media and Communications team he leads was awarded in-house team of the year at the European PR Excellence Awards. He was named in the 2015 Leaders in Sport list as one of 40 Global Leaders under 40.
Executive Director, Dare2tri
Keri serves as the Executive Director and co-founder of Dare2tri. She is a member of both USA Triathlon and Move United Board of Directors. She serves as the Vice-Chair of the USAT National Paratriathlon Committee. She holds a USA Triathlon Level II coaching certification and is a USAT Certified Race Director.
Keri is dedicated to growing the sport of paratriathlon across the country. She has a passion for adaptive sports and her enthusiasm for supporting athletes of all ages, ability, and experience level is unmatched.
Paralympian, Head Coach Women’s Wheelchair Basketball at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Stephanie Wheeler is currently the head coach of Women’s Wheelchair Basketball at the University of Illinois. She was a member of the gold medal women’s wheelchair basketball team at both the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. She was also a member and co-captain of the gold medal 2010 world championship team that competed in Birmingham, England.
Originally from North Carolina, Wheeler was recruited to play wheelchair basketball at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During her collegiate career, she was a part of three consecutive national championship teams (2002-2004), earning both All-American and MVP honors. She went on to become head coach of the USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team, leading the team to gold medals at the 2015 Parapan American Games and the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. As a result of her competitive and coaching success, Wheeler was elected to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 and the NWBA Hall of Fame in 2018.
Stephanie’s passion is teaching and creating inclusive environments. She has conducted wheelchair basketball camps around the world; has consulted with the NCAA on inclusion of athletes with disabilities; and is actively involved with long-term athlete and coach development for wheelchair basketball at all levels in the United States. She is an ambassador coach for Athlete Ally, and was a mentor athlete for US Paralympics and The Hartford. Stephanie is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois in Cultural Kinesiology, studying sport at the intersection of disability, gender, and sexuality.