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Leading us to our best future

Our board members’ experience, commitment, guidance, and personal networks support our mission.

Board of Directors

Jeff Boarini, Co-Chair

Jeff Boarini, Co-Chair

In addition to serving on the Board, Jeff, his wife Rocky, and their son Ted were part of the founding families of the Community Living Option™ group with Center for Independent Futures. Professionally, Jeff recently left McDonald’s Corporation, where he was the Director of Creative Services. His career in communications, consulting, and media production spans more than 30 years, both as an independent business owner and with several Chicago-area companies.

Ira Mitchell, Co-Chair

Ira Mitchell, Co-Chair

Ira offers the Board his perspective of the challenges those with disabilities face living and working in the community. He came to Evanston to attend the Professional Assistance Center for Education (P.A.C.E. Program) at National Louis University and has served on the Board of Directors of Natural Ties, another Evanston-based nonprofit. Ira is a records management supervisor for Canon Business Process Services.

Gayle Brankin

Gayle Brankin

Gayle is an inclusive education and person-centered transition services consultant with over 30 years of leadership experience. She has served as a director of Special Education services, transition specialist, university instructor, Special Education teacher, and family and student advocate. Her work is guided by person-centered values, high-quality instruction and inclusive services, and a commitment to supporting individuals to achieve their personal dreams and goals.

Jill Calian

Jill Calian

Jill is a partner at Calian & Gross, LLP, an Evanston law firm dedicated to helping students with special needs obtain the educational services to which they are entitled under law. Jill received her bachelor’s degree from Miami University and her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. She is active in several organizations that advocate for and provide services to children with disabilities. Jill lives in Evanston with her husband and four teenage sons, one of whom has a disability and has been the inspiration for her activism.

Claudia Conlon

Claudia Conlon

Claudia is a retired Cook County Circuit Court Judge with over 30 years of experience working in the court system. Before her election to the bench, she served as an assistant public defender and as an attorney with the Cook County Forest Preserve District. Claudia has served as a member of various boards focused on education and the court system. Claudia and her husband live in Wilmette with their three children, including their son Cody, who is a Center for Independent Futures participant.

Andy Coutts, CPA

Andy Coutts, CPA

Andy is a CPA, licensed in Illinois and Ohio. As a Senior Manager in the assurance services department at BDO USA, LLP in Chicago, he provides accounting, auditing, and consulting services to clients in a variety of industries. Andy earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting and management from Walsh University and is a member of the American Institute of CPAs, the Illinois CPA Society, and the Ohio Society of CPAs.

Kirsten Curley

Kirsten Curley

Kirsten got involved with Center for Independent Futures after learning about a family member’s experience navigating services for a child with cerebral palsy. She is an award-winning corporate communications professional with a background that includes leading communications and public affairs for both not-for-profits and global corporations. Kirsten earned her degree from DePaul University and has volunteered at many organizations, including serving on the Board of Directors at Voice of the People, a low-income housing organization; as a Zoning Board of Appeals Commissioner for the Village of Skokie; and as a foster volunteer at the Evanston Animal Shelter. 

Linda Hauser

Linda Hauser

Linda has been involved with Center for Independent Futures since its inception, joining while seeking services for her daughter. Now retired, Linda worked with Aon Hewitt for 30 years, specializing in assisting organizations with implementing employee communication programs related to human resources. Linda also serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Companies That Care and is a member of the Impact 100 Chicago.

Dana LaChapelle

Dana LaChapelle

Dana has been involved with Center for Independent Futures both as a parent of a participant and in an advisory capacity. Now retired, Dana led a 29-year career at Accenture, ending her time there as the Director of Operations for the North American products division and the Director of Quality Management for Products. Dana is active in board and volunteer positions for a variety of organizations that serve individuals with disabilities, including serving on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Down Syndrome and volunteering at JJ’s List. 

Ann Sickon, ex officio

Ann Sickon, ex officio

The Executive Director of Center for Independent Futures, Ann has both an adult sibling and a child with disabilities. Building a career combining heath, business, and law, she has worked in hospital research, community health nursing, and starting and managing healthcare businesses. Ann’s health law practice focused on merger and acquisitions and healthcare management issues. Ann earned her J.D. from Loyola University School of Law, her Nursing Diploma from Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing, and her Bachelor of Science degree in healthcare administration from University of Michigan-Flint. She remains active with multiple charities, primarily focused on children and services for individuals with developmental disabilities.  
Terry Velan

Terry Velan

Terry is Vice President of Commercial Real Estate Lending for Inland Bank & Trust. Terry earned his bachelor's degree in finance from Marquette University. Terry, who is passionate about philanthropic work, has been a Big Brother and currently serves as a Catechist for St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. His wife, Jill, and their two children live in Evanston. 

Aaron Zeitner

Aaron Zeitner

With a background in finance, Aaron has experience starting and assisting companies across an array of industries including digital technology, advertising, finance, and television. Drawn to Center for Independent Futures because of previous fulfilling experiences volunteering with individuals with disabilities, Aaron brings an entrepreneurial spirit to the Board. His current venture is in the social gaming and technology sector, while he continues to lead teams in both the merchant processing and mortgage banking industries.

Success Stories

Avi's Story

Avi's Story

Avi Lesser set a goal to move out on his own by the time he was 25 years old. With the support of his family, friends, and Center for Independent Futures, his dream became a reality.

Read More »

Upcoming Events & Activities

Blog Posts

Marathon Approaches for Team CIF

On October 8, Team CIF will head to the starting line of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Read More »