The 2021 Jane Doyle Awesome Awards Winners

SPARK gives us a chance to celebrate the stellar individuals and organizations who support our work every day. Recipients of the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards represent Independent Futures through dedication, innovative leadership, personal integrity, and community-forward thinking. These awards are given to a community partner, a participant, and a staff member.

Community Partner: As an employer of Independent Futures’ participants, Trader Joe’s openly allows and encourages on-the-job coaching which gives participants a true path to success. They further support Independent Futures by donating countless items to our fundraisers. Trader Joe’s is a community-driven organization, an asset as an employer, and a generous community member.

Participant: Adam Wiser generously shares his time, his talent & his positive attitude to support Independent Futures.  As a self-advocate, Adam speaks out and speaks up to share his knowledge and to advocate for what he believes in. In community meetings, Adam asks great questions, shares his experience in a way that helps educate and inform others. When the Young Professional Board interviewed for 2 open positions, Adam’s self-advocacy skills shone brightly and he was an obvious choice to serve. Adam always finds a way to make suggestions, and is thoughtful, caring & has a fun sense of humor!

Staff: This year, tonight’s staff award seems like an obvious choice as we honor Ann Sickon for her leadership these past 10 years. Ann has exemplified all of the values that Kay and Jane envisioned for Center for Independent Futures 20 years ago. Ann’s steadfast, calm, creative, and compassionate leadership has helped Independent Futures grow in innumerable ways during her tenure. In particular, her faith and commitment to our mission, our staff, and our community kept Independent Futures moving forward through a global pandemic that forced the disability service providers across the nation to close their doors in record numbers. Numerous staff members commented that there was no better person to steer our ship during COVID than Ann. Ann has demonstrated over and over again a passionate desire to see people with disabilities fully included in the community.

The Gift of a Sister’s Love

In 2007, Arnie Schumer and his sister, Karen Berkowsky, came to Center for Independent Futures. They had no doubt it was the right fit for him, but they could not afford services. Through a scholarship fund, Independent Futures offered Arnie the support he needed to live his full life.

On May 22, 2017, Arnie passed away. He was a caring, generous person, and Independent Futures helped him grow and make the most of his life. Because of the impact on Arnie’s life, Karen decided the best way to honor him would be to help others get the support they need, too.


For years, Karen has been raising money for the Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund at Independent Futures in many different ways. She connected us with the Community Foundation of Morton Grove, Women Giving Back, and countless friends and family.


This year she and friends have created and donated 25 elaborate gift baskets for the SPARK silent auction.  All proceeds from the sale of the baskets (#1-#25) will go to this fund. This generosity not only remembers Arnie but gives the gift of full lives to others.


To buy one of these baskets to support full lives, please visit our online auction site.





In memory of Arnie J. Schumer
June 28, 1963 – May 22, 2017

The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend,
He referred to the dates on his tombstone
From the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came his date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That he spent alive on earth,
And now only those who loved him
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.










What is a Golden Ticket, you ask?

Missed getting a ticket to SPARK? Why not buy a Golden Ticket!

What is a Golden Ticket, you ask? Well, by purchasing 1 or more of only 150 Golden Tickets, you will have a good chance to win YOUR CHOICE of one of the fabulous live-auction prizes before bidding even begins! We will draw the Golden Ticket winner just prior to the live auction at SPARK, and you could win one of these fabulous prizes for only $100! Choose your package when you buy your ticket. Winners need not be present. Buy yours today and snag a unique experience!


Magnificent Views in Costa Rica

Enjoy a weeklong vacation at Villa Magnifica in Costa Rica, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and two gorgeous beaches. You and nine of your friends will enjoy this 5 bedroom villa featuring an outdoor shower, infinity-edge pool, and upstairs terrace view. Airfare is not included. Christmas time is the only blackout period, and the winner has 24 months to use their week.


Escape the City to Beautiful Galena, Illinois

You and 5 guests will enjoy this easy getaway just 3 hours from Chicago. This lovely 3 bedroom house is located in the heart of the Galena Territory, near golf courses and downtown Galena’s vibrant shopping district.  Dates to be mutually agreed upon with the owner and the winner has 24 months to use their week. This house is a beauty any time of year!


Gourmet Dinner for Eight in Your Home!

Evanston’s Deux Gourmandes, Chris Baer and Bonnie Dohogne will prepare and serve a five-course dinner for eight in your home. Chirs and Bonnie will work together with you to design the perfect meal to fit your taste! Dinner includes complimentary wine. Dates to be mutually agreed upon with the chefs, and the winner has 12 months to plan their dinner.


Experiential Night on the Town

Enjoy a multi-course dinner for two at Alinea. Alinea has been universally praised for its innovative approach to modernist cuisine. Alinea is one of only 14 restaurants in the U.S. to earn the coveted Michelin 3-Star rating. Wine pairing for two included in this experience. Gift card to include funds to cover 20% gratuity and valet parking.


Da Bears vs. Vikings, Monday, December 20th

The two tickets are located in Section 342, Row 10, Seats 17 & 18. This will be the last televised home game of the 2021/2022 season. Enjoy a night out with one of our favorite home teams. The package includes a gift card to cover parking, meals, and drinks, and includes a Bears scrapbook and four bobbleheads from the 100th year celebration.

The time is NOW to enter our Golden Ticket Raffle to snag one of our live-auction prizes for only $100! You do not need to be present to win.

My Job Before and After COVID, by Lindsay Tonyan

Before the pandemic, I was working from 10 am-2 pm in the dish room of Old Orchard Junior High. That’s where we wash dishes and there are big machines. I worked there for a total of 4 years already, and I like it.

It’s good because the schedule is helpful because I don’t get too many hours, and I get off holidays and the summers. I found this job by looking it up in Indeed. I applied for it, got an interview, and got hired right away.

Before the pandemic, it was difficult and rushed because there were a certain number of things I had to get done on time each day. I had to clean the dishes all by myself, put them through the dish machine, make sure they were dry and take them up to the front of the cafeteria to be served.

I kind of liked it – but it was hard at times. I really liked getting to know the kids. That was fun.

When the pandemic happened, I did not work. One of the supervisors told us that the school was going to be closed for an amount of time. I thought it might be less time, but it turned out to be longer.

This fall, it was kind of confusing. I didn’t hear from them until the last minute. I was missing work, but I was also glad to be staying safe. I felt both things. Because when I was off I got to do the things I needed to do, catch up on things. And spend time with my friends and people I hadn’t seen because I worked so much.

But I missed working, and I really missed the money to do the things I wanted to do. It was a loss.

I started back to school this past August. I was relieved that I got my job back!! Also, it threw me off guard because I wasn’t sure what was going on.

Now I only do dishwashing in the sinks which is much easier because it is only in one area. And I get to work in the kitchen with my co-workers instead of by myself which is good because I get to be around my coworkers. I like to be around people.

But now, it can get to be too much. I’m tired and I don’t have much energy for fun activities after work. But also I’m getting money that I need to buy the things that I like to get.

I’m staying with this job for another year.  Maybe in the future, I’d like to work with people or kids.  I like to help and volunteer, too.

I love my dog, Sandy.  She came here in 2016.  She has just turned 6 years old.  She came from a rescue group out of Houston. It’s called Patty’s Paws.  They foster and match people with their dogs.  The best part of having Sandy is her company and I like the attachment with a dog.  She’s good while I’m at work.

Lindsay Tonyan has been a participant at Center for Independent Futures since 2009. She is originally from McHenry, Illinois and she attended the PACE program in Evanston in 2003. After graduating from PACE, she lived on her own for a few years, then joined Independent Futures which she credits as “helping (her) focus on skills and goals in (her) life.”

Working Before and After the Pandemic by Adam Wiser

Before the pandemic, I was working at Nordstrom in Old Orchard usually 3 to 4 days a week. I was a busser in the Cafe, and I cleaned tables, put dishes in the back, and cleaned the floor.  I had been at that job for about 10 years.

I first learned about the pandemic in the news, but soon my manager talked to me and told me that since the pandemic happened, they were going to have to lay me off. He said that he would bring me back, but I didn’t know if that was certain or not. They just didn’t know what was going to happen.  

During the pandemic at home, I went through a lot of emotions like sadness, loneliness, and I felt like I didn’t know what I wanted to do. 

I was laid off for a year. During that time, I got emails about which Nordstrom stores were closing, and I didn’t know if it would be my store. Then we heard that some employees were going to be let go.  

In March of 2020, I got an email from my manager that we were going back. It felt good, but also a little weird at the same time. I hadn’t seen many people during the pandemic, and it was just so different to be back around people.  

We had meetings about going back to work, and the meetings were very helpful to me. But when I went back to work it was only going to be one day a week. That’s all they have for me. 

Now, I have two jobs. I work at Nordstrom and I’m also a self-advocate for Illinois Self-Advocacy Alliance. Tara Ahern, a member of Independent Futures’ Self-Advocacy Club, contacted me in January and asked if I wanted to join the Alliance. I didn’t have a job back then, so I said yes. 

I do advocacy, so I speak up and speak out about my needs, or different topics like healthy sexuality or advocating for legislation. 

I don’t want more hours from Nordstrom. I’m in a good place right now. I’m used to talking about advocacy work, that I can reach out to the disability community now, and I’ve never done that before. The pandemic gave me new opportunities. This is a better balance for me.

Adam Wiser has been a participant with Independent Futures since 2012. He has worked at Nordstrom Cafe at Old Orchard for 11 years and has been a self-advocate with the Illinois Self-Advocacy Alliance for almost a year.  He is an active member of Independent Futures’ Advocacy Awareness, Walking, and Biking Clubs. 

Success Stories

tue07dec3:00 pm4:00 pmWalking Club - In Person

tue07dec6:30 pm8:00 pmArt Club - In Person

wed08dec1:00 pm2:00 pmBingo - Wednesdays - Zoom

wed08dec4:00 pm5:00 pmYoga - Wednesday - Zoom

wed08dec5:15 pm6:00 pmMeditation - Zoom

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