Les Turner ALS Foundation

Our Team

Our small and tightknit team brings decades of experience and compassion to their jobs.  Made up of a team of support service professionals, fundraising and marketing and communications professionals and an office staff that handles administrative functions, we are committed to providing the best possible support for people living with ALS and their families.

For us, this is personal. Many of us got into this work because we lost a family member or friend to ALS. We know what this journey is like, and we know how to provide support.

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Andrea Pauls Backman, MBA

Andrea Pauls Backman, MBA, has been Chief Executive Officer of the Les Turner ALS Foundation since  2015.   She brings both a professional and personal passion to ALS/MND having cared for and lost her mother, Sally, to the disease in  2010.

Andrea came to the ALS field following a 30 year career in business management as an institutional investment manager, including as a Managing Director at several investment firms.  She also brings more than 15 years of nonprofit board management experience. She is honored to serve on the Board of Directors of the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations.

Andrea holds a Master of Business Administration from DePaul University and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola University of Chicago and is a certified public accountant. She also received a Professional Development Certificate in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Organizations from the Northwestern School of Professional Studies. Outside of the office, Andrea enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and biking.

“I am in the ALS/MND fight because I’ve never seen more courageous, determined and selfless individuals than those with this disease. I am committed to do all I can to make their lives better and help find the key to the cure.”

Contact Andrea at 847 745 6050 or abackman@lesturnerals.org.

Emily Cerbone, MBA

Emily Cerbone, MBA, serves as the Communications and Marketing Manager at the Foundation. Emily began her career in publishing, then moved into Marketing where she has remained for the past 14 years.

Emily holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from North Park University and a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, working out, cooking, reading and spending time with her husband and two cats, Hana and Mouse. Emily also enjoys giving her time to local animal shelters.

“I help fight ALS because I’ve seen firsthand how the disease impacted my father who passed away in 2015. Since that time, I’ve connected with others who not only suffered from this horrific disease, but the family members who were affected by it. My father is no longer here, but the disease is still present. It’s important for me to continue the fight.”

Contact Emily at ecerbone@lesturnerals.org

Lauren Ferguson

Lauren Ferguson, Development Coordinator, joined the Foundation in February 2021. Lauren holds a Bachelor’s in Science from the University of Dayton, School of Psychology, and a Master’s in Social Work Administration from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work. Lauren has a fundraising background, specializing in Major Gifts. Her past fundraising positions have been with organizations such as Zonta International, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and the Alzheimer’s Association. Lauren has a proven track record of working with donors and volunteers to fulfill their philanthropic aspirations. Most recently Lauren’s position with Zonta International, included working with volunteer leaders to fundraise for their Centennial Anniversary Endowment Campaign. Outside of work, Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband, Jim, and three children, Griffin, Owen, and Evangeline. Personally, Lauren loves running and other athletic activities.

“I help fight for those with ALS because I have seen from afar the devastating impact this disease has on so many. I believe strongly in the importance of increasing scientific discovery, and the program’s services that help these individuals, both in the day-to-day and long-term. I am so proud to be a part of this movement and hope that my work will have a positive impact on those with ALS and their loved ones.”

Contact Lauren at 847 745 6018 or lferguson@lesturnerals.org

Cara Gallagher, MA, LCPC

Cara Gallagher, MA, LCPC received her Master of Arts in Counseling and Psychology in 1997.  She has over 25 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector managing In-home and Residential Support programs, as well as providing case management to individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. Cara joined the Foundation as the National ALS Registry Associate and member of our Support Services Team in 2016. Cara also meets with people living with ALS every week at the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic at the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine to provide support and resources.

Contact Cara at cgallagher@lesturnerals.org.

Karen Gianni

Karen Gianni, Office and Database Assistant, has a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing Management. Karen joined the Foundation in 2013 and has spent the majority of her professional career working for nonprofit organizations; most recently with Easter Seals as their Database Manager. Outside of the office, Karen can be found gardening, cooking with herbs from her garden and traveling when possible.

“I help fight ALS because no one should have to suffer from this devastating disease.”

Contact Karen at 847 745 6016 or kgianni@lesturnerals.org.

Madeline Hardy

Madeline Hardy, Communications and Events Associate, joined the Foundation in June 2021. Madeline holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Public Communications from SUNY Buffalo. Madeline has experience working for non-profits, specifically in the healthcare and legal services space, as well as working in the B2B marketing scene. Before joining the Foundation, Madeline worked in Community Development for the Center for Elder Law & Justice in Buffalo, NY. Outside of work, Madeline enjoys trying new restaurants, being active, and traveling when possible.

Contact Madeline at 847 745 6051 or mhardy@lesturnerals.org

Deb Marron

Deb Marron, Office and Human Resources Manager, attended Black Hawk College for Business Communication. Deb joined the Foundation in 2002. Outside of the office, Deb can be found gardening, bird watching, attending fitness classes and entertaining family and friends.

“I help fight ALS because of all the Marty Woywods in this world!”

Contact Deb 847 745 6019 or dmarron@lesturnerals.org.

Michael Organ

Michael Organ is the Director of Communications and Marketing at Les Turner ALS Foundation. Previously, Michael was the Director of Marketing and Communications for CURE Epilepsy and consulted for several national non-profit and advocacy organizations, including: The Arc of the United States and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Michael has founded several organizations, including: CauseMarketing.com and Charity Guide.

Michael is perhaps best known for his innovations as the original Director of Digital Marketing at Obama for America, after which he co-founded Bully Pulpit Interactive, specialized in digital marketing and microtargeting at AKPD Media, and served as a Managing Director at Kivvit (a strategic communications agency). Michael began his career at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, followed by roles of increasing responsibility at Accenture, where his final position was Vice President of Marketing for Accenture Procurement Solutions.

Michael graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from Queen’s University. His hobbies and outside interests include: adventure hiking, photography, and musical theater.

Contact Michael at morgan@lesturnerals.org

Constance Paesel, MBA

Constance Paesel, MBA, Director of Operations and Administration joined the Foundation in July 2021. Constance comes to the Foundation with extensive finance and administrative experience in both for-profit and nonprofit industries. Her diverse background includes positions in the areas of education, human services and international business. A native German, Constance studied languages and international business and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Northumbria in the U.K.  She also holds a Master of Business Administration from University of Illinois at Chicago.

Constance has volunteered in many local organizations and currently serves on the board of Mental Health America of the North Shore.

Constance is looking forward to both serving and learning more about the ALS community.

Contact Constance at 847 745 6014 or cpaesel@lesturnerals.org

Nicole Sammartino, MS

Nicole Sammartino, MS, Community Education Manager joined the Foundation in June 2020. She holds a Master of Science degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida.

Nicole has 23 years of experience in the not for profit sector compassionately serving a variety of populations including those affected by ALS, multiple sclerosis, lung diseases and mental health challenges. She most recently worked for the National MS Society as the Director of Program Implementation & Engagement for the Midwest market.

“I fight ALS because of my passion and dedication to serve those affected by the disease. I want to contribute my talents in a meaningful and fulfilling way to empower people with ALS to live their best lives and to end ALS forever.”

Contact Nicole at 847 745 6012 or nsammartino@lesturnerals.org

Steve Schapiro, MS

Steve Schapiro, MS, Director of Development, joined the Foundation in April 2019. Steve holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Northern Illinois University and a Master of Science in Recreation Administration from Aurora University. Prior to his transition into the non-profit sector, Steve played an integral role in growing National Insurance Examination Services of America (NIESA) into the preeminent privately held Health Information Services Company in the Midwest. Steve has several years of experience in fundraising and development; representing a number of outstanding non-profit organizations including the Alzheimer’s Association, Community Health Charities, and most recently, Eversight. Steve is strategic in his approach when cultivating and growing relationships with individual donors, corporations and foundations. Outside of work, Steve enjoys sports, traveling, and spending time with his family that includes his wife Patricia and daughters Elizabeth and Anna.

“I help fight ALS because like so many others, I want a world without this devastating disease. I am humbled to be working alongside so many dedicated professionals and volunteers who are working tirelessly to advance the mission of the Les Turner ALS Foundation.”

Contact Steve at 847 745 6021 or sschapiro@lesturnerals.org.

Karen Raley Steffens

Karen Raley Steffens, RN, CHPN, CCM, received her Associate Degree in Nursing from William Rainey Harper College in 1994. She is also a Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse and Certified Case Manager. Before joining the Les Turner ALS Foundation, Karen worked as a Hospice Care Manager with JourneyCare where she worked with her first ALS Patient. Karen joined the Foundation as an ALS Support Services Coordinator in 2016.

“I help fight ALS because I was blessed with the opportunity to do so.  I have never worked with such a devastating disease and yet a patient population that is so amazingly selfless and courageous.  I consider it an honor to be able to help support this incredible group of individuals and their families.”

Contact Karen at ksteffens@lesturnerals.org

Easton Stevenson, LCSW

Easton Stevenson, LCSW, received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Chicago in 2000. For the majority of her social work experience, Easton worked with the HIV+ population, providing therapeutic services to infected adults and their affected children. Common issues that were addressed included depression, relationship issues, medication adherence, stress, diagnosis acceptance and end-of-life planning. Easton joined the Foundation as an ALS Support Services Coordinator in May 2013.

Contact Easton at estevenson@lesturnerals.org.

Julie Stowell, RN, CHPN

Julie Stowell, RN, received her AD in Nursing from the College of DuPage in 1997. After working in critical care for 2 years, Julie spent the next 15 years in hospice care where she provided end-of-life care to all populations with terminal illnesses. However, she focused on the identification and treatment of the unique symptoms and equipment used to enhance the comfort and quality of life for ALS patients. As a hospice patient case manager, the management of physical and mental symptoms of verbal and non-verbal patients post surgery, post-chemotherapy and post radiation were commonly addressed. Julie joined the Foundation as an ALS Support Services Coordinator in March 2014.

Contact Julie at jstowell@lesturnerals.org.

Lauren Webb, LCSW

Lauren Webb, LCSW, Director of Support Services and Education, joined the Foundation in 2019.  She has worked in the neuromuscular community for 18 years—providing direct patient care for individuals with ALS, selling neurological genetic tests, coordinating clinical trials at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and overseeing the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s nationwide Care Center Network. Her master’s degree is in social work with a concentration in health administration and policy from the University of Chicago. When Lauren isn’t working, you can find her at donut shops across the city.

“I fight ALS to honor the legacy of people with ALS who touched my heart and sparked my passion for research and interdisciplinary care early in my professional career.”

Contact Lauren at 847 745 6020 or lwebb@lesturnerals.org.

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