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.

Ange Bolton

Ange Bolton, serves as the Operations and Database Coordinator at the Foundation. Ange earned a BA in general studies from Western Illinois University. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for most of her career, including 15 years in the promotions and image departments at PBS stations in Champaign-Urbana and Kentucky, and has been in the database field since 2018. In her spare time she enjoys visits with her three adult children and two grandchildren.

Contact Ange at abolton@lesturnerals.org

Christina Esparza Cassidy

Christina Esparza Cassidy, serves as the Human Resources & Office Coordinator at the Foundation. Christina has been an operations and administrative professional with a diverse set of organizations in the higher education, museum, and healthcare worlds. Most recently, she served as Executive Assistant to the Chief Animal Operations Officer at the John G. Shedd Aquarium. She has a professional and personal passion for working with the Foundation as she cared for and lost her father, Edward, to the disease in 2016. Outside of the office, Christina enjoys spending time with her niece and nephews, running around with her dog Western, listening to live music, and enjoying nature.

“It is an honor to join the Les Turner ALS Foundation team because I want to pay it forward and use my professional skillset to help people living with ALS, by helping a team that supports them. I am in the ALS/MND fight because the path towards a cure requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

Contact Christina at cesparza-cassidy@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

Emily Cerbone, MBA

Anne Marie Doyle, M.A., CCC-SLP,  serves as the Community Education Manager at the Foundation. Anne Marie earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences & Disorders from Saint Xavier University followed by a Master’s Degree in Speech & Hearing Sciences from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. For the last 13 years she worked as a speech-language pathologist at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab serving both the inpatient and outpatient populations with a specialty in adult neurological conditions.

Since 2015, Anne Marie worked directly with people living with ALS initially providing traditional voice and swallowing therapy, and more recently, focusing on Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC). She maintains a membership with the American Speech-Language & Hearing Association, as well as participates in their Special Interest Group for AAC. She has lectured at both the state and national level, as well as participated in clinical research. Anne Marie resides in Chicago with her husband and dog. She is humbled and honored to be joining the Foundation to continue to directly serve those with ALS, their families, and their caregivers.  

Contact Anne Marie at adoyle@lesturnerals.org

Lauren Ferguson

Lauren Ferguson, Donor Relations Specialist, 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.

Madeline Hardy

Mark Heiden, MS, serves as Director of Communications and Marketing for the Foundation, bringing more than 20 years of experience in print and digital publishing. He holds a BA in English, history, and sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MS in health communication from Northwestern, where he led communications about research and events at the university’s International Institute for Nanotechnology. He has also spent several years living and working in Japan.

Mark has collaborated with subject matter experts in science, medicine, dentistry, and other fields to develop resources for professional education and patient empowerment. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, spending time with his wife Kelli, and trying to keep pace with their two young daughters, Gillian and Mallory.

“I help fight ALS to support family caregivers and help ensure that every person facing this devastating disease knows they are not alone.”

Contact Mark at 847 745 6013 or mheiden@lesturnerals.org.

Deb Marron

Riley Kelly, Special Events Associate, joined the Foundation in 2022. A native Memphian, she moved to Chicago to study Political Science and Nonprofit Management at Loyola University Chicago, graduating with her BA in 2022. She has a passion for nonprofit development, having worked and volunteered with The Orpheum Theater Memphis, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, All American Nursing Home, the Refugee Empowerment Program Memphis, and multiple Chicago-based Chambers of Commerce.
In her free time, she enjoys cooking, boxing, painting, and spending time with her friends and two cats.

Riley is excited to learn more about the ALS community and support the mission of the Foundation.

Contact Riley at 901 832 3911 or rkelly@lesturnerals.org

Deb Marron

Kim Kempf, Senior Events Manager, joined the Foundation in October 2021.  She has over 25 years of experience in Event Management and has worked both in the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors working on large-scale events such as the Chicago Marathon and the Chicago Triathlon. Kim has many years of fundraising and development experience, most recently as the Development Director at the Arthritis Foundation, in addition to working in advocacy for Horizon Therapeutics.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Illinois Wesleyan University. In her free time, she enjoys attending concerts, plays and traveling.

Contact Kim at 847 745 6024 or kkempf@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

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.

Deb Marron

Rochelle Walwer, LCSW, has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Washington University and a master of social work degree from Aurora University with a concentration in medical social work. Over the past three years, Rochelle has worked for Lightways Hospice and Serious Illness Care as both a hospice and palliative care social worker. During this time, she served on the organization’s ALS care team where she was actively involved in providing support to families and patients with ALS, while also collaborating with the Les Turner ALS Foundation’s Support Services team. Prior to beginning her career in social work, she worked in non-profit administration where she assisted with volunteer and program management, as well as building community collaborative partnerships for an adult literacy organization. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, hiking, biking and traveling.

“I feel honored to work with people with ALS and their loved ones. During my work in hospice, I saw the devastation of this disease and the feeling of isolation it creates. Through disease progression, I have helped navigate difficult decisions and find needed resources. I am passionate about advocating for those with ALS and empowering them to live life to the fullest. I look forward to working with the Les Turner ALS Foundation staff and community in helping to advance the mission of the Foundation.”

Contact Rochelle at rwalwer@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.

Lauren Webb, LCSW

Lilly Wehman, Social Work Intern, joined the Foundation in 2022. Lilly is a current first year at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice where she is pursuing a Master’s in Social Work with a clinical concentration. She received a psychology and journalism degree from Georgetown University in 2022 where she was a member of the women’s basketball team. Lilly is passionate about mental health and hopes to become a licensed clinical social worker when she completes her training.

In her free time, Lilly enjoys attending concerts, playing sports and spending quality time with family and friends whether it be cooking meals together or enjoying time out on Lake Michigan.

Contact Lilly at lwehman@lesturnerals.org.

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