by Danielle Fitzpatrick Clark
The Chicago western suburbs are home to numerous residents under the age of 40 who are accomplishing amazing things and inspiring those around them. With your thoughtful nominations we’ve chosen 30 movers and shakers in the surrounding areas that exemplify strength, encouragement, and appreciation for their community in one form or another. The Chicago western suburbs are home to numerous residents under the age of 40 who are accomplishing amazing things and inspiring those around them. With your thoughtful nominations we’ve chosen 30 movers and shakers in the surrounding areas that exemplify strength, encouragement, and appreciation for their community in one form or another.
Photos by Mike Mantucca & Lynn Logan Unless Otherwise Submitted
#1 Jordan Westerkamp of Glen Ellyn
Jordan Westerkamp has had a passion for football since he was in the third grade. Jordan attended Montini Catholic for high school and is now attending the University of Nebraska.
He’s a junior in school, majoring in business management, and a sophomore on the football field, playing wide receiver. When asked about his favorite football moment for the year he says, “Probably the catch behind my back against Florida Atlantic. A defender tipped the ball as I was going towards the sideline and I threw my hands behind my back, catching the ball while I was tapping my feet in bounds.” ESPN noticed and voted this play as the college football play of the year!
Finishing up his degree is the most important thing for Jordan, but he would love the opportunity to play in the NFL. “It’s always been my dream and my goal,” he adds.
#2 Kimberly Marino of Naperville
Born and bred Naperville resident Kim Marino started a foundation in honor of her father, Phil Lawler, called Batting 4 A Cure. “My father was an incredible man,” she shares. “He was the kind of dad you would dream of having – kind and gentle, but also strict.”
Kim’s father taught in district 203 for over 30 years and was the high school baseball coach at Naperville Central for over 20. He battled cancer for over seven years. “He did it with so much strength and dignity, making it hard to let him go,” Kim recounts.
The mission of Phil Lawler’s Batting 4 A Cure is to positively impact the lives of Naperville families affected by cancer and to serve the Naperville community. Through fundraising efforts, the foundation helps to alleviate some of the financial burden that coincides with cancer treatments.
#3 Jenny Taylor of Naperville
Jenny Taylor is in the business of transforming the everyday woman into a bombshell with her private and safe photography studios. “Women are beautiful and do not always believe this of themselves,” Jenny says. “I’m touched when our clients see their final image gallery and say, ‘WOW, I can’t believe that’s me!’ ”
Boudoir Photography has been in Naperville for five years and Jenny makes the process easy. “We offer 100 percent female staff for our clients,” she shares. “We also include professional hair and makeup and do a complete airbrush magazine style edit on every single photograph.”
Jenny has photographed 2000+ women ranging from the ages of 21 to 85 at Boudoir Photography, working tirelessly to make it one of the most fun and unique experiences in the suburbs. “Trust us and come in with a positive attitude and we’ll take care of the rest!” she enthuses.
#4 Megan Selck of Elburn
Megan Selck is the interim CEO of Loaves & Fishes. “I have a passion for food,” she shares. “Being at Loaves & Fishes allows me to live out this passion while helping others!”
She led the charge in launching the Power of Community campaign, Loaves & Fishes’ first public fundraising campaign, that will help empower individuals to become self-sufficient, aid in providing healthy food and nutrition education to the community, and so much more! “This campaign will allow us to continue our core service of food, while also expanding our efforts to empower the lives of our clients,” Megan adds.
Not only does she help the community through Loaves & Fishes, but Megan is on the board of the alumni association at Elmhurst College and is currently the social chair for the Junior League of Kane & DuPage Counties.
#5 Stephanie Wiott of Naperville
Talk about super mom! Business owner, mommy, and athlete are just some of the hats Stephanie Wiott of Naperville wears on any given day. “I’m blessed to own my own business and be able to do it out of a home-based office,” she says.
Stephanie owns her own interior design/remodeling/consulting business, Cupboards Chicago Design Group. She’s an interior designer and focuses mainly on residential remodels (mostly kitchens, bathrooms, and basements), as well as commercial construction and interior design.
She’s also a member of CrossFit gym. “I go early so I can fit it in because I know that if even one eye in my home is open and awake and I try to sneak out to go to the gym…it’s not going to happen!” she shares. On top of her busy schedule, this year she even completed the Spartan Super, an 8-mile run with 21 obstacles.
#6 Sarah O’Donnell of Glen Ellyn
Sarah O’Donnell has lived in Glen Ellyn for the past four years with husband Brian and daughter Olivia.
Sarah has the honor of serving the residents of DuPage County and does this as the Director of Development for Wheaton Park District. “In this role and with tremendous support of board and staff members for the Cosley Zoo Foundation, the DuPage County Historical Museum Foundation, and the Play for All Playground & Garden Foundation, we help to develop partnerships that strengthen opportunities for the community through an assortment of fundraiser events,” she shares.
Sarah is constantly seeking opportunities to pull people together and help celebrate DuPage County. She’s a board member for the DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau and helps to promote the county’s businesses, services, and local people. Other organizations she’s involved with include Illinois Parks & Recreation Association, Rotary Club of Wheaton, and the Glen Ellyn Junior Women’s Club. Photo Credit for Sarah O’Donnell: DuPage County Historical Museum - Illinois State Military Museum, Department of Military Affairs, Springfield, Illinois
#7 Nicole Comis of Naperville
Nicole Comis loves to see people build up their confidence, which is one of the perks of owning her own life coaching business, Stiletto Strategy Group. “I became a life coach and started my business to fulfill my passion to make a powerful difference in the lives of others,” she shares.
Nicole recalls struggling with low self-esteem for most of her life. “It wasn’t until I started working with a life coach that I really built up my self-confidence,” she adds. She provides support to help her clients overcome life’s challenges, find clarity, and become more focused.
Nicole is also very active in the Naperville Chamber and just finished her term as the chair of Women in Business. In 2008-2012, Nicole volunteered as marketing and fundraising director for DuPage County Toys for Tots. The Stiletto Strategy Group continues to host a Toys for Tots gala every year to kick off the season.
#8 Chad Pedigo of Naperville
Ask any non-profit in the Naperville area about Chad Pedigo and you’re bound to hear a chorus of praises. His passion and efforts for the community are truly inspirational.
“Volunteering has been a large part of who I am for almost my entire life,” Chad shares. “My parents introduced me to the value and importance of helping others early in life and it has never left me.”
Chad never misses an opportunity to help out the community. Whether he’s standing on a corner to collect food items for Loaves & Fishes and Northern Illinois Food Bank, assisting in a holiday gift mart with school districts 203 and 204, or even volunteering with non-profits like Family Shelter Services, leadership and charitable services are a way of life for him. He also plays an active role with the Naperville Jaycees and served as the executive director for the 2014 Last Fling event.
#9 Dan Dominguez of Batavia
Dan Dominguez, wife Abigail and son Judah, moved to Batavia in 2013. Dan is the family pastor at River City Church in Batavia.
“Part of the fun of being a pastor is that no day is the same!” Dan enthuses. “My focus as the family pastor is to inspire and equip families to be all God wants them to be.” Dan doesn’t have just an atypical day as pastor, but really his day is full of anything that helps him accomplish that goal of inspiring families, whether it’s meeting with people, planning events, preparing a message, or writing curriculum.
This coming spring Dan and a team from the church are going to Jamaica to serve at an orphanage. He also aids in organizing and participating in service projects through the church, such as collecting gifts for families in need or serving at a local nursing home.
#10 Ellen Kamps of St. Charles
Ellen Kamps has been busy since starting work at the Kane County Regional Office of Education six months ago. Since joining the Kane County ROE, she’s redesigned their website and newsletter, making it easier for administrators, educators, and community members to use.
Even more exciting, Ellen has increased the student-focused outreach efforts at Kane County ROE. “In October, I created a nine-week student photography contest to highlight the arts in Kane County,” she shares. “Ten Kane County high schools participated, and we received over 600 photo submissions.” Working with Kane County ROE has provided Ellen “with the chance to genuinely discover myself in the service of others.” Ellen also serves as a board member for the Literacy Volunteers Fox Valley, the Fox Valley Music Foundation, Slow Food City’s Edge, and she currently assists each of them with digital marketing and fundraising.
#11 Kevin Coyne of Naperville
Kevin Coyne, a partner in the Naperville law firm Nyberg & Cassioppi and candidate for Naperville City Council, is very community service minded, both personally and professionally. “My wife, Kim, and I are very active in the Naperville community,” he shares. “We’re big believers in the importance of community services.”
Kevin has lived in Naperville since 2000 and has been involved in several community activities over the years. He currently serves on the Naperville Planning & Zoning Commission and the Board of Directors for the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Naperville Exchange Club, and from 2000 through 2010 he was an active member of the Naperville Jaycees. He’s also on an advisory committee for Kids Matter. “As a father of a 5-year-old daughter, the future safety of our town and schools for our young people is of great concern to me,” he shares.
#12 Lauren Hansen-Armendariz of Naperville
Chosen to be one of CoverGirl Cosmetics’ cover girls for a day by Cosmo magazine in 2012 for being “fun and fearless,” Lauren Hansen-Armendariz is quite an amazing lady. She was raised in Naperville since the tender age of 1 and attended Waubonsie Valley High School and later attended Northern Illinois University.
Lauren was commissioned as an Army second lieutenant in May 2014. She graduated from Basic Officer Leadership Course in the top 20 percent of her class this past October.
During her high school career she was in student council for four years and participated in Naperville’s Youth Ambassadors for two years. She has volunteered her time for the Naperville Park District for five years as a photographer. “The park district has published 11 of my photographs on the covers of their program guides and still uses some of them for promoting their programs,” she adds.
#13 Dana Elborno of Hinsdale
Dana Elborno is in her fourth and final year of medical school at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. She will be focusing on obstetrics and gynecology. “I have an interest in understanding the social
determinants of health,” she shares.
She first experienced global health during the summer before her second year in college. She went on a school trip to Tanzania and had the opportunity to volunteer at an HIV/AIDs clinic funded by PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief). “It was only a 2-week trip, but it was really important for me in that, one, it was the catalyst for my pursuit of a career in medicine and two, I also realized how small the world truly is,” she explains. After graduating in May she plans on starting a residency program and eventually hopes to improve women’s access to prenatal care in underserved communities. Photo by Marcello Rodarte
#14 Monica Chopra of Plainfield
Monica Chopra has been promoting Indian ethnic high fashion and style since 2010. Her collection, Vibgyor by Monica, is designed with Indian-American women in mind, but made for everyone with an interest in trending Indian ethnic fashion for parties, performances, and wedding wear.
She focuses on seasonal collections, rich fabrics like chiffon, georgette, and silk, and the colors and styles are based on popular film fashion and include cocktail and embroidered scarves, tunics, skirts, bags, and jewelry.
Monica is also passionate about supporting the local community, especially “Feed My Starving Children,” a non-profit that delivers hand-packed meals that are specially formulated for malnourished children throughout the world.
When it comes to her business, the best part is being able to connect to her Indian heritage through rich design and Bollywood fashion. “I feel overwhelmed when my patrons share with me the compliments they get,” she adds.
#15 Erin Tobias of Aurora
A self-described “jack of all trades,” Erin Tobias has an eclectic professional background, currently employed as an accounting clerk for a major manufacturer of American-made products and a part-time certified nursing assistant for a pediatrician’s office. “I love working with kiddos!” she enthuses.
Erin grew up in Glen Ellyn, and after living in Indiana and Missouri (where her town was destroyed in 2011 by an EF5 tornado), she moved back to the Chicago area and has been here for almost four years.
As for community efforts, “I strongly believe in using my gifts and abilities to serve others and to lead through my service,” she explains. She is a member of the Junior League of Kane & DuPage Counties, Inc. and she’s also on the planning committee for the Illinois Miss Amazing Pageant, to be held this April in Naperville.
#16 Christina Brady of Naperville
Christina Brady lives and breathes community involvement, and since her move to Naperville 13 years ago, she’s been a passionate and positive volunteer. “To me it’s so important to give back to your community,” she shares. “I want to instill the sense of volunteerism in my children and be a good example for them.”
Christina is the mother of two, and works tirelessly to positively impact the residents and families in Naperville with her volunteer work. “Naperville is such a giving community,” she says.
She’s been a member of the DuPage Children’s Museum Gala committee for three years, helping to secure donations for the event. She also recently started her tenure as the Naperville Junior Woman’s Club (NJWC) president this past November.
In addition to her volunteer work for NJWC and the children’s museum, Christina is a member of the Junior League of Chicago.
#17 Matthew Seikel of Hinsdale
As a senior at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, Matthew Seikel has a rigorous class load. His hard work has paid off! Matthew received AP Scholars Award for achieving high scores on three AP exams. “This award is presented to students who have received a score of three or higher on three or more AP exams,” Matthew explains. “I received a score of three or higher on AP U.S. history, AP statistics, and AP biology.”
He’s not just studious, but also exceedingly busy with extracurricular activities including tennis, St. Francis’s math team, volunteering, and he also plays the cello in the Protégé Philharmonic Orchestra in Chicago.
Matthew has received a Congressional nomination to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and another for the U.S. Naval Academy. “My career goal is to become a commissioned officer in the military,” Matthew shares. “I want to serve my country.”
#18 Carrie Buddingh of Naperville
Carrie Buddingh is the type of person who enjoys being able to help people in their time of need. She’s an attorney at Bellock & Coogan of Oak Brook, focusing on estate planning & administration, business law, and real estate transactions. “They are not the glamorous areas of the law that you typically see in movies,” she says. “But for me, it’s a perfect fit!”
Carrie grew up in Naperville volunteering with her family. “I was raised on the principle that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’ and started volunteering in our community at a young age,” she shares. Carrie has focused her energy with helping the United Way of DuPage/West Cook (UWDWC) and is the current president, and at 33 she’s the youngest one ever!
“I have learned that age is in fact just a number and not an indication of experience or expertise,” she says.
#19 Molly Haggerty of Glen Ellyn
Molly Haggerty has had quite an exciting high school athletic career at St. Francis High School, and she’s just a junior! This year she was named as the Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year, awarded to one female player from each of the 50 states. “I was extremely honored and humbled to receive this award,” she says. “This award is determined by more than just athletic ability, but is judged on overall athletic achievements, academics, and character.”
Just a few of the other awards she’s received include winning nationals with Sports Performance 15 elite team and named MVP and All-American. She also won the silver medal in Thailand for the USA Girls’ youth national team, and the Chicago Sun-Times named her All Area First Team in 2013.
Future plans for Molly include attending and playing volleyball at University of Nebraska and majoring in either education or health sciences.
#20 Ryan Potts of Glen Ellyn
Ryan Potts and wife Allison moved to Glen Ellyn in 2002, following his law school graduation. The couple has three daughters, Avery, Kara, and Tessa. Ryan is owner and partner of Brotschul Potts, LLC. “Our opening day was the Monday after the Bears played the Colts in Super Bowl XLI…so we’ve been at it eight years now,” he says.
Ryan is also the owner/counsel for Joe’s Live, LLC. “We formed Joe’s Live, LLC about five years ago to help host larger country concerts, events, and festivals,” Ryan shares.
He also served on the village of Glen Ellyn planning commission as well as the Civic Betterment Party. Ryan is currently a voting member of the Academy of Country Music.
Ryan is also an avid golfer. “Golf has always been a huge part of my life since my days playing at the University of Illinois,” he says.
#21 Erin LaPointe of Naperville
Erin LaPointe is the founding owner of Flourish, a family owned business which offers health and wellness services to the community. Erin has lived in the Chicago area for 14 years, eight of which have been spent in Naperville.
As a health and wellness coach, Erin is able to customize services for each individual client, and Flourish offers several services. “I love being a health coach for so many reasons,” she shares. “I’m inspired by the stories I receive from clients, and their progress brings them joy and is amazing to witness.”
When she’s not seeing clients, Erin volunteers her time as a La Leche League leader and has been a volunteer for the past eight years. She’s also an active member of the Holistic Moms Network. “I love connecting with the community and enjoy finding ways to give back,” she says.
#22 Ryan Longson of Elburn
Born and raised in Elburn, 18-year-old Ryan Longson is a successful internet filmmaker. “I create short films of action, comedy, and horror for my growing fan base on my YouTube account and other social media outlets,” Ryan explains.
Ryan has recently been seeing amazing success and growth with his business, investing thousands into film equipment and signing on with a large internet media network based in Beverly Hills called “Collective Digital Studios.” “I write, direct, act in, and edit my own films then post them online and I get paid to do it,” he shares.
Ryan also won a People’s Choice Award for his short film, “Coke vs. Pepsi Stop Motion War.” Not only is Ryan successful in the internet film-making business, but he’s an impressive social media influencer, reaching 100,000 social media fans. “I’m happy to have made it this far,” he says.
#23 Dyanna Daniels of Downers Grove
Dyanna Daniels grew up with a love for music and dancing, and now co-owns Diva le Dance Company (DLD) with her father and also owns her own studio, DLD Dance Center. It’s an amazing story since she didn’t start dancing until she was 18, at which time she decided to pursue a career in dance. “I always tell my students it is never too late to pursue what you love in life,” she says.
Dyanna went to school at Western Illinois University and started taking ballet, jazz, tap, and modern dance. In addition, she joined the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center (GBCC) dance troupe and gained experience in hip hop, jazz, African, lyrical, and spiritual dance.
To give back to the community, when opening her studio she started raising funds to give scholarships for her summer camp to children in the community.
#24 Aaron Maggio of Oswego
Aaron Maggio is a young business owner, having started his home remodeling business shortly after graduating from Oswego High School. “There was a shortage of new apprentices and many tradesmen were retiring during this time,” he explains. “I had been asked on numerous occasions and by multiple people to do work for them so I decided to incorporate.”
Aaron’s business, Clean Edge Construction Inc., specializes in outdoor wood decks, home remodeling, and woodworking. “I, for one, love being able to see a project grow right in front of me,” he shares. Business started slow, but has grown exponentially since its inception in 2010. “I hope to keep growing the business in the same direction, and start to build semi-custom homes this year or next,” Aaron adds.
When Aaron has free time he also volunteers for Habitat for
Humanity, remodeling and building homes in the Aurora area.
#25Jenny O’Dowd of Naperville
Jenny O’Dowd started her brave journey in June 2014. “I was diagnosed with Her2 Positive breast cancer on June 9, 2014 and began chemo shortly after,” she shares. Jenny does not have a family history of breast cancer or the breast cancer gene. At the time of being diagnosed she was 33.
She shares her story on CaringBridge.com which describes the diagnosis, treatment, and the challenges along the way. One of the big challenges during treatment was losing her hair. “Perhaps the very worst part of losing my hair wasn’t the actual hair loss itself, but realizing the time had come to tell my two girls that their mommy was sick,” she says.
Through her journey, Jenny has learned to be a better person. Her advice for all women is, “Do self-exams and know that breast cancer isn’t solely reserved for the 40-and-older crowd.”
#26 Olivia Starzynski of Wheaton
Olivia Starzynski, a senior at Wheaton-Warrenville South, had an eye-opening experience. “I had the most incredible opportunity to go to Guatemala on a missions trip,” she explains. “I went with a number of teens and leaders from my youth group this past July.”
Olivia helped raise money for the trip and went for one week to bring food and clothing to the people in the area. “The week I spent there serving for Christ was truly amazing,” she exudes. “I met so many beautiful children who had absolutely nothing, yet were so content.”
While Olivia is ecstatic about going on to college and attending Grand Valley State University in Michigan next year, her trip to Guatemala is something she will reflect on forever. “I hope everyone has the chance to experience something even half as amazing as I did in my time there,” she shares.
#27 Anna Nicole Norman of Naperville
Born and raised in Naperville, Anna Nicole Norman went on a modeling cruise to the Caribbean and as a result she signed on with Royal Model Management for a few years.
When she first started modeling she did runway modeling for big-brand companies like JC Penney and Macy’s. She’s been involved with Girls Weekend Fashion Show in Chicago and also showcased spring lines for local boutiques. “I was also offered to model for designer Rachel Allan,” she shares. “That was a ton of fun and some of those shoots took place on top of the Trump Tower in Chicago.” Photos from that shoot were recently picked up in Teen Prom and Prom Seventeen!
Anna Nicole is passionate about her modeling career, but she’s even more interested in the business aspect of the industry. She attends Columbia College Chicago and is studying fashion business and design.
#28 Harsha Vankaylapati of Naperville
A current senior at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Harsha Vankaylapati is an astounding student and also a dedicated volunteer. “I’ve been a history connector at Naper Settlement for the past three years, since the program’s inception,” he shares. “My job typically includes presentations effectively ‘connecting’ the history within the different activities I pilot.”
Because of his efforts, Harsha received the Copenhagen Schoolhouse Scholarship, a $500 scholarship offered to volunteers at Naper Settlement who served during their sophomore and junior years of high school.
Harsha was also selected to represent Neuqua at the Illinois Leadership Seminar in 2013 and is co-president for Neuqua Valley Chinese Honors Society. For extracurricular activities, he’s an avid chess player and is part of his school’s cross country team. He is planning on attending Vanderbilt University this fall and pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering.
#29 Steve Sobkowiak of Downers Grove
Steve Sobkowiak is living the American dream. With three kids, a lovely wife, and as the co-owner of Oakley Home Builders, he’s been fortunate to follow his passion and dreams.
Steve first worked in the corporate arena before starting Oakley with co-owner and friend Ryan Dunham. Both men wanted to return to their roots and their passion, which is homebuilding. They perfected their craft, developing a company that maximizes its investments through design innovation, expert construction, and unsurpassed value.
One of Steve’s favorite sayings is “Visualize and make it happen.” This turned into Oakley Home Builders’ slogan, “Your dream home…our vision.”
One of his favorite projects to date is building his parents’ home. “Our families gather there, they host parties,” he says. Oakley has been in business for 10 years and for Steve, “I’m living my dreams daily with a friend (Ryan) who shares my same dreams.”
#30 Danielle Eisenach of Glendale Heights
When Danielle Eisenach was a young girl she wanted to be president. “I should have been more specific,” she laughs. “I think looking back I’ve always been this way and since middle school I’ve been involved in my community.”
Danielle currently is the director of marketing for Corbett, Duncan & Hubly (CDH) and also owns and operates Stargazer Events, offering full service event design, planning, and coordination.
She’s also involved in several organizations and charities, including Naperville Chamber Speaker’s Bureau, National Speaker Association, and is the president of both the Glendale Heights Chamber of Commerce and the Chicagoland alumni association of Alpha Phi Omega.
When it comes to people, Danielle has this to say: “I think it’s so important to help those around you achieve greatness. We all have strengths and by helping one another with our strengths, it allows us all to be better.”