North Central

HKNC Regional Network

Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin

Contact Info:

Direct: 516-497-1415

John Filek (Regional Services Coordinator)
Voice/VP: 612-428-3194

Carrie Caldwell (Administrative Manager, Field Services)

John Filek

Regional Services Coordinator John Filek

Our regional offices bring HKNC resources to you.

Your regional representative knows all about the programs and services that are available to DeafBlind individuals, their families and service providers in your state and beyond, and can help you find and access the ones that are right for you.

Whether you’re interested in learning about support services near your home, would like to take advantage of the technology available through the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program or want to explore the possibility of training at our national headquarters, your regional representative is your link to all that HKNC has to offer ─ consultation, advocacy, assessment, training, referrals and more.

Meet the representatives and specialists in your region.

John Filek

John Filek

Regional Services Coordinator

Before joining HKNC, John served as Director of Programs at Vision Loss Resources, St. Paul, MN, managing three state and grant-funded programs: Rehabilitation Services, Community Services, and DeafBlind Services Minnesota. He was Program Manager of the nationally recognized DeafBlind Services Minnesota’s Children, Youth, and Family Services Program for 15 years.

A proud CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), he worked in the Deaf and DeafBlind community for nearly three decades in various roles including as an interpreter, advocate and intervener.

John has a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota.

John has always dreamt of working with HKNC and has had a long-standing collaborative relationship with Region 5.

Joann Rushing

Joann Rushing

Illinois DeafBlind Employment Specialist

Joann Rushing joined the HKNC team in 2020 as the DeafBlind Employment Specialist in Illinois. She provides one-on-one and group-based direct services to DeafBlind individuals, identifies service gaps and unmet needs of participants and provides information to HKNC regional representatives and community partners. She assists DeafBlind individuals and employers in the areas of vocational rehabilitation development through the Milestones contract with an emphasis on employment. Her responsibilities include job readiness training, development and placements, job retention and coaching services, assistive technology assessments, independent living skills training, and job soft skills training. She also advocates for individuals’ rights to make their own decisions and provides support for individuals to work and thrive in the communities of their choice.

Prior to joining HKNC, she served as the DeafBlind Outreach Program Director at the Chicago Lighthouse for 17 years. Joann worked with the employment department staff to provide support for DeafBlind individuals who were referred by Vocational Rehabilitation services. She also managed the iCanConnect program for nine years maintaining the database, providing telecommunications assessment, training for consumers on the use of technology, and troubleshooting to resolve issues related to technology.

Prior to working at the Chicago Lighthouse, she was the Program Coordinator for 12 years at Options Center for Independent Living in Bourbonnais, IL. She advocated for people with disabilities, especially for the Deaf community, provided independent living skills training, worked with community agencies setting up interpreting services, provided training to consumers on the use of TTYs provided through the ITAC program, as well as training her community 911 center on how to use the TTY.

In addition to her years of work experience, she is fluent in ASL and experienced in various alternative methods of DeafBlind communication. She has received professional training working with individuals who are DeafBlind from HKNC, including: Enhancing Services for Older Adults with Vision & Hearing Loss, Employment — The Ultimate Goal, The Magic of Technology, The Power of Independence — Technology for a DeafBlind World, and Telecommunications Equipment Training for Teaching DeafBlind Individuals.

Joann’s favorite motto to live by is THINK before you act: is it true, is it helpful, is it inspiring, is it necessary, is it kind?

Kacie Weldy looking into the camera

Kacie Weldy

Indiana DeafBlind Employment Specialist

Kacie joined the HKNC family in November 2020, and she provides to the consumers of Indiana the opportunity to:

  • explore and identify careers
  • educate and enhance personal management and employment skills
  • continue skills training, interviewing skills, and resume building

In addition, Kacie coordinates job supports, summer youth career exploration and work experience, vocational consultation and work adjustments. She also provides education and training for agency staff members on best practices and means of inclusion and accessibility.

Kacie has over 20 years of experience in advocacy both locally and nationally. She has worked with DeafBlind individuals and service dog handlers. As a DeafBlind person, she is active in numerous related organizations. Kacie’s personal experiences allow her to connect and have a unique perspective of the individuals she works with and provides solid credibility with potential employers that DeafBlind individuals can and will be contributing and gainfully employed citizens within their communities.

Kacie earned her A.S. and B.S. in Organizational Leadership and Supervision from Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis and has completed the Indiana Partners in Policymaking training program by the Indiana Governors Council for People with Disabilities. Kacie is currently working towards achieving the Certified Employment Support Professional certification along with additional professional development training to better serve those she works with.

Kacie looks forward to working with and being a part of empowering DeafBlind individuals, educating both agencies and employers about DeafBlindness. Her long-term goal is to see a long-standing and sustainable Co-Navigator program come to fruition within the state of Indiana.

karlee Wascher

Karlee Wascher

Michigan/Ohio DeafBlind Employment Specialist

Karlee Wascher is a DeafBlind Employment Specialist (DBS) serving Michigan and Ohio. In 2019, she completed her Masters in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and became a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist. Upon completion of the degree, she began working at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital located in Illinois. In November of 2019, she began employment with HKNC as a DeafBlind Employment Specialist in Michigan and Ohio.

She earned a Bachelors of Science in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences from Northern Michigan University and a Masters of Arts in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy from Western Michigan University. She is very passionate about this field and helping others and is beyond thrilled to be a part of the HKNC team.

McKenna Liesman

McKenna Liesman

Illinois Youth Services Coordinator

McKenna Liesman is HKNC’s Youth Services Coordinator (YSC) for Illinois. In this role, she provides pre-employment transition services (PTS) to individuals aged 14-22 years old with combined vision and hearing loss. As a YSC, McKenna can provide alternative communication strategies, attend IEP meetings, and connect DeafBlind students and their families to local, state, and national resources.

McKenna’s previous occupations include ASL/English Interpreter, Marketing Coordinator, Teacher, Box Office/Audience Manager and Segway Tour Guide. Her favorite job has been Consultant to the Accessibility Director with Red Theater Chicago-RTC, where she co-led Touch Tours, coordinated Interpreters, and managed closed caption nights and ASL interpreted shows. Bitten by the theatre bug at the young age of 11, McKenna has performed regionally as an actor, dancer, and multidisciplinary artist. Best-loved credits: Juliet in “R + J: The Vineyard” with Red Theater Chicago and Oracle Productions incorporating Deaf talent and American Sign Language, Sylvia in “Tribes” with The Playhouse San Antonio, and June in “Sanders Family Christmas” with Sierra Repertory Theatre of California.

McKenna graduated from Webster University Conservatory in St. Louis with a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre and earned a second B.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago in American Sign Language/English Interpretation. McKenna is thrilled to be a part of the HKNC mission!

Ask your regional representative about:

  • The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program
  • Local services and referrals
  • On-site assessment, consultation, and training
  • Making connections with other individuals and families within the DeafBlind community
  • Technical assistance and in-service training
  • Plans for youth transitioning from educational programs to post-educational services
  • Educational materials and presentations about the capabilities and preferences of people with combined vision and hearing loss

Local & Community Services

Are you interested in getting involved in the DeafBlind community in the North Central Region? Your regional representative can provide information about social gatherings, conferences, listservs and more. Check this space for announcements about upcoming events or contact your regional representative to request email notifications.

How Can We Work Together?

Start the conversation about how we can work together to make your dreams and goals a reality.