Founding member of Handicap This, inspirational leader of the Keep On Keeping On Foundation, aspiring film-maker and he is in the midst of finishing his first novel. Weeks after Mike was born, the doctors told his parents not to expect much, that he wouldn’t be able to talk. At 3 ½ not only was Mike talking up a storm but he had a thirst for vocabulary. His razor sharp wit is a force to be reckoned with. Although born with cerebral palsy, you will quickly see he was born to be on stage.
Fun fact: Mike has seen more than 12,512 movies, and “The Notebook” is not one of them!
Lead Actor and Managing Director
Founding member of Handicap This, President of the Keep On Keeping On Foundation, Tim was counselor for 13 years at a Summer Camp for Special Education students. Tim graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a BA in Speech/Communications. He has worked as Youth Director for St. Mary of the Woods (Chicago), Sales Rep for elementary textbooks, speaker for National Financial Educators, Speech Coach at Glenbrook South High School, and trainer for Next Level Consulting providing training services for Fortune 500 companies.
Tim authored the book “How We Roll” in March of 2010, a book describing his relationship with Mike Berkson. Tim ran 717 miles between Orlando, FL and Chicago, IL in August of 2005 to raise awareness for Cerebral Palsy.
In 2006, Dr. Bernard Brommel, retired speech professor of NEIU, dedicated a scholarship in Tim’s name for students overcoming great odds.
Fun fact: At the ripe age of 11, Tim won a batting contest and got to take batting practice at Comiskey Park in 1985.
Twenty years as a professional actor and director of theater, film, and television. Acting credits include Hamm in Endgame, Hoss in Tooth of Crime, and Mr. Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank; Directing credits include Cyrano de Bergerac, The Foreigner and Fiddler on the Roof. John can also be seen and heard on many national commercials as an actor and voice-over talent. John is currently a Professor of Speech and Theater at Oakton Community College.
Fun Fact: John performed on the “Gong Show” in 1977.
Stage manager, Video associate to Keep On Keeping On Foundation, produced 4 online commercials for Handicap This, and is the technical consultant for the Handicap This documentary. Chris tapes every show and is an instrumental member of the team. Chris teaches guitar when he is not heavily involved in a Handicap This project.
Fun Fact: Chris named his computer, “The Beast”.
Nationally known as the “Creative Crusader”, Professor Berkson is considered one of the country’s leading authorities in the field of creative thinking, and is the author of “The Different Drummer Handbook, Marching to the Creative Beat and The Ten Demandments of Creativity.” He has been the Chairman of the OCC Performing Arts Department for over 30 years. Denis has conducted workshops and seminars for representatives of business and education such as Hallmark Cards, Gerber Products, Kraft Foods, Nordstrom, University of Utah Hospital, Vassar College, and Northwestern University. He has also been a presenter at many conferences and meetings such as the International Sales and Marketing Conference, the National Braille Association, United Cerebral Palsy, Midwest Autism Society, the National Association of Activity Professionals, Illinois Park and Recreation Association Annual Meeting, the Marriott Senior Living National Meeting, the Chicago North Shore Senior Staff Development Workshop.
Fun Fact: Denis won the Chicago Bulls Retro Dance Contest in front of 22,676 people at the United Center for his creative dancing. Don’t believe us…..check out the link below!
Freelance film editing guru at BMK Film-After graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2006, Brett has beentraveling all over the Midwest producing promotional videos, TVcommercials, documentaries, and feature films. Brett joined the Handicap This team in 2010 and has helped create numerous promotional videos as well as a 12-episode web-based reality show about Tim and Mike’s life.
Fun Fact : Brett stands at 6 feet 11 inches tall.
Robert Frank, M.S.W., Ph.d.
Robert received his Ph.D. and Master of Social Work M.S.W. from Loyola University Chicago. He is a Licensed Clinical Therapist with a private practice for 27 years as well as an Educational Psychologist. He is a Professor of Psychology, Chair Behavioral and Social Science Department. Robert has written two books: Parenting Partners, and The Secret Life of the Dyslexic Child and is Co-founder of the Nation At-Home Dads Association.
Fun Fact: Summer camp director 30 years
Sarah Jane O’Brien
Graphic Designer/Social Media Manager
Is the newest member of the Handicap This! team. Sarah graduated from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Graphic Design and a minor in Marketing. She is the owner and operator of her own small business, Hues & Booze, Inc., where she teaches people to paint and craft while sipping on cocktails. Sarah also freelances as a designer and consultant. She is passionate about art, design, and helping make Handicap This! a household name.
Fun Fact: Sarah won Less-On Drugs (a neighborhood pharmacy) coloring contest at age 5. She won her family a pizza and got to meet Michelangelo (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, not the dead artist)! It is believed that that day sparked Sarah’s interest in the arts.
In education for over a decade, Steven Lesniak understands the various challenges and needs each educator, parent, and student face. He has taught social studies at the middle and high school levels with abandon, never looking at what could not be done, instead focusing on what can. Currently he is a school counselor in the Chicagoland area who uses his understanding of the emotional and academic needs of his students to create a holistic approach to increase the probability of a student’s success at school and in life.
Fun Fact: Steve really likes to dance to 1940’s Big Band Swing music.
Guest Blog Coordinator
Physically limited due to a mild case of cerebral palsy Zachary Fenell in high school discovered his ability as a wordsmith. After graduating from Notre Dame College with his BA in communication and writing/philosophy minors Zachary focused on using writing and social media as platforms for raising disability awareness. In addition to writing his teen memoir Off Balanced, Zachary publishes various disability related articles online and promotes disability awareness using social media. His disability related articles have been published on websites such as The Mobility Resource and Special Education Guide amongst others.
Fun Fact: Zachary is probably the only Cleveland sports fan on the Handicap This team.
A founding member of Handicap This Productions. Molly graduated from Illinois State University with a B.S. in Acting and a minor in English. Her formal theatre training began at Oakton Community College where she was inspired to make magic happen no matter what the obstacle. This core belief led her to a resounding “YES!” when asked to create a theatrical production of Mike & Tim’s story. Molly’s other playwriting credits include: The Taming of the Taming of the Shrew for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival Touring Company; Flour Baby; Tiger in a Birdcage; and R.S.V.P. Some of her production credits include Chicago’s Awesome 80s Prom, American Buffalo, The Breakfast Club, and Scooby-Doo Mystery Theatre II. Favorite stage credits include Shelly in Buried Child, Li’l Bit in How I Learned To Drive, Geronte in Scapin, Carol in The Analyst, and Aphrodite in Cupid & Psyche. Soon after getting Handicap This! on its wheels in September of 2010, Molly proudly accepted her new role as Cole’s Mom. She dedicates all her work to Liam who continues to inspire her and always make her proud.
Fun Fact: Molly wanted to be Wonder Woman when she grew up. She’s still looking for the perfect pair of red boots.