Ricks life took an interesting turn in the summer of 1976 when on the way home from work one day he left his motorcycle and sailed through the air introducing himself to a car coming the other way. Needless to say, they never did become friends. A T-8 spinal cord injury gave Rick new perspective on life and with the gauntlet being thrown down, he accepted the challenge.
Ricks goal was to get his college degree and re-enter the workforce. His first degree was in Physical Education with the second being in Business. The dynamic duo he thought and he was right, they led him to the rehab segment of the healthcare industry where he worked for the last 30+ years. Rick stated that getting the chance to meet so many incredible people and to get the opportunity to change a person’s life is incredibly rewarding. Three years ago, Rick was asked by United Spinal to start a Chapter in S. Ca. which after much thought he agreed. Awfully glad they asked he thought, being part of a team of dedicated people whose mission is to provide resources that will have a positive impact on a person’s life and the lives of those around them. he loves being a part of that process.
On the personal side, Rick has been married to his beautiful wife Karen for 32 years and has five incredible children (Rick, Richelle, Jenna, Aimee and Kyle) and four fantastic grandkids (Isabella, Lucas, Reese and Parker). Ricks passion is to be involved with great organizations such as United Spinal that are doing great things within the disability community.
Warren is 60 years old with a zest for life. In 2016 he was injured as a passenger in a car accident which resulted in a C-4/5 complete spinal cord injury. As a glass half full person, he is learning new and exciting things every day, and welcomes any advice from the community on how to move around this new world of his.
Warren grew up in a small town in New Jersey, and went on to be a CYO regional state champion in wrestling. He attended San Diego State University to pursue his love for acting, working towards a degree in Theater and Arts. Warren later moved to New York City where he did some off Broadway for 4 years, eventually moving back to Southern California in 1989.
For the last 30 years, he has been an accomplished VP/Partner in a prestigious global Executive Search Firm where he has worked with Fortune Companies (ie: Amazon, Sony, to name a few) around the globe assisting with high level employee search projects. Upon returning to a consulting and advising role, Warren thrived with the help of his previous employer/mentor/boss, Purcell International Group, which set him up with complete home automation office.
Since his injury Warren has greatly appreciated all of the help and mentoring from people within the spinal cord injury community, and he is truly devoted to giving back to that community. He feels truly blessed to be able to still live life to the fullest and he is excited to be a part of Spinal Network where he hopes he can mentor others in their recovery by sharing his experience mentally and physically.
President, Corporate Partnership
Celia A. Brewer was appointed City Attorney for the City of Carlsbad in January 2013. Ms. Brewer has spent her legal career advising public agencies. Prior to joining the City of Carlsbad, she was the Interim Port Attorney and Assistant Port Attorney for the San Diego Unified Port District. Ms. Brewer has also served as the Assistant General Counsel to the San Diego County Water Authority and the City Attorney for the City of Solana Beach. She is the current president and a past president of the San Diego County City Attorneys’ Association and a past member of the Legal Advocacy Committee of the League of California Cities.
While in private practice, Ms. Brewer represented irrigation, water and community service districts as well as public non-profit charter schools. She served as a member of the board of directors of the King-Chavez Neighborhood of Schools, an independent 501 (c)(3) non-profit charter school network operator in the Barrio Logan neighborhood of San Diego from 2007-2013. She is also a Christopher Reeve Foundation certified peer mentor for people impacted by spinal cord injuries. In addition, she is a member of the San Diego satellite team supporting the “Swim With Mike” scholarship fund for physically challenged athletes.
Jeff suffered a Spinal Cord Injury from a diving accident when he was 22 years old. He willingly shares his experience to mentor others who need help coping with their own disability. Since his accident he has earned a BA in Psychology, a MA in Education, participated in adaptive sports, and traveled the country. He is experienced with MTS in San Diego and knowledgeable on other transportation options for people with disabilities. His hobbies and interests include pool, darts, poker, reading, and sports.
Executive Board Member
Dominick Taitano’s life changed 33 years ago after he was involved in an ATV accident. He is a C3/C4 ventilator dependent quadriplegic. He did his rehabilitation at Rancho Los Amigos for twenty-three months. After rehab, he pursued earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration at Cal State University San Marcos. After graduating, he worked for a leather goods company for 14 years doing data entry and purchasing. He has also been involved with a family-owned company that provided resources and services to individuals with disabilities.
Dominick grew up San Diego and stays very active despite his high level of injury. He feels life is too short not to embrace all that it has to offer. Staying positive is what has helped him the most. He has also been blessed with the loving support of his family. He strives to do the most he can even with all of his limitations. He enjoys attending sporting events, concerts, plays, amusement parks, places with incredible scenery, and spending time with family and friends. He also finds pleasure in traveling and experiencing new adventures. Dominick has been a peer mentor to those with SCI, which he finds very fulfilling. He figures he should share the knowledge and insight that he has gained after living with his injury for so long. He has also been a guest speaker at colleges and numerous functions. Dominick finds strength in sharing his personal story with others and hopes others will benefit from his life experiences.
Executive Board Member
Mary Thompson, MSW
Executive Board Member
Mary Thompson is a licensed clinical social worker at Sharp Rehabilitation Center in San Diego where she has held a variety of administrative and professional positions since 1991. She serves newly-injured SCI patients as well as those with other types of physical and cognitive injuries and illnesses.
Mary has a C8 complete SCI as a result of a car accident in 1982. She is a three time Paralympian and won a bronze medal in Seoul in 1988. She has completed over 135 marathons all across the U.S., Europe and Asia and is one of only two wheelchair racers who are legacy competitors having completed 32 consecutive Los Angeles marathons. She also finished the 367-mile Alaska Sun Midnight Marathon in her race chair. In 1998, she completed the GTE Big Ride, a 3,200 mile bike ride across the US in 48 days. In 1994 she was selected as the San Diego Disabled Athlete of the Year by the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Chelle Struve is an accomplished marketing and advertising professional specializing in integrated marketing programs. These include social, print, broadcast and digital production, multicultural campaigns, product launches, market research, media placement and branding for business-to-business and consumer national accounts in agency, nonprofit and corporate settings. She has produced award winning campaigns for Toyota, Mattel, AMN Healthcare, Embassy Suites and Foothill Transit. Her nonprofit experience includes her previous role as Director of Marketing at Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) and client San Diego VeloYouth.
Executive Board Member
Executive Board Member
Timothy “Tim” Vondersaar graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology at CalPoly Pomona. He co-founded and was president of a chapter of Nourish International, a non-profit organization that raises funds and conducts projects designed to eliminate hunger and poverty. He is now a student of the Rehabilitation Counseling master’s program at SDSU and will start an internship at the Sharp Memorial Rehabilitation Center to gain experience in creating a positive client/counselor relationship. In the future, he would love to work for the
Community College District where he can help young adults get on a path of meaningful employment rather than live on benefits.
Tim grew up on a farm in Salem, Oregon, where he spent most of his time going on bike rides and playing in the backyard forest with his three siblings. He was a competitive gymnast all through his early teenage years until he broke his neck during a trick on a trampoline which left him a C6/C7 quadriplegic. Tim received intensive rehabilitation at Emanuel Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon for three months until he was released home. He spent four summers at Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Sacramento, California, where he did inpatient therapy and tried out a lot of different wheelchair sports. He moved down to West Covina, California, in 2000 to go to college and escape the rain of the Great Northwest.
Before his accident, Tim had been a drummer in a rock band, a singer in a choir and a dancer. He was a drum major for his marching band in his wheelchair following his accident and even continued playing his trombone in the wind ensemble with which he was invited to play in Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia. He still loves music and is now learning how to play the harmonica.
Ten years after his injury, Tim struggled with severe pain from the plate that was put in during the first surgery to stabilize his neck. The plate had started to rub against his esophagus and required surgery to remove it. During that surgery, his esophagus was torn and caused a lifethreatening infection from head to chest. The neurosurgeons had made a mistake. It was an ENT surgeon who saved Tim’s life. In an attempt to improve some physical function, Tim underwent stem cell treatment in Panama in 2014. In 2017, Tim married his wife Cerrah, who had found him on YouTube and reached out to him. They went on a road trip all over California on their first date and decided to move in together. She came all the way from Berlin, Germany, with her cat to live with Tim and their two dogs in San Diego. Tim and Cerrah are planning a support group for interabled couples.
Ania represents the spina bifida community. She grew up in San Diego and attended the San Diego Adaptive Sports and Recreations summer camp as far back as 1992 and has since made the transition to counselor/mentor.
Ania recently completed her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and entered into a graduate program, both at SDSU.
Ania's passion is dancing, specifically fitness dance. She is a certified World of Dance (WOD), U-Jam dance instructor and has plans to start an all-inclusive dance fitness WOD U-Jam program. Ania will inject a new level of energy into Spinal Network.
Ania is our Chapter Advocacy Representative designing a strategic plan for advocacy and self advocacy in both San Diego and Riverside counties.