Kari Bednarczyk– Founder and Executive Director
Kari has always had a heart for children. Her service of special needs children and their families started over 20 years ago as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist with Autistic children in their home. Relationships formed in the therapy room evolved into taking care of the children while the parents had a well deserved night out. Decades later, that love has evolved into Grace Inc.
Kari is an Occupational Therapist (OTR) and Adjunct teacher at Anoka Technical College in the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) program. Kari lives in Andover with her husband, Nick and their two sons.
Courtney Wilberg- Business Operations Director & Board Member
Courtney began her career as a Special Education teacher in California. She then worked in Illinois, South Dakota, and Minnesota teaching computer skills, and then swimming and fitness to adults and children with and without Special Needs. As a mom of three little ones, Courtney knows the demand that parenting takes on a person, and is passionate about helping families with extraordinary care needs to help keep their minds, bodies, and relationships supported. She has a gift for working with people, and helping others, and is excited to be growing our Grace, Inc. community.
Julie Grivna- Project Development Director & Board Member
Julie has a passion to serve people with different disabilities; her service of others began at the age of 14 as a regular volunteer at Camp Friendship. Julie used that experience to become a PCA for families with special needs children. She later obtained her A.A.S. as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, and a B.S. degree in Marriage and Family Psychology. Julie has served in multiple clinical settings, even creating a sensory gym for an outpatient clinic. When Julie learned about GRACE, Inc. and its wonderful mission, she was inspired to join and help reach families in need. Currently, Julie works as a faculty instructor in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Anoka Technical College. She enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, fishing and boating with her husband Tim and two children.
Christy Witkowski – Social Media Specialist
Christy discovered a passion for occupational therapy (OT) when she witnessed firsthand the positive benefits of OT when her husband received OT services due to a cancer diagnosis. She quickly realized that helping others live their best possible life was the career path she wanted to pursue, as helping others succeed is something she values. Christy is a recent graduate from Anoka Technical College with an A.A.S. in Occupational Therapy Assistant and is now a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). Christy is pursuing a career as a pediatric COTA. Prior to going back to school, Christy was a stay-at-home mother to her daughter and the primary caregiver to her husband throughout his cancer battle. Christy enjoys spending time with her daughter outdoors in nature and has a great passion for watching and playing sports; mostly Summer sports.
Jennifer Brady-Johnson – Board Member at Large
I began my career working directly with families. I have a family member with a disability and I have worked in a non-profit organization providing family support services. As a sibling of a person with a disability, I believed I empathized with my parents, as well as my brother, as they have navigated how to nurture family life as well as my brother. Working in a nonprofit for families of persons with a disability as a young college graduate was a great way to start my work journey. Since that time I have continued to work with children and adolescents with disabilities in a school setting as an occupational therapist with less direct time supporting the needs of families. As a pediatric OT, I have worked in schools and clinics, as well as written grants and presented findings at professional conferences. The main area of my scholarly work has been developing sensory strategies and self-regulation training for school-aged students’ ages 5-18 yrs. old. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family, being outdoors, long distance running, and my dog.
Andrea Haglund– Board Member at Large
My husband and I were very excited about the birth of our twins but when they arrived early we made a hard decision for me to quit work and become a full time stay-at-home mom. We would not understand why God led us in this direction until our daughter began missing important developmental milestones and was later diagnosed with a genetic condition called Williams Syndrome. I was busy with twins, therapy appointments, at home exercises, medical specialist appointments, and the addition of a second son in those first years. Life was, and is, wonderful for us but it is a different kind of busy and carries a unique emotional toll when raising a child with a disability. I have gained much needed support through local and international groups for parents of children with disabilities. I am a Regional Chairperson for the Williams Syndrome association, serve as a co-chair for our school districts Special Education Advisory Committee and am involved in other special needs ministries. In those roles I have heard countless times how parents are tired, feeling overwhelmed, having trouble finding time with their spouse or their other children, and just plain worn out, and that is why I am so excited to be a part of Grace. Sometimes parents NEED a break, for themselves, for their marriage, for their family and even for their child with the disability. While our family does take needed breaks from each other we also love taking breaks from the daily routines and the general work of life. Every summer the kids and I go on a non-traditional tour. We have done a donut tour, an ice cream tour, a history museum tour and this summer we are going on a “Quirky Sites of Minnesota Tour”. Paul Bunyan here we come! I know the new sites and fun experiences we will experience this summer will give us new energy to pursue the sometimes hard daily things and I am confident the important respite care Grace provides will do the same for the families who need it.