, President & Founder
Originating in 2008 with a litter of puppies from our beloved golden retriever named Poe, six years later we have a total of 18 dogs. Fifteen of our golden retrievers are paired with kids with autism between the ages of 3-17 and three are classroom facilitators in ASD classrooms around FL.
BJ is passionate about making a difference in kids with disabilities lives by integrating service dogs into everyday living. She is an advocate in the community for service dogs and families with kids with disabilities. BJ and Project Chance have been featured in local print and television media. BJ has worked alongside many local and regional non-profit agencies to further advocacy for children and their families, focusing mainly on accessibility to resources and integration into the communities in which these kids live.
, Executive Director and Co-Founder
After graduating from the University of North Florida, KCJ worked alongside biomedical autism pediatrician Dr. Julie Buckley as a home school proctor, service dog trainer and autism life skills coach to her daughter Dani and Dani’s service dog Flux. While working in this unique environment KCJ was able to integrate her knowledge of autism's behavioral presentation with a newly learned medical understanding. With this dual comprehension KCJ has been able to better serve the autism community with how a service dog can best be used in a family.
Nikki Szwedzinski, Secretary and Developmental Director
Nikki spent 15 years in corporate training and development positions with large companies such as Blackberry and Google. These positions offered her the opportunity to travel as well as hone her skills in working with people with different learning styles and abilities. She recently relocated from Austin, TX to pursue her Masters in Special Education. Nikki is passionate about volunteering, especially programs that enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. This has led to a passion for facilitated communication and plans to become a lead trainer. During this next year she will be working in a Special Education classroom for children at the primary level as well as volunteering with Project Chance.
Susan Sinor, Business Manager
Before retiring, Sue worked in the defense industry for almost 30 years. Her experience included both engineering tasks and program management. Her experience also includes over 14 years as a high school teacher. She is both a volunteer and a member of the Board of Directors for Project Chance. As part of her volunteer activities, she started writing books about the ‘red vest service dogs’ to help families better understand and enjoy their new four-legged family member. She and her husband, Buddy, live in Fernandina Beach, FL, with their dog, 2 cats, and a variety of rotating Project Chance puppies.
Joy received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders from Auburn University and her MS in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Montevallo. Joy has spent 28 years serving children as a Speech-Language Pathologist in Duval County Schools. Currently she is a diagnostician with DCPS' Pre-kindergarten Disabilities office. Joy is a member of the pet therapy team at Wolfson Children's Hospital. She has also served on pet therapy teams at Community Hospice of NE Florida and Beaches Baptist Hospital. Joy is a proud 'mama' to three Golden Retrievers; George (a therapy dog at Wolfson Children's Hospital), Truman and Thule (a Project CHANCE Autism Assistance Dog).
Eileen Metz, Volunteer Coordinator
Eileen recently retired from a rewarding career as a dental office manager in Vermont. Eileen was responsible for overseeing all aspects of the office: managing office personnel; scheduling; inventory management, and; ensuring high quality patient care. Eileen held an equally demanding full time position as wife and mother. During their time in Vermont, Eileen and her husband raised two wonderful children and five golden retrievers. It's Eileen’s dedication to her children and her love of Golden’s which led her to Project Chance.
Nancy Hickman is a native of Murray, Kentucky. She graduated with a BS from Murray State University in 1967. She became an employee of Girl Scouts of Shagbark Council in Southern Illinois shortly after graduation. Her entire career was spent there until she retired on December 31, 1999. She served in the position of executive director for the last 18 years of her 33 years there. She obtained certification in Nonprofit Management from the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations from Case Western Reserve University. She joined Project Chance as a volunteer in 2007. Apple is one of the Poe Puppies and lives with Nancy in Fernandina Beach.
Tricia lives in Ponte Vedra with her husband and the three children they adopted from Guatemala and Vietnam. She became connected to BJ and Project Chance after acquiring a service dog for her son, who suffers from extreme anxiety as a result of Reactive Attachment Disorder. Tricia has a BA degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s degree in journalism from Boston University. She has worked as a journalist, teacher, and professor, and currently teaches fitness classes and writes a blog about parenting and current events at triciabooker.com.