Project Chance
Project Chance

the people of project chance

President and Founder, BJ Szwedzinski

During her tenure  as a special needs teacher, BJ brought her dog into the classroom and  noticed the peace that permeated the environment. Having made that  observation, she had the idea of pairing children and dogs to affect  positive behavioral change. Combining her teaching and more than 30  years of professional dog training, BJ developed and launched Project  Chance in 2008.   Although  she earned a degree in hospitality management, BJ went to grooming  school and then worked with a trainer who showed dogs. She discovered  her passion. In 1976, BJ founded Dog Leg Productions, a boarding,  training and boot camp program for dogs. Additionally,  she worked with dogs as an administrator for animal control and humane  societies and then developed education programs. In schools, BJ taught  kids about pet ownership and responsibilities. Having raised two  daughters with mental health disorders, BJ has first-hand knowledge of  the challenges parents face and the strategies she used with positive  outcomes.  BJ is committed to making a difference in the lives of  kids with disabilities by integrating golden retriever service dogs.  An  advocate for service dogs and families, BJ works with local and  regional non-profit agencies focusing on accessibility to resources and  community integration for service dogs and kids with autism.  

From the President: 

  • Kids who were runners, stop running because they want to be near their dog.  
  • Kids  who were unable to express their real needs, now experience the value  of communication. Both child and puppy are taught directives. This  builds a relationship that helps the child be “heard” and understood  through speech, touch or facilitated communication.  
  • Kids  who did not care about outcomes, either negative or positive, now  understand the spectrum of behaviors and their associated rewards and  consequences.  
  • Every  child has the ability to be productive, responsible and empathetic. Our  dogs and the team built around the child and dog, create the  opportunity to have those experiences.  
  • Kids  who did not want or give cuddles, hugs, or affection, now want and give  back, if only to their dog. Their dog may be their first real friend.  
  • Kids who stood alone, never will again

It is not our intent to make a big difference, just a difference,
It is not our intent to make all problems go away, just easier,
It is not our intent to fix all wrongs, just to make some right,
It is not our intent to be overzealous with our mission, just excited,
It is not our intent to reveal people’s prejudices, just teach open-mindedness,
It is not our intent to know all the answers, just ask the right questions,
It is our intent to educate.  


Executive Director & Co-Founder KCJ Szwedzinski


KCJ is working on her Masters in Fine Arts at the University of  Louisville, where she recently got a teacher's assistant position. After  graduating from the University of North Florida, KCJ worked with  biomedical autism pediatrician Dr. Julie Buckley as a homeschool  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 integrated her knowledge of autism's behavioral  presentation and medical possibilities. This combination of knowledge  gives KCJ a unique understanding of how a service dog in concert with  medications can have a profoundly positive effect on a child and his or  her family.

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.  She was also a high school teacher for 14 years. She is a  volunteer and a member of the Board of Directors for Project Chance.   Sue writes 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, Florida, with their  dog, two cats, and a variety of rotating Project Chance puppies.

Nancy Hickman


Nancy Hickman is a native of Murray, Kentucky.  She graduated with a BS from Murray State University in 1967.  Working  with the Girl Scouts of Shagbark Council in Southern Illinois for her  entire 33-year career, the last 18 of which were as the executive  director, Nancy retired on December 31, 1999. Nancy earned a  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.

Melissa Leen


Currently working as  an event planner, Melissa is also completing her Masters in Nonprofit  Management. Ideally, she wants to combine event planning and her  commitment to volunteerism.  Having seen firsthand how a Project Chance  service dog, Shiloh, helped her nephew, William grow and mature and  changed her family’s lives, she became involved and joined the board.  She knows what a service dog can do for children on the spectrum and  believes in Project Chance and its mission.  She wholeheartedly wants to  aid in growing and sustaining this amazing organization. Melissa is  married with one rescue dog and three rescue cats. A lifelong  Jacksonville resident, she enjoys running, rock climbing, reading and  spending time with her family.

Matt Badiali


A geologist, writer,  and financial analyst for Banyan Hill Publishing, Matt has a deep  appreciation of service. Over the years, he’s donated time and money to  various philanthropies, primarily focusing on abandoned pets. Matt and  his family fostered animals for the Nassau County Animal Control and the  SPCA through Cat’s Angels. When the family adopted a new dog, they  worked with BJ to ensure their dog was a good citizen. Project Chance  allows Matt to combine his interests in dogs and commitment to  volunteerism that serves as an example for his children. Matt hopes his  experience in writing, business management, and finance will help  Project Chance grow and develop into its next phase.

Larry Ogilvie


Larry is a  nationally certified massage therapist, who utilizes a special soft  tissue program that is second to none in getting to the ‘cause’ of all  your body aches and pains. He has developed a unique program(FaStR) that  combines Active Release Techniques® (ART) with a unique fascial stretch  technique that stabilizes the body and returns tonus back to the  muscles.  With his extensive knowledge of muscles, tendons, fascia and  nerves he is able to restore function and motion to all areas of the  body. His Advanced Muscle Therapy has been putting athletes, corporate  executives, students, and families back together for over 15 years.
Larry has been a personal trainer for over 35 years, long before certification was necessary. He began training others in 1982.
Larry is an Elite Provider for ART, the gold standard in soft tissue management.
He also puts many hours in weekly working with corporate onsite clinics to help them reduce their workers comp expense.