Diveheart provides scuba diving opportunities for children, adults and veterans with disabilities

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Our Board


      Jim Elliott      Founder/President

Teaching children and adults with disabilities how to fly via the sport of Scuba Diving has been Jim Elliott’s passion for many years.

In 1996 this passion inspired him to leave a successful career in the media industry with the Tribune company and focus on training divers with disabilities.

In 2001 Elliott established the Diveheart Foundation, a 501 ( c ) ( 3 )  totally volunteer not for profit organization that builds confidence and independence in children, adults & veterans with disabilities through scuba diving.

Elliott, who has been diving since 1976, is a scuba instructor with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and an H.S.A. (Handicapped Scuba Association) & SDI Instructor Trainer as well as President of the Diveheart Foundation since 2001 and the Angelfish Foundation.

In 2005 the Illinois Skin and Scuba Council honored Jim Elliott and Diveheart with their Humanitarian of the Year award, and Diveheart received a 2005, 2006 & 2007 community award from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

      Dawn Engler  

     Vice President

Dawn Engler has been a member of the Diveheart Board serving as Vice President since 2001. She is a PADI and HSA Divemaster and a veteran of over 40 Diveheart trips with people with disabilities.

Dawn holds the position of office manager for one of the largest chiropractic practices in the midwest, seeing over 2,000 patient visits per week in 3 offices. In this capacity, she is responsible for all front office operations, practice finances, staff training and also serves as patient advocate.

Dawn grew up on the East Coast and moved to the Chicago area in 1985. She has an adult son and daughter as well as 6 grandchildren. One of her granddaughters was born with cerebral palsy which fuels her passion for working with those with special needs.


       Dave Zigman


David Zigman has been a volunteer for Diveheart for the past 8 years. He is currently a PADI Instructor and a an SDI adaptive Scubility Dive Buddy.  Since 2006 Dave has served on the Diveheart Board of Directors as Treasurer overseeing the organizational finances.  He has also served on the Finance Committee, special event Luau fundraising committee and the Volunteer committees.  He has been the chairperson for the Luau Fundraiser for the past 6 years. 

Dave commits many hours to managing and maintaining all of Diveheart’s dive gear and gear locker. In 2010 Dave received the Diveheart Leadership award in recognition of his commitment and work  helping kids, adults and veterans with disabilities scuba dive.

While not volunteering for Diveheart Dave works as a CPA at a mid-size CPA firm in Northbrook providing corporate, partnership, trusts and individual accounting services.

Dave is currently training to achieve his PADI and EFR Instructor ratings and hopes to complete his SDI and HSA Instructor training later in 2012.

William Bogdan

William Bogdan serves as the disability liaison to Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, and is responsible for the coordination, development, and implementation of programs and services for persons with disabilities for the office.  He also works on legislative issues impacting persons with disabilities, and addresses accessibility issues in driver service facilities and buildings operated by the office.

As the disability liaison, Bill is responsible for Secretary White’s initiative to reduce the fraudulent use of placards and disability license plates under the Parking Program for Persons with Disabilities.   The initiative includes a public education campaign, and training programs directed towards medical professionals, and law enforcement officials about the provisions of the program.

Bill has been appointed as Chair of the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities (ICDD) by Governor Pat Quinn in August 2010. ICDD works on a wide range of programs to help improve the opportunities people with developmental disabilities in our state are afforded, including education, employment, transportation, community living, and health care.

In addition, Bill currently serves on the Illinois Elevator Safety Advisory Board, and is immediate past president of the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Illinois. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Diveheart Foundation, and is President of the Hall of Fame for Divers with Disabilities

Bill graduated with honors from of DePaul University in June of 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Business).

Bill was named the DePaul University School for New Learning 2001 recipient of the Arthur Weinberg Social Activist Award for a video he produced entitled Exercising Your Rights Through Advocacy, and was also the recipient of an Award for Excellence.

 Mike Kaufman's Photo

      Mike Kaufman

Michael Roy Kaufman is a veteran trial attorney and practicing in the South Florida area for the past 32 years, receiving his Juris Doctorate in 1980, and his MBA in 1976.  He has been married to Marlyn Krickenbarger, an Ohio farm girl for the past 28 years, has three sons, and has been a resident of South Florida his entire life. His legal career has exclusively dealt with representing individuals suffering with disabilities as a result of the wrongful conduct of others.

Since age 12, Mike Kaufman has been an active diver whose passion and love for the aquatic world has driven him to extensively explore the coral reef systems of Florida, and throughout the world.  His recreational scuba interest includes underwater photography, spearfishing, exploration, night diving and wreck diving. He is a rated PADI instructor, HSA instructor, EFR instructor and a USCG licensed captain.  In 2007, he was inspired by the great work of Diveheart an organization promoting disabled scuba diving around the world and felt it was time for him to combine his underwater passions with his interest to serve individuals with disabilities. 

Since that time he has been volunteering many hours into facilitating programs and events consistent with the Diveheart mission, including the recently created Dive program at Shake-a-Leg, Miami and was a founding member of DiveBar, a scuba club consisting of lawyers promoting, among other things, philanthropic programs like Diveheart. He is a Diveheart Ambassador serving the South Florida region, and, currently serves on Diveheart’s Board of Directors.    


Ronald Rispoli

Ron has been a volunteer with Diveheart for more than nine years and has been a member of the Diveheart Board since 2009. He has worked on various committees, including the Volunteer and Marketing Committees, and he currently chairs the Diveheart Golf Outing.

Ron has two young children who live in Chicago. He also has a home in suburban Chicagoland. Ron commutes into the city daily for work, but also spends time with his growing children.

Ron has been involved with working with people with disabilities for the past 15 years, 12 of them at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education-Roosevelt, in Chicago. Most of his career Ron worked as the Recreation Therapist, educating and introducing young adults with severe physical disabilities to adapted leisure activities, including scuba diving.  Ron currently serves as the Case Manager for the students.

Ron graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1989 with a BA in Spanish Translation and Business, and from Aurora University in 1999 with a MS in Therapeutic Recreation.  He has worked with many agencies to serve individuals with special needs, including the Chicago Park District and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Patty Warning

Patty has been a member of the Diveheart board since 2009. She came to Diveheart hoping to overcome her fear of water and learn to SCUBA. After meeting a few of the Diveheart program participants, she was hooked.

Patty has worked with several local nonprofit programs throughout the past several years. She has supported Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital AbilityLinks program, DuPage PADS and is currently the Family Selection Chairperson for DuPage Habitat for Humanity.

Patty has worked for Banner Personnel Service as an Area Manager since 1994. She enjoys assisting companies find the ‘perfect” employee to fill their staffing needs as well as helping people find employment during this tough time.

Patty few up in Napverville, but current resides in Oswego, IL with her family.

    Sharon Kustka

Sharon has been a member of the Diveheart board since 2013.

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