Pawsitism Leadership

Rebekah Hintzman

President

Rebekah Hintzman started her career watching dogs at her family home in the summer. That started her passion for dogs and encouraged her mind for small business. She started as a kennel manager at a local shepherd breeding facility in her home town which she gained her love for German Shepherds and training. Then went on to apprentice under a local dog groomer her senior year where she eventually started her own dog grooming business.

She worked at a local shelter as an adoption counselor where she acquired her first white German Shepherd Sam! Through the years of many different ventures, her passion for dogs and business continued on. She worked at other kennels and eventually started leaning towards training where she has worked for several corporations teaching dog training, receiving accreditation’s and mentoring others on how to train. She also volunteered at the local humane society in Sheboygan where she and a team of trainers helped save lives, learn more about stressed and manic behaviors among shelter dogs and build her impact in the community. She currently runs RUFF Academy Real Life Dog Training, a dog obedience school along with in-home private training in Sheboygan, WI. Working with families through classes, led to building a dog training mentorship program through North High School(RUFF Mentorship Program,) with Deb Trcka, a reading program at Cooper Elementary School where children read to Certified Pet Therapy Dogs(Relax With Rover,) and now to a non-profit to train service dogs for children with autism(Pawsitism Inc.)! After peeking into the world of service dogs, she was hooked. She liked being able to see the impact that dogs can make with families and especially children. Her top passion has always been training dogs in public so that people can be educated and see how well dogs can be! She came up with the idea of training service dogs in this area for children with autism as there is a need for it and autism is something that her company can stand behind. With the different organizations that she has started in the community and what her main focus has been about, it just made sense to add this as another project. She then collaborated with a couple other visionaries to then make it what it is today! Rebekah has many connections within the community and dog world, so working together with people is not uncommon. Putting together her love for the community, strength through networking, passion for dog training and business and adding a noble cause, it has now created an amazing organization that is in its first year of development has grown quickly! Pawsitism Inc. has been blessed with dogs donated to the program, local businesses and organizations joining forces and Rebekah’s vision in training to help the dogs work toward successful Autism Assistance Service Dogs for a child in need! She is donating her training services for the first 18 months to help these dogs set the bar for others coming up! Just to give you an idea on time and cost, she trains each dog over 18 months. That equates to 800 personal training hours and $40,000 in training costs! Service dog training not only takes time, but dedication to the cause. Rebekah stays true to the overall goal, helping provide a child with autism with a professionally trained service dog! She currently lives in Sheboygan with her two Weimaraners, Romeo & Juliet. In her spare time, she likes to do pet therapy with Juliet, go hiking with Romeo, travel to new places meeting new people and continue her dog training education. She is currently certified in Pet Psychology and Behavior, an AKC CGC Evaluator, ADPT Member, and an Accredited Dog Trainer. She also carries Dog Is Good Apparel and Products through RUFF Academy! She is a passionate dog enthusiast and loves to help the community!
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hedi and matt

Heidi & Matthew Wallner

Directors - Volunteer Coordination

What is your background experience that relates to Pawsitism?

 

What made you decide to join Pawsitism?

 

What do you hope to accomplish from being a part of the non-profit?

Cassie Cole

Director - Special Needs/Child Development

What is your background experience that relates to Pawsitism?

I have been actively involved in the disability community for as long as I can remember. My brother has multiple diagnoses, including autism. Watching his struggles and perseverance firsthand inspired my career choices. I worked as a camp counselor at Camp Evergreen, a local respite camp. I also have worked as a residential and respite caregiver for Individual Growth Services, Paragon Community Services, and Sheboygan County Health and Human Services. I have been a special education teacher since 2015, and most recently, I earned my Masters degree and Director of Special Education and Pupil Services.

What made you decide to join Pawsitism?

I am continuously looking for more ways to actively advocate for increased support, awareness, and equitable experiences for people with disabilities and their families in our community. That being said, I was immediately impressed with Pawsitism’s mission. I remember volunteering at one of the organization’s earlier events and saying to Rebekah, “I wish there had been something like this when my brother was younger!” It has been amazing to watch the positive impacts Pawsitism is making,  both directly through providing support to the families that are receiving service dogs, and indirectly through the network that is being created by connecting those families and the dogs with each other and with the community. It would be an understatement to say I was excited to be presented with the opportunity to actively contribute to those positive impacts moving forward. 

What do you hope to accomplish from being a part of the non-profit?

I want to see the community outreach continue to grow, which would lead to two changes. The first change would be a wider network of support and comraderie for families of people with disabilities, including but not limited to autism. The second change would be a wider range of community awareness, acceptance, and inclusion. Our community is taking positive steps towards making events more equitable and accessible for people with disabilities, but we still have a long way to go, and Pawsitism and its members can be powerful advocates and change agents.

Leslie Laster

Director - Child Counselor/Development

What is your background experience that relates to Pawsitism?

Working with Pawsitism is a family approach.  My background is in counseling and education so I am enjoying working directly with the children and offering any advice I can or support to parents.

What made you decide to join Pawsitism?

I love animals but especially dogs and I also have a huge heart for helping others.  This opportunity allows me to educate myself more about dog training and the amazing things these dogs can do to support the families, but also to educate the community and help families.

What do you hope to accomplish from being a part of the non-profit?

My hope is that we will become a household name, educating the community about service dogs, children with autism and all the things parents and the children need to be supported.  Personally in my role helping the families, I hope to gain a stronger knowledge of the needs of the children we are helping and how to best support both the children and the families.​

Tamara Pool

Treasurer

Tamara Pool was born and raised in Sheboygan. She attended James Madison Elementary School until 4th grade because her parents wanted an immersive educational experience that focused on the inclusion of special needs children. As a result, Tamara grew up knowing that people with disabilities could do anything with the right tools.

She has been involved in theatre her entire life and has always found joy in entertaining people. Other joys include spending time with her family and animals. Tamara has been a dog trainer for 13 years and worked as a job developer for people with disabilities through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. It was only natural that these two sides of her life should collide in the most wonderful way. Pawsitism is the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and cultivation with her best friend, Rebekah Hintzman, and she is overjoyed to see it taking flight.
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Deb Trcka

Secretary

Deb Trcka has always had a love for animals and more specifically dogs. Her love of dogs started when she was a young child and has grown over time. She believes dogs are our buddies and best friends, sensing our moods, cheering us up and bringing us pure joy.

 
Another passion of Deb’s is helping people with challenges/disabilities. She was very fortunate to work as a special education teacher with The Sheboygan Area School District for almost 40 years. She taught at James Madison for five years, then spent most of her time at North High. In addition, she taught in SAIL, a district community-based program for 18-21 year olds students.
Deb met Rebekah when she was the trainer for her puppy, Emma. She loved her style of training along the results she saw with Emma. Their relationship evolved into a friendship and the creation of Ruff Academy North, consisting of therapy dogs visiting North High once a week. Several years ago Deb helped establish Pawsitism in the Sheboygan Area to provide service dogs for children with Autism.
Deb is married to Frank and they have 2 adult children and one granddaughter. Their son Jim is married to Katie and daughter Ali, is married to Lucas. They are proud new grandparents to Ali and Lucas’s Vivian. In addition, they have 2 dogs, a Golden Retriever, Emma, and a Yellow Lab, Elsie.
Deb love spending time with her family, friends and dogs. She enjoys flower gardening, baking, wine-tasting excursions and volunteering at Holy Name Church. Through two other community efforts, Warm the World and The Mary McGuire Thanksgiving Food Box Outreach, Deb is involved in helping people in need throughout the community.
Deb considers it a privilege to serve on the Pawsitism Board. Her involvement allows her to combine her love of animals and make a difference in the lives of children with Autism and their families. She is excited for all of the possibilities and potential growth of our organization.
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