Pawsitism Leadership

Rebekah Hintzman

Founder, President, and Lead Dog Trainer

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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Tamara Pool

Founder and Secretary

Tamara 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. 

Tamara’s oldest nephew has autism. He always told people that it wasn’t a disability, it was his superpower. He never saw it as a drawback or a reason for not being able to do something. He looked at it as the reason he could do so well in school because he loved concentrating on something until it was done and done well. This outlook gave Tamara a perspective that many don’t understand. He explained to her that a lot of people believe that children with autism are unable to show emotion. The truth is completely the contrary.

He feels so much emotion that it shuts him down instead of exploding out like a neuro-typical child. Tamara learned how to read the signs in him as to when the shutdown was coming and she was able to help him through it. As a result, he is now able to advocate for himself as an adult and create accommodations within his work environment so he can effectively do his job.

Tamara has been involved in theatre her entire life and has always found joy in entertaining people. She is currently certified as an AKC CGC Evaluator and an Accredited Dog Trainer. Tamara has been a dog trainer since 2007 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 was cofounded by Tamara and her best friend, Rebekah Hintzman, and seeing the culmination of the planning and development is the greatest joy of her life.

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Felicia Pirwitz

Financial Officer

Felicia moved to Sheboygan in 2018. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a minor in Health Care Administration. She was a nurse in Michigan, a home health manager in Sheboygan, and worked with disabled adults at a local day service. Helping people with disabilities is in her blood. 

Felicia is a mother to 4 young boys. Her 13 year old “bonus” son has extensive special needs and Felicia finds so much joy in seeing him learn and grow. Her 10 year old son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 5.

He was later diagnosed with Fragile X, Selective Mutism, Insomnia, ADHD, anxiety, and a few other disabilities. Felicia has faced many hurdles and challenges on their Autism journey but is so proud to see the person her son is growing into. 

Felicia couldn’t wait to be a part of Pawsitism, Inc. as soon as she learned about the organization. She originally joined the board as the treasurer. Then she decided to raise 2 of the Pawsitism puppies, and also become the Family Coordinator. Felicia loves to see the impact that Pawsitism, Inc. has on children, while also helping parents learn of different organizations in the community to help with the extensive needs of their kiddos.

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Drew Olenick

Community Engagement Coordinator

Drew has been a member of the board since January 2023. He brings years of volunteer and career experience in many fields of nonprofit development, program management, and community engagement. He is also an autistic individual himself, so he understands firsthand the challenges and hurdles of a child growing up with autism. Directly quoting Drew: “Those with Autism are unique, individualistic, resilient people and they deserve to be loved and live just as much the same way as neurotypical people. It is one of my largest personal goals to do what I can to help those individuals and others see that even with an autism diagnosis there are opportunities for a happy, fulfilling, and successful future.”

Cari Bollweg

Director

Cari moved to the Sheboygan area in 2018. Working in Health Care in the Primary Care setting, she has seen many of the challenges that Autistic children and their families face.  She found, in Pawsitism, a wonderful opportunity to help these children and families live life to it’s fullest by pairing a specific service dog to that child’s needs.  The brightening faces of these children when they are with their service dog and the stories of the new opportunities and experiences that they enjoy is an incredible reward. 

Danielle Bradford

PR Director

Danielle Bradford has worked in real estate for going on 9 years. She  is the visionary/owner of NSD Property Management, which creates curated living  spaces for traveling professionals, and has helped dozens of local homeowners realize  an income-stream from their secondary properties. She is also a licensed real estate  broker with Realty Executives Integrity, serving dozens of clients annually across  southeast Wisconsin.  

As a part of Pawsitism Inc., Danielle looks forward to providing insight and compassion  for partner families, following their success and growth with their service animal.  

Danielle lives with her partner, remarkable bonus daughter, and two fur-kids. When she isn’t working hard at real estate, you’ll find her traveling, camping, or thrifting.

Christine Loose

Director and Fundraising, Event Coordinator

Christine is passionate about caring for our Community by supporting and working with nonprofit organizations. Currently, she serves as the Executive Director for the Lakeshore Technical College Foundation, where the mission and purpose seek to assist students with the financial support to attend college. Christine also serves as the Vice Chair of the Sheboygan County United Way Board of Directors as well as a Trustee of her alma mater St. Norbert College.  Pawsitism Inc. is a labor of love for her. Seeing dogs grow from puppies to well-trained Service Dogs and then matched with a child is incredibly rewarding. The joy on a child’s face when they meet their match is priceless!

Nicole Bigler

Social Media Coordinator

Nikki grew up in Sheboygan Falls and then moved to Colorado where she lived for over 15 years until moving back nine years ago. Her non-profit experience includes board positions with Colorado Ballet’s Associate Board of Directors and fundraising committee chair positions with the Junior League of Denver. She currently works as the Director of Social and SEM for a marketing agency based out of Sarasota, FL. Nikki also worked as a dance and creative movement teacher where she worked with autistic children. Pawsitism allows families the opportunity to experience life to its fullest. The effect meeting a Pawsitism dog can have on an autistic child – almost instantly is amazing. Seeing how meeting, interacting, and being paired with a Pawsitism dog is a wonderful reward for being a part of the organization.

Jon Gischia

Advisor and Co-Lead Dog Trainer

Jon was raised in the Sheboygan area. He went to Jackson elementary, Horace Mann Middle School then South high school.  After this, he furthered his education by receiving his associate degree in computers from Lakeshore Technical College and his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Lakeland University.  He is married and adopted 3 girls from foster care in 2021 with his wife, Jamee. Two of the girls are on the autism spectrum, have ADHD and anxiety disorders.

His family became actively involved in the organization after seeing the benefit Bosley provided to his daughter. Jon is now a liaison to the Pawsitism board and a co-lead trainer for dogs in the organization. He trains the service dogs in the program three times a week in public settings and is a primary contact for the puppy raisers.

In addition, his youngest daughter applied for a service dog and was matched with Bosley, from Pawsitism in December of 2022. Bosley has been a huge benefit to their daughter as he helps her live in a world that isn’t made for her by performing trained tasks. Due to their close bond, Bosley started detecting her seizures at night (this isn’t taught but is organic).  

Since Jon isn’t only a trainer but also a Pawsitism family who received a dog, he is a great resource for questions about applying to the organization, answering questions about fundraising, the pairing process, training, etc.

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Candice Koropov

Graphic and Website Advisor

Candice’s journey with Pawsitism, Inc. started when she decided to go back to school for graphic design. As part of her class, she assisted Pawsitism in the rebranding of the organization. After graduation, Rebekah was in need of some more graphic design help and Candice jumped at the opportunity to work with Pawsitism again. Fast forward to today, she has created countless marketing tools to help support the mission.