United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Chicago and Seguin Services officially merged in July to better serve the common goal of enriching the lives of people with disabilities. And today, the leadership and direction of the organization clearly lies in the hands of two Naperville residents: Joseph Pedersen and John Voit.
With the merger, Voit, 65, continues to serve as president and CEO of Seguin Services, a position he’s served in since 1998. Pedersen, 68, served as board president of Sequin for several years and will continue as a member of the recently merged board for both organizations.
Voit said his entire career has been devoted to working with those with disabilities and special needs and that the choice to do so began in the early 1970s “when people of that era were looking to make a commitment to a cause.”
“I went to what is now called Benedictine University in Lisle, and I volunteered during my sophomore or junior year in a special needs recreation program,” Voit said. “I went on to get my master’s degree in 1972 in special education and went to work until 1995 with Ray Graham Associates who work with people with disabilities.”
Voit joined Sequin after leaving Ray Graham and has continued his mission ever since. Ironically, Voit became a parent of a daughter in 1988 who was born with disabilities.
“Our daughter Olivia has been a product of the Naperville schools, and they have done a wonderful job,” Voit said. “The fact that I chose this field well before my daughter was born was something that confirmed my career choice even more.”
Pedersen also has a special needs child that he said has made him decide to step away as board president and continue to work more “at the boot level.”
“My son is developing some other issues as he ages, and I’ve been at the brain level for a long time,” Pedersen said. “I want to work more closely with the clients and be someone who is more in the trenches.”
Both men speak highly of one another and their specific skill sets. Pedersen said as former board president of Sequin, it was his job to “summarize the board’s review of the CEO, which determined his employment as well as salary.” Voit, he said, continues to be exemplary.
“His efforts are incredible, and he is not a man to sit on his laurels,” Pedersen said. “The day after his review was presented, he’d already be planning out his vision for next year. He’s a tremendously outgoing person who has connections with people on the national, state and local level that have something to do with funding for disabled people.”
Voit said that Pedersen helps “to keep the organization grounded in its mission and its purpose.”
“Joe has a long history of volunteerism with the organization, and as a career educator, he’s benefited us with his leadership, and being a parent of a special needs child, he has tremendous advocacy for his son and people like him,” Voit said. “As a parent, he understands the needs of families who can no longer care for their children.
“And with baby boomers and their special needs children all living longer — our organization has to answer the question of what happens when those parents can no longer care for those children.”
Voit said the organization is working to develop new group homes in DuPage and southern Cook counties in light of the state’s reorganization of facilities.
Both men have lived more than 20 years in Naperville, and praise the community for its schools and quality of life.
“The schools here are wonderful, and I’ve done some work as a wrestling coach at Naperville Central,” Pedersen said. “I moved here when there were maybe 15,000 people, and the planning and development in Naperville has been wonderful. I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Although, Voit has plans for Naperville, too.
“One of my goals is to develop a facility in here in Naperville for my daughter Olivia and others like her,” Voit said. “I love what I do and I’m definitely in this for the long haul.”
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