Our Staff

Donna Heggie, Volunteer President

Donna Heggie, long-time companion of Dick Zwirner, will continue the dream and compassion that Dick Zwirner brought to Orphans of the Storm. Donna has been a constant help and friend behind the scenes for over 22 years. Donna has brought together a management team of business executives and business owners to move Orphans of the Storm into the future. Orphans of the Storm has been a part of the community for 90 years, 49 of which have been under the leadership of Thelma and Dick Zwirner. Donna and the management team plan to continue Dick’s dream to expand and strengthen Orphan of the Storm’s position as a leading institution for stray and abandoned dogs and cats from throughout Lake and northern Cook Counties and beyond.

Tom Brackney, Director of Operations

Tom Brackney has been a friend and benefactor of Orphans of the Storm since 1996. Tom and his wife, Bonnie, had been traveling around the world performing with Holiday on Ice with their troop of adopted shelter dogs for 14 years when Tom came up with the idea of raising funds and awareness for homeless animals across the country. Tom was looking for a deserving shelter to donate the proceeds of this idea, Orphans of the Storm was it. The Brackneys owned Kountry Kennels Canine Productions Inc. in New Jersey. Through Dick Zwirner’s guidance and mentorship, Kountry Kennels and The Madcap Mutts raised over $250,000 across the country for shelters and animal welfare from 1996 to 2003. Tom brings his experience in pet care/training, kennel construction/maintenance and fund-raising/outreach skills to Orphans of the Storm. Tom’s mission is to carry on Dick Zwirner’s love of homeless dog and cats by using his skills to complete, one day, a new facility named in honor of Dick Zwirner who volunteered his leadership for 48 years to the cause of care and sheltering homeless dog and cats.

Richard Alexander, Shelter Administrator

Richard is responsible for the daily operation of Orphans of the Storm. Growing up surrounded by animals and animal lovers, he fell into rescue work by accident, as so many do. He began volunteering during his time at University in England and went on to work full time at one of the UK’s largest animal shelters. Over the next 10 years he excelled in multiple positions, including animal adoption specialist, social media management, event coordination, fundraising and on-site management.

Fostering, owning and caring for many dogs, he also loves to volunteer whilst travelling and has spent time working with rescues in seven different countries; there are no language barriers when it comes to walkies and treats! Richard has a strong affection for dogs with disabilities and strives to ensure a high quality of life for all the dogs and cats in his care.

Kris Irvin, Manager on Duty

Kris Irvin is responsible for the day-to-day operation of Orphans of the Storm when on duty. Kris joined our team in 2000 and immediately had a positive impact at Orphans of the Storm. Kris’s animal background started with pets at home and continued with her work at a boarding kennel. Kris’s fondest moment at Orphans of the Storm so far is when the dog named Larry got adopted in January 2001. Larry had been at the shelter since he was 4 months old, and after over four years at Orphans, he was adopted. “We almost cried,” said Kris about the day Larry was taken to a new home. Kris’s good humor and dedication to the animals helps Orphans of the Storm greatly.

Gerry Bahena, Manager on Duty

Gerry Bahena is responsible for the day-to-day operation of Orphans of the Storm when on duty. Gerry fills an important role as Gail’s right-hand man with daily medicating of the animals and receiving. He supports the shelter office with adoptions and assists the public with his knowledge of the dogs and cats. Since 1990, Gerry has grown to be a trusted and calming face to the dogs and catsand a familiar one to the visiting public.

Pam Fradin, Administrative Assistant/Special events Coordinator

Pam Fradin fills the very important role of Administrative Assistant/ Special Events Coordinator. Her 26 years of experience with Orphans of the Storm has enabled her to acquire the skill of multitasking as she coordinates the various activities in our busy shelter, while working closely with the Administrator and the Management Team.

Pam brings a special perspective to a day in the life at Orphans of the Storm having started serving as a dog adoption counselor, then helping cats find their forever homes and assisting in various duties as needed. Today, Pam coordinates all special events, organizes the volunteers for off-site adoption events, updates the website with new arrivals and adoptions of the animals and fields all emails. No wonder Pam considers Orphans of the Storm her second home.

Adoption Counselors and Volunteers

When you walk through the front door or visit our cat area you will be greeted by our knowledgeable and caring adoption counselors, Linda Snelton, Maria Nava, Michael Onesko, Jesus Escobar and Lindsay Eschito. You may also run into any number of dedicated volunteers who may be your friends or neighbors. They are all here to help find you a friend for life.

Kennel Staff

The Kennel Staff at Orphans of the Storm have been a hard working and committed group. They are the behind-the-scenes workers responsible for the many positive comments Orphans receives about the cleanliness of the shelter, the care of the animals, and their generally happy and contented dispositions. The Kennel Staff also assist with medication, handle daytime feeding and shepherding the dogs between their individual kennels and our larger outdoor exercise pens.

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