Past Indy Vegfest Speakers

Aimbriel Lasley

Owner, Black Mama Vegan
Aimbriel C. Lasley aka Black Mama Vegan is a native of Indianapolis, IN. Aimbriel is a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and also holds a Master’s degree in Health and Wellness Counseling. Aimbriel is very passionate about maternal and child health and within the past 2 years has adopted a vegan lifestyle for herself and family. She has found numerous ways to keep her family healthy with food and without the use of traditional western medicine. Black Mama Vegan emerged in the spring of 2017 to show other Black Mamas and families that this lifestyle is possible! Aimbriel has hosted her own workshops and has been featured on various podcast and blog platforms such as: The Good Vibes show, The Bougie Mama and Endia Nicole: Beauty, Brains & Everything in Between. Aimbriel’s hope is that more black families become more aware and engaged in this lifestyle and change our health narratives and statistics to better our future.

Alisha Madden

Owner, Vegesaurus
Alisha Madden is the owner of Vegesaurus, a vegan food truck. She creates dishes intentionally to satisfy plant-based and meat-eaters alike. This concept brings us food for all palates in an effort to change any negative perception of what vegan food is, while opening skeptics up to the idea of embracing the lifestyle in some way. Alisha is the founder of The Black Farmers Market, a public market open for business twice a year designed to meet the needs of the black community. The Black Farmers Market focuses on supporting entrepreneurship by providing a platform for vendors, support services, and programs to educate and empower our community. Vegesaurus is also becoming all local and organic in terms of their produce with the help of urban gardeners.

Anne Mitchell

Mindfulness Practicioner
Anne Mitchell is a vegan animal rights activist and daily mindfulness practitioner and has spent more than 30 years in a caregiving career. Anne knows how important it is for people who advocate for animals, the planet and human health to be present, grounded and better able to navigate all that life offers or throws at us.

Christian Mosburg

Chair, Advisory Board for Indianapolis Animal Care Services
Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, and having lived all over the U.S. since, Christian moved to Indianapolis at the end of 2003. Shortly after moving to Indianapolis, Christian became involved with several LGBTQ, political, and social justice organizations. In 2012, Christian was asked to serve on the Advisory Board for Indianapolis Animal Care Services and currently serves as the Chair. He is also a member of an alliance of Indy Animal Welfare Groups in Indianapolis, and was a part of the most recent revisions to the city code regarding animal welfare in Indianapolis. He and his spouse, City County Council Vice President Zach Adamson, live on the Near Eastside with their two rescue dogs and various other pets on a small urban farm.

Colleen Rocap

Certified Health Coach
Colleen Rocap is a Certified Health Coach, most recently earning her Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate through eCornell and the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. She serves as a Lifestyle Wellness Coach for Eskenazi Health. Colleen’s personal passion lies in teaching people, especially underprivileged populations, how to implement plant-based diets in an accessible manner without breaking the bank. Colleen’s interest in a plant-based lifestyle began about 10 years ago when she discovered that she could use food as medicine to reverse her personal health problems, such as PCOS, fatigue, and depression. Her passion has been passed on to others by motivating friends, family, clients, and patients to lose hundreds of pounds, reduce medications, and dramatically improve their quality of life through adopting healthier lifestyles focused on plant-based nutrition, fitness, mindfulness, and personal development.

Corey McDaniel

Owner, The Food Architect
My name is Corey McDaniel, also known as The Food Architect. I am a classically trained Chef turned alkaline Vegan committed to the enhancement of my community through the proper preparation of fresh flavorful plant-based soy-free dishes, Yoga (physical fitness), and most importantly public service. In 2011 I graduated from the Chef's Academy becoming a Certified Chef. I had always loved food and believed I was a health nut (due to my sports and weightlifting background) until I really learned more about food. Becoming a chef showed me the old saying was true, "a chef is a person’s first doctor". The new knowledge I gained of food opened up a new world of understanding. Now seeing the affect food choices and availability has on a community mentally and physically, I have made it my personal goal to be a "doctor" to those that need help. I have been fortunate to work at a number of restaurants across the country. I helped open Wala in Detroit, MI in 2012, and then worked in Atlanta and Savannah, GA until returning back to Indianapolis to open a food truck in 2014. From working in this industry I would often encounter homeless people hanging out by the dumpsters. It was against restaurant policy to give them food we were throwing out due to insurance issues. So even if people were waiting for food, we would have to place the food in dumpsters, and then let the homeless people get it out. It was sad to see. It seemed to literally take their dignity away. I vowed when I started my own business things would be different. In 2014 I started a feed the homeless initiative. For over 3 1/2 years now I have tried my best to feed 50-75 of our homeless residents each week. The cost for me to do this is approximately $1.75/person. I am paid each week for my time and energy by the love and gratitude exchanged from my homeless friends and the universe alike....and nothing else. I realized a long time ago, the distance between the “have” and “have nots” is not as big as we would like to believe. Each of us are just a few checks from being homeless ourselves. We must appreciate what we have been blessed with and through that, do our part to be a blessing to others. In 2011 I started to look deeper into the food I was prepping and preparing due to prior health issues. In 2005 I was diagnosed with MRSA. After my initial treatments I believed I was “cured”, only to find that whenever I ate chicken a MRSA outbreak would follow. I subsequently learned that the hormone-filled, pesticide-eating chicken I once loved was now the primary source of my problems. I started to notice issues with the quality of meat products bought, cooked and distributed by major suppliers. At first this really surprised me until I remembered something my Granddaddy once told me, “Just because you can eat it, doesn’t mean you should.” I had always been a picky eater. At around 10 years old I stopped eating chicken off the bone. I remember biting into a drumstick once; there was something about me ripping the flesh away and seeing the muscle fibers and tendons pop that grossed me out. At the age of 15 I stopped eating pork due to the influence of Malcolm X and the understanding of how close a pig’s structural make-up is to a human’s. By the time I was 17 years old, I was mentally ready to become a vegetarian, however my need to gain muscle mass to play college football stifled that thought. I was told without eating meat I would never get the vitamins and minerals I needed to excel physically on the field. It took years for me to disprove this idea. Each medicine used today is derived from a natural substance, even antidepressants. Chefs were the world’s first doctors and food was man’s first medicine. It is a known fact that feelings are created by chemical changes in the body. That’s right, your anger, love, lust, and even depression can be simplified into a chemical formula. That’s why in today’s time so many people dealing with depression are on some form of medication to help. Over the past 10 years a large and ever-growing body of evidence shows a well-balanced 100% plant-based diet is ideal to reach optimum human health. Wholegrains, beans, fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts are foods that provide all the essential nutrients that we need not just to survive, but to reach the bodies and mental clarity most long for. Under the parameters of our western diets, we eat too much protein. Excessive protein consumption has been linked to a number of serious health problems. Studies show that balanced vegan diets provide sufficient amounts of protein, and increase the consumption of the fruits and vegetables needed to maintain and increase our overall health. You have been lied too. You have been taught wrong. The reason we, as a whole, suffer so much mentally, physically, and emotionally are due to the way we have been taught to eat. There is a reason our country’s food and drug regulations are handled by the same administration. In 1970, Henry Kissinger said, “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.” Throughout Urban, inner-city, lower income, brown and black neighborhoods, we are struggling. We are eating ourselves into psychosis, depression, obesity, hyperactivity, sexual deviancy, and more due to a lack of education and resources. In too many cases we are unable to engage in and maintain healthy relationships due to chemical coaching from the food we eat. We are being fed and medicated in a manner that leads to declining behavior placing us at the mercy of a bias system. There’s an epidemic today of our children being labeled “special needs” and “problem kids” due to overstimulation and altered reasoning resulting from everyday sugar-filled food choices. We are a nation full of drug addicts, addicted to salt, sugar, flesh, blood and the emotional connection to them. In our current economy, Illness causing foods, the doctor visits, medications, and the insurance associated with it is needed, and looking at our current food standards is wanted. Sickness is big business. In the same manner the slave master made money off the blood, sweat, and tears of my ancestors, this food/medical industry today is doing same thing. Yet what was once forced on us we now happily accept and perpetuate ourselves. Knowledge is not power. The application of knowledge however is. Once you know better it’s your responsibility to do better.

Darcie Kurtz

Executive Director, Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside (FIDO)
Darcie obtained an MS degree in physiology in 1988 from Indiana University School of Medicine, conducting research with rats. Deciding to no longer participate in animal research, she worked for I.U. in clinical human studies from 1988-1991. In 2005, Darcie founded FIDO to address the unmet needs and suffering of chained and neglected outside dogs in Indianapolis and served as FIDO’s working board president for many years. In 2010, Darcie served as Deputy Director of Kennel Operations at Indianapolis Animal Care Services where she managed the kennel staff and worked to implement multiple SOPs and best-practices in animal care. Darcie facilitated the shelter/neuter/return partnership between IACS and the FACE/Indy Feral community cat program. In 2012, Darcie joined the FACE Low-Cost Animal Clinic as the Director of Outreach and Medical Services. In 2014, Darcie joined the Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinics of Brownsburg and Noblesville. She developed and implemented a new multi-county spay/neuter transport program that now serves 12 central Indiana counties. Darcie led the development of many FIDO programs, including alley outreach, fence-building, lost dog recovery, and the pet food pantry. She led the team advocating for improvements to the Indianapolis dog care and treatment ordinance, by drafting ordinance language, networking with local city officials, and ultimately achieving passage of the ordinance in 2015. Darcie has subsequently led the public awareness campaign to educate the community on the ordinance. In 2017, she helped develop a 3-year strategic plan for the organization which led to a recent large grant award to support FIDO’s continued growth and long-term sustainability. Darcie was recently hired as FIDO’s first full-time Executive Director. Darcie was raised in a meat-and-potatoes-eating home in northern Indiana. She transitioned to vegetarianism as an adult in the late 80’s. Darcie began transitioning to veganism around the turn of the millennium and still strives to be 100% vegan.

Dawn Contos


Dr. Carol Wroblewski

Indianapolis Affiliate, Food for Life
Dr. Carol Wroblewski is the Indianapolis affiliate for Food for Life. The Food for Life program is a direct service nutritional education program of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). PCRM is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventative medicine, particularly good nutrition, conducts clinical research, and supports higher standards in research. Carol adopted a whole-food plant- based diet in 2010 to maintain an 80 pound weight loss as well as a means of improving health. She holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Foundation, delivered by eCornell. She is a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM). Her day job is working as a licensed psychologist at Franciscan Weight Loss Center while her overall commitment is to health and wellness.

Dr. Joel Kahn

Founder, Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity
Dr. Kahn is founder, the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity in Detroit and Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine. He is owner of GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale and Royal Oak, MI. He has authored 5 books, all #1 bestsellers, the latest of which is The Plant Based Solution published January, 2018. He has a national public TV special, The Whole Heart Solution. He has appeared on Dr. Phil and The Doctors and is a regular on Fox News.

Dr. Lisa Harris

CEO, Eskenazi Health
Dedicating her career to improving health care for vulnerable and underserved populations, Lisa E. Harris, M.D., has practiced medicine for 30 years at nationally recognized Eskenazi Health. Today, Dr. Harris serves as Eskenazi Health’s chief executive officer, leading one of America’s essential health care systems that also serves as a vital training ground for the Indiana University School of Medicine. In addition to her leadership role at Eskenazi Health, Dr. Harris remains actively engaged in patient care, research and teaching. Long before national health care reform took shape in America, Dr. Harris concentrated Eskenazi Health’s resources on prevention, health promotion and primary care, asserting that the greatest opportunity to improve the health and vitality of a community is to keep people well in the first place. She is intensely focused on improving access to patient-centered, comprehensive, community-based primary and mental health care, health promotion and effective chronic disease management. And, as past chair of America’s Essential Hospitals (formerly the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems), Dr. Harris has nurtured the organization’s strong presence on Capitol Hill, advocating for our nation’s most vulnerable populations. Also an active and engaged leader in the local community, Dr. Harris serves as president of the board of directors of the American Red Cross of Indiana, as well as on the boards of directors for the Regenstrief Institute, Julian Center, Second Helpings, MESH (Managed Emergency Surge for Healthcare), and the inaugural board of directors of the Patachou Foundation, focused on providing healthful food to homeless children. She also serves on the boards of United Way of Central Indiana and the Christian Theological Seminary and served as the 2015 chair of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women initiative. In 2009, Dr. Harris helped successfully lead a campaign seeking voter approval for a new Wishard Hospital campus. Prior to the 2009 special election calling upon voters to approve the construction, Dr. Harris helped build coalition of community and business leaders and participated in more than 200 meetings to share information about the project. An astounding 85 percent of voters said yes to the referendum; in 33 precincts, not one opposing vote was cast. In 2011, the organization received a $40 million gift from Indianapolis couple Sidney and Lois Eskenazi, in honor of whom Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County named the new hospital facilities. The Eskenazi Health campus opened in December 2013 and is among the first and largest hospital campuses in the United States and the first in Indiana to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold certification.

Dr. Saray Stancic

Physician and Founder, Stancic Health & Wellness
Dr. Saray Stancic is the founder and owner of Stancic Health & Wellness, LLC where she is a board- certified Lifestyle Medicine physician. The focus of her practice is to counsel patients on achieving wellness via lifestyle modification and the adoption of a plant-based diet. She received her M.D. degree from New Jersey Medical School in 1993 and is board-certified in Infectious Diseases and Lifestyle Medicine. From 1999 to 2006, she served as Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Hudson Valley Veterans Administration Hospital in New York. She was later recruited by Roche Pharmaceuticals to conduct clinical studies for new treatments for hepatitis infections before going into private practice. She has authored several research papers in peer-reviewed journals. She serves as Mentor to the Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group at Rutgers, New Jersey Medical School in Newark, NJ. Dr. Stancic’s interest in Lifestyle Medicine evolved from her 20 plus year battle with multiple sclerosis. She has been an invited author for Forks Over Knives, and the Center for Nutrition Studies, and has been interviewed on national podcasts, radio and television shows. She was the subject of a cover story in the August 20, 2015 issue of Dirt Magazine, and was named one of the “17 People to Watch in Health in 2015” in the January 2015 issue of 201 Magazine. She has spoken to diverse audiences, from mothers to medical students, on the impact of Lifestyle Medicine and the importance of plant-based nutrition. She has served as keynote speaker on the national stage and has been an invited speaker at conferences such as Plant Stock, Plant Based Prevention of Disease, The American College of Lifestyle Medicine and Prevention and Reversal of Heart Disease in Women. She is currently producing a documentary film, code blue: redefining the practice of medicine, which will spotlight the practice of Lifestyle Medicine to prevent, treat, and reverse chronic illnesses. code blue is planned to be release in the Fall of 2018.

Dr. Tara Harris

Pediatrician and Founder, Every Dog counts Rescue
Dr. Tara Harris is a pediatrician and founder of Every Dog Counts Rescue (EDCR). EDCR is a foster-based organization, specializing in care of sick, injured, orphaned, and elderly dogs. If an individual has the ability to enjoy life, EDCR believes they deserve that chance. Since they were founded in 2010, EDCR has saved the lives of thousands of dogs and cats, plus a handful of other animal friends. Many of the dogs in EDCR (and volunteers!) thrive on vegan diets!

Erin Huang

Indiana State Director, The Human Society of the United States
Erin Huang is the Indiana State Director for The Humane Society of the United States. Prior to coming to HSUS, Erin worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney for The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in Indiana, where Erin served 3 of her nearly 5 years at the office solely prosecuting animal cruelty offenses. Erin has been with The HSUS for 5 years and also works as an adjunct faculty at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law teaching Animals in the Law. In her role as state director, Erin works alongside shelters and rescues, helps facilitate law enforcement training, educates the public on animal welfare issues, and works on laws to strengthen animal welfare for all animals. Erin lives in Indianapolis with her family, including her 2 dogs and cat. photo credit Jason Geil for the HSUS

Evan Black

DJ Stylistic
Evan Black, also known as DJ Stylistic, is a local DJ here in Indianapolis. Stylistic has been DJing around Indianapolis for about 11 years and is a DJ instructor at Deckademics DJ School in Broad Ripple. He has been a DJ for the Indiana Pacers for the last 5 years. Stylistic has been a vegan for about 11 years now. Outside of DJing, he is an advocate for educating people of color on plant-based diets and veganism.

Francis Krug

Owner, Proverbial Grounds
Francis Krug is the owner of Proverbial Grounds and also a Whole Food, Plant-Based personal chef in Indianapolis. Certified through the Rouxbe Culinary Program, he utilizes traditional methods for cooking and flavors and educates others how to navigate the alchemy of plant-based cooking. Francis also served on the Indy VegFest Executive Board and is the Director of Food Education.

Ian Phillips

Owner, Three Carrots

Janae Schum

Owner, TheMidwestVeg
Hi ya’ll! My name is Janae and I am the person behind @themidwestveg Instagram account. I have been vegan for about a year and a half, ever since starting my account! I started it as a way to hold myself accountable, meet like-minded people and spread the vegan message in the Indy area. I have two dogs that love to make appearances and taste test. Although they will eat anything, so they aren’t very reliable critics! Becoming vegan was a process for me, as I grew up in southern Indiana surrounded by farmland. Breaking free from that mindset that bacon belongs in everything and the idea that a meal without meat is just a snack was the greatest thing I could do for the animals, our Earth and my health. I look forward to continuing to share my vegan journey. Follow along and tell me about yours!

Jane Esselysten, RN

RN and Health Educator
Jane Esselstyn RN is a fresh, charismatic voice who brings her perspective and passion as a nurse, researcher, mother, and teacher to the forefront of the plant-based movement. She presents her work, research, and high energy demos around the world. Her annual conference, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease for Women, focuses on the power of a plant-based approach to eliminate this #1 killer of women and other preventable, lifestyle related diseases. Jane claims, “Prevention is the New Cure!” — and the most powerful and protective medicine we have is a plant-based diet. Jane is an avid and inventive designer of plant-strong recipes and the co-author of The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook. She created the recipe sections of #1 NYTimes bestseller, Plant-Strong and The Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue, by Rip Esselstyn. And she is co-author of The Engine 2 Cookbook. Jane brings her infectious energy and straight forward message to her presentations, cooking demonstrations, and cookbooks with clarity, hilarity, and a can-do attitude. She and her husband Brian Hart live in Cleveland Ohio with their 3 plant-based children. Jane graduated from the University of Michigan, where she competed as an All-American swimmer and varsity rower.

Jannifer Denise

Holistic Wellness & Life Coach
Jannifer Denise is a holistic Wellness & Life Coach, published author, and self-care product artisan. An Indianapolis native, Jannifer has served with a variety of organizations focusing in the areas Health & Wellness and minority business. Jannifer’s personal struggles with nutrition and self-care over the years became the driving force for her lifestyle changes that included veganism, a regular regimen of meditation and avid self-care. Her life lessons and personal journey in nutrition and self-care birthed several small businesses before blooming into LoveLifeWell LLC. After her undergrad, Jannifer received her training from New York’s Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a cutting-edge Health Coach training program where she studied over 100 dietary theories, practical lifestyle management techniques, and innovative coaching methods with some of the world’s top health and wellness experts. Founding LoveLifeWell LLC in 2014, Jannifer desires to encourage, empower, and educate her community to LoveLifeWell, a mantra she believes simply reminds us ‘we all deserve a life we love well’. While overcoming her own personal health and life challenges, Jannifer truly discovered firsthand the important role of self-care in wellness and became an even stronger advocate for all 8 dimensions of wellness as means to optimum existence. As a coach and speaker, Jannifer empowers her clients and audience to build new and exciting relationships around their lifestyle choices while empowering self-discovery and healing. Giving her efforts and energy to causes she truly believes in, this bold, bubbly, small statured young lady genuinely desires to serve her community in a grand way.

Jesse Kharbanda

Executive Director, Hoosier Environmental Council
Jesse Kharbanda is the Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana’s largest environmental policy organization. He oversees HEC’s strategic and program development, legislative initiatives, operations, and fundraising. Jesse has spearheaded focusing HEC’s efforts on three core initiatives: clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and 21st century transportation systems. Jesse has made it a priority of HEC to build bridges with groups that may not have been as engaged with the organization in the past, such as the business community and faith-based groups. Jesse’s decade-long involvement in Indiana legislative matters began in 2006 while at the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Jesse’s leadership honors include being named to the “Forty Under 40″ list by the Indianapolis Business Journal in 2011, being recognized as the sole Indianapolis-based community leader named to Delta Omega, the national public health honorary, in 2010, and winning the Hulman Health Achievement Award for Public Policy Advocacy in 2015. Jesse has graduate degrees from Oxford University and undergraduate degrees from the University of Chicago.

Kelly Freeman

Board Member, Cardiovascular and Diabetes Coalition of Indiana
Kelly Freeman is a nurse practitioner and teaches nursing students in Indiana. She is an advocate for food policy that will lead to better health for humans, animals, and our planet. She is on the board of directors for the Cardiovascular and Diabetes Coalition of Indiana and is also a member of the Chronic Disease Advisory Group. A diplomat of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Kelly co-chairs the ACLM RN/APRN National Task Force.

Kendra Solomon

I was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana where there was no representation of African American farmers. There was also no influence to eat healthy in my neighborhood. When I turned 25, I started a plant based eating regime and began to do research on healthy eating practices. Once I learned about the harmful chemicals in the foods that I was eating, even the vegetables that I thought were good for me, I wanted to make a change. After some coaxing from a good friend that already adopted the lifestyle, I went vegan. In late 2016, I took it a step further, by deciding to grow clean food for myself and the people in my city.

Kristina Hulvershorn

Kristina Hulvershorn is the author of Secret of the Troublemakers and works in the fields of humane education and restorative justice (with HEART and Peace Learning Center). She is a mother of two and is deeply concerned with issues facing animals, other humans, and the planet. She knows that we all can be part of making the world a more peaceful and just place and aspires to connect people with that power.

Kurt Schroeder

Founder, The Rational Vegan and Catalyst Records
Schroeder will be speaking at the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza at the kickoff of the People's Climate March Kurt Schroeder is a long-term vegan and activist, who you can either find at a local coffee shop or traveling as much as he possibly can. He is a graduate of Indiana University, where his curriculum focused on Religious and Gender Studies, and currently works as a web developer. Schroeder is also an entrepreneur, musician, home-renovator, and founder of both The Rational Vegan podcast and Catalyst Records, an independent record label that focuses on promoting bands with environmental and social justice messages.

Marc McAleavey, MSW

Executive Director, Serve Indiana
Marc McAleavey’s life changed when he and his family adopted a vegan lifestyle. In fact, becoming a vegan in his 30’s perfectly captured the empathy, compassion, and abundance mentality that has driven his entire career of nearly two decades as a community and organizational leader. Prior to joining Serve Indiana as Executive Director, Marc most recently served as the founding Executive Director of Playworks Indiana and, prior to that, the founding Executive Director of Public Allies Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, where he also served as the Evaluation and Documentation Manager. McAleavey founded The Zawadi Exchange, an Asset Based Community Development organization in Indianapolis’ Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood. Marc is the former Chair of the Board of Directors for Broadway United Methodist Church, former member of the Board of Directors for Mapleton-Fall Creek Community Development Corporation, and the Indiana University School of Social Work Alumni Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the advisory board of the national Up2Us Sports, Board President for the Crooked Creek Community Development Corporation’s Board of Directors, Board secretary of the Indiana Afterschool Network, and Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary’s Board of Directors in New Jersey. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy from Indiana University as well as a Master of Social Work degree from the Indiana University School of Social Work, where he is an Adjunct Professor. Marc lives near downtown Indianapolis with his wife, two young children, and cat where they love to run, play baseball, and sing and dance after dinner. While Marc loves all animals, he is partial to gorillas and lemurs.

Mark Pruitt

Co-Founder, Uplands PEAK Sanctuary
Mark Pruitt was born in Henderson, KY and has spent most of his life in the state with exception of eight years in NYC. Mark earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Hunter School of Social Work and most of his adult career was spent in the field of mental health. He has traveled extensively in the United States and enjoyed a wide range of adventures from working in Alaska to hiking portions of the Appalachian Trail. Pruitt became vegan in 2011 and was initially exposed to veganism by his wife Michelle, but also greatly influenced by a Gary Yourofsky video. Mark states, “It had always been my dream to create and work with a retreat center of sorts, as a career change. Becoming vegan allowed me to combine desire with a cause I was passionate about. It is also really exciting to be on the cutting edge of a revolution that can literally transform the world for the better, simply by making a food choice.”

Marla Rose

Journalist and Co-Founder, Chicago VeganMania
Marla Rose is an award-nominated journalist, columnist and author as well as the co-founder of Chicago VeganMania, the largest free vegan festival of its kind in the Midwest, now in its 10th year. Since 1995, Marla has dedicated her life to building vegan culture and community. In addition to writing most of the content and managing social media for Vegan Street, she is co-founder of the annual free vegan festival, now in its 10th year, Chicago VeganMania. In 2009, she and her husband John Beske [pronounced Bes-kee] were awarded the Mercy for Animals Activists of the Year award. For the past several years, she has been writing feature stories for magazines, acted as programming director for Chicago VeganMania and has spoken at the Animal Rights Conference, Vegetarian Summerfest, and several other conferences and festivals. In 2015, she and John created Vegan Street Media, a creative agency dedicated to bringing the most effective, professional and unforgettable communications to vegan businesses, services, product lines and non-profits. As Vegan Street Media, they serve clients seeking logos, packaging, campaigns, promotions, branding, social media, web development and consulting. She is the author of several books, including the new cookbook and guidebook, Fun, Festive and Fabulous: Vegan Holidays for Everyone.

Michael Budkie

Executive Director, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN)
Michael Budkie, A.H.T., is the co-founder and Executive Director of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN). SAEN works exclusively on the animal experimentation issue by successfully terminating research projects, forcing the USDA to take legal action against laboratories and coordinating release of animals into sanctuaries. After witnessing the atrocities of animal experimentation during his education, he successfully ended a head injury experiment on cats at the University of Cincinnati that launched his career leading to positions with several national organizations before he co-founded SAEN in the mid-1990s. He has been published and he travels extensively, appearing on TV and radio programs to expose the truth about animal experimentation.

Michelle Pruitt

Co-Founder, Uplands PEAK Sanctuary
Michelle Pruitt is Co-Founder, along with her husband, Mark Pruitt of Uplands PEAK Sanctuary, in Salem, Indiana. She's a full-time volunteer with PEAK. Pruitt's professional background includes employee recruitment, workshop facilitation and career/personal coaching in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. She holds a BA in Speech Communication from Indiana University. She completed an extensive immersion of animal care and shelter management at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary to prepare for running her own sanctuary. Additionally, she has visited other sanctuaries and conducted substantial research on farm animal care and advocacy. Pruitt has been an ethical vegan since May 2011. She resides on the Sanctuary property with Mark, their five companion animals, and all the PEAK residents.

Miracle Hall

Miracle Hall is a 21 year old freelance artist, vegan advocate and more. Throughout the Midwest and Southern U.S., her recognizable canvasses are bold colored acrylic paintings of feminine characters, vegetation, nature and animals. She offers live painting and paint classes. During her live paintings, onlookers absorb positive energy and good vibrations as well. Her stroke and sip paint classes are fun loving and get the creative juices flowing. You can view her art on Facebook at blaclunar23. Advocating for veganism, she focuses on millennials in low-income, urban communities where healthy eating choices are not an option. She uses social media, podcast, and panel discussions and her peers are taking notes. Miracle sees the damage that unhealthy eating causes her community and is taking the initiative by creating plant-based products and offering meditation and yoga services in the areas that she calls home.

Ndem Nkem

Owner, Hot Chocolate Fitness
Ndem Nkem is a skilled Fitness Trainer, award-winning Powerlifter, Public Speaker and Vlogger. He credits going meat-free for 12 years and Vegan for the last 7 years, as being the best decision for his life, the animals and the planet. He has spoken at numerous events, featured in blogs and magazines such as veg news. Ndem inspires others to be active, build muscle and increase health all while living more compassionately through a Vegan lifestyle.

Nicole Sopko

Vice President, Upton's Naturals and owner, Nature Yoga Sanctuary
Nicole Sopko is the Vice President of Upton’s Naturals, the owner of Chicago-area yoga centers Nature Yoga Sanctuary and Yoga Trek Center, a teacher of yoga and the Secretary of the Board for the newly-formed Plant Based Foods Association. She manages her busy life by being incredibly passionate about all of her roles and driven towards the success of sustainable, compassionate business practices. She is a vegan of over 20 years with a strong interest in vegan foods and their origins. Sopko will present Vegan Food: A History. Take a peek into the past and learn about how vegan foods, diet, and products first came to the United States. You’ll hear about the early proponents of a plant based diet, which included medical doctors, fitness professionals, and more. Find out about the vegan products, magazines, and restaurants that existed over 100 years ago. So much of what we see happening in the vegan food scene now is reflected in our past. Look back and see where we may be headed next!

Patrice Graham-Adams

Patrice Graham-Adams is a wife and Stay-at-Home mother of five amazing children ages 17, 11, 8, 4, and 2. She is a lover of all things vintage! In fact, she is the owner of an online boutique, Gaudy Vintage where she specializes in handpicked vintage statement jewelry and accessories. She also enjoys roles as a personal buyer and stylist. Patrice has a strong passion to uplift youth and the community and it shows in her young adult mentorships and work with Smokefree Indy, the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission, and various community agencies in adopting local and state smokefree air laws. Her professional experience includes working as an Associate Program Director at the American Diabetes Association, an Account Executive at Promotus Advertising, and a Tobacco Health Educator for the Minority Health Coalition. In her spare time, she enjoys thriftiness, trying new foods, and traveling with her family.

Robert Grillo

Director, Free From Harm
Robert Grillo is the director of Free from Harm which he founded in 2009 to advocate on behalf of farmed animals and to bring awareness to how animal agriculture is connected to all other forms of exploitation. As an activist, author and speaker, Grillo draws insights from popular culture, sociology, psychology, ethics and social justice to bridge the gap between humans and other animals. As a marketing communications professional for over 20 years, Grillo worked on large food industry accounts where he acquired a behind-the-scenes perspective on food branding and marketing. His new book, Farm to Fable: The Fictions of Our Animal-Consuming Culture exposes the many ways we have all conditioned into a culture where mass animal consumption is the norm. Other published works include contributions to Caged: Top Activists Share Their Wisdom on Effective Animal Advocacy and Circles of Compassion: Connecting Issues of Justice. In addition to these published works Grillo writes articles for Free from Harm and curates work from other leading authors.

Rose Douglass

Co-Owner, Voodoo Public House
Rose Douglass is the co-owner of Voodoo Public House along with her husband, Daniel. The two opened the doors in 2015 and specialize in fresh, scratch-made fare with several vegan and vegetarian options. Rose and Daniel are both vegan and have expertise in crafting meatless proteins and plant-based dishes. Rose has her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Indiana University and works for the State of Indiana.

Sara Laycock

Campaigns Manager, Mercy for Animals
Sara Laycock serves as the Campaigns Manager for Mercy For Animals, an international farmed animal protection organization, where she helps develop campaigns to push major corporations to eliminate cruel practices throughout their global supply chains. She spent the first twelve years of her career as a lobbyist and community economic development advocate in Indiana. Laycock became vegan for her health, the environment, and most of all, for the animals. Forever a Hoosier, Laycock and her husband, Rob, currently live in Denver, Colorado, with their mighty mutts Ruby and Cora.

Shay Boyd

Owner, Pretty Brown Vegan
Shay Boyd is an Indianapolis, IN native. She obtained her bachelor's degree from Purdue University in Business Management in 2014. Shay began blogging in 2015, and, in 2016 she launched Pretty Brown Vegan - a comfort food blog for the transitioning vegan. To further her culinary passions she is currently seeking a degree in Culinary Arts from The Art Institute of Indianapolis and has been Serve Safe Certified since 2017.

Tionna Aura

Musician and Artist
Tionna Aura is an artist of all sorts...from painting, to designing to redesigning clothes, a hair stylist/artist, painter and a music artist! She uses all angles to help raise awareness and consciousness. Her first music release, Every Day is Halloween, came out on Halloween and is available on ALL music platforms and also has a very important message in her first music video "20 TEXTS(MISTEAK)." She also is a vegan hair stylist here locally and can be contacted through social media for any questions or ideas. She has a main page that focuses on herself as an artist, then has pages to display all of her other arts and promote animal peace/universal love, and understanding. For info on lifestyle: @the_harsh_vegan; for music & consciousness & designs: @TionnaAura; for Hair Art/Styling: @TionnaStyles_ ; and for painting @ireincarnateart. On Facebook: Tionna Aura.

Wendell Fowler

Chef, WISH TV host and author
Chef Wendell Fowler is teaching a disconnected world how to mindfully nourish their body, spirit, and mind with foods from Earth’s garden, not a barnyard. Eating a closer-to-earth, compassionate, plant-based diet has been repeatedly proven to prevent disease. Hippocrates doppelganger, the syndicated columnist presents his “Eat Right Now” program at many of Indiana’s leading corporate and social organizations. His syndicated food column and popular weekly TV segment on WISH TV in Central Indiana are followed by thousands. Chef has been an on-air contributor at WISH TV in Indianapolis for 16 years. He is the author of: “Eat Right Now: The End of Mindless Eating”. “Eat Right Now 2.0: It’s All About the Food” and Eat Right Now: Diet for Kinder Gentler Planet.” From Alaska to New Hampshire Chef’s NAMPA award winning “Eat Right Now” syndicated column receives high praise.

lauren Ornelas

Executive Director, Food Empowerment Project
lauren Ornelas is the founder and executive director of Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.), a vegan food justice nonprofit that promotes veganism, fights for farm workers, works on lack of access to healthy foods in communities of color, and encourages people not to buy chocolate sourced from the worst forms of child labor. She has been active in the animal rights movement since 1987, having started the first high school animal rights group in San Antonio, Texas, and then Action for Animals, a group she launched in college and that is still active in Austin. In 1999, lauren was asked by Viva!UK to start and run Viva!USA in 1999. As the leader of Viva!USA, lauren investigated factory farms and ran consumer campaigns, working with activists nationwide. In cooperation with other activists, lauren persuaded Trader Joe’s to stop selling duck meat, convinced Pier 1 Imports to stop using feathers, and was the spark that got the CEO of Whole Foods Market to become a vegan. She also helped halt the construction of an industrial dairy operation in California. Watch lauren’s TEDx talk on The Power of Our Food Choices. Learn more about F.E.P.’s work at and