Key People

Committed to the Cause

Since our formal founding in 2019, Communication is Key AAC has developed and grown in a positive direction. We’re very proud of our volunteer team, and their abilities to contribute their own unique experience and skills to our success. Find out more about some of our team members below.

Rachel Rick

Secretary

Rachel resides in Metro Detroit, with her family and full time working mom to Haven 8, and Remy 4.  Rachel is also CiK secretary as well as serving on our advisory board. She shares a passion for inclusion and awareness for special needs children and their families. Rachel is an advocate for Haven who is a successful low tech AAC user, and recently has acquired an Ipad with Proloquo2go from another Michigan nonprofit. Despite the multiple hats she wears, her organizational skills, resourcefulness, dedication, and selflessness are a vital component to our organizations success! When she’s not working, or doing therapy runs, she enjoys cooking, photography, and genealogy research.

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Joseph Dapkus Jr

Development Assistant

Joe Dapkus Jr, husband to founder Julia, and father to Isabelle 7.  Joe is a successful business owner of a commercial building restoration company in the Detroit area. Joe is a dedicated father, who is driven to help children like Isabelle have the most happy and successful life possible. In a previous life, Joe would have been an elementary school teacher, as his love for children still shines through whenever he is around them. He is definitely the FUN parent and uncle. Joe's business experience as well as knowledge has allowed CiK to grow at rapid rate, as he contributes to our marketing and business development. Although downtime is scarce, Joe enjoys doing anything that makes Isabelle smile especially dancing and swimming! He is an avid golfer and bowler and enjoys a good murder mystery show.

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Amanda Thielen

Marketing Specialist

Amanda is a part-time working mom to Nicholas, 11 and Scarlett, 5. Amanda became passionate about communication when Nicholas began speech therapy. Although Nicholas is not an AAC user, communication was not easy for him as an autistic individual. Seeing how empowered Nicholas became after gaining the ability to communicate effectively sparked Amanda’s passion around this topic. Having spent the last 18+ years working in marketing and advertising, Amanda is thrilled to combine her dedication to advocacy, inclusion and awareness for special needs children and their families with her career knowledge and expertise. When she has downtime, you’ll find Amanda reading, cooking or playing games with her family.

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Justin Rick
 

Board Member

Justin is originally from Saginaw, but now resides in metro Detroit. Married to his wife Rachel, they share a passion for service and awareness to special needs children and their families. Father to Haven 10 an ACC user, and Remy 6. He is a full time stay at home dad and part time Jack of all trades. When free time arises he enjoys gardening, fishing and mushroom foraging.

Amanda Valenzuela

Board Member

Amanda is the mom of three young children, Simon age 9, Mena age 6, and Gemma age 2. She’s been married to fellow CiK member Neil for the past 12 years. Her oldest Simon has truly changed her life through his journey with epilepsy and autism. At age 3, he began to lose his ability to speak due to a rare epilepsy disorder known as Landau Kleffner Syndrome. He is now completely nonverbal and is a full time AAC user. His journey with AAC has given her a new perspective on communication and made her eager to share that perspective with others. She works part time as a pediatric registered nurse at a community hospital in Oakland county. In her spare time she enjoys watching bad tv on Netflix, working on updating their new/old home, and recently has joined the Peloton craze.

Neil Valenzuela

Team Member

Neil is husband to a pediatric nurse, Amanda, and the doting father of three littles, including Simon, who is an AAC user. Neil brings positive, peaceful energy to Communication is Key AAC, as well as his mutual passion for advocacy and inclusivity. Neil's professional background includes health care insurance, and in a previous life, a well-known DJ. He is a sports fanatic, loves to run, and travel. 

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Get to know more about our incredible team today.