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


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.


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.


Katie Hiltz

Assistant to Executive Director

Katie shares our passion for inclusivity and advocacy and has a long working relationship with the Miracle League of Plymouth

 and as a certified respite provider for families in Michigan. Katie's contributions to our team include project management and development, outreach, research, and overall support to the executive director. Katie completed her speech pathology prerequisites at Michigan State University in 2021 and plans on entering a speech pathology master's program. In the little free time, she has, Katie enjoys being a cat mom, reading, photography and spending time with friends and family.


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.