The Choose to Shine charity was launched based on three inspiring events:
- An inspiring homily after a day of painting with Chicago Cares
- Hosting our first charity event
- A stranger's request to pay it forward
In the summer of 2009, the priest at our church gave an inspiring homily about using our talents to help others. Ironically, Erin and I spent the previous day painting with Chicago Cares. While participating in that day was a wonderful experience, painting is not one of our strongest gifts. In doing so, we decided to get more involved with charities that would better leverage our gifts; namely Outrun the Sun, an organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for melanoma research.
Erin and I held an event for Outrun the Sun, where approximately 75 people came out to support our cause. We were absolutely humbled by the generosity of our friends, family, and co-workers. During the event, we learned how many people were affected by melanoma and to a greater degree the various charitable passions of those that attended. Oddly, there was a common theme. People wished they could hold similar events for causes meaningful to them. The support of our friends and family coupled with the desire to contribute to their passions inspired the idea for Choose to Shine.
As we began to research on how to start a charity, we quickly realized the immense time and financial commitment. We needed a little motivation to keep us on track. This is when our final inspiring event occurred.
A good samaritan approached us on the street and offered us tickets to a sold-out concert. Little did she know that we were trying to purchase tickets all day and came up empty-handed. When we inquired about how much she wanted for the tickets, she replied by saying, "Pay it forward. My friend is sick and I would rather take care of her than go to the concert." So here we are: trying to leverage our talents, helping our friends and family contribute to their passions and paying it forward.
- John and Erin Darguzas
John Darguzas • Co-Founder
John grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. He received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with concentrations in accounting and finance (2005). John has been a registered CPA since 2006 and currently works at GE Antares. Prior to joining GE in 2011, John worked at KPMG in the Transaction and Restructuring group. John enjoys visiting with his family, bike rides along the lake, Cub's games and the Chicago Bears. Contact John
Michael Ziemann • Co-Founder
Originally from central Wisconsin, Michael recently moved to the Chicagoland area in late 2009. While touring for 5 years in a band signed to Universal Records, he earned his degree along with performing web development and graphic design for the band's website and merchandise production. Michael is currently an Art Director for Schawk Retail Marketing in downtown Chicago. After nearly losing his father to a massive head trauma in 2008, Michael gained interest in supporting organizations such as Ronald McDonald House and Kathy's House that offer relief for emergency in-patients and families in need. His interests include motorcycles, running, traveling, architecture, fashion and golf. Contact Michael
Erin Darguzas • Co-Founder
Erin grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School (2000). She received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing at St. Xavier University in Chicago (2005) and became a member of the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honors society while in school. Erin has been a registered nurse since 2006 and currently works at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She received the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Chapman Scholar Award for an evidence-based research study in an ICU setting. Erin has volunteered with several organizations including Chicago Cares and Outrun the Sun. Erin enjoys photography, running along the lake, and hiking. Contact Erin
Elizabeth Menig • Director
Elizabeth grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Homewood Flossmoor High School (2000). She received a Bachelors of Science in Psychology with a minor in Spanish from Indiana University in 2004. She continued her education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, earning a Masters of Science in Neuroscience and is currently working on her PhD in Science Education in UIC's College of Education. Throughout her graduate career Elizabeth has spent time working in Chicago Public Schools as well as teaching at the University. In addition to education related charities, her charitable interests include several environmental organizations, South Suburban Public Assistance to Deliver Shelter (PADS), and the South Suburban Humane Society. In her spare time she loves playing and watching sports, enjoys running, biking, and spending time with her family, friends and beloved dogs. Contact Elizabeth
Katy Carey • Director
After growing up in the northwest suburbs, Katy graduated from West Leyden High School (2000) and moved on to obtain her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Illinois State University (2005). She played a very active role in her sorority, which included planning philanthropy events such as the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk. Katy began her nursing career at Northwestern Memorial hospital as a cardiac nurse. She travel nursed for one year and then returned to Northwestern to work in the cardiac intensive care unit. She is currently seeking her masters in the acute care nurse practioner program at UIC. Katy spent two weeks in Peru working with the Andean Outreach program director, where she provided in-services for staff members at Huancayo Hospital. Katy participates in fundraising events each year such as The Path to Progress and the Lupus Walk. After almost losing her mother to ovarian cancer and her brother's diagnosis of Lupus, Katy is very passionate about supporting organizations that provide the means to give back to those who have fought and their loved ones who keep fighting. When not busy working or going to school, Katy enjoys being outside, photography, sporting events and spending time with family, friends and her beloved dog Charlie. Contact Katy
A special thanks to Anne Arditti, Nathan Harnetiaux and Kari Meador - their service was instrumental in making Choose to Shine what it is today.