Director of Development
Joan grew up in Northfield and is a New Trier graduate. She brings a deep understanding of mental health and suicide to Elyssa’s Mission. At an early age, Joan was impacted by mental illness when her father died by suicide. Further on, she lost a close friend to suicide. These losses came at a time when there were no school, professional or community resources available to help families deal with the unique grief process associated with suicide.
Joan was determined to make a difference in people’s lives and made a career decision to work in the non-profit sector, specifically, fundraising. Joan spent a decade working for the American Cancer Society (ACS). While at ACS she coordinated the largest bikeathon in Illinois. She finished off her tenure by establishing the Relay for Life on the North Shore. Most recently, Joan worked for the Lupus Foundation of America as a Senior National Walk Manager. She led the Walk to End Lupus Now program and launched events in Tampa, Denver, Chicago, New York City and San Francisco.
Joan will lead the development efforts for Elyssa’s Mission and help to strategically develop a comprehensive plan to diversify the organization’s fundraising portfolio into major gifts by expanding the current donor base and developing special events.
Joan’s fundraising philosophy is that “people give to people when they know a cause is important to them” and believes that all development is based on relationship building. She is excited to bring her successful fundraising career to Elyssa’s Mission, a cause that is near and dear to her heart.
Joan has two grown sons, Stephen and John. She resides in Chicago.
Jodie Segal, MSW
Director of Education
As Director of Education, Jodie collaborates with schools, agencies and religious institutions in order to raise awareness and provoke dialogue about teenage suicide among teens, staff and parents. Her primary task is assisting area-wide middle and high schools to implement the SOS Signs of Suicide® Prevention Program, an evidence-based suicide prevention program that teaches students how to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and seek out needed help from a trusted adult. In addition to providing hands-on support to those staff members implementing SOS, Jodie further facilitates all-staff training sessions, as well as presentations for parents, in order to help these groups identify and support at-risk youth. Jodie is no stranger to preventative efforts, or to working with schools, families and community organizations. She began her career as a school social worker, where she implemented a range of programs designed to foster resiliency in students and strengthen their support systems.
Prior to joining Elyssa’s Mission, Jodie spent six years as an assistant principal at both the elementary and middle school level. She has a solid awareness of the issues and pressures affecting today’s youth, and, like Elyssa’s Mission, recognizes the need to work collaboratively in order to build a safer community: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”—Helen Keller. Jodie has a B.A. degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a Masters in Social Work from the University of WI-Madison. She completed her school administration degree at Loyola University. Jodie resides in Deerfield with her husband Gary and their two young daughters.
Melissa Molitor, LSW
Melissa and Elyssa were dear friends during junior high and high school. In 2008, Melissa joined the Elyssa’s Mission Board of Directors and is thrilled to have joined the team as Program Director in 2016. She assists in the expansion of the SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention® Program to area schools. Melissa also facilitates postvention grief groups in schools following a student suicide. Melissa started a new chapter of Elyssa’s Mission called: Embrace Mental Health. Embrace is a group of young professionals speaking out to eliminate the stigma of mental illness by educating college-aged students about depression and suicide.
Melissa has previous experience in several area high schools working with adolescents in both individual and group counseling, crisis counseling, as well as teaching the SOS Program in grades 6th-12th. Melissa attended New Trier High School and has a B.A. degree from Indiana University Bloomington and a Masters degree in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago. Melissa resides in Chicago with her husband Tom.
President of the Board of Directors
Joanne and her husband Alan, along with family and friends, established Elyssa’s Mission in 2006. They started the organization to honor their oldest daughter, Elyssa, who was diagnosed with PTSD and with a predisposition to depression. Elyssa lost her battle with mental illness and post traumatic stress disorder on February 11, 2004.
Joanne serves as the President of the Board of Elyssa’s Mission. As President of the Board, she is responsible for developing and implementing the strategic plan that allows the organization to meet its mission. Through her passion and vision, Joanne has helped Elyssa’s Mission implement the SOS Signs of Suicide® Prevention Program in over 130 schools throughout the Chicagoland area. She oversees the entire operation of the organization.