MEET THE STARS
Amanda was raised in Arkansas. She has five sisters and one brother. Amanda was a cheerleader in high school. She has learned to accept her mental illness. She reads everything. She enjoys listening to music, horror movies, zumba and crossword puzzles. “I enjoy having fun and being with a group that cares about me and loves me.”
Julie sings in two choirs. She loves to read. Her hobbies include cooking and baking. Julie has been married for forty-nine years. “I love the Stars!”
Brian enjoys being a part of the Stars of Light. He has wanted to try acting for a while. He enjoys working with and being around people who face problems that are similar to his.
Mike lives in Leaf River, Illinois. He is a professional singer and song writer. He enjoys playing guitar and is soon to be an author. Mike is an advocate for autism, mental health and anything else that can make the world a better place.
Neva is a Rockford native. She is the mother of three, grandmother of six and great grandmother of two. Neva is an artist and uses all mediums. She prefers watercolors. She enjoys being the prop mistress of the troupe. “I love being creative and trying new things. I appreciate the support and trust of the group.”
Paul was born in Madison, Wisconsin and has lived in Rockford since he was seven years old. He was involved in sports and ROTC in school and continues to be a big sports fan. While in school Paul worked on political campaigns and is still fascinated by politics. Paul holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration and worked in mental health and vocational rehab. He enjoys singing and acting. He is married and has one son and one grandson. Paul received the Star of NAMI Award from NAMI Northern Illinois in 2013.
Heidi was born in Rockford and raised in Winnebago. She has worked since she was fourteen on a variety of jobs. Heidi is an athlete and got a full ride to college playing basketball. She also played softball. She has coached high school softball and basketball and junior college basketball. She spends her fun time in the outdoors. She is a dog lover and dog rescuer. “Expressive Therapy led to getting into the troupe. It’s a huge part of my recovery. It’s my support and family.”
Mary Gubbe Lee
Mary has been with the Stars since 1995. She serves as stage mom, producer, driver and actress. The people in the troupe are her inspiration and provide her with the fortitude to work in behavioral health.
Heidi is a Rockford native. She enjoys spending time with family, especially her six nieces and nephews. Heidi loves all forms of creative writing including poetry. She reads everything. Heidi is a sports fan and watches reality TV. She communicates using Facebook. Heidi states “I like being on stage. I like hanging out with friends in a group. I enjoy educating the public and reducing the stigma that surrounds mental illness. I want to take what I’ve learned and “pay it forward’”.
Donna came to Rockford in 1993. She is the mother of three sons, one of which has a serious mental illness. She is the proud grandmother of one boy. Donna is involved in advocacy through NAMI. She is proud of the local justice system and is looking forward to filling in the gaps of the mental health system. Donna enjoys acting writing, public speaking and is working on getting her book published. “It’s therapeutic for me given the trial of having a serious mental illness and being the mother of a man with serious mental illness.”
Tom was born in South Bend, Indiana and has lived in Rockford most of his life. He enjoyed playing tennis in school. His hobbies are reading and walking. The Stars of Light have been good for his self-esteem.
Tiffany is a Rockford native. She has one brother and one niece. Tiffany likes hanging out with friends and shopping. She loves to sing. “I enjoy travelling and meeting new people. I want to teach people about mental illness and reduce stigma.”
Stephen F. Vrtol, III
Steve is a professional actor and psychosocial rehab professional. He is a member of Actors’ Equity and Artists’ Ensemble Theater. Steve directs tour shows and radio shows, writes material and conducts client groups using the expressive arts. On occasion, he joins in with song, guitar and harmonica. The Stars are his inspiration and his teachers.
Lisa is a Rockford native. She has two brothers, one sister and five nieces and nephews. She started acting in high school. Lisa is involved in the Special Olympics and plays bocce and basketball. She loves to read and play wii. She likes being on stage and telling jokes. “I enjoy being around people who I love very much. My goal is to listen to my gut.”
Having a jolly time.
NAMI Northern Illinois
is dedicated to improving the quality of life of individuals with
mental illness and their families
through support, education and advocacy.