Victor W. Verni will retire as the executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation North/Central Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska July 1 after 40 years of service to the epilepsy community and the City of Rockford.
Verni was hired as the executive director of the foundation in April 1974, and was tasked with advocating for people with epilepsy and their families in Winnebago, Stephenson and Boone counties. With a budget of $10,000 and a part-time secretary, Verni quickly realized the need for services in surrounding areas.
“It was a tough time for people with epilepsy,” said Verni. “The negative stigma associated with epilepsy was still extremely strong, and I wanted to help them to live full and productive lives.”
In an effort to raise funds, Verni took what he believed to be a crazy idea, and established the first mud volleyball tournament in 1982.
“We have been running the mud volleyball tournament for going on 32 years,” he said. “The tournament has grown from 32 teams to up to 340 teams. It has been fun to see the tournament grow, which has given the foundation an opportunity to grow and allowed us to help more people.”
Verni expanded the foundation’s territory, which now includes 27 counties in north central Illinois, the entire state of Iowa and the entire state of Nebraska. While the territory has expanded, Verni remained committed to the improvement of Rockford by serving as the 12th Ward alderman from 1989 to 2001.
“I grew up in Rockford,” he said. “I raised my family in Rockford, and I saw it as my duty to give something back to the City of Rockford. Now, it is time to pass the torch to the next generation.”
Taking over as executive director is Benjamin Slack, who has been serving as the foundation’s director of communication for the past two years. Slack is a Rockford native, a Marine Corps veteran, and holds two degrees from Illinois State University.
“Working under Vic, and being mentored by Vic, has been one of the best learning experiences of my life,” Slack said. “He established a great organization that truly has a positive impact on people’s lives. Now, it is my job to ensure people with epilepsy and their families get the services they need.”
From the July 2-8, 2014, issue