2017 Event Speakers

DJ Stylistic


5:25 - 5:45 p.m.

Evan Black, also known as DJ Stylistic, is a local DJ here in Indianapolis. Stylistic has been DJing around Indianapolis for about 10 years and is a DJ instructor at Deckademics DJ School in Broad Ripple. He has been a DJ for the Indiana Pacers for the last 3 years.

Stylistic has been a vegan for about 10 years now. Outside of DJing, he is an advocate for educating people of color on plant-based diets and veganism.

Michael Budkie

Co-Founder, Stop Animal Exploitation Now!

3:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. Veganism is More Than Just a Diet

Michael Budkie, A.H.T., is the co-founder and Executive Director of Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN). SAEN works exclusively on the animal experimentation issue by successfully terminating research projects, forcing the USDA to take legal action against laboratories and coordinating release of animals into sanctuaries.

After witnessing the atrocities of animal experimentation during his education, he successfully ended a head injury experiment on cats at the University of Cincinnati that launched his career leading to positions with several national organizations before he co-founded SAEN in the mid-1990s.

He has been published and he travels extensively, appearing on TV and radio programs to expose the truth about animal experimentation.

Robert Grillo

Director, Free From Harm

5:55 - 6:45 p.m.

Robert Grillo is the director of Free from Harm which he founded in 2009 to advocate on behalf of farmed animals and to bring awareness to how animal agriculture is connected to all other forms of exploitation.

As an activist, author and speaker, Grillo draws insights from popular culture, sociology, psychology, ethics and social justice to bridge the gap between humans and other animals. As a marketing communications professional for over 20 years, Grillo worked on large food industry accounts where he acquired a behind-the-scenes perspective on food branding and marketing.

His new book, Farm to Fable: The Fictions of Our Animal-Consuming Culture exposes the many ways we have all conditioned into a culture where mass animal consumption is the norm. Other published works include contributions to Caged: Top Activists Share Their Wisdom on Effective Animal Advocacy and Circles of Compassion: Connecting Issues of Justice.

In addition to these published works Grillo writes articles for Free from Harm and curates work from other leading authors.

Jesse Kharbanda

Director, Hoosier Environmental Council

1:30 - 2 p.m.

Jesse Kharbanda is the Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana’s largest environmental policy organization. He oversees HEC’s strategic and program development, legislative initiatives, operations, and fundraising.

Kharbanda has spearheaded focusing HEC’s efforts on three core initiatives: clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and 21st century transportation systems. He has made it a priority of HEC to build bridges with groups that may not have been as engaged with the organization in the past, such as the business community and faith-based groups.

Kharbanda's decade-long involvement in Indiana legislative matters began in 2006 while at the Environmental Law and Policy Center. His leadership honors include being named to the “Forty Under 40″ list by the Indianapolis Business Journal in 2011, being recognized as the sole Indianapolis-based community leader named to Delta Omega, the national public health honorary, in 2010, and winning the Hulman Health Achievement Award for Public Policy Advocacy in 2015.

Kharbanda holds graduate degrees from Oxford University and undergraduate degrees from the University of Chicago.

Sara Laycock

Campaigns Manager, Mercy for Animals

12:15 - 12:55 p.m.

Sara Laycock serves as the Campaigns Manager for Mercy For Animals, an international farmed animal protection organization, where she helps develop campaigns to push major corporations to eliminate cruel practices throughout their global supply chains.

She spent the first twelve years of her career as a lobbyist and community economic development advocate in Indiana. Laycock became vegan for her health, the environment, and most of all, for the animals.

Forever a Hoosier, Laycock and her husband, Rob, currently live in Denver, Colorado, with their mighty mutts Ruby and Cora.

Mark Pruitt

Co-Founder, Uplands PEAK Sanctuary

2:20 - 3 p.m.

Mark Pruitt was born in Henderson, KY and has spent most of his life in the state with exception of eight years in NYC. Mark earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Hunter School of Social Work and most of his adult career was spent in the field of mental health.

He has traveled extensively in the United States and enjoyed a wide range of adventures from working in Alaska to hiking portions of the Appalachian Trail.

Pruitt became vegan in 2011 and was initially exposed to veganism by his wife Michelle, but also greatly influenced by a Gary Yourofsky video. Mark states, “It had always been my dream to create and work with a retreat center of sorts, as a career change. Becoming vegan allowed me to combine desire with a cause I was passionate about. It is also really exciting to be on the cutting edge of a revolution that can literally transform the world for the better, simply by making a food choice.”

Michelle Pruitt

Co-Founder, Uplands PEAK Sanctuary

2:20 - 3 p.m.

Michelle Pruitt is Co-Founder, along with her husband, Mark Pruitt of Uplands PEAK Sanctuary, in Salem, Indiana. She's a full-time volunteer with PEAK.

Pruitt's professional background includes employee recruitment, workshop facilitation and career/personal coaching in both for-profit and non-profit organizations.

She holds a BA in Speech Communication from Indiana University. She completed an extensive immersion of animal care and shelter management at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary to prepare for running her own sanctuary. Additionally, she has visited other sanctuaries and conducted substantial research on farm animal care and advocacy.

Pruitt has been an ethical vegan since May 2011. She resides on the Sanctuary property with Mark, their five companion animals, and all the PEAK residents.

Kurt Schroeder

Founder, The Rational Vegan podcast, Catalyst Records

10:30 a.m.

Schroeder will be speaking at the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza at the kickoff of the People's Climate March

Kurt Schroeder is a long-term vegan and activist, who you can either find at a local coffee shop or traveling as much as he possibly can. He is a graduate of Indiana University, where his curriculum focused on Religious and Gender Studies, and currently works as a web developer.

Schroeder is also an entrepreneur, musician, home-renovator, and founder of both The Rational Vegan podcast and Catalyst Records, an independent record label that focuses on promoting bands with environmental and social justice messages.

Nicole Sopko

Vice President, Upton's Naturals

4:35 - 5:15 p.m.

Nicole Sopko is the Vice President of Upton’s Naturals, the owner of Chicago-area yoga centers Nature Yoga Sanctuary and Yoga Trek Center, a teacher of yoga and the Secretary of the Board for the newly-formed Plant Based Foods Association.

She manages her busy life by being incredibly passionate about all of her roles and driven towards the success of sustainable, compassionate business practices. She is a vegan of over 20 years with a strong interest in vegan foods and their origins.

Sopko will present Vegan Food: A History. Take a peek into the past and learn about how vegan foods, diet, and products first came to the United States. You’ll hear about the early proponents of a plant based diet, which included medical doctors, fitness professionals, and more. Find out about the vegan products, magazines, and restaurants that existed over 100 years ago. So much of what we see happening in the vegan food scene now is reflected in our past. Look back and see where we may be headed next!

Event MCs

Wendell Fowler

Chef, WISH TV Host and Author

Chef Wendell Fowler is re-teaching a sick, fat, disconnected world how to mindfully nourish their holy temple from the Celestial Apothecary: the garden.

Chef’s greatest strength: a relentless truth-seeker regarding the scientifically realities regarding the failed American food supply. Hippocrates doppelganger, healthy eating evangelist The TV host and author presents his “Eat Right Now” program at many of Indiana’s leading corporate and social organizations. His syndicated food column and popular weekly TV segment on WISH TV in Central Indiana are viewed by the thousands.

Chef Wendell’s role is researcher, motivator and collector. Chef has been an on-air contributor at WISH TV in Indianapolis for 14 years. He is the author of: “Eat Right Now: The End of Mindless Eating”. “Eat Right Now 2.0: It’s All About the Food”, and Eat Right Now: Diet for Kinder Gentler Planet.” From Alaska to New Hampshire, His NAMPA award winning “Eat Right Now” syndicated column receives high praise.

Alisha Madden

Owner, Vegesaurus

Alisha Madden is the owner of Vegesaurus, a vegetarian food truck that is quickly evolving with the majority of their menu items being vegan friendly. Madden creates dishes intentionally to satisfy plant-based and meat-eaters alike. This concept brings us food for all palates in an effort to change any negative perception of what vegetarian/vegan food is while opening skeptics up to the idea of embracing the lifestyle in some way.

In addition to moving toward being 100% vegan, Vegesaurus is becoming all local and organic in terms of their produce with the help of urban gardeners.

Check them out on Facebook and Instagram to see where they will be next.

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