Jennifer Fink had the idea to start Operation CHAMPS in 2012 after many intense years of volunteering with American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces at Bethesda Naval hospital and various other military-connected organizations. Beginning her work with Wounded Warrior familes, Jennifer quickly became passionate about working with military and veteran families, and bridging the cultural divide between the military and civilian worlds in order to do so. Jennifer's background is in both Behavioral and Community Health and Military Studies as she works to tend to military health issues through the behavioral and community health perspective. Jennifer co-authored the children's book, "The Little C.H.A.M.P.S: Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel," which has now been distributed to military installations across the globe to provide coping tools to military-connected children and to educate their civilian peers about military life and the challenges therein. Jennifer has received a President's Volunteer Service Award for her work with military and veteran families, Walter Reed's Red Cross Youth Volunteer of the Year along with numerous other awards and scholarships to assist in her continued studies and work with military and veteran families. Together with her co-founder and what she calls her "Dream Team," Jennifer was able to make her dream into a reality.
Founder & CFO
Having lost a younger cousin to cancer and being recently exposed to the non-profit sector in 2012, Nikhil wanted to apply his expertise towards giving back and serving a larger purpose. After many a conversation with Jennifer Fink, Nikhil Balakumar joined Jen in co-founding Operation CHAMPS serving as it's Chief Financial Officer among various other roles. Graduating from the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, Nikhil has worked with his team to build out the infrastructure of Operation CHAMPS over the past 2 years. In addition to his work with Operation CHAMPS, Nikhil works full-time as a Consultant with Incentive Technology Group.
Debbie Fink, M.A.
Vice President of The Little CHAMPS Initiative
Debbie Fink, M.A. is an author, educator, and performer, whose books, workshops, and performances reach audiences globally. Co-author of the popular children’s book “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel,” she serves as the Vice President of Operation CHAMPS’ public health and education Initiative. This initiative delivers messages of support, comfort, and gratitude to our Nation’s Champs all over the world. Prior to her work with Operation CHAMPS, Debbie oversaw Operation Thanksgiving Eagle (2008-2011), in partnership with AUSA and later with the USO. This initiative delivered gratitude to Champs around the world, by distributing her book "It's a Family Thanksgiving! A Celebration of an American Tradition," and delivering edu-tainment events on military bases for children and families. As a USO Tour Vet, Debbie has had the honor of ‘edu-taining’ over 14,000 Champs residing in Asia and Europe. Debbie, co-author of the endearing children’s book “A Mom of Many Hats,” also runs the Mom of Many Hats global health initiative, helping families cope with a parent’s cancer diagnosis (MomOfManyHats.com). For the past 20 years, Debbie's work helps elevate, educate, and celebrate children. All her work is filtered through Character Education and Dr. Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Debbie loves to swim; dive; dance; journal; travel; play her fiddle and enjoy music with others; and, most of all, spend time with her three fabulous children and supportive husband.
Warrior Caregiver Program Developer
Senora is a Navy Veteran and a wife and mother of three amazing Champs. Senora proudly served eight years as an Intelligence Petty Officer First Class in the US Navy before seperating from the service to becomome a caregiver to her huspand who is an OIF/OEF Wounded Warrior. Senora's always been passionate about helping others and uplifting the community through service, and has volunteered with American Red Cross overseas, Peace Corps and DC Kitchen. Senora believes it takes a village, and that no man was meant to be alone. As a beneficiary of the Operation CHAMPS programs, and a proud Veteran and now Wounded Warrior Caregiver, she is proud and grateful to play her part in paying it forward and working with Operation CHAMPS to reach and help more families like hers. "Non Sibi Sed Patriae" (Not for self, but country).
Mary Wadlinger is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, where she received a Master’s in Public Policy and a specialization in Nonprofit Management. She currently works full-time as a Communications Manager for a local nonprofit organization. As a member of the Operation CHAMPS leadership team, Mary is responsible for providing strategic oversight for the organization's development activities.
Champsitting Program Chair
Lindsey McDermott received her B.S. in Community Health at the University of Maryland, and has years of experience working with the military community. Lindsey worked for the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Work-life wherein she developed and updated suicide prevention policy and protocol, as well as conceptualized a new model for critical incident response combining the psychological first aid approach with the concept of resilience to replace the formerly used model. Furthermore, Lindsey developed a policy detailing how Coast Guard Peers should implement the new model in the field. Lindsey holds a certification in Army OneSource Army Family Team Building Training, and certification in Critical Incident and Peer Response.
NICoE Champsitting Program Chair
Isabel received her Bachelors from Transylvania University with a degree in Studio Art and minor in Educational Studies in 2012. Right after graduating, she spent a year in Israel volunteering her time as an English teacher as well as working with special needs children. Isabel has over 12 years of experience in childcare and youth based programming and is so excited to have the opportunity to work with Operation CHAMPS!
Luke J. Lindberg is currently employed as a Senior Consultant in IBM's Global Business Services unit where he does public-sector, organizational change management consulting. He graduated from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Maryland School of Public Policy in 2013 with dual masters degrees in Business Administration and Public Policy. As an undergraduate Terp studying Government and Politics, Luke helped facilitate the annual Veteran's Day events on campus, served as President of Phi Sigma Pi Co-Ed Honor Fraternity and Mortar Board Senior Honor's Society, and was inducted into the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society. Luke lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Brittany Thune Lindberg and the two of them attend McLean Bible Church in Virginia.
Robert Rosenthal graduated from the University of Maryland (B.A. Government and Politics
12, M.P.P.: Management, Finance and Leadership '13). Originally from Minnesota, he is currently residing in Madison, WI where he works for Epic Systems as a project manager specializing in Health Information Management. Robert joined Operation Champs in Fall 2012 and proudly sits on the Board of Directors. In his free time, you can find him golfing, traveling, hiking or volunteering.