Board of Directors

Corey James - President

Corey James was on active duty Air Force from August 1998 until October 2007, working as Security Forces/Military Police. Corey was stationed a year in Korea, and deploye three times, where he travelled extensively throughout the Middle East. Corey was part of the FAST Team, which stands for “Fly Away Security Team.” Corey received numerous awards, some of which were the Armed Forces Achievement Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; and Korean Defense Medal.

After Corey’s multiple deployments, he was rated as a 100% disabled veteran by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. His familyh notice a huge change in his demanor. Cory initially worked for an organization that helped get service dogs into the hands of veterans with PTSD, until it dissolved. Corey and his wife Teresa then started the Freedom Paws Service Dogs Foundation in September 2018. Corey also expanded it to include first responders with PTSD.

Brenda Olson
Vice President

Brenda Olson, Vice President of Freedom Paws Service Dogs Foundation, has always held an unwavering passion for dogs that traces back to her childhood. Her lifelong love for these loyal companions has been the driving force behind her involvement in the noble cause of supporting veterans and first responders through the impactful work of Freedom Paws.

Joined by her husband, Brenda was drawn to Freedom Paws by their shared desire to make a meaningful difference. Together, they embraced the opportunity to contribute to an organization aligned with their values and commitment to serving those who have bravely served their communities and countries.

For Brenda, being part of Freedom Paws isn’t just a role; it’s a heartfelt dedication. As Vice President, she brings a wealth of enthusiasm, dedication, and a deep understanding of the profound bond between humans and their service dogs. Her aim is to make a tangible, positive impact on the lives of veterans and first responders by facilitating the vital connection between these incredible individuals and their devoted canine companions.

Brenda Olson’s journey with Freedom Paws embodies the essence of compassion, service, and the unwavering belief in the profound healing power of the human-animal bond. Through her role, she continues to champion the cause, working tirelessly to ensure that those who have served and sacrificed are honored and supported in their journey towards healing and well-being.

Kenneth Baker

Kenneth Baker has served on the Board of Directors for Freedom Paws Service Dogs since 2020. Kenneth served in the US Army Reserves for 8 years and in 2010 he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Kenneth graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Northern Illinois University and a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. In 2020, Kenneth obtained a Master’s in Business Administration through the corporate program at Illinois State University.

Kenneth was the recipient of Peoria’s InterBusiness Issue’s “40 Leaders Under Forty” award as recognition for his dedicated service to his community.

In his free time, he enjoys volunteering at Freedom Paws Service Dogs events, spending time with his family, and enjoying the outdoors.

Scott Saurs
Vice Chairman

Scott is an alumni of Illinois State University and Pekin Community High School. He has worked in various roles for his family business the Velde Automotive Group throughout his career, before retiring in 2019.

Scott is a former Vice President of the Peoria Rivermen Hockey Club and past President of the Peoria Metro New Car Dealers Association. He also served on the Boys and Girls Club of Peoria board as well as the Central Illinois Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Council.

Scott has always had the utmost respect for our armed service members and first responders. He also thinks that it is not a coincidence that dog spelled backwards is God. He feels blessed and honored to be a part of putting them both together.

Bob Howard

Bob Howard began his professional real estate career working for American Airlines corporate planning department in New York City. He has been a part of the central Illinois real estate community for over 30 years, serving as CFO and Senior VP of Development for Jumer Hotels and Casinos.

After Jumers, Bob worked for Cullinan Properties, the largest and fastest growing real estate development firm in Central Illinois. In 2004, Bob and his business partner acquired the commercial real estate office of RE/MAX Unlimited.

Bob has over 30 years of experience working with retail, office, health care, industrial, and hotel clients.

Rob Olson
Secretary / Personnel and Legal / Trainer

Rob Olson, a dedicated Maintenance Supervisor at the Chillicothe Park District, is a person driven by a dual passion: a fervent commitment to serving his community and an unwavering love for our four-legged friends. His journey with the park district has been marked by a sincere dedication to ensuring the smooth operation and upkeep of public spaces, enriching the lives of residents through meticulously maintained recreational areas.

Rob’s admiration for veterans has always been profound. His respect for their service and sacrifices led him to seek out avenues where he could extend his support. When he discovered a program that combined his passion for helping others with his love for dogs, it was an ideal match.

At the heart of this alignment was the opportunity to join a program that honored veterans while incorporating the incredible bond between humans and service animals. For Rob, this program became more than just a job; it became a calling. His role within this initiative serves as a testament to his commitment to giving back to those who have selflessly served their country.

Driven by his genuine care for others and a deep-rooted affinity for canines, Rob approaches his work with a contagious enthusiasm. His dedication to supporting veterans through this program at the intersection of his passions underscores his belief in the transformative power of community support and the extraordinary companionship of service dogs.

Rob Olson’s journey with the Chillicothe Park District and his involvement in this program epitomize the spirit of service, compassion, and the profound impact that individuals like him can make within their communities. Through his role, he continues to uphold a legacy of support, making a meaningful difference in the lives of veterans while nurturing his love for dogs and community service.

Suzette Saurs
Fundraising and Community Outreach

Suzette is an alumni of Bradley University and Manual High School. For many years she was the Development Coordinator for the Greater Illinois Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. Through this role, Suzette established partnerships and alliances with community organizations, cultivated strong corporate relationships/sponsorships, and individualized support to maximize fundraising.

Suzette felt compelled to generate awareness and support for Freedom Paws Service Dogs after meeting a veteran with a service dog that was trained through the organization. She was moved as she learned the extent to which the service dog empowered and enriched the veteran’s quality of life and promoted independence after a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Suzette’s heart was especially moved by the war hero’s testimony because she herself has triumphed over her own battle with medical PTSD through the help of family, friends and her two dogs for love and support.

Suzette enjoys promoting Freedom Paws Service Dogs to anyone she meets and never hesitates to pet a dog. ❤️🇺🇸🐾