About Us

The Oaken Acres’ Board of Directors and I feel it is very important that there be one place solely devoted to wildlife. That place has been Oaken Acres for the past 30 years. That place will continue to be Oaken Acres.

Since 1984, Oaken Acres has cared for almost 12,000 wild animals. Whether injured or orphaned, every one of them has received the best care we can provide. We intend to rehab an outbuilding on our farm into a more complete treatment center. We’ll need lots of building supplies and equipment to improve our facility and our release rates.

Please make a donation to our project today (here).

Thank you, Kathy Stelford

About Us     { Board }


Founder and President

Kathy moved from the suburbs of Chicago and founded Oaken Acres Wildlife Center in 1984. Since then she has cared for over 11,000 injured or orphaned wild animals on her 33-acre farm in rural Sycamore, Illinois. In 1999, she became the founding president of TAILS Humane Society in DeKalb. She is longstanding member of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association and the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, retired from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at Northern Illinois University after serving for 18 years, and has served on numerous not-for-profit boards in DeKalb County.

Stelford spends part of her year in Iowa since her husband’s employer John Deere transferred him there in 2009. She is serving on the Steering Committee for the Iowa Wildlife Center in northern Iowa, a grassroots organization raising money to build a multi-million dollar facility for wildlife.

She lives at Oaken Acres during “baby season” with her extremely patient (and commuting) husband Mark, three mutts Buddy, Tanzi and Misty, two stray cats Shemp and Cali, and a host of wildlife that varies by the day.

Vice President and Treasurer

Upon meeting my future wife Kathy in 1999, I started volunteering at Oaken Acres. Kathy and I met while she was the naturalist at Russell Woods Forest Preserve and I was a summer intern, helping with the children’s summer camp environmental education program. My work at Oaken Acres centered mostly around cage building and repair and stewardship of the wildlife habitat on the farm.

I earned a BS in Geography, an MS in Geography, and a PhD in Geology from Northern Illinois University. From 1999-2003 I was an Associate Director of the DeKalb County Soil and Water Conservation District. My volunteer efforts for animals, in addition to Oaken Acres and TAILS Humane Society, have found me on the Building Committee for the Iowa Wildlife Center in north central Iowa.

Since 2013 I have been the General Manager of Premier Crop Systems out of Des Moines, Iowa, focusing on data analysis to increase crop yield. I live with Kathy and the same cadre of pets and wildlife, splitting my time between our farm and my job in Iowa.


I moved to the DeKalb area in the early 1990, attended NIU in the 1980s and moved back to “split the difference” between my job in Aurora and Rockford, where I was born. I have worked as an air traffic controller for 25 years and will be retiring soon. Yeah! My family consists of Walter, Esmeralda, Teddy and Owl, four cats who constantly keep me on my toes. Various fosters have flowed through my house over time. Kittens, anyone?

My passions are animals and gardening mixed in with crafts and reading. I helped out with TAILS from the very beginning, and I served on the TAILS Humane Society board for many years. I also tend the landscape at the shelter.

I first heard about Oaken Acres through articles in the newspaper and always thought that must be a neat thing to do. A few years after moving here, I was riding my bike along the airport and heard something rustling in the grass. On my way back, I heard it again and stopped to look. It was a bird with an injured wing. I went home and looked up the number for Oaken Acres. Kathy called back quickly and gave me hints on how to get the bird to Bethany Animal Hospital. Laundry basket and towel in hand, I went back and got the bird to Bethany. Kathy called later to say it was a nighthawk, but due to its injuries, would probably be euthanized. A sad ending, but I always felt good that I had been able to keep it from suffering along the edge of a road. One battered cardinal and a half drowned mourning dove later, and I am now on the board of Oaken Acres. How do I get into these things? I have always thought how fortunate DeKalb County is to have such a valuable resource for wildlife. So many people who would like to help have nowhere to go with injured wildlife.


Kay Johnson has worked with many different species of animals throughout her life. She was a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator for 15 years specializing in wild birds. She founded the Fox Valley Wildlife Center in Elburn in 2001 and retired from active rehabbing in 2003. Kay lives in Batavia with several birds, a cat, and a dog.


Connie grew up in the Chicago suburbs. After graduating from college in 1970, she spent several years in Wickenburg, Arizona working with horses on a dude ranch. She then had the opportunity to move to South Africa where she worked for an animal travel agency. Upon returning to the USA in the mid-1970’s, she was hired as the Brookfield Zoo’s first ever dolphin rider and trained Olga, the walrus. In 1978 she became owner/operator of the Lake Forest Boarding Kennel and worked part-time as a Humane Investigator for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Since 1983 she has been working with wildlife rehabilitation, specializing in migratory waterfowl. Connie lives in Lake Forest with her husband, three children, 12 cats, three dogs and one very bossy parrot.


KATHY HUBBARD has worked in animal related fields since college but her introduction to Oaken Acres Wildlife Center was like most community residents, through a phone call to ask questions and assistance with an injured animal.  After her first pick up of an ill raccoon, and attempts, with Founder and President Kathy Stelford's guidance, to return Great Horned Owl fledglings to a safe perch, she realized that she needed to be more involved.  She considers Kathy Stelford, an animal welfare role model and mentor, and has been pleased to work with her in a variety of capacities over the past 15 years. 

Kathy was a member of the Board of Directors of TAILS Humane Society, DeKalb, IL from 2002 until 2011.  She made presentations about the organization to local service clubs, and served as the purebred rescue coordinator, as liaison for TAILS’ ancillary program with the county’s domestic violence shelter, and managed their nationally recognized program in rescue placement of pets from the Northern Illinois University community.

From 2002 until 2011, Kathy was an approved Humane Investigator, through TAILS, for the Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare, Illinois Department of Agriculture.  She conducted investigations into allegations of animal neglect or abuse, upholding the Humane Care for Animals Act of the Illinois statutes.  In this capacity, she worked closely with DeKalb County’s Animal Control officers and local law enforcement.

Kathy is a Canine Good Citizen evaluator for the American Kennel Club, conducting evaluations for regional dog training clubs.

Kathy is co-chairman of Gordon Highlander Rescue Program, the Illinois/Wisconsin, Iowa/Indiana regional Rescue committee for the Gordon Setter Club of America.  As co-chairman, she shares evaluation and home fostering of the 10 to 15 dogs each year that enter the Rescue Program, assessing temperament and adoptability of owner-released dogs as well as strays from shelters and humane societies.    Since 1998, Kathy has facilitated the re-homing of 180 Gordon Setters.  She also counsels families on how to keep their Gordon Setter in their home, so that relinquishing their dog is not necessary.

In November, 2014, Kathy joined the board of directors of the Gordon Setter Club of America's Foundation for Health and Rescue to assist in the development of programs for that soon to be recognized 501(c)3 organization.

Kathy was honored to be asked to join the board of directors of Oaken Acres Wildlife Center.



Kristy has been volunteering for Oaken Acres for many years. Her love of animals and a huge soft spot for birds makes her a great fit within the organization. Kristy has been working with birds since she was 15 and started her first job at a local pet store. Her appreciation grew tremendously along with a desire to better understand them. She can often be found in the bird room at Oaken Acres tending to the babies in Spring.

Kristy currently works at NIU as a SQL Database and Hadoop Administrator. She received her BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from NIU, traveled a bit and was then hired by NIU.


Board Member

Pat and his wife, Courtney, have worked in animal welfare with Kathy Stelford since 1999, starting with the first meeting to launch the TAILS Humane Society initiative. We're all pretty sure that their animal welfare efforts started long before that. In fact, we know so at Oaken Acres because they have rescued many orphaned or injured wild animals.

Pat and Courtney are the owners of Pat Marshall Construction, a well-respected firm for decades in DeKalb County. Pat joined the Oaken Acres Board in order to help us with construction projects and evaluate other building and maintenance needs.

At the meeting to introduce Pat to the rest of our Board and Staff, he was described by Stelford as "one of the kindest men I've even known." Need any proof? Ask him about his special needs pets and all the hours he has donated to help animals.

{ Staff }
Animal Care Director

"At age eleven I started volunteering at my local animal shelter. It wasn’t long after that when I became the “animal person” everyone went to with their strays and questions. I have been in a variety of animal care positions, including professional pet sitting, doggy day care, and a humane society position, but in 2013 I took the plunge into the world of wildlife rehab with a summer position at Oaken Acres. It was there where I found my true passion. I am soon set to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major of Animal Behavior and a minor of Sociology from Carroll University, where I am also the president of the animal welfare student organization. I cannot wait to be back at Oaken Acres!"

"From adopting my first stray puppy at seven years old, to the very first release I went on at Oaken Acres three summers ago (a turkey!), I have never felt more complete, peaceful, and happy than when I am helping animals.

Animal Care Director

Like most wildlife rehabilitators, I had a love of animals from a very young age. I loved bird watching, hiking in the woods, and watching any wildlife show I could find on TV. I’m still that person that always plays with the dog at the party! My brain was a sponge for learning about nature and all animals amongst my suburban setting. Although my parents always encouraged me to follow my dreams, they always thought I would outgrow my love of animals, but I didn’t.

I went away to college and loved every minute of it. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my classes (ok, almost all of them!) and received my degree from Purdue University in Wildlife Science. During a winter break in college, I volunteered at Willowbrook Wildlife Center, a wildlife rehabilitation facility near my house. I was looking to get a little bit of hands on experience and didn’t really know what to expect. I loved every minute of it. I’ll never forget the first raptor I handled…a rough legged hawk named Moshie, who was being treated for sores on his feet. I not only enjoyed handling the wildlife, but I really didn’t mind cleaning of the cages either! It was just part of the job and I did it with a smile!

The following summer I worked as a seasonal animal keeper at Brookfield Zoo. Although I enjoyed the zoo and learned so much while I was there, I realized that my real passion was with native wildlife and helping those critters that were truly in need of medical care. I missed the “chaos” of wildlife rehabilitation, the wide variety of animals to care for, and the wonderful feeling of releasing wildlife back into the wild to give them a second chance.

So, back to Willowbrook I went the next summer! I worked as a seasonal animal keeper and then as a seasonal educator, teaching kids about nature and wildlife. Following graduation, a full-time animal keeper position opened up and I jumped at the chance to fulfill my dreams. I worked at Willowbrook for 20 years, eventually becoming the Wildlife Specialist and overseeing all of the animal care and 100+ volunteers. It was a very rewarding job and I enjoyed all the challenges that came with it.

During my time at Willowbrook I became very involved in state and national wildlife rehabilitation organizations. I was a board member for the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association for 12 years and eventually became president. I enjoy teaching others about caring for wildlife and sharing my experiences. Because of this love of teaching, I also teach a class at the College of DuPage called, “Caring for Wildlife in Captivity,” focusing on the care of wildlife in a zoo and wildlife rehabilitation setting. I really wish a class like this was offered when I was first starting out!

Eventually it was time to leave the workforce and stay home with my kids. Their crazy schedules were too much for 2 working parents! I started my own pet sitting business as well as an eBay business to pay the bills. Although both of those businesses are still flourishing, my love of wildlife rehabilitation never left me and I now find myself returning to wildlife rehabilitation with my long time friend, Kathy.

I‘m excited to start this next chapter in my life at Oaken Acres. I can actually say I missed baby season for a few years and am ready to get back into caring for critters! I hope to meet many of you on my days that I am working. Being around people that love caring for wildlife is truly a blessing!

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to continue my passion!

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