Our Team

Hank Zemola

Hank Zemola

Founder & CEO

Early in his career Hank worked in a management role at UPS®, which he believes gave him exposure to the high intensity work required in event production. After UPS, he owned nightclubs and managed music venues which included TUTS, Stages (now the Metro) and the Vic Theatre. A musician in his youth, he easily transitioned to an events-related career by becoming a skilled buyer of national entertainment talent. He later served three years as Executive Director of the then-nascent Chicago Area Runners Association. Hank founded Special Events Management (SEM) in 1988, which now produces more than 70 annual runs & walks, art & street fests, and concerts and also provides assorted services to scores more, becoming the largest full-service producer of special events in the Midwest. As an active member of several Chicago area civic and professional organizations, one of Hank’s primary visions has been to produce events that raise money to benefit nonprofits, community and neighborhood groups, chambers of commerce among many others. He is a lifelong Chicagoan.

Veronica Carrillo

Veronica Carrillo

Director of Operations

Her passion for Business Development and Management began from her experience training and mentoring others during her time as a Senior Fraud Analyst at Chase Bank. Her combined experience with Customer Service, Client Management, Business Development and Risk Management has given her a unique advantage in her current role as the Director of Operations. She graduated with an MBA in International Business with a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from DeVry University, where she served as President of the Student Council. She has been a member of our team for over 17 years.

On a personal note, Veronica loves cooking and travel. Her destinations include hundreds of cities in seven European countries, multiple cities in South America and Mexico, and she recently completed a bucket-list stay in South Africa. Her extensive knowledge of cooking comes from her worldly gastronomical tours with family and friends. Outside of the office, she volunteers her time for Hispanic communities, helping individuals with Government Grants, translating political documents and helps several organizations seek grant-funding opportunities. 

Steve Bingham-Hawk

Steve Bingham-Hawk

Regional Director

Steve heads up High Altitude Special Events Management (aka HASEM) located in Conifer, Colorado (aka HASEM), which was established by SEM to pursue event production opportunities outside of the Midwest. Since launching in 2013, High Altitude has acquired and greatly expanded the Salt Lake City Marathon, the Colorado Springs Marathon, and the Big Gay 5K series of events, and he has procured and produced several events for our clients including the American Brain Tumor Association, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Habitat for Humanity. 

Prior to relocating to Colorado, the always-versatile Steve served as Director of Operations for our Chicago office. In addition to operations, he also served in the roles of event manager and staffing coordinator since joining the company in 2005. A St. Louis native, he holds a degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before joining SEM, he was a business analyst with human resources and consulting giant Hewitt Associates. When not working long hours, Steve enjoys exercise and keeping fit and loves being a dad to his adopted daughters, Yasmin and Danielle.

Bruce Buzil

Bruce Buzil

Director of New Business

As SEM’s New Business Development Manager, Bruce likes a challenge. A lifelong Chicagoland resident, he’s always on the hunt for identifying opportunities for the company. This runs the gamut from finding new events and ways to expand existing events to selling event sponsorships. At day’s end, Bruce will be the first to say it’s all about building relationships. Before SEM he was a partner in a broadcasting company that owned radio stations in small and medium markets nationwide. He was also a partner in a company that owned and managed marathons around the country. In his free time the father of two sons likes to relax by biking recreationally.

Karyn Terrones

Karyn Terrones

Media & Marketing Director

Karyn manages all aspects of SEM’s diverse marketing efforts. Key among them is leveraging $2 million worth of company media advertising, trade-outs and buys each year. She negotiates with some of the biggest media players in the market including Tribune Media Group, Sun-Times Media and radio behemoths Clear Channel, Hubbard Radio and CBS Radio.

Karyn also oversees SEM’s Web-based marketing efforts including maintaining/updating the company’s website with its 500,000 unique monthly visitors, and compiling and disseminating SEM’s weekly E-blast newsletters to nearly 100,000 subscribers. In a bit of trivia, the consumer “click through” rate on SEM’s website is an amazing 6 percent vs. the national norm of only .2 percent.

In addition, Karyn oversees the company’s social media marketing (including Facebook and Twitter) and manages creative planning and logistics with SEM’s graphic design department. A graduate of Illinois State University, she joined SEM in 2002 as an event manager.

Sean McGahan

Sean McGahan

Art Director

Every SEM event is a brand. As SEM’s art director, Sean’s graphic design skills are the indispensable visual ingredients that creatively identify hundreds of street fairs and runs/walks produced by the company. With SEM for more than 13 years, it’s no exaggeration that he’s designed hundreds of logos as well as collateral pieces that include posters, postcards. brochures, advertisements and much more.

Today, many of his creations are trademarked with copyrights used by both SEM and many of its clients. Sean also has vast expertise and knowledge of the latest design technologies and state-of-the-art hardware and software. Not only does Sean design, but he understands how graphics work in context of the final product be it print, websites or advertisements.

Sean graduated from Eastern Illinois University. Before SEM he worked at a major print house. He enjoys music and movies and keeps busy during off hours on home improvement projects.

Jen Nelson

Jen Nelson

Marketing Director, High Altitude Special Events

Jennifer is the Marketing Director for High Altitude Special Events Management and is based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Jennifer joined the HASEM team back in 2016 part-time. She then took on assisting with the operations of the athletic events HASEM produces after coming on full time in 2018. Jennifer helps to oversee all marketing for the HASEM events including marketing strategies for all events, creating and maintaining marketing plan, budget and calendar, social media management, sponsorship fulfillment, athlete services, and more.

Jennifer’s love for and participation in athletic events began at an early age, having been an alternate for the Olympics in her teenage years and participating in many running and cycling events herself. Transitioning from a career in mental health therapy to one that included being able to work behind the scenes in planning events for athletes was one that was greeted with much excitement. In her free time, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, cycling, hiking and all things outdoors!

Michael Bingham-Hawk

Michael Bingham-Hawk

Director, IT

Michael joined Special Events Management in 2015 and brought with him a breadth of knowledge in the Information Technology sector. Since joining SEM, he has revolutionized our technology capabilities, allowing us to be responsive and nimble.

When he is not designing and maintaining our multiple websites for our two organizations, or producing events from coast to coast, he is also the official race timer for the world renowned Leadville Race Series which includes one full and (heavy) half marathon, a 50-mile bike and 50-mile run and a 100-mile bike and 100-mile run through the mountains of Colorado. He also is the race timer for the Skyrise Stair Climb, Race Judicata, AIDS Run Walk, the Brain Tumor 5K in 8 North American Cities, the Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs Marathons. He is the father to two amazing kids, 4 1/2 year old Yasmin and Dani. He loves home renovation projects and working in his “yard”, if you can call 7 acres nestled in the foothills of Colorado’s front range a yard.

Kyle Kocinski

Kyle Kocinski

Event Manager

Traveling the country to work at music concerts during college led Kyle to an appreciation for events which, in turn, led him to SEM after graduation. A native of west suburban Wheaton, Kyle earned a degree in advertising from the University of Florida in Gainesville before returning to the Midwest and moving to the Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood. The planning process is something he enjoys most about events, and he’s versatile enough to oversee a mix of both runs/walks as well as street fests. In keeping with his fondness for music, Kyle’s off hour hobbies include playing drums as well as deejaying.

Dan Oleksiuk

Dan Oleksiuk

Production Manager

Although his official title is production manager, Dan is better known around SEM as warehouse manager, trade show manager and carpenter extraordinaire. A true chameleon, he pretty much does it all! The Northbrook, Ill., native (where he still resides) earned his bachelor’s degree from Chicago’s Columbia College in music, business and concert production. But for those who know him, his true passion is for building things. From showcase booths for the SEM-produced Chicago Flower & Garden Show, to intricate exhibits at national trade shows for Fortune 500 clients of SEM’s trade show & exhibits division, his detailed craftsmanship is awe-inspiring. During off hours Dan, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine, enjoys sports, music, and (if the photo didn’t give it away) fishing.

Tayana Martinez

Tayana Martinez

Vendor Relations

Vendors are integral to SEM events, and Tayana (who also splits her time in accounting) relishes her role in making sure things run smoothly with everyone from artists and food/beverage vendors to merchants and non-profits. A lifelong Chicagoan, Tayana was raised on the city’s north side and earned a degree in business management with a minor in sales from DePaul University. Before joining SEM, she held account management positions with local financial firms. Now living on Chicago’s northwest side, when she and her husband aren’t busy with their teen and young adult children, she loves to cook, is becoming passionate about knitting, and enjoys Tyson, the family’s Presa Canario, a rare (and large) dog originally from the Canary Islands.

Kimyada Ardson

Kimyada Ardson

Staffing Coordinator

Staffing SEM’s eclectic mix of street fests and runs/walks involves strong managerial skills which KimYada (aka Kim to many of her fellow staffers) excels at in her oversight of the company’s seasonal workforce. Understanding human behavior is key to the leadership of people who, behind the scenes, help make SEM events a success. Before joining the SEM team, the born-and-raised Chicagoan (and whose  mother was once an event planner) has a background that includes computer training from DeVry University, being a brand ambassador, and who even earned a carpenter’s license. She and her husband are proud parents to an adult daughter and school-aged son. And when not busy with staffing, KimYada enjoys family time as well as sewing, swimming and bike rides.

Esmeralda Bravo

Esmeralda Bravo

Administrative Assistant

When you call SEM, chances are the cheery voice you’ll hear on the phone will be that of Esmeralda. She’s also the person to most likely greet you at the reception desk. But she’s more than a friendly voice and face. She wears other hats including general office manager, coordinating messenger services, sorting staff mail, tracking delivered packages and other responsibilities to ensure the office runs smoothly. Now a Southside resident who grew up in both Chicago and Nebraska, before joining SEM she was in the hospitality industry. A mom to two teen daughters, Esmeralda likes to cook in her free time.