About One Hope Project
One Hope Project is led by Executive Director, Hilary Pacha. Hilary has over 15 years of experience in leading social services organizations and programs. She has an exemplary background in building organizations and initiatives from the ground up, as well as managing daily operations and budgets. Her academic accomplishments include a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Illinois State University and a Master of Art in Criminal Justice from American Public University.
In addition to her professional experience, Hilary has personal experience as it relates to eating disorders. As an adolescent, Hilary began struggling with a binge eating disorder and at the same time would use various unhealthy habits, diets, and fads to lose weight. Over the years, the fluctuation in her weight, caused more emotional damage, and the disorder became more problematic. Hilary was able to keep her eating disorder hidden from not only the important people in her life, but in many ways, from herself too. In the beginning, Hilary didn’t know she had an eating disorder; instead she felt ashamed and embarrassed about the way she looked. She kept telling herself she was just “fat” and needed to learn some self-control. Eating disorders weren’t really talked about during these adolescent years. She heard of anorexia and bulimia, but that didn’t apply to her, so she just kept paying attention to the negative voice in her head and what popular culture told her was the ideal image of being thin. Perhaps given the proper prevention education or needed intervention, Hilary would have realized she was in fact, not overweight, but “normal” for her age. Maybe then, this eating disorder could have come to a halt much sooner or perhaps never even began. Sadly, that was not the reality, and the impact of her eating disorder hit its peak after Hilary had her son in 2011.
The pressures of being a single mom and leaving a toxic relationship became too much, and her eating disorder developed beyond binge eating into having an addiction to food. It took a few more years to realize the problem she was facing. Once she did, she was discouraged, finding no services and no professionals available to help. Hilary went to three different doctors -- each doctor telling her to simply “eat right and exercise.” She knew how to eat healthy and actually enjoyed it, but the problem was deeper than that. Something was wrong. Despite her best efforts at self-advocacy, it seemed no one cared or just didn’t know how to help. She would be given a phone number to see a nutritionist, and she was sent out the door. This would leave her feeling discouraged and wanting to give up altogether. Finally, in June 2017, Hilary met her current doctor, and that is when everything changed. Working with a counselor who has some training in eating disorders and this new doctor who is passionate about helping people lose weight in a healthy and meaningful way, Hilary began to not only lose weight, but gain control over her addiction to food and her binge eating behaviors.
If it wasn’t for her faith, her counselor, and her doctor, she is sure she would still be in an emotionally unhealthy place and on her way to a long list of health problems and potential death at a much too young age. She doesn’t want that for anyone. She is glad she was able to find the help she needed and wants that for all residents in McLean County who are at risk of developing or currently have an eating disorder. It is her belief that everyone deserves to have a place they can go to get the help they need and feel supported by professionals who dedicate their time to ending the stigma on eating disorders. But more importantly, Hilary believes those suffering deserve to be freed from the strongholds that eating disorders have on their lives. Clients do not need to struggle alone. One Hope Project can help them find that freedom!