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Paws4people®️

Staff

Kyria Henry Whisenhunt

Founder, Executive Director

Terry Henry

Deputy Executive Director

Cece McConnell

Deputy Executive Director, paws4prisons & Client Services

Danielle Cockerham

Deputy Executive Director – Operations & Information Technology

Carrie Coonce

Director, Accounting

Ashley Currin

Director, Client Services

Kaitlin Bellamy Jefferies

Director, Executive Administration

Abi Kiradjieff

Director, Public Access Training

Katie Blackewll

Executive Administrator, Community Engagement

Tina Musselwhite

Director, Executive Administration

Sara Harts

Director, Puppy Development Centers

Ceyda Ozogul

PDC Shift Supervisor

Shannon Coyle

Program Manager, Client Training

Tom Hines

Executive Administrator,
Operations & IT

Melissa White

Relationship Development Officer, Headquarters Region

Katie Moore

Relationship Development Officer

Cpl Seth Eure, USMC (ret.)

Director, Client Training

Renee Johnson

Birthing & Whelping Master

Dawn Richard Cook, MA, LCMHC

Director, pMET

Victoria O'Connor, PhD

pMET Case Manager

Bethany Tennant, MS, LCMHC

pMET Case Manager

William Taggart, MD

pMET Case Manager

Hannah Orozco, MS, RMHCI

pMET Case Manager

Alison Beyers, Psy. D.

pMET Case Manager

Susan Adams Judd

pMET Case Manager

Katelyn Monday, MA, LCMHC, LCAS

pMET Case Manager

Amanda Rubenstein

paws4prisons DOC Mentor

Randy Powers

Relationship Development Officer

Cathy Demeroto

Relationship Development Officer

Amanda Rubenstein

paws4prisons DOC Mentor

More about Kyria Henry Whisenhunt

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Trainer – Fully Credentialed Master Trainer Chief ITT Instructor

Kyria Henry Whisenhunt was raised with her father’s German Shepherds, and successfully convinced her family to “cross-over” to the Golden Retriever breed, receiving her first puppy when she was 10 years old. Since that time, Kyria has been enveloped in the world of dog training, dabbling in disciplines such as advanced obedience, agility, rally, behavior modification, and scent work; but her true love and expertise is Assistance Dogs.

Kyria founded paws4people in 1999. During middle school, high school, and college, Kyria worked with her certified Therapeutic Facility and Educational Facility Dogs in nursing homes, hospitals, and special education classrooms. Kyria graduated from West Virginia University summa cum laude from the Honors College with Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Religious Studies, and Speech Pathology and Audiology, with a specialization in Disability Studies. She then attended Bergin University of Canine Studies, earning a certification in Service Dog Education. While managing multiple Assistance Dog Training Programs, Kyria completed a Master’s Degree from Liberty University in Human Services-Marriage and Family Counseling, during which she assisted in the development of cutting-edge utilization of Psychiatric Medical Alert Assistance Dogs as adjunct therapeutic interventions within Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy techniques.

Kyria was a 2010 Glamour Magainze Woman of the Year finalist; the winner of the 2011 IKEA Life Improvement contest; the winner of WILMA Magazine’s Women to Watch in 2014; the National Points of Light award in 2015; and the 2017 Coastal Entrepreneur Award – Non-profit in 2017.

Kyria serves as Executive Director of paws4people. She is the Program Director and Instructor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington Assistance Dog Training Program, the first and only comprehensive Assistance Dog academic certificate program at a state university. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. Most importantly, she is mom to her Ambassador Assistance Dog, WYATT, and her Scent Detection Facility Dog In-Training, HOBBS.

More about Terry Henry

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Trainer – Fully Credentialed Master Trainer Chief ITT Instructor

Terry began training dogs over forty years ago. His early focus was with German Shepherds and advanced obedience training. In the late 1990s he was introduced to Golden Retrievers and quickly fell in love with the breed. Terry served in the Military from 1972 to 1977 and from 1979 to 1987.

Since his discharge, Terry has battled the symptoms of Complex/Chronic Post Traumatic Stress (CPTS) and Moral Injury. In 1999, he began training his own Psychiatric Medical Alert Assistance Dog to help mitigate his CPTS symptoms. From 2002 to 2006, Terry and his Assistance Dogs worked in several special needs classrooms, where he developed training protocols and methodologies for Assistance Dog utilization within the special education classroom environment. There, his Dogs worked with hundreds of special needs students, helping them to exceed their Individual Educational Plan requirements utilizing animal-assisted instruction. In 2009, after a decade of training and working with his Psychiatric Medical Alert Assistance Dogs, he turned his attention to helping Veterans with PTS. He developed training protocols and methodologies wherein a Psychiatric Medical Alert Assistance Dog is used as an adjunct medical device that enables a client to regulate, control, and mitigate SM his or her PTS symptom set.

Terry has supervised the placement of every paws4vets Psychiatric Medical Alert Assistance Dog with a Client since 2008. He has also expanded the utilization of this unique Psychiatric Medical Alert Assistance Dog/adjunct psychological therapeutic intervention application to other psychological diagnoses such as: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Dissociative Amnesia (DA), Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and most importantly, PTS resulting from Sexual Trauma (ST). Terry was honored as ION TV’s Everyday Hero in 2015; and was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award in 2016.

More About Cece McConnell

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Trainer – Fully Credentialed Master Trainer Chief ITT Instructor

Cece and her husband, Nate, share their home and their hearts with Assistance Dog, STANLEY, a Tribute Puppy named in honor of Corporal Stanley J. Smuck, Facility Dog, EMBER, Breeding Ambassador Dog, SHILOH, and McConnell Household Mascot, Granger.

Cece was born and raised in South Carolina, where she inherited her parent’s strong work ethic and deep-rooted Southern Values. For many of us, Cece is a pseudo mother figure of paws4people. She encourages staff, students, advocates, inmates, and clients alike, to figure out the problem and work it through toward the desired solution. She is fierce, yet kind-hearted, and above all else, Cece is honest!

As our Deputy Executive Director Training Programs and Client Services, Cece has her hands full. She not only oversees the paws4prisons program, working closely with the WV DOC Administration, but she also helps with the training and instructing of students and clients working towards their final certification in Wilmington, NC. When Cece is not coordinating training she helps paws4people Advocates ensure clients are continuing to follow the process to fulfill their goals.

While Cece has the ability to give some of the most sound advice, her personal motto is really something that rings true for our program, “What strikes the oyster, doesn’t damage the pearl.” Even though we cannot control every aspect of our lives, nothing can prevent us from aspiring to be our best selves. Cece really sets the bar high for paws4people and we are forever grateful to have her on our team!

More About Danielle Cockerham

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Trainer – Public Access Chief ITT Instructor

Danielle shares her life with her husband, Tommy, a remarkably hardworking young man, as well as their personal (pet) dog Samson and her Ambassador Dog, WATSON.

She is an incredibly dedicated young woman with a knack to get things done. She is soft spoken, yet observant, and of course a huge dog lover. While moving to Wilmington and buying her first car have been huge accomplishments she achieved on her own, Danielle still accredits her grandmother as the person who helped shape her into the woman she is today.

Upon moving to Wilmington, Danielle enrolled at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where she signed up for the UNCW Service Dog Training Program pilot program. She admits she has been hooked ever since. After completing all four classes, she stayed with the Organization as a volunteer and was hired in the Fall of 2013.

Danielle does a little bit of everything for the organization; from helping the founders and organizers plan day-to-day activities to planning and coordinating large-scale events across the East Coast. As a Senior Staff Member, Danielle participates in UNCW class outings and ITT’s as an instructor. She is humbly patient with both clients, students, and dogs alike; while keeping the tasks at hand and achieving the goals set forth. She describes herself perfectly as an organizer and a problem-solver. Danielle can meticulously plan ahead, while allowing enough flexibility for last minute changes that so often occur.

She has a passion to grow with paws4people and wants to be remembered most as someone who made a difference for those who needed it.

More About Carrie Coonce

Credentials:
CPA

Carrie has always loved animals, none more so than her first dog she rescued as a young girl, named Toby. Toby and Carrie had many excellent adventures traveling the country together. 

From her current home in Wilmington, she continues to enjoy adventures with her two Goldendoodles, Gracie & Joe, rescued Golden Retriever, Lucie, her two cats, Wilson & Scottie and her better half, Rand. 

Carrie received her Bachelor of Science degree and Master of Taxation from Northern Illinois University. She was awarded her CPA License from the State of Illinois and reciprocal license in North Carolina.  She spent many years in the corporate finance and tax world…all at companies that embraced the “bring your dog to work” policy!

Since joining paws4people, Carrie attended Cape Fear Community College Assistance Dog Training Class I & II. She has also participated in various puppy roles at paws4people and assists on the Derby4Dogs committee. She is always looking for hands-on opportunities, particularly those involving a puppy!

She is thankful for the opportunity to be included on such a giving team and looks forward to helping paws4people grow its mission to help those in need.

More About Ashley Currin

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Ashley grew up always wanting a dog, but never having one! Now, she finds herself surrounded by her husband’s Service Dog CHAMP, named in honor of 1SGT John Champion, paws4people Career Change Dog Wesson, a Cocker Spaniel who is full of personality, and her pet Bulldog, Raider! 

Ashley grew up always wanting a dog, but never having one! Now, she finds herself surrounded by her husband’s Service Dog CHAMP, named in honor of 1SGT John Champion, paws4people Career Change Dog Wesson, a Cocker Spaniel who is full of personality, and her pet Bulldog, Raider! 

 
Ashley is originally from small town Maine, but moved south after graduating college and getting married. She is the wife of a client, and a mom to two children who always keep her busy! When she discovered paws4people in 2015 as a means to help her husband, she set out to make it her goal of helping the organization in any way she could. She became a volunteer client advocate before coming on staff in 2018, and has never looked back. 
 
As the Director of Client Services, Ashley works daily with our clients, both during the training process, and after they have taken their dogs home. She is there to ensure they are on the right track toward achieving their goals, and works closely with each team to help make their time with the organization run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. 
 
While she may have set out for a career surrounded by dogs, its working with the clients that gives Ashley’s life purpose, and she looks forward to helping paws4people continue improving lives, one Service Dog at a time! 

More About Kaitlin Bellamy Jefferies

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Trainer – Puppy Development & Public Access ITT Instructor

I began my journey with paws4people in 2016, when I began the UNCW SDTP program. I completed the four course UNCW SDTP program in Spring 2017, and have been alumni trainer and volunteer since.

I graduated with my B.S. in Biology with a minor in Neuroscience and Psychology from UNCW in May 2019 and have been working in Veterinary Medicine throughout my college career and after graduation. Since graduating, I have also served as a paws4people Puppy Caretaker, been a participant of paws4people’s AK9 program. I joined the paws4people staff team in March 2021 and served as the Director, Puppy Development Centers for the past year. I am excited to continue to be apart of the paws4people team in the role of Director, Executive Administrator. I look forward to continuing to help to carry out this incredible organization’s lifesaving mission.

More About Abi Kiradjieff

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Trainer – Puppy Development & Public Access ITT Instructor

Abi discovered paws4people while she was attending school at UNCW. She enrolled in the UNCW Assistance Dog Training Program and quickly fell in love with the organization.

She was always looking for a way to become more involved in the program and over the years as an undergraduate has found herself being a Puppy Development Intern, Student Trainer, PDC Caregiver, Advanced K9 Trainer, ITT Assistant, and also a Client! She graduated from UNCW with BEACON, her Diabetic Alert Dog, by her side in May of 2020!

 
Abi was hired onto staff in August of 2020 and moved into a full time roll in April of 2021. She is thrilled to be working for an organization that she has so much passion for, and that through her job she is helping transform people’s lives. She loves working with the students and helping them get the most out of this program, since it changed her life when she was a part of it. It puts a smile on her face when she pulls up to a Monday Night Training and sees all the students in their teal shirts, lined up with the dogs, and ready to learn! It is so rewarding to see a student go from unsure and stressed at the beginning of Class 3 to confident and up for a challenge by the time they finish the classes. 
 
While working with the students is Abi’s main focus, she also helps out with the Diabetic Alert Dog Program! Having a DAD herself, she loves being able to bring some insight of the “client mindset” to the program. BEACON changed Abi’s life, so to be able to help train other dogs to detect their client’s low blood sugars is very special to her. She is excited to see the program grow, and be able to work closely with future Diabetic Alert Dog Teams! 
 
Abi assists with Facility Dog, Assistance Dog-II, and other special placement clients. While it is amazing to work with the clients in ITT, it is very special to Abi to work one-on-one with clients in their facility or home from start to finish. It’s no secret to anyone that these dog’s are amazing and change people’s lives, but getting to work with the dogs in their place of work and helping their handler’s work them into their everyday lifestyle is very fulfilling. 

More About Katie Blackewll

Katie graduated with a B.S. in Tourism, Recreation, and Sport and a minor in Assistance Dog Training in May 2024. She began the UNCW Assistance Dog Program in the Fall of 2022 and has completed all five ADTP classes. Since completing all of the ADTP classes, Katie has gone on to volunteer as an Advanced K9 Trainer and completed six months of the certification process of the AK9 Trainer status. Katie served as the Community Engagement Intern at paws4people as a part of her Senior coursework. Katie is an invaluable member of our Team and assists with the coordination and logistics of volunteers, third-party events, and corporate events. Katie is very excited to continue helping carry out this amazing organization’s mission!

“I graduated with my B.S. in Biology with a minor in Neuroscience and Psychology from UNCW in May 2019 and have been working in Veterinary Medicine throughout my college career and after graduation. Since graduating, I have also served as a paws4people Puppy Caretaker, been a participant of paws4people’s AK9 program. I joined the paws4people staff team in March 2021 and served as the Director, Puppy Development Centers for the past year. I am excited to continue to be apart of the paws4people team in the role of Director, Executive Administrator. I look forward to continuing to help to carry out this incredible organization’s lifesaving mission”.

More About Tina Musselwhite

Tina grew up in Wilmington, moved to Raleigh, and most recently lived in Nashville, TN. While in Raleigh, Tina left the corporate world to pursue her passions for dogs and baking. 

Tina owned and operated her own retail/wholesale Dog Bakery for 14 years. Tina is currently the proud mom to Winston, a 12-year-old Landseer Newfoundland who is her favorite dog treat tester. Tina is thrilled to be back home in Wilmington and to utilize her expertise to operate the new K9 bakery at ADDIE’S Way. 

More About Sara Harts

Sara Harts was born and raised in Wilmington, NC. Sara has had a love for working with animals and the community her entire life and began volunteering with Adopt-An-ANGEL at the age of 10.

Sara left her law enforcement career to join paws4people and their inspiring mission. 
 
Growing up Sara saw a lot of the challenges people faced in life and always wanted to learn how to better help people grow from and past their individual struggles. 
 
Sara spent majority of her weekends growing up volunteering her time at adoption fairs with Adopt-An-ANGEL. As she got older she began to help in other areas of the organization and help lead her mother to becoming a lead volunteer within the cat division of the organization. She still helps where she can today with them. This experience really laid a foundation early on in life to know where her heart and passion lied. 
 
Over the years Sara has volunteered with several other organizations where she has been able to work with animals of all species. Sara has worked with wildlife, exotics, reptiles, and livestock. 
 
Sara began working in a pet boarding facility when she was 15 years old and continued to work in similar facilities for many years. Sara also worked in an emergency veterinary medicine facility for a portion of her life until she went on to work with the New Hanover County Sheriffs Office.
 
Sara started with New Hanover County Sheriffs Office as a civilian in their Animal Services Unit. Not only did Sara care for the animals at the shelter, she assisted in networking them to local rescues and on social media, accessing animals behavior, training them, advocating for them, educating the public on animal welfare, and anything she could do to benefit the animals and citizens of the county. Sara began to assist the cruelty investigator with her investigations which led Sara to becoming a Deputy Sheriff after she went to Brunswick Community College for Basic Law Enforcement Training. Sara decided to leave her career when she realized there was so much more in life she wanted to do and how much she missed working with animals every day. 
 
Sara is a mom to 5 dogs and a cat who rules the home. Sara believes animals are family. Her babies are a Black Lab named Bubba, a hound mix named Bullet, a three-legged hound/aussie mix named Trex, an American Bully named Draco, an English Bulldog named Daisy, and her cat named Saké. 
 
Sara is fierce, yet passionate, loving, driven, forgiving, open-minded, and a reliable person. Sara is always willing to help in any way she can! Sara comes from a lot of discipline and structure which can come with flaws that she consistently tries to improve. 
 
Sara has a passion to grow with paws4people and help people have an opportunity to transform their lives with the use of dogs. 

More About Ceyda Ozogul

Ceyda started the UNCW ADTP program at UNCW in the Fall of 2017 as a junior in college and stayed on as a volunteer training since. She enjoys working with dogs as she also worked at The Dog Playspot for about 3 years. During graduate school she started the advanced K9 training program for a year. She eventually started the kennel tech program February 2024. She loves forming relationships with the dogs and the clients and watching them improve throughout the years. She spends her free time taking her 2 goldens to the beach and playing on a volleyball league. 

Sara left her law enforcement career to join paws4people and their inspiring mission. 
 
Growing up Sara saw a lot of the challenges people faced in life and always wanted to learn how to better help people grow from and past their individual struggles. 
 
Sara spent majority of her weekends growing up volunteering her time at adoption fairs with Adopt-An-ANGEL. As she got older she began to help in other areas of the organization and help lead her mother to becoming a lead volunteer within the cat division of the organization. She still helps where she can today with them. This experience really laid a foundation early on in life to know where her heart and passion lied. 
 
Over the years Sara has volunteered with several other organizations where she has been able to work with animals of all species. Sara has worked with wildlife, exotics, reptiles, and livestock. 
 
Sara began working in a pet boarding facility when she was 15 years old and continued to work in similar facilities for many years. Sara also worked in an emergency veterinary medicine facility for a portion of her life until she went on to work with the New Hanover County Sheriffs Office.
 
Sara started with New Hanover County Sheriffs Office as a civilian in their Animal Services Unit. Not only did Sara care for the animals at the shelter, she assisted in networking them to local rescues and on social media, accessing animals behavior, training them, advocating for them, educating the public on animal welfare, and anything she could do to benefit the animals and citizens of the county. Sara began to assist the cruelty investigator with her investigations which led Sara to becoming a Deputy Sheriff after she went to Brunswick Community College for Basic Law Enforcement Training. Sara decided to leave her career when she realized there was so much more in life she wanted to do and how much she missed working with animals every day. 
 
Sara is a mom to 5 dogs and a cat who rules the home. Sara believes animals are family. Her babies are a Black Lab named Bubba, a hound mix named Bullet, a three-legged hound/aussie mix named Trex, an American Bully named Draco, an English Bulldog named Daisy, and her cat named Saké. 
 
Sara is fierce, yet passionate, loving, driven, forgiving, open-minded, and a reliable person. Sara is always willing to help in any way she can! Sara comes from a lot of discipline and structure which can come with flaws that she consistently tries to improve. 
 
Sara has a passion to grow with paws4people and help people have an opportunity to transform their lives with the use of dogs. 

More About Shannon Coyle

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Trainer - Puppy Development & Public Access ITT Instructor In-Training

Shannon started volunteering with paws4people in 2019 and completed the UNCW Assistance Dog Training Program in 2021. She has continued to grow through multiple internship opportunities paws4people has provided her through the years. Shannon worked part time with us as the Program Assistant of Client Training throughout 2023. She recently graduated in December with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, concentrating in Management & Leadership. Shannon knew since starting the UNCW ADTP that this is what she wants to do for her career. 
 
Shannon is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to continue with paws4people now as one of the Program Managers of Client Training. She is looking forward to growing as a Trainer, Staff Member, and as a person. Shannon is very thankful to be able to help those with disabilities through the work of Service Dogs and hopes to continue to transform lives and help those who need it most!
 
Shannon has been volunteering with paws4people since 2019 and since then completed the Puppy Development Internship while being a live-in Caregiver, the Advanced K9 Training Internship, and the Trainings Program Internship. Shannon has loved every opportunity to grow within paws4people and she knew early on that this was what she wanted to do for her career. She is extremely eager to continue working with clients and their dogs while also bettering their lives! 
 

More About Tom Hines

Tom was born and raised in Wilmington North Carolina. He has spent most of his professional career in the fields of IT and project management he is passionate about helping others it is especially fond of dogs. He enjoys spending time on the water with his family.
 
While Tom has been a friend of paws4people for five years, now that he is officially on the team his role will allow us to expand our website, launch a new donor database, grow our social media, and much more.

More About Melissa White

Melissa has worked in the non-profit sector since graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill. As a college student, she knew she wanted to pursue work that would impact lives in a meaningful way.

What began as a “short-term” job coordinating fundraising events before pursuing graduate school for a MSW, turned into a 20+ year career as a fundraising professional.

Melissa has seen firsthand the transformative power a service dog provides through her daughter’s school’s paws4people Facility Dog, DECLAN. She is thrilled to join the paws4people team and contribute her experience and skills to the life-changing work of the organization.

A native of Greensboro, Melissa lives in Wilmington with her husband, Brad, daughter, step-daughter, and beloved pets – two dogs, Milly and Miles, and cat, Ollie.

More About Katie Moore

Katie Moore has worked for some of the biggest brands in the world, including Revlon, Macy’s, New York & Company, and Paula Deen. Moore is the Founder & CEO at Imprint Digital & Design where she works with both national brands and small businesses designing their digital footprints.

Katie and her husband joined the p4p family as volunteers in September She is a puppy host family and an outing supervisor.

Every person that receives one of these trained puppies/ dogs says the same thing: “This dog saved my life!” That’s why Katie is joining the p4p
staff to help with the fundraising efforts on a national level.

Katie lives in Wilmington with her husband, Todd and their resident dogs -black lab lzzie Apple and mutt Hazel Basil. She is a very proud stepmom
to adult kids Lauren and Brooke who live in Denver and Belgium.
If not at p4p, Katie can be found running, doing yoga, reading books or
enjoying the beach.

More About Cpl Seth Eure, USMC (ret.)

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler ITT Instructor In-Training

Seth is a client, and retired Marine now living in Wilmington, NC with his wife, Brooke, pet dogs, Odin, Jack and Assistance Dog, HARRIS II. He has experienced first hand how having an Assistance Dog can transform lives and how it has transformed fellow clients lives. The two enjoy volunteering their time helping other clients along their journey.

Seth joined the Marines in 2012, and served as an Infantry Rifleman in Afghanistan.

After being medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2016, Seth attended Cape Fear Community College, graduating with an (A.A) Associate of Arts in Education from Cape Fear Community College. He is currently working towards his bachelor’s at UNCW.

Seth enjoys giving back, and jumped when given the opportunity to volunteer, first as a peer-mentor, then as a client advocate. He enjoys aiding others in navigating the journey of working with Assistance Dogs. To Seth, seeing the way dogs transform others’ lives is something that will never get old, and is the driving force at this point in his life.

He is thankful to be a part of the paws4people team, and is happy to work in a place where he can make a difference.

More About Renee Johnson

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Renee grew up with parents who set a strong foundation for her to always push herself harder. After serving in the Navy, and raising two amazing children single handedly, Renee hit a bump in the road that would forever change her life.

She was diagnosed with Guillian Barre Syndrome, followed by a cancer diagnosis. The disease had the greatest impact on her life because it affected her ability to walk and her overall mobility. She says, “It really opened my eyes to a world of needing other people for help with everyday things like walking. I think the cancer also played a role in this as well because I found myself having to trust and depend on people for help when I was so used to just taking care of everything myself.”

When Renee found paws4people she knew this organization was where she could be most useful. She has volunteered all her life, but with paws4people, Renee gets see her work in action. She takes her work seriously and appreciates being a valued member of an organization “that is something bigger than myself”.

Renee eats, sleeps, and breathes paws4people since 2012. In fact, her Assistance Dog TRAVIS and Breeder Ambassador AZALEA are the first things she wakes up to most mornings, followed by day old future Assistance Puppies in early stages of training.

This summer Renee, embarked on an organizational first by caring for newborn MATTIS during his most crucial time. Renee alerted the team when she discovered that MATTIS had trouble suckling. Along with the discover, Renee and a small team took on the responsibility of round the clock care for the infant pup. Without her keen eye, and total dedication MATTIS may not have had a chance to be the energetic boy he is growing up to be.

More About Dawn Richard Cook, MA, LCMHC

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Dawn and her husband live with Facility Dog, RUPP. She believes being the child of a military veteran had an impact on her life. Among other things it taught her one of the greatest lessons in life is to be open to and respectful of diversity.

As the paws4people Director, Medical Evaluation Team (pMET), Dawn has a chance to work with client’s who are frustrated with the way their lives are going. Her role can best be described as an Advocate, Liaison, and Helper.

She chose to begin volunteering as a way to give back to the community. Dawn couldn’t find a more fulfilling position than one that improves the lives of others while sharing her love for dogs. She firmly believes everyone should let their faith be bigger than their fears, and she tries to live by this motto in her own life.

Dawn is also one of two staff members that is a LEGO® Serious Play® Facilitator.

While she may think of herself as quirky for her fondness of odd over even numbers, it is her desire to make a real difference and impact on the lives of others that make us proud to have her on our team.

More About Victoria O'Connor, PhD

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Trainer – Public Access

Victoria became involved with paws4people through UNCW’s Assistance Dog Training Program (ADTP) and assisted in the placement of her first dog, TRASK, with a veteran client. She continued her education and received her master’s in psychology from UNCW with AIRLIE at her side. AIRLIE was a staple in the research lab and sparked her interest in applying assistance dogs to work with victims and child witnesses of domestic violence who experience post traumatic stress.

Since, Victoria has focused on applying her degrees in psychology to working with clients and their dogs in training while continuing to assist with training numerous dogs for public access. As a member of the paws4people Medical Evaluation Team (pMET), Victoria is able to apply her knowledge of psychopathology and co-morbid disorders while assisting the organization with new clients and their treatment teams.

Victoria and NORAH are recent graduates of The University of North Carolina at Charlotte where Victoria studied posttraumatic growth and interpersonal relationships. Victoria and NORAH work as a team to help individuals who have experienced traumatic events along their road to recovery. In their free time, they visit local nursing homes, libraries, churches, and schools, giving elderly adults and young children the chance to experience the healing powers of a service dog.

In her spare time, Victoria furthers her education in classical dressage and spoils her fur babies, assistance dogs in training, and her rescue dog, Livvy.

More About Bethany Tennant, MS, LCMHC

Bethany was born and raised in West Virginia, but now resides in Wilmington, NC with her husband and son. She completed her Bachelors degree in Psychology and Masters degree in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling both at West Virginia University. Bethany now owns a private practice for mental health counseling in Wilmington, where she focuses on the impact of PTSD and trauma, particularly in women.

Bethany originally got involved with paws4people in 2015 as a way to give back to veterans, as her three brothers are Marines. Once involved, Bethany found a love for the connection to her home state, community that paws4people provided, and the opportunity to help clients in their ITT process. 

As a pMET case manager, Bethany assists in the information gathering about symptoms and experiences as new clients prepare to complete their initial storyboard process with their dogs. Getting to see the ITT process from “behind the scenes” is Bethany’s favorite part of her position. 

More About William Taggart, MD

William is a lifelong animal lover who has always had beloved dogs in his life. He became a believer in the therapeutic possibilities of dogs through his experience with a family member with special needs and their trained German Shepherd.

Grateful for the help this family member received, and acutely aware of the many other needy people in our world who struggle similarly, William has made a life’s mission of helping people with similar challenges, including bringing such helpful canine emotional assistance to a wider audience.

William began with paws4people in Wilmington in 2017, and has recently moved with his wife, three teenagers, and his Malinois/Shepherd mix, Skye, to Richmond, VA, where he continues to be involved helping the P4P pMET team.

More About Hannah Orozco, MS, RMHCI

Hannah began her journey as a volunteer with paws4people in 2017 after being stationed in Fort Bragg, NC, to apply her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and give back to the Military Community that has become a home away from home. Originally from Germany, Hannah followed her husband, an active duty service member of the U.S. Army, to Italy and eventually North Carolina.

She continued her education and received a second master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Walden University. Currently, Hannah and her husband are stationed in St. Augustine, FL, and she works with children and teens who have experienced complex trauma at a community mental health agency.

As a case manager for the paws4people Medical Evaluation Team (pMET), Hannah can apply her knowledge of psychopathology and provide a trauma-informed safe space while assisting clients in starting their storyboard process with their Assistance Dog. In her free time, Hannah spends a lot of time outdoors with her three rescue dogs Remy, Miley, and Mr. Whiskers going kayaking, hiking, or enjoying the beautiful beaches in Florida.

More About Alison Beyers, Psy. D.

Dr. Byers is an Executive Coach and Leadership Development Consultant providing services to clients in both the nonprofit and corporate sectors, including the retained search industry. Dr. Byers uses her training as a clinician to inform her work assisting C-suite executives and teams to effectively address increasingly complex issues and enhance an organization’s bottom line. She believes that genuine connection and deep empathy are the foundations of lasting relationships and much of her work spans many years, growing and evolving with her clients, offering opportunities for accomplished executives to successfully move out of their comfort zones and rise to new challenges and build stronger ties with colleagues. Coaching can also provide a confidential environment where leaders can speak candidly, get objective and non-judgmental feedback, and develop skills and strategies. Dr. Byers also works with non-profit development teams to hone the message to the philanthropic community and identify targeted outreach for intimate events.

Prior to establishing her own firm, while full-time at Diversified Search (which is ranked by Forbes as one of the top Executive Search Firms in 2020) Dr. Byers served as the Vice President, Psychological and Assessment Services. She used evidence-based assessment combined with behavioral interviewing to augment traditional approaches to selection, search team support and onboarding/coaching of new executives. Dr. Byers is a certified in the Hogan Assessment and the CCL 360 Evaluation.

Prior to joining Diversified Search, Dr. Byers gained extensive clinical experience in juvenile rehabilitation and interpersonal trauma. She worked with The National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the Nassau County Police-Mental Health Project within the Department of Psychiatry at North Shore University Hospital in New York. Dr. Byers consulted with the Suffolk County Juvenile Probation Department and served as the Clinical Director for a community mental health center and was the Assistant Director for the Psychological Services Center at L.I.U. C.W. Post Clinical Psychology Program. Dr. Byers had a private practice as a Clinical Psychologist and held a position as an Adjunct Professor and supervisor for doctoral-level psychology students.

Dr. Byers is a co-founder and Consultant with The Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia, PA, and serves as the President of the Richard King Mellon Foundation and on the Board of the Richard King Mellon Family Foundation, both based in Pittsburgh. In addition, Dr. Byers is a volunteer with paws4people, a nonprofit which places highly trained Assistance Dogs. She also raises puppies and evaluates potential clients through their Medical Evaluation Team. Dr. Byers earned her BS from Georgetown University and received a master’s degree in Criminology from Cambridge University, Trinity Hall, England. She also holds her Doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology from LIU/C.W. Post in Long Island, NY. She is a trained chef and experienced boater and has her 50-Ton USCG License. She and her Black Lab live on the North Fork of Long Island, where she also serves on the Board of Stonybrook Eastern Long Island Hospital Foundation.

More About Susan Adams Judd

Susan was introduced to paws4people from a good friend and fellow OT. Having recently retired and moving to Wrightsville Beach, she was looking for fulfilling activities and quickly became engrossed in all paws4people has to offer, from volunteering in the Puppy Development Center to pMET.

paws4people fulfills her passion for helping those in need and her lifelong love of animals, specifically dogs, and most especially Golden Retrievers. Susan spent her early career days as an Occupational Therapist helping her patients gain the independence and purpose they strived for, while raising 3 children and a host of pets ranging from a variety of reptiles, fish, cats, dogs, etc, always the animal lover. In 2020, her husband finally agreed to let her have a “large dog that sheds” and now she is the proud owner of Basil, a Golden Retriever, the dog of her dreams!

Susan graduated from the University of Buffalo in 1989 with a BS in Occupational Therapy and a BA in Psychology. She was married and moved around with her husband following his academic career, landing in Baltimore MD, Chicago Illinois and ultimately Chapel Hill, NC where they lived for over 20 years and raised their children. North Carolina quickly became their home given their love for both the mountains and the coast.

Upon retirement, Wrightsville Beach has become their “home away from home” and paws4people will be a meaningful part of that!

 

More About Katelyn Monday, MA, LCMHC, LCAS

Katelyn has always had a passion for working with paws4people. She started her journey by completing the UNCW Assistance Dog Program while in her undergraduate program, as well as working as a puppy development intern for paws4people. Katelyn decided to pursue her career further in the helping profession and completed a graduate program at Appalachian State University for Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Addictions Counseling.

During her program, she started working with Bosh (Psychiatric Facility Dog) where they learned how to provide animal-assisted therapy to a variety of individuals. Katelyn and Bosh have been a team, working in the mental health field, since 2019. Katelyn is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist who owns Caring Mind Counseling private practice nestled in Boone, NC. Katelyn and Bosh plan to continue to support and volunteer with paws4people.

More About Amanda Rubenstein

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Trainer - Public Access

Amanda graduated from West Liberty University in 1997 with a B.S in Criminal Justice then began her career with the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation. Since becoming involved with paws4people/paws4prisons Program in January 2014, Amanda is always seeking opportunities to become more involved with their programs.

The opportunity to be a part of their Ambassador Program brought CREIGHTON into her life in 2015. CREIGHTON quickly became part of the lives of Amanda’s family, friends, coworkers, and community. In her role as the WVDCR paws4prisons Mentor, she has the opportunity to see the daily progress of the Assistance Dogs in Training. Seeing CREIGHTON progress in her training was no exception. CREIGHTON is well known for her youthful, rambunctious personality, and her affection toward everyone she meets. CREIGHTON, along with the paws4people Dogs in the paws4prisons Program, are quite popular among the staff and inmates in the prison and are a welcome addition to any day there. Outside of her work in the prison system, as a working team, Amanda and CREIGHTON visit schools, nursing homes and many public events as we share all of the wonderful things that paws4people does for others. CREIGHTON loves to visit schools, especially for reading programs when the students read to her. The confidence that she gives the students is priceless! CREIGHTON also has art therapy sessions with adults and children, and they turn her pawprints into unique masterpieces.

Amanda and CREIGHTON also volunteer at a local Child Advocacy Center where they interact with children prior to and after forensic interviews to help them feel more relaxed and comfortable. Amanda organizes and supervises outings for the Assistance Dogs in Training that are in the paws4prisons Program and is also an Evaluator for annual certifications for Service Dogs and handlers. Amanda’s daughter Shelby has volunteered along with her since 2013 and continues to volunteer with her during her visits home from West Virginia University.

More About Randy Powers

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Randy first discovered the paws4people organization/family in March 2016. In April 2016 he became a Volunteer Community Liaison for paws4people and shortly thereafter a client. Randy attends many fundraising events throughout the year, but his primary focus is during the Combined Federal Campaign (Sept – Dec), when his goal is to visit as many Government agency fund raising events as possible and to share the paws4vets mission.

As a child growing up, Randy’s family were snowbirds and moved from Gaylord MI, to Bradenton, FL with the change of the seasons. After graduating high school he attended Community College before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1982. His first duty station was RAF Mildenhall, England, where he met and married his wife, Donna. After a 4-year assignment, Randy received his first stateside assignment to Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada. After serving another four-year assignment at Nellis AFB, Randy Honorably Discharged from the USAF to pursue a career in Civil Service, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) where he was able to spend more time with his wife and two children.

Shortly after beginning his career with the FBOP, Randy joined the Army National Guard (ARN). In November 1990, after only one weekend drill with the ANG MP unit, he was activated and sent to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm to set up and activate/operate Enemy Prisoner of War Camps. Additionally, his Unit performed a full range of military police operations, served as customs agents during redeployment of forces and became involved in supporting humanitarian relief operations for refugees and repatriated Enemy Prisoners of War.

After returning home from ODS, Randy Honorably Discharged from the ARN to return to his family and a full-time FBOP career as a Correctional Officer. It was not long before Randy began volunteering in the community, both as a soccer coach for his children’s soccer teams and mentor in the “Big Brother Program.” Randy’s military training, supervisory experience and people skills, coupled with his willingness to relocate to FBOP locations in other Stateside locations, helped him to further his career and achieve positions of increasing responsibility to include: Supervisory, Inmate Systems Manager, USP Atlanta, GA; Inmate Systems Specialist, FBOP Central Office Washington, DC; Inmate Systems Manager, United States Penitentiary, Allenwood, PA, Associate Warden, Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York; Inmate Systems Management, Assistant Administrator, FBOP Central Office, and Chief of Field Operations, Privatization Management, FBOP Central Office. Randy retired from the FBOP in 2012 with 30+ years of honorable Federal service.

Shortly after being introduced to paws4people, Randy knew he had found his purpose post-retirement. He is in his element when he is working with his wife, Donna, and his Assistance Dog, MORGAN, to raise awareness and promote paws4people, paws4prisons/paws4vets; three programs that he knows changes, and even saves lives each, and every day!

More About Cathy Demeroto

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Cathy and her family wake up to demands of two sweet Golden Retrievers named LAYTON and Daisy.

Cathy is a Relationship Development Officer and oversees our Puppy Development Center for the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Cathy received her Juris Doctor with Honors from The George Washington University and her BA from Boston College graduating Magna Cum Laude.

Cathy has extensive experience in non-profit management, special education law, public policy, organizational development, and fundraising. Not only does Cathy supervise and train new volunteers, but she also breeds Goldens and donates them to paws4people.

Like so many of us, Cathy joined the paws4people team because she wanted to be a part of something that could make the world a better place. She is a well-balanced person who strives to instill greatness in her children and believes in standing up for what you believe in.

ODS, Randy Honorably Discharged from the ARN to return to his family and a full-time FBOP career as a Correctional Officer. It was not long before Randy began volunteering in the community, both as a soccer coach for his children’s soccer teams and mentor in the “Big Brother Program.” Randy’s military training, supervisory experience and people skills, coupled with his willingness to relocate to FBOP locations in other Stateside locations, helped him to further his career and achieve positions of increasing responsibility to include: Supervisory, Inmate Systems Manager, USP Atlanta, GA; Inmate Systems Specialist, FBOP Central Office Washington, DC; Inmate Systems Manager, United States Penitentiary, Allenwood, PA, Associate Warden, Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York; Inmate Systems Management, Assistant Administrator, FBOP Central Office, and Chief of Field Operations, Privatization Management, FBOP Central Office. Randy retired from the FBOP in 2012 with 30+ years of honorable Federal service.

Shortly after being introduced to paws4people, Randy knew he had found his purpose post-retirement. He is in his element when he is working with his wife, Donna, and his Assistance Dog, MORGAN, to raise awareness and promote paws4people, paws4prisons/paws4vets; three programs that he knows changes, and even saves lives each, and every day!