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paws4people founder Kyria Henry Whisenhunt with black lab puppy

Kyria Henry Whisenhunt

Founder, Executive Director

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.


Terry Henry

Deputy Executive Director

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.

paws4people team member Cece McConnell with golden retriever in service dog vest

Cece McConnell

Deputy Executive Director, paws4prisons & Client/Legal Services

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.

paws4people team member Danielle Cockerham holding black lab puppy

Danielle Cockerham

Deputy Executive Director – Operations & Information Technology

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.

Carrie Coonce

Director, Accounting

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. 

paws4people team member Ashley Currin holding black lab puppy

Ashley Currin

Director, Client Services

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! 

paws4people team member Kaitlin Bellamy holding yellow lab puppy in assistance dog in training vest

Kaitlin Bellamy

Director, Executive Administration

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.

paws4people team member Abi Kiradjieff with black lab in service dog vest

Abi Kiradjieff

Director, Public Access Training

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.

paws4people team member Tina Musselwhite holding black lab puppy

Tina Musselwhite

Director, ADDIE'S Way K9 Bakery

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. 

paws4people team member sara harts holding yellow lab puppy

Sara Harts

Director, Puppy Development Centers

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.

paws4people team member Cassidy Barker holding black lab puppy

Cassidy Barker

Program Manager, Client Training

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

Cassidy transferred to UNCW August of 2020 and joined the ADTP program, where she quickly fell in love with the organization’s mission and values.

paws4people team member shannon coyle holding yellow lab puppy

Shannon Coyle

Program Assistant, Client Training

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

Shannon is currently a senior at UNCW majoring in Business Administration and has completed the Assistance Dog Training Program Minor.

paws4people team member Katie Hardin holding yellow lab puppy

Katie Hardin

Puppy Development Center, Program Assistant

Katie joined paws4people in January of 2022 as a PDC caregiver and quickly fell in love with the organization’s mission and values.

paws4people team member Tom Hines holding yellow lab puppy

Tom Hines

Executive Administrator, Operations & IT

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.

paws4people team member Melissa White holding yellow lab puppy

Melissa White

Relationship Development Officer, Headquarters Region

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.

Cpl Seth Eure, USMC (ret.)

Director, Client Training

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.

paws4people team member Renee Johnson with yellow lab dog in service vest

Renee Johnson

Birthing & Whelping Master

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.

paws4people team member Dawn Cook with Golden retriever dog

Dawn Richard Cook, LCMHC

Director, pMET

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.

Victoria O'Connor, PhD

pMET Case Manager

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.

Bethany Tennant, MS, CRC, LCMHC

pMET Case Manager

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.

Blake Taggart, MD

pMET Case Manager

Blake 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.

Hannah Orozco, MS, RMHCI

pMET Case Manager

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.

Alison Beyers, Psy. D.

pMET Case Manager

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.

Jennifer Pumphrey

pMET Case Manager

Jennifer is from Millersville, Maryland, where she worked as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for over 25 years. She has worked for various organizations including Healthy Start and Baltimore City Schools. Most recently, she served as Director of Operations for an emergency assistance program, SPAN, Serving People Across Neighborhoods. She and her husband Brad raised two daughters, Sarah and Molly, and two dogs, Rupert and Maxlee.

Susan Adams Judd

pMET Case Manager

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.

Cassandra Gallagher

pMET Case Manager

Cassandra joined paws4people in March 2022 as a volunteer after spending 20+ years of weekends in the Wilmington/Wrightsville beach area, spending many hours boating on the Intracoastal waterway, watching sunrises and sunsets at anchor and being a great first mate; and decided in late 2021 to make Wilmington her permanent home. Her favorite quote, “ the beach is always good for my soul”

paws4people team member Lisa Miller with golden retriever dog

Lisa Miller

PIF Advocate

Credentials: Assistance Dog Handler

Lisa and Scott share a home with their daughter Gabby and her service dog WALTER and their little dachshund, Fonzie. She is a Wilmington native and has over a decade of experience in international fundraising and the nonprofit sector.  

paws4people team member Tommy Cockerham holding yellow lab puppy

Tommy Cockerham

Director, Facility Maintenance

Tommy learned about paws4people when his wife was in college taking the Assistance Dog Training Program courses. With Tommy’s love of dogs and the outdoors, he quickly joined on as a volunteer in 2013 and after years of attending events and helping out in between his day job, Tommy was finally able to officially join the team in 2020. 

Amanda Rubenstein

paws4prisons DOC Mentor

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.

Randy Powers

Relationship Development Officer

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.

Cathy Demeroto

Relationship Development Officer

Credentials: Assistance Dog Handler

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