Dana is our founder and 'vision caster' for the organization. She has a business and sales background but has found her passion working with the people and horses of Bright Star! Dana is certified by PATH® International as a riding instructor, and as an Equine Specialist in Mental Health & Learning, as well as certified by EAGALA® as an Equine Specialist for equine assisted psychotherapy and learning. She is a sought-after speaker for other non-profit and business groups, sharing the message and mission of Bright Star.
Will brings more skills than we could list in this brief bio, but suffice it to say he is an incredibly accomplished rider (ask about his rodeo days!), horse trainer, instructor, builder, mechanic and all-around great cowboy. Will also serves on our Executive Business committee, and works with Dana and Jen on programming and planning for the future as well as coordinating volunteers for riding sessions and paddock care.
Jen is PATH® International Certified Riding Instructor, and loves working with children with disabilities and riders of all ages and abilities. Fun fact: Cody, one of our older horses, was the horse she learned to ride and do jumping when she was a young girl! Jen is the proud owner of Cruise, a barn favorite, and Cruise is now helping her young kids to become accomplished horsewomen too! Jen is instrumental in providing quality intake assessments for new riders, and matching riders to horses and instructors that will best meet their needs.
Kim began as a Volunteer at Bright Star, but her love for children with disabilities and talent with horses compelled her to become part of the instructor team in 2015. Kim's creativity in lesson plans is pretty legendary around here, and she has also volunteered her time as a Board Member including a term as Board President.
Dee Dee is a Volunteer's Volunteer! Starting out helping as a side walker, then adding paddock duty and horse feeding to her work, she is now the coordinator for recruiting and retaining volunteers for Bright Star. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our nonprofit, providing countless hours to help make our riding programs happen. Dee Dee's 'other' job is as a long-time District 186 educator, and wishes for the day she can have a horse of her own!
OTHER KEY TEAM MEMBERS:
Julie Ponder, LCSW, CADC, MMATP, EAGALA®-certified Mental Health Professional, President of Psychiatric Associates of Central Illinois
Kim Grotts, Licensed Speech & Language Pathologist coordinating Functional Futures Therapy program at Bright Star
Kimberly Magowan, Art Therapist and Instructor working with children and seniors