Robert Mennell


After the first day of volunteering with SPIRIT’s therapeutic riding program, Rob decided to join the Board of Directors, in order to continue serving.  As a member of the BOD, he brings great exposure to his professional, personal and veteran networks.  These networks serve to help increase SPIRIT's visibility, and ultimately, the resources to continue supporting our community. He believes in SPIRIT's purpose, in the people of which comprise our program and in the learning and healing we foster.

Rob works as the Director of Business Strategy at SCL Group, Inc.  He has affiliations with the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The Mission Continues (TMC) and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce.  In Rob’s own words:

“Spirit is the only organization I’ve seen where all participants - two-legged and four - leave with more than they came.”

Brian Wright

Vice President

Brian’s commitment to SPIRIT has been based on personal experience:  being a parent of one of our program participants, and witnessing the benefits of Equine Assisted Activities.

Brian is serving as a Director for George Washington University's Graduate Data Science programs.  He also serves, annually, as a part-time faculty member, teaching Machine Learning, Introduction to Data Science and Capstone courses.. He co-founded George Washington University’s Data Science Institute and currently serves as the Institute’s Director of Operations and Outreach.

Lastly, he is Vice President for DC Data Community, a non-profit organization, with roughly 25,000 members, focusing on data science education and networking across the DC area.

Brian’s current research interests focus on the future of work with an emphasis on education and healthcare.  He is also a board member for the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington and Advisory Board member of GWU’s Center of Innovation.

Patricia Sullivan (Patty)


Everything important to Patty is embodied in the SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program. She has served as the Chairperson of SPIRIT’s Board of Directors in 2015 and is currently the Treasurer.  She is very active in her role as Treasurer as well as Chairperson on the Fundraising and Events Committee.

After a thirty two year career as a Social Work Supervisor in Child Welfare, Patty retired from the Fairfax County Department of Family Services.   Having enjoyed working with children and teens, with a wide range of disabilities, she knew she needed to find a way to continue her involvement with this population.   In addition, she spent years volunteering with an Animal Protection Association fostering abused and neglected dogs, screening prospective adoptive homes and the placements.  With her love of animals and her ten-year involvement with horses earlier in her life, in 2014 she found her way to SPIRIT.  

Patty has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) from George Mason University and a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Patty is SPIRIT’s Top Donor.

Lauren Wong

Secretary, Board of Directors

PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor

Lauren has been involved with individuals with special needs via extracurriculars like Special Olympics’ events and classroom work with students on the autism spectrum. To further serve children and their families, in a unique way, she joined SPIRIT as a volunteer in April 2015.

Presently, besides serving on the Board for SPIRIT, she also serves SPIRIT as a PATH International Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. She contributes to SPIRIT’s program activities each week—teaching group therapeutic riding lessons and overseeing equine assisted learning programs and volunteer activities. Ms. Wong has completed Greg Kersten’s OK Corral “Ok, It’s Family Time!” and “ Coming Home Again” certifications in Equine Assisted Activities. She believes strongly, in both the qualitative and quantitative benefits of therapeutic horseback riding, for her students and their caregivers. She has an interest in educating the public about the benefits of animal therapies. When not at SPIRIT, Lauren works as a software developer.

Leslie A. Vernon


Leslie is “passionate about SPIRIT and the work we do because I see miracles happen all the time as our herd helps kids and adults learn lessons in respect, love, and healing.”

Her endless energy, amazing social skills and compassion, together with dedication to the SPIRIT mission, makes her an important source of energy and ideas as a Director of the Board and as a member of the Fundraising Committee.

Beside volunteering on the BOD, Leslie is taking care of the financial area at the office, as bookkeeper and member of Financial Committee.

Before her recent retirement, Ms. Vernon spent 32 years at Pitney Bowes as a Major Account Executive for Sales. She was responsible for maintaining and developing client relationships and selling software, hardware and integrated solutions. Ms. Vernon worked extensively with C-level executives and staff, winning many awards for outstanding sales attainment. She has a BA in Geography from the University of Mary Washington/

Barry Dresdner


Barry has been a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America since 2006.  He currently serves as an Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 1018 of Herndon, VA, where he has held such positions as Committee Chair and Den Leader.  He has worked on several Eagle Scout projects in Herndon, Reston, Great Falls, Chantilly and Sterling.  Barry assists scouts in earning community service hours with SPIRIT Open Equestrian.  In addition, he assists prospective Eagle Scouts in obtaining grants and donations for Eagle Scout projects which benefits the SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program and the scouts.  Barry has over 30 years of experience as a software engineer with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Software AG in Reston and can assist SPIRIT with software related tasks.  He also has experience in construction and can help out with building and renovation projects and with reviewing contractor bids and proposals. Barry commits to provide resources to perform various projects for SPIRIT such as building fences, painting stalls, etc. He has expertise in website development and web-based financial transactions (e.g. PayPal, credit cards).  He administers Google G-Suite for another non-profit and can do this for SPIRIT as well, if necessary.

Diane Pires


Diane has worked with SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program since 2013.  She has vast experience with the Program:  as a participant, a program activities volunteer and a valuable project manager for different public relations and fundraising events.

After retiring from Northrop Grumman, Inc., Diane wanted to give something back to the community and to continue being an advocate for animals and their role in human lives. Serving as a volunteer and a Director at SPIRIT unites these two interests. She believes in SPIRIT’s mission and is working to attract long-term donors, ensuring that SPIRIT will continue to serve Fairfax County residents for many decades. Diane commits to support for the horse rescue and retraining program and to continue her work in the public relations and fundraising areas.

Louise Peterson


Louise has been a horse enthusiast from an early age.  Currently, she is the mother of a horse-crazy daughter; she has also been involved in the breeding and raising of sport horses, for the disciplines of dressage, eventing and hunter/jumpers, for the past twenty three years.  

She has been a member of the Board since the earliest days of SPIRIT and has watched it grow, exponentially, from its humble beginnings to the diverse and resilient organization it has become.

Louise has worked in the real estate industry for many years. She has been a paralegal in a law firm, the owner of a title settlement company and a real estate salesperson in Northern Virginia.  Louise has proven her dedication to SPIRIT through the years by advocating and providing special support, hosting SPIRIT horses, at her own farm and providing valuable horses, as needed.



Instructors and therapists



Michael Smith, CPA
Accountant and Financial Advisor

Michael has been with SPIRIT since its early years, providing financial consulting services since 2008. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and an expert in accounting, preparing financial documents and financial management. He advises SPIRIT on day-to-day financial operations, helps develop accounting procedures, represents SPIRIT during the yearly audit and prepares the taxes and Form 990 each year.  He is credited with creating an annual financial report that accurately presents SPIRIT’s financial condition and financial activities. He also runs his own financial consulting business.

Boris Suvak

Farm and Property  Manager

Boris has volunteered at SPIRIT since its inception. He is responsible for all farm, facility, equipment and land management and, partially, horse care. Without electricity and water at our operation site, his work has extra issues, but he proves that where there’s a will there’s a way.  

He is currently a project manager at SCI Corporation, working in information technology. In addition, Boris is an accomplished photographer, and his photographs have helped illustrate and promote the SPIRIT mission.

Kris Montagne

Volunteer Coordinator and Admin support

Dedicated to SPIRIT Mission, hard working, detail oriented and creative, one of our Veterans with SPIRIT, Kris Montagne is one of key volunteers who keeps SPIRIT moving forward.

Jeff Wallace

Horse Care AM Manager

Jeff Wallace is with SPIRIT since 2008 as hardworking and dedicated volunteer. He is a leader of several more AM support volunteers, who together make sure that all horses are well fed, and do early maintenance work in the field.