Board of Directors & Staff
Board of Directors
The governing body of SMILES is the Board of Directors.
The members listed below are not compensated, as service on the Board of Directors is a volunteer position.
Mark Hanson, President
Thomas (Bill) Koch, Vice President
Director of Logistics, Blain Supply
Becky Dyckman, Treasurer
Retired Vice President, Administration, LFC Capital, Inc
Cassie Kriefall, Secretary
Title 1 Teacher, School District of Janesville
Dr. Liana Wiegel, DVM
Veterinarian, Elkhorn Veterinary Clinic Ltd.
HR Coordinator, City of Whitewater
Retired HR Director & Accountant
Contract Attorney, Gardiner Kock Weisberg & Wrona
MEET THE STAFF
Kim was hired in November of 2018 as Executive Director. She became acquainted with SMILES through the annual Equine Seminar and Tack Sale fundraiser after purchasing her first horse in 2016. Kim has been an avid horse lover since she was a child. She grew her passion and knowledge for horses by attending many horse camps into her teens, taking riding lessons through high school, and taking on multiple roles during college breaks working with horses at summer camps in Minnesota and California. Then eventually volunteering at a therapeutic riding program in California.
Experiencing the life-changing positive impacts of horses in her own life, finding a career with horses had always been a dream. Kim moved back to the Midwest to complete her Master of Arts in Social Work and then a Master of Arts in Business Administration at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. After graduating, Kim spent almost a decade working and volunteering exclusively for nonprofits in southeast Wisconsin until her current position at SMILES opened. With a passion for helping people, a love of horses, and a background in nonprofit management, Kim was excited and honored to take on the role of leading SMILES into the organization’s next successful chapters.
Leslie began as a volunteer in 2015, became a board member in 2016-2022, and became Office Manager in mid-2022. She has always had a “soft spot” in her heart for horses as she rode often as a child. Growing up in Delavan, she knew about SMILES and the wonderful work they do with the students. She wanted to become involved and was fortunate enough to volunteer to see firsthand all the benefits equine-assisted therapeutic activities bring to the students and the self-fulfillment for herself. She continues to volunteer when and where she is able.
Leslie graduated from UW-Whitewater with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art with an emphasis in graphic design. She worked in the marketing department for a few businesses before starting a career in accounting. After receiving her associate degree in accounting, she has worked 20+ years in the accounting field.
Marketing and Development Coordinator
BA-Integrated Studies - Secondary Fields of Study in Psychology and Business & Management
Emily calls SMILES her dream job when she started in mid-2022. She has a huge passion for equine-assisted therapeutic activities and riding. Emily grew up volunteering at nursing homes and assisted livings since her mother was a nursing home administrator. Her experiences helped her discover she enjoyed helping others and sharing her joys with others. Being around horses for 13+ years and volunteering with residents, frail elders, developmentally disabled, mentally ill, and with dementia residents. In 2013-2018 she blended these two things to find a niche that gave her fulfillment by bringing her horse to the communities her mother ran for an annual fair day. The pleasure on the residents’ faces was what she decided should become a career.
Emily attended Alverno College in Milwaukee and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in integrated studies along with secondary fields of study in psychology and business and management. She knows the positive effect animals can have on people and she knew she wanted to work at a facility that used animals for therapeutic activities. With her knowledge in websites, writing, and being certified in grant writing, she helps SMILES strive on social media, event planning, website updates, and writing grants.
Katie’s enthusiasm for Therapeutic Riding started at the young age of 13 when she started as a class volunteer at SMILES. Wanting to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a Program Coordinator, Katie knew she wanted to pursue Therapeutic Riding as a career. Starting as the Volunteer Coordinator in 2006, Katie went on to become PATH Certified as a Therapeutic Riding Instructor in 2008. In 2012, Katie took on the role of Program Coordinator and later became a PATH Certified Mentor in 2015.
Katie was fortunate enough to grow up in an equestrian household and spent much of her youth and amateur career competing on a national level in the all-around events on the International Buckskin Horse Association circuit, winning World Championships, and national titles. With her strong passion for horsemanship and her love for therapeutic riding, it has been a dream career for her.
Watching the program grow over the years into the successful organization it is today leaves Katie feeling grateful to be a part of something so wonderful, and that improves the lives of the clients, volunteers, and staff every day.
Volunteer Coordinator & Instructor
BSE-Elementary/Middle School Education, PATH Intl. CTRI, PATH Certified Mentor
Katie joined the SMILES team as a staff member in 2013, however, she was involved with the program as a volunteer for much longer. Like many young girls, Katie loved being around horses, and since the SMILES facility was only a mile away from her childhood home, it was an ideal place for her to volunteer. After graduating from UW-Whitewater with a degree in Elementary/Middle School Education, her passion for teaching, helping people, and being around horses called her back to the SMILES program. Having witnessed the positive impact of equine-assisted activities during her time as a volunteer, Katie knew that continuing her involvement with SMILES would be the perfect fit for her.
Katie is the Volunteer Coordinator and has been a PATH Intl Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor since 2014. In 2015, Katie also became a Certified Mentor for new instructors and has successfully mentored several individuals through the PATH Instructor Certification. Working as an Instructor at SMILES has made Katie a firm believer that horses help bridge the gap between disability and ability. Katie is incredibly grateful to work with an amazing team of volunteers and staff and, together, make a difference in the lives of individuals with special needs.
Kayla’s ties to SMILES began when she was 4 years old showing in the SMILES Benefit Speed Show with her family and trusty one-eyed pony, Star. Her brother began attending classes at SMILES as they got older, and Kayla began volunteering as a Junior Volunteer in the barn while her brother rode. After high school, she moved off to Nashville, TN before returning to Wisconsin in the summer of 2020 and joining the SMILES team April 2021. She became a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor (CTRI) in February 2022.
Kayla has always had a passion and love for horses. In 2016 Kayla got the opportunity to dive into the equine industry working as a groom for ARK Partners LLC. Working as a groom for a competitive show jumper she learned more than any equine classes she had taken on and off in her college career. Desiring to settle back into Tennessee and not travel as often she took on the role of a beginner lesson instructor at the barn where her horse, Einstein, resided. She worked as a lesson instructor, exercise rider, and assistant barn manager at the facility until moving herself and Einstein back to her aunt’s boarding stable in Wisconsin.
SMILES has always held a special place in Kayla’s heart and life. She is grateful to be able to have an impact on all the riders that come through SMILES. Whether it’s improving riding skills, building confidence, sharpening motor skills, or just pure enjoyment, Kayla values being able to share her love and passion for horses with others.
Tiffany graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Science degree in Therapeutic Recreation with the intention of becoming involved with the equine-assisted therapy world. During her internship at the YMCA adaptive recreation department, the clients participated in a few outings to a therapeutic riding center. These outings confirmed her intentions that equine-assisted therapeutic riding was her career path; with her love for horses and helping others, it just made sense.
Tiffany took a few years at home to raise her family, but in 2015 she began her journey as a volunteer at SMILES. She immediately fell in love with the magic that happens in the arena, and the joy that the horses bring both the students and volunteers. She was approached about becoming an instructor, and with an immediate “YES” response, she went through the certification process with PATH. Never looking back, she enjoys the opportunity to learn more by continuing her education, working with her fellow instructors, and having hands-on experiences with both students and horses.
PATH Intl. CTRI - In Training
Cori went to Rockford Career College for massage therapy in 2012. This was the first condensed class to complete a license in 10 months with a graduation at 12 months. She graduated in 2013 and started working in a Spa and Chiropractic setting for the next 5 years. Cori took time off to stay home with her girls until they came of school age. When that time came, she received her paraprofessional certification and worked at her daughter’s school for one year working with kids with IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) and special needs. Since then, Cori has been home raising her daughters and working on her own farm and horses.
Cori’s love for horses started at the age of 13 when her father bought her, her first weanling. She spent time in show barns when she was of high school age working off her board doing chores, showing, and giving riding lessons. Later in life Cori donated her mare to the barn and traded the cost of board for the cost of diapers and formula. She promised herself after they established their family, she could always get another horse. With three daughters ranging from toddler to teen, she wanted the same enrichment for them that horses brought to her and her father. Moving to Wisconsin 2 years ago to make that happen for them, Cori now has her own horse breeding program. She was inspired to work at SMILES to help others, spread kindness, and make a difference in peoples and animals lives as well as her own.
PATH Intl. CTRI - In Training
Melinda was born in Cedar Rapids, IA, and lived there until she was 12. She then moved to Beloit, WI. Her fondest memories of living in Iowa were caring for her chickens and sheep on her family's farm. She's always been an animal lover and it was her dream to one day have her own little farm.
In 2014, her family moved to a farm on the west side of Beloit. Her husband of almost 21 years have three incredible teenage boys (17, 15, and 14). Her family enjoys sporting events, hiking, and swimming together in the summer. They also enjoy taking care of their farm together. They have three horses, one mini horse, three dogs, two goats, chickens and ducks.
Melinda and her sons volunteered together for Meals on Wheels throughout the years. Melinda then saw the volunteer opportunity for SMILES come across her Facebook feed and knew it would be the perfect spot for her! Her loves for horses, combined with helping people, brings her so much joy. She's very excited to learn and grow with the SMILES family!