Our Staff

Kyria Henry Whisenhunt

Kyria Henry Whisenhunt - Founder, Executive Director

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.

Terry Henry

Terry Henry - Deputy Executive Director Operations & Finance

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.

Cece McConnell

Cece McConnell - Deputy Executive Director, paws4prisons & Client/Legal Services

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.

Danielle Cockerham

Danielle Cockerham - Deputy Executive Director – Public Awareness & 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

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. 

Ashley Currin

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! 

Bailey Moore

Bailey Moore - Director, Special Programming

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

Bailey is a vibrant young woman who, like so many of us, started as a student in the UNCW Assistance Dog Training Program, then a volunteer, and in 2018 she joined the paws4people staff.

Kaitlin Bellamy

Kaitlin Bellamy - Director, Executive Administration

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

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.

Abi Kiradjieff

Abi Kiradjieff - Program Manager, UNCW Assistance Dog Training Program

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

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.

Tina Musselwhite

Tina Musselwhite - Director, ADDIE'S Way K9 Bakery

Credentials:

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. 

Sara Harts

Sara Harts - Director, Puppy Development Centers

Credentials:

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.

Elise Barrett

Elise Barrett - Executive Administrator, Event Management

Credentials:

Elise is described as a person who will always go above and beyond for others. She has had a passion for service since she was in high school, which is where her journey with paws4people began! Fast forward 10 years, and her life experiences have led her to be the perfect fit for creating and managing paws4people events!

Renee Johnson

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.

Cpl Seth Eure, USMC (ret.)

Cpl Seth Eure, USMC (ret.) - Program Manager, 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, Odie, 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. 


Katie Hardin

Katie Hardin - Puppy Development Center, Program Assistant

Credentials:

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

Tom Hines

Tom Hines - Executive Administrator, Operations & IT

Credentials:

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.

Melissa White

Melissa White - Relationship Development Officer, Headquarters Region

Credentials:

 

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. 

 

Dawn Richard Cook, LCMHC

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

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

Bethany Tennant, MS, CRC, LCMHC - pMET Case Manager

Credentials:

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, BA MBA

Blake Taggart, BA MBA - pMET Case Manager

Credentials:

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

Hannah Orozco, MS, RMHCI - pMET Case Manager

Credentials:

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.

Alison Beyers, Psy. D. - pMET Case Manager

Credentials:

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

Jennifer Pumphrey - pMET Case Manager

Credentials:

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. 

Randy Powers

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.

Amanda Rubenstein

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.

Susan Adams Judd

Susan Adams Judd - pMET Case Manager

Credentials:

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

Cassandra Gallagher - pMET Case Manager

Credentials:

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”

Cathy Demeroto

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.

Our Client Advocates

Carol Mitchell

Carol Mitchell - Client Advocate

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Carol is a dedicated mother of two adult sons, Rob and Jeff. She enjoys spending her time with her boys and her husband, Doug, of 47 years. Carol joined paws4people through paws4vets. She credits paws4vets for saving her son’s life. She says, “There is no way to adequately thank someone for the gift of your child’s life.”

Susan Parker

Susan Parker - Client Advocate

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Originally from Pennsylvania, Susan always enjoyed being around dogs and had numerous pets growing up. In 1986, after high school, she moved to Northern Virginia with her family.

Janet Wall

Janet Wall - Client Advocate

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Janet is a mother of two very special young boys. She thrives on her children and her desire to help others.

Jennifer Keefover

Jennifer Keefover - Client Advocate

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Jennifer is first and foremost a proud and dedicated wife and mother. She and her husband Dave’s greatest joys are their three adult children Abby, Alex, and Haley. 

Kevin Cerroni

Kevin Cerroni - Client Advocate

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Kevin was born and raised just outside of Boston, Massachusetts and recently settled down in the beautiful state of Maine (although he kept the accent). Kevin is a loving father, devoted husband, and can always be found with his loyal service dog, SOPHIA, by his side. Voted 'Class Clown' in highschool, you can always find Kevin goofing around and making people laugh. 

Shannon Parker

Shannon Parker - Client Advocate

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Shannon is from Derwood, MD and currently resides with her husband, Garrett, in Charleston, SC. She grew up loving dogs, always becoming fast friends with each dog she met; one even because depressed after she left because he missed her so much. She is a graduate of Delaware Valley College [now university] with a B.A. in Counseling Psychology, with one year of work volunteering to care for the campus beagles and 3 years as a Resident Assistance 'caring' for the students living on campus. 

Alexa Palmer

Alexa Palmer - Client Advocate

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Alexa started with paws4people in 2015 as a UNCW Student Trainer in the Assistance Dog Training Program. Being a Recreation Therapy Major, she thought having a Facility dog would be the perfect addition to any practice but life never goes as we plan. 

Ari Berntsen

Ari Berntsen - Client Advocate

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Ari worked as a paramedic in North Carolina for almost a decade before she was diagnosed with PTSD. She joined the paws4people family after her doctor suggested utilizing a service dog to help mitigate her symptoms and in July 2018 she bumped with WARREN. Since then Ari has gone on to acquire her B.A. in Political Science and is currently working towards a Masters in Technical Communication. Prior to bringing WARREN home, she was unable to leave her house on her own or drive alone, now she has been able to return to a life with a normal schedule. Ari fully credits paws4people and WARREN with her ability to return to school. 

 

Laura Twohig

Laura Twohig - Client Advocate

Credentials:

Laura grew up as a navy brat. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Chris, who is a Marine Corps Veteran. Together they have a little boy named Gideon. While her husband, Chris, was serving in the Marine Corps he was injured and suffered multiple TBIs, causing PTSD, depression, anxiety, and mobility issues. Chris and MCLELLAN bumped in July 2020. MCLELLAN was the missing piece that they needed in their lives. Laura has seen first-hand the amazing work paws4people/paws4vets is doing and she is very proud to be a part of it.

Branden Davenport

Branden Davenport - Client Advocate

Credentials:
Assistance Dog Handler

Branden was born in Daytona Beach, Florida, raised in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and recently moved his family to Wilmington, NC. Branden is a stay at home father of six, while his loyal paws4people service dog, BROOKLYN, keeps him in line. Branden loves to cook and feed people, and looks forward to helping paws4people as an advocate. 

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