Meet our Friendly Staff and Board of Directors

Project R.I.D.E.’s staff consists of an Executive Director, an Office Manager, a Community Outreach Manager and Outreach Coordinators, PATH International Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructors, and a Ranch Caretaker. Our beloved and hard-working four-legged employees include our amazing team of therapy horses and eight official therapy cats and mousers: Hobbs, Mowgli, Nilly Puddin’, Trip Hazard, Marshall, iLean, Thelma & Louise. All other duties are handled by our dedicated army of volunteers! To find out how you can help, click here.

Meet the Board. Project RIDE is run by an all-volunteer group of extremely dedicated individuals who oversee all of our program operations and finances and work hard to make sure we have the funds we need to run this program. Monthly board meetings are open to the public and occur every second Thursday in the Project RIDE arena at 5:30.



Tina Calanchini, Executive Director

I began volunteering at Project RIDE in 2001 and have loved every minute of my time spent at this awesome non-profit. I have always been fascinated by little KIDS and have always wanted to see the world through their eyes. Working with children with challenges and different abilities is even more fascinating! When pairing a horse with a rider, 

the connection becomes a bond, and that’s when the magic happens, all day every day. I love being able to provide a great support to those that need just a little more help in this life.

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Lori Candelaria, Office Manager

Lori manages the office and makes sure our operations run smoothly. She moved from the Bay Area in 2010 and soon after came to Project R.I.D.E. “Ever since my move, I dreamed of working with a facility that treasured children & valued the rural horse lifestyle within city limits. I have been so fortunate to find all that @ R.I.D.E.” From

outreach to in-house support, Lori’s role is to represent R.I.D.E. in program fundraising support and business office administration.

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Emily Calanchini, Community Outreach Manager

Emily has wanted to work with children since early high school. She graduated from CSUS with her Bachelors in Child Development. Emily was interested in the uniqueness of Project R.I.D.E. and getting to work near children. She began working at R.I.D.E. in 2014 as a data entry clerk. Emily wears

many hats as she has taught an 18 and Up Club, works on data entry, helps plan annual fundraisers, manages social media pages and the programs website, as well as assists with volunteer coordination. In her free time she loves going to Disneyland with her husband and daughter!

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Suzi Lawton, Community Outreach Specialist

Suzi joined Project RIDE as a volunteer in 2008. With a past career in finance, Suzi now works in our office as a volunteer coordinator helping to ensure we have volunteer support for our program and helping to keep things running smoothly for our volunteers. Suzi is an avid animal lover. She currently has a flock of doves, chickens,

2 rescue bunnies, a feral cat community, and other small animals that come her way from time to time. Her favorite rescue was a baby opossum which she raised and released as an adult.


Jennifer Passanando, Office Administrator

Jennifer remembers volunteering as a young child. Her sister was one of the first riders at Project R.I.D.E. and her Mom became a Board Member. Jennifer always knew that she would be a part of Project R.I.D.E. but didn’t know in what capacity. Jennifer got her B.A. in Liberal Studies, Special Minor is Sign Language and her Masters in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies. She enjoys working and volunteering with the special needs community. Jennifer couldn’t be any happier to be part of the team at Project R.I.D.E. and seeing magic happen every day.

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Tamara Lipanovich, PATH Int.l' Certified Riding Instructor; Equine Specialist in Mental Health & Learning

Tamara Lipanovich has ridden horses most of her life and enjoys riding a variety of disciplines from trail riding to jumping and dressage. When it comes to riding she refers to herself as a “jack of all disciplines, master of none”.

Prior to Project RIDE, Tamara worked in education and in the non-profit field. Tamara graduated from CSUS

with a Master’s Degree in Special Education. In addition to her instructor certifications Tamara holds a California Teaching Credential, a California Special Education Credential, and a California Child Development Program Directors Permit.

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Gayle Stowell, PATH Int.l' Certified Riding Instructor

Gayle began interning at Project RIDE in 2016. In 2017 she became a PATH INT’l Registered Riding Instructor and then officially joined the staff at Project RIDE in 2018.
She is a lifelong equestrian and can’t imagine doing anything else or working anywhere else.
“I love my job! I’ve been privileged enough to hear non-verbal children

speak their first words on horseback and on a daily basis I get to see the physical benefits gained by those who climb into that saddle."

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Rise Grover, PATH Int.l' Certified Riding Instructor

Rise’s career at Project R.I.D.E. began in 2015, and like many staffers, she also started as a volunteer. In 2017, she became a PATH Int’l Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor. Rise is a retired educator, who, with her family, lived overseas for many years. “Teaching at Project R.I.D.E. is an amazing experience. There are so many moving parts that

make Project R.I.D.E. work and I love being a small part of this wonderful organization. It is the very special students with great staff and very dedicated volunteers that make it a privilege to say I work here!”

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Rachel Prettyman, PATH Int.l' Certified Instructor, Equine Specialist in Mental Health & Learning

Project RIDE feels like a second home to me! My brother is disabled and grew up taking lessons at RIDE. I loved tagging along for his lessons and quickly fell in love with the barn and horses. I often dreamed of one day becoming a RIDE instructor. As soon as I was old enough, I became a volunteer and spent as much time as I could around the barn.

After starting my teaching career, I returned to RIDE as a volunteer and quickly rediscovered my desire to be an instructor. I became a certified PATH instructor in November 2016 and now teach lessons!


Genell Csik, PATH Int.l' Certified Riding Instructor

Genell came to Project RIDE as a volunteer in 2014 and knew this was where she was meant to be. She became a PATH Intl. Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor in early 2015 and earned her PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning certification in 2016. Genell values her time at Project RIDE as a way to give back to the community

“Working at Project RIDE is special because every day our staff and volunteers decide to do something positive for others. I’m so happy to help make the magic happen for these amazing st udentsand their families!”

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Marnie Nessen, PATH Int.l' Certified Riding Instructor

Marnie fell in love with horses at an early age. After volunteering, Marnie took the leap to becoming an instructor. She found Project R.I.D.E. and started volunteering in October 2021 and in March 2022 Marnie was lucky enough to be added to the wonderful staff at Project R.I.D.E.. When she is not at Project R.I.D.E., Marnie spends time at her ranch with her husband, three children and a long list of animals.

 She enjoys competing in gymkhanas with her horse Sassy as well as growing pumpkins and being momma to a small herd of goats.


Studies. Throughout college she competed in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association in both English & Western riding disciplines. Right after graduation, she flew back to CA, and immediately started working at Project R.I.D.E. Inc. and has been there ever since. In her free time she enjoys fishing, hunting, & anything outdoors.


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Kimberly Hettrick, President

Born and raised in South Sacramento and an Elk Grove resident since 2000. I am happily married with 2 beautiful children. My first career spanned 12 years in banking. My second career and current employment is with the State of California. I have proudly served on the Board of Directors for Project R.I.D.E., Inc., starting in 2002. My role

have included Treasurer, VP and President. There is no greater joy than seeing the happiness our program continues to bring to our riders!

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Eric McDonald,
Vice President

I have been a resident of Elk Grove/ Wilton for over 50 years. I attended Dillard elementary school in Wilton, Elk Grove high school and California State university at Sacramento. After a 30 year career with UPS, I was looking for an opportunity to give back to our Elk Grove community and Project Ride was a perfect fit. My mother, Mary

Mc Donald was a volunteer at Ride many years ago and truly enjoyed helping this organization. I began volunteering here in 2009, and joined the board soon after. I have found Project Ride to be an extraordinary and very rewarding place to work.

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Duane Tadlock, Secretary

Duane and Cassonda have been married for over 32yrs. They manage the Baylee Rose Scholarship for Project R.I.D.E. Their daughter, Baylee Rose passed away on 01-09-2010, she was a rider at Project R.I.D.E. for over 7yrs. Duane has been on the Board for over 12yrs.

Duane retired after serving as the Chief of the California Lottery. He served

in law enforcement for over 40yrs. Duane is a Terrorism and First Aid, CPR & AED instructor to local law enforcement. Duane is a Reserve SGT with the Placerville Police. He is a Colonel and has served in the California State Guard for over 38yrs.

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Syd Highley, Treasurer

After graduation from UCLA with a degree in Economics, Syd earned his accounting experience with the international firm Arthur Young & Company (now Ernst & Young). It was there he obtained the experience necessary to obtain the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential.

Syd founded a CPA practice in 1988 which serves hundreds of

individuals and small businesses with tax and accounting needs. Syd has been active in local community affairs by serving on the Board of the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce for 6 years and now participates on the Board of Project R.I.D.E.


Gretchen Brink, Director

Gretchen has been involved with Project R.I.D.E. since 2014. She enjoys working with the kids, side walking, and working with the other volunteers. She is willing to do any job that needs to get done because she knows how important Project R.I.D.E. is to the community. Gretchen became a board member in 2018 and enjoys being part of this wonderful organization.

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Amy Souza, Director

I am a grandmother of two small children and LOVE kids. Since joining Project RIDE I have had the experience to grow and learn from the kids we help every day. They give and love unconditionally which makes my heart happy. Choosing to dedicate my

time and energy as a volunteer, leader, and mentor gives me the opportunity to help these kids achieve their full potential while having fun. Making a difference in a child’s life is my reward at the end of the day and I look forward to it every day.


Aaron Claxton, Director

Aaron is a proud dad to two boys, one of whom is an avid horseback rider with Project RIDE. Aaron joined the Board of Directors of Project Ride in 2023 after witnessing the incredible benefit of therapeutic riding. After only a year of riding, his eldest son has increased his vocabulary, core strength, balance and most importantly, his confidence.

Aaron is a partner at Wilke Fleury LLP, a full-service law firm that has been serving the greater Sacramento area for over 100 years. He graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California and obtained his Juris Doctor from the University of Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.

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Jeff Alley, Director

I've been volunteering with Project R.I.D.E. since May 2019 and on the Board of Directors since Sept 2019. My profession is in Retail Management for 30+ years. I had some experience working with adults with special needs. Without knowing anyone, I checked out Project RIDE and was amazed that you could work with horses and kids with unique abilities.

This experience is one of the most rewarding things I've done. I'm married to my lovely wife, Nicole and we have son, Austin, who also volunteers. We love the outdoors and making amazing memories.


Danny Ford, Director

Danny was fortunate enough to serve in the U.S. Army early in life; experiencing life abroad.  Later he found himself assisting in the facilitation of health care for some of his community working for Sutter Medical Foundation.  Upon retirement, he wanted to spend some time volunteering at Project R.I.D.E.  An organization that has given so much to his son Cristian, who's been riding horses there since 2007.  He now feels extremely lucky to have full access to free daily therapy out at the Project R.I.D.E. barn: he gets lots of time with horses, other volunteers, and best of all the riders!  

and banking. Jack currently operates 100 acre almond orchard just east of Galt with his family and operates a 50 cow calf ranch with his wife Kristi and kids. He also serves on the Sacramento Metro-PAC Board of Directors and is a member on the District 3 Grower Liaison Committee for Blue Diamond and a member of the Sacramento Sutter Club’s Member Finance Committee. Jack Graduated from Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science.

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