Dr. Susan Edwards & Key Volunteers (as of May 2021)
Susan Edwards, Ph.D. Psychologist & Director has been licensed in NJ since 1990. She is trained in equine facilitated mental health and has worked with her main horse, Velvet, helping children since 2009. Dr. Edwards assesses all children referred to Team Velvet, Inc. and designs the therapeutic treatments for them. Dr. Edwards has authored several books and 100+ articles, and has owned horses most of her life. She scripted and directed “Little Horse, Big Medicine,” a winner of a Whinny Award at the Equus Film Festival. Her most recent publications are: Tales of a Wonder Horse: The Birthday; Santa Claus Visits Heaven: A coloring book helping children see love never dies; Children Are Treasures: A Helping Workbook for Mastering Self-Esteem and The Kids Who Saved the World.
Velvet is the primary therapy horse. A Trakehner** gelding, Velvet is the namesake of the group and was raised by Dr. Susan as a foal. He kicks a soccer ball, plays Simon Says and rolls a horse ball to play catch, dances, plays a keyboard with his feet and is intelligent as well as intuitive. He’s also funny. Precious and Lil' Annie are two other therapy horses and along with Dr. Edwards and Velvet are the core members of Team Velvet's mission.
Precious is a beautiful caramel-colored Haflinger mare with a full mane and tail. She is the diva of the herd and loves to bow, be combed and photographed. When we hold fundraising horse fashion shows, she loves to dress in imaginative costumes. She is also most curious.
Annie is a miniature horse with a big presence. She is the most vocal of the herd when waiting for meals and just the right size for a hug. She is able to perform many tasks while working as a helper to children.
Board of Directors
Dr. Susan Edwards, PhD, is President of the Board, and a licensed psychologist in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Dr. Edwards is a founding member of the organization, a psychologist/author of numerous books and more than 100+ articles in applied psychology, and the Psychologist/Director of the program.
Dr. Kathy Piparo, Ph.D., is Secretary of the Team Velvet Board, a leader in the equine field and a volunteer horse helper working with our non-mounted horse therapy program. She has been a local 4-H leader and a recognized horse expert in Hunterdon County (NJ) for more than 20 years. She is an excellent teacher, helping volunteers learn how to understand horses.
Dr. Jennifer West-Gavin is a pediatric neuropsychologist licensed in New Jersey, Her PsyD was earned at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and she maintains a professional office in Voorhees, NJ. She will coordinate Peer Networking for Team Velvet Inc.
Dr. Tom Ferguson, PhD, MBA is a psychologist/executive consultant, Vice President of the Board, and responsible for Benefactor Management. He is coordinating efforts to locate benefactors/sustaining members to insure program viability long into the future.
Dr. Doug Gross, Ph.D. is a retired psychologist. He was co-editor of the graduate university textbook, “Youth At Risk,” now in its seventh edition.
Lillian Shupe serves as volunteer and media director. A recipient of Team Velvet’s Lifelong Achievement Award, for her service to the equestrian world as a journalist and youth mentor. She has been a 4-H horse club leader since 1992. She was a reporter for the Hunterdon County Democrat and then editor of Horse News for many years. She is the owner of Equestrian News Services, offering ala carte public relations services for small organizations and businesses. Two videos she produced earned awards at the Equus Film & Arts Festival.
Andrea Hansen is an equine specialist, artist, and stone sculptor whose creativity greatly adds to all events held by Team Velvet Inc. Her ready smile and artistry are reflected in the bright rainbow spanning the barn as well as the Silent Auction and special 'kid-friendly touches around the property. Andrea may be seen leading the child's art activities at fundraisers. She has designed some of the most imaginative costumes the horses wear.
Rick Reilly is a behind-the-scenes helper and the leader of the Santa-related projects we have done in the past two years. He starred in our Santa video [Little Annie and the Magic Christmas Sleigh] and our Christmas in July and Photos with Santa fundraisers. The first printing of our coloring book helping children cope with the death of a father was provided by Santa Rick and his wife Susan. The book, written by Dr. Edwards, is called “Santa Claus Visits Heaven: A coloring book helping children see love never dies.”
Cheryl Swanson, RN, offers her amazing insight into the wellness model of health. Her consultation in both program and community interfaces are helping us grow.
Dr. Douglas R. Gross is one of the founders of Team Velvet Inc., a Member of the Board and editor of "Youth at Risk: A Prevention Resource for Counselors, Teachers, and Parents" [a graduate school text on risk and resiliency research, now in its sixth edition and in use throughout the world]. He is one of the behind-the-scenes architects of programming helping youth.
Horse helper peer volunteers are teens who offer time and talent in working with horses helping children. While the schedule changes each year depending on teen availability, we have been especially blessed this year in having the help of Kaitlyn, Christina, Natalie, Meghan, and Allison.
Supportive helpers are many and offer a depth of caring and hands-on-follow-through for things large and small. Some of them are Susan, Rose, Wilma, Karen, Dale, Maryellen, Jack, Devora, Debbie, John, and Ernest.
Our volunteer program was greatly altered by Covid 19 restrictions and will return to more normal levels when the legal guidelines change.