Dr. Susan Edwards & Key Volunteers (as of January 2020)
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.
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.
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.
Vince Varano, former recipient of the Volunteer Family of the Year Award, is active as both a horse helper and a demonstrator for children in understanding horses. As an active horseman his entire life and former 4-H youth, he brings additional expertise to the horse/human team. His sense of humor makes everyone chuckle.
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]. He is one of the behind-the-scenes architects of programming helping youth.
Tom Ferguson, PhD, MBA is a psychologist/executive consultant and is responsible for Benefactor Management. He is coordinating efforts to locate benefactors/sustaining members to insure program viability long into the future.
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 owner of Equestrian News Services, offering ala carte public relations services for small organizations and businesses. She produced the short film, “Little Horse, Big Medicine” which won an award at the Equus Film Festival in New York City.
Katelin Breitmayer serves as administrative support and media specialist. She has a creative spirit as well as wordsmith talent.
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, Katie, Natalie, Meghan and Allison.
Supportive helpers are many and offer depth of caring and hands-on-follow through for things large and small. Some of them are Susan, Rose, Wilma, Krisann, Charlie, Karen, Dale, Maryellen, Jack, Devora, Debbie, John and Ernest and Santa Rick of Hunterdon who donated his time in our Fall, 2019 Fundraiser involving Photos with Santa and His Helping Herd. 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."
Team Velvet Inc.
Team Velvet Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) organization providing non-mounted horse therapy to children ages 5-12 who have experienced profound loss, adjustment issues or adaptation to change and stress. The organization is all-volunteer with no paid staff.
All donations and contributions go to providing facility rental, program costs and therapy scholarships.
Efforts continue to provide a referral infrastructure for child clients, educational and self-help materials for children of profound loss as well as strengthening the local, regional and national awareness of the efficacy of equine supported psychological therapy for child clients.
The organization continues to search for and welcome program benefactors to strengthen and insure sustainability into the future as a symbol of psychological resiliency and mental health legacy of love.