OUR T E A M
Donald Richard is the program director for the Strengthen your Mind Initiative. He has provided treatment and training to first responders, active duty military, and combat veterans in stress management and resiliency techniques for over a decade, in both clinical and non-clinical settings.
Donny has presented nationally on the topic of stress reduction for first responders and has conducted critical incident debriefings for departments throughout New England and New York. He has trained in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and has been practicing and teaching mindfulness for over 20 years. Donny served with the 318th combat support company United States Army Infantry.
Susan Stember Buhlmann is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who resides in southern Vermont. She has been in the field of social work for over 40 years in a variety of mental health settings. Graduating with her MSW from Fordham University, she focused on group work and mental health. Most recently she worked for the Brattleboro Retreat as the Clinical Outreach Rep as well as in the Uniformed Services Program facilitating groups and teaching mindfulness along with Frank, Donny, Ryan and Outreach with Jim. In addition to supporting the Strengthening Your Mind Initiative, Susan presently works part-time as a Hospice Social Worker.
James McKay is a third-generation firefighter. He has been a Firefighter/EMT for 39 years and currently works as a firefighter for the Manchester Fire Department. He is a member of the Connecticut Firefighters Peer Support Network and an active member of the Brattleboro Retreat USP Alumni.
He serves as co-chair for a first responders weekly Mindfulness Peer Support Group. He is also on the board of directors for the Honor Wellness Center, where he conducts weekly peer support meetings. In addition, he has worked with the Brattleboro Retreat Uniformed Services Outreach Program. He is a 2012 founding member of the Manchester Fire Rescue EMS peer support team and received the 2016 Lamplighter Silver Award of Excellence.
Alistair Sweeney served in the New Zealand Army for over a decade in various combat oriented, leadership and training roles that included active duty tours to East Timor and Afghanistan.
After leaving the military, Alistair found Yoga a great way to heal the tension in his body after years of harsh physical activity. As he continued to practice Yoga and Mindfulness, Alistair also became aware of the significant benefit of these practices for providing a greater sense of mental and emotional wellbeing.
Alistair is a certified 200 hour, Trauma-Conscious, Restorative Yoga, Veterans Yoga Project (VYP), Connected Warriors, Warriors at Ease, VEToga and Mindful Yoga Therapy (MYT) 100 Hour Teacher as well as Sierra Club Military Outdoor Guide.
Ryan Heck's passion for helping veterans and first responders started when he began working for the Uniformed Service Program at the Brattleboro Retreat. There, he led a variety of groups such as mindfulness, peer council, meditative movement, and wellness-based outdoor activities. Ryan helped develop the Uniformed Service Program's therapeutic fly-fishing program and weekend wellness retreats. He said, "I enjoy sharing the opportunities the outdoors offers. It can be naturally engaging and a great place to take some respite from our daily routines."
Ryan has been in the human service field for close to twenty years, after receiving his Bachelors Degree in Human Services from Southern Vermont College. Ryan enjoys the outdoors, spending much time in the Alleghany National Forest and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Ryan currently manages one of Vermont's state parks in the Northeast Kingdom.
Jeffrey Dende has been fly fishing the Finger Lakes Region of New York and beyond for more that 25 years. He is a highly sought after fly tyer who can often be found guiding an individual or two within the Finger Lake tributaries. It is on the water with one-on-one attention where skills are truly honed and lifelong passions are born. Jeff is a co-founder of the Lansing Rec Fly Fishing Program. Besides fly fishing recreationally, Jeff has dedicated a significant portion of his life's efforts to conservation and restoration, building a life around his passion. Through his work with Ducks Unlimited, he has worked to help maintain the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge as well as procure, rehabilitate, and re-designate as public lands marsh and grasslands in Louisiana and throughout the migratory fly way.
Jeff comes to us through his guiding work for the Brattleboro Uniformed Services with the philosophy that "no one ever steps in the river twice, for it's not the same river and you're not the same man." Jeff believes that it is our duty to give back and provide support to those first responders and military professionals who willingly step into harms way and provide for us when we are in our darkest of hours. If his passion for fly fishing can somehow be used to this extent, then he is happy with his lot in life and you can consider him to be at your disposal.
Carol Verrochi is the outreach and development coordinator. She comes from a lengthy nursing background working in intensive care units, emergency rooms and pediatrics, and most recently in her career, as the risk manager for hospitals. Needless to say, Carol has witnessed trauma in her career. Carol has several family members who are first responders, with her sister recently retiring as a Battalion Chief in our nation's capital.
Since leaving her career in the medical field, Carol has continued to put her time and effort into helping others. She has spent countless hours in the charitable field assisting the needs of children and families in both health and education prior to joining our program assisting first responders. Carol has stayed connected and involved in the hospital setting, as she volunteers on several community benefits committees.
Frank Gallo, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and owner of Blue Life Behavioral Health, a specialty behavioral health organization offering services designed to meet the unique needs of law enforcement professionals. Since 2009, Dr. Gallo has been working with uniformed service professionals struggling with a variety of problems getting in the way of valued living. He directed the Uniformed Service Program at the Brattleboro Retreat (VT) and the Psychological Health Program at the Massachusetts Air National Guard 104th Fighter Wing.
Besides Dr. Gallo’s clinical experience, he is a retired police officer from the Cranston Police Department (RI). He is the author of numerous publications in the field of police psychology, and has provided training nationally and internationally on topics related to uniformed service and behavioral health. “I’m excited to create innovative training and treatments that simply work for uniformed service professionals and get them back to living life with more purpose and vitality,” says Dr. Gallo.