Samuel Schwall

Sam is a parent of one of former EAL students at SPIRIT, and one Riding Instructor. Life and professional experience in business management and non profit management makes him an important leader in SPIRIT. Sam has been recognizing the value of SPIRIT Mission, supporting the program generously with financial contributions as well as advocacy. Sam is the Corporate Vice President of Supply Chain at L3Harris Technologies. He has previously held executive leadership positions with United Technologies Corporation, Owens Corning, and General Motors, and has served as board member for a number of private and JV companies within GM and UTC. He holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, a MS in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from Lehigh University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation.

Cynda Zurfluh

Vice President
Cynda Zurfluh is a mother of three who joined Spirit as a volunteer in 2018 in our Therapeutic Riding program. Her youngest daughter is an EAL, and they have both fallen in love with Spirit - the horses and people alike. Cynda's knowledge and experience in PR and marketing make her a tremendous asset to our organization. As a teenager, Cynda volunteered with the Special Olympics and recently did outreach for a company that serves families caring for special needs and senior family members. Her day job is marketing and communications, so she's glad to be able to bring her skills to help tell Spirit's story. "Spirit is a haven for everyone who shows up and gets their boots dirty - students, parents, volunteers and staff ."

Vesma Montvillo

Vesma started as a volunteer in our Therapeutic Riding program in 2018 and engaged as a member of the Executive Committee. She is active in all aspects of SPIRIT, including the SPIRIT Academy, and her knowledge and experience in accounting is crucial and very much appreciated. Vesma was the first certified SPIRIT Academy Therapeutic Riding Instructor and currently serves as Treasurer with her knowledge and skills in financial business area. She has worked with horses since 2015 at the Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue in Maryland – and continues to spend her Sundays volunteering there. Vesma works in Finance Accounting and, as a member of the Board, is now supporting Spirit with our financial planning and reporting functions. When she’s not with us at the barn, Vesma still has her boots on hiking around the mountains of the DMV.

Davorka Suvak

Founder, Secretary, Director
Davorka (Dada) was the founder and Executive Director of the Spirit Open Equestrian Program (2006-2020), she implements her vision of urban horsemanship – creating a way to improve the quality of life in society. At the end of October 2020, Dada retired herself as ED of SPIRIT and moved back to Croatia. Currently, she is a Director of SPIRIT and runs an educational program IBOLDA in Croatia, dedicated to education and training in non profit and Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies management and standards. A professional manager in the equine industry. A dedicated educator, life coach, trainer, riding and therapeutic riding instructor and Para Equestrian trainer (National Coach and Selector of Croatian Para Dressage Team 1999-2005). She has decades of experience as a coach and educator of equine assisted activities; in addition, she has since 1993 involved in starting one of first Therapeutic Riding program in Easter Europe (MOGU – Croatia) Davorka has extended experience in non profit management in EU and USA.

Robert Mennell

After the first day of volunteering with SPIRIT’s therapeutic riding program, Rob decided to join the Board of Directors, in order to continue serving. As a member of the BOD, he brings great exposure through his professional, personal and veteran networks. These networks serve to help increase SPIRIT's visibility, and ultimately, the resources to continue supporting our community. He believes in SPIRIT's purpose, in the people of which comprise our program and in the learning and healing we foster. Rob works as the Director of Business Strategy at SCL Group, Inc. He has affiliations with the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The Mission Continues (TMC) and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. In Rob’s own words: “Spirit is the only organization I’ve seen where all participants - two-legged and four - leave with more than they came.”

Patricia Sullivan

Everything important to Patty is embodied in the SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program. She has served as the Chairperson of SPIRIT’s Board of Directors in 2015 and is currently the Treasurer. She is very active in her role as Treasurer as well as Chairperson on the Fundraising and Events Committee. After a thirty two year career as a Social Work Supervisor in Child Welfare, Patty retired from the Fairfax County Department of Family Services. Having enjoyed working with children and teens, with a wide range of disabilities, she knew she needed to find a way to continue her involvement with this population. In addition, she spent years volunteering with an Animal Protection Association fostering abused and neglected dogs, screening prospective adoptive homes and the placements. With her love of animals and her ten-year involvement with horses earlier in her life, in 2014 she found her way to SPIRIT. Patty has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) from George Mason University and a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Douglas Gaibler

Doug and his family have been members of the SPIRIT community for years. Doug’s daughter participates in one of our programs. Organizing fundraising events and supporting our Sully Farm Project are areas that Doug is committed to serve. Beside being a supporter and an advocate, Doug is volunteering in AM Barn management operations several days a week.

Jennifer Cibula

Jennifer is a strong ADA advocate, mom of two SPIRIT students, and experienced in non profit activities and management. Her kind and wise presence at our Board brings special energy and inspiration to the whole Team.

Chuck Gumas

Chuck has been active in Fundraising and other committees for years since his daughter was a student in our EAL Program. He is a committed supporter and advocate for SPIRIT’s Mission. Chuck’s wisdom and kindness are special gift to our Board.

Claire Hosker

Claire is committed to SPIRIT’s Mission through personal experience of how our program makes changes in the lives of young people. She is active in outreach work spreading the word about SPIRIT in our community and is the leader of collaboration with public and private schools in the area.

Rachel Schwall

diane spirit staff

Diane Pires

Diane has worked with SPIRIT Open Equestrian Program since 2013. Her experience with our program as a participant, program activities volunteer, and project manager for public relations and fundraising has been invaluable. Diane's dedication, professionalism, and personality play an important role in our PR and fundraising management for our team.

Lauren Wong

Director of SPIRIT Academy
Lauren has been involved with individuals with special needs via extracurricular activities like Special Olympics’ events and classroom work with students on the autism spectrum. To further serve children and their families, in a unique way, she joined SPIRIT as a volunteer in April 2015. She is former Chairmen of SPIRIT, an extraordinary instructor and her commitment to continuing training and education made her a Director of SPIRIT Academy program. Presently, besides serving on the Board for SPIRIT, she also serves SPIRIT as a PATH International Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. She contributes to SPIRIT’s program activities each week—teaching group therapeutic riding lessons and overseeing equine assisted learning programs and volunteer activities. Ms. Wong has completed Greg Kersten’s OK Corral “Ok, It’s Family Time!” and “ Coming Home Again” certifications in Equine Assisted Activities. She believes strongly, in both the qualitative and quantitative benefits of therapeutic horseback riding, for her students and their caregivers. She has an interest in educating the public about the benefits of animal therapies. When not at SPIRIT, Lauren works as a software developer.