Meet The Team

Board of Directors

Renee Robins

President

Renee’s commitment to human and animal welfare runs wide and deep, as one who has been bringing both together in safe, meaningful ways for as long as she can remember.

For the last 22 years, she has served as Shelter Manager and Operations Supervisor for the Owen Sound Animal Shelter. As such, she is responsible for the entire functioning of the facility in areas such as animal care, adoptions and licensing. Her job involves taking animals who have come on rough times, make them well again and find them a new home.

Her responsibilities further include fundraising and promotional activities for the Shelter, one of which is a radio show known as the “Mix Morning Zoo” that has been airing on Bayshore Broadcasting for the last 15 years, as well as a TV program on the Rogers cable network called “Adorable Adoptables”.

Since 2008, she has also worked as Animal Control Officer and By-law Officer for the municipalities of Georgian Bluffs, Saugeen First Nation, Town of Hanover, and Saugeen Shores.
Renee manages and maintains the Karma Phala Farm located in Georgian Bluffs. There, rescue horses which she looks after are taken in and turned into school horses that provide both joy and education to children and young adults. 

An experienced riding instructor for over 25 years, Renee was elected President of G.R.A.C.E. in January of 2020 after being an active volunteer for the organization since 2015, then becoming a Board member in 2017. Throughout this period, her extensive contribution has been focussed on teaching, fundraising, communications as well as strengthening existing programs or addding new ones. Clearly an engaged and highly knowledgeable leader of the G.R.A.C.E. organization.

Neil Havens

Vice President

Neil’s involvement with G.R.A.C.E. began in September 2004 when his daughter Alyssa purchased an Appaloosa named “Pache” and boarding was arranged at the G.R.A.C.E. stables for Pache. This turned into a defining moment for him, rekindling his love of horses alongside his daughter as they developed Pache into a reliable mount for both English and Western disciplines.

What started with volunteer work helping with barn repairs and other such tasks at G.R.A.C.E. turned into a Board Director position three years later, during which time Neil continued to bring his many skills and professional expertise to bear.

His 32-year career at PPG Industries in Owen Sound culminated as Engineering, Quality and LEAN Department Manager, which ended when the plant ceased its Canadian operations in 2008. This experience allowed him to lead a talented group of people while remaining close to the action of day-to-day operations.

Soon after, a new opportunity offered itself in health care with Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS) which went on for another 11 years. As Director of Facilities Management, Neil ran GBHS’ Engineering Services for six hospital sites, which included operations, capital budgets and planning.

In 2010, he was elected President of G.R.A.C.E. for a three-year term and has remained as a Board Member since, contributing to the organization in a host of ways. “The needs are great, resources are limited, but the rewards are truly satisfying”, he says. Neil was raised on a farm in Southern Ontario and when referring to his experience at G.R.A.C.E., he adds: “You can take the boy away from the farm, but you’ll never take the farm out of the boy.”

Aunalea Cruickshank

Director

Aunalea is the mother of two adopted children, Dana and Jamie, both challenged, especially Jamie who is afflicted with Cerebral Palsy and severe intellectual delay as a result. She first discovered the G.R.A.C.E. Centre in 2006 when researching enhanced therapy for Jamie, where he was soon enrolled. Aunalea became an active volunteer at G.R.A.C.E., then joined the Board of Directors in 2010, and is now coordinating all of the Centre’s therapeutic programs.

She holds a B.A. in Child Studies from Brock University, a Bachelor of Education from York University and a Specialist in Special Education from the University of Western Ontario.

An elementary teacher for over 23 years, she has helped numerous children with learning, mental, emotional and physical challenges for most of her career.  She is now working with children at the kindergarten level at Arran-Tara Elementary School in Tara, Ontario.

In 2002, she was awarded the prestigious Inclusive Educator of the Year Award by the Bluewater District School Board at their 5th Annual Coaching to Inclusion Conference held in London, Ontario—the first nomination of its kind in the Province as submitted by parents who recognize the importance of inclusion when all work together towards that goal.

Aunalea’s many volunteer contributions include: as a Director of the Owen Sound Agricultural Society; 4-H Leader in Grey County, for which organization she also served on their Board of Directors; and helping the Kemble Sarawak United Church where she was Secretary for the Pastoral Charge and continues to volunteer in different capacities for the church.

Born and raised on a farm, she lives in Kemble, Ontario, with her husband and children where they breed Percheron horses. Aunalea has always been a part of rural life and close to her community. Based on both her personal and professional experience, she firmly believes in the physical and emotional virtues of hippotherapy and assisted therapeutic riding which she has been observing first-hand for many years.

Rob McLeese

Director

Rob’s personal involvement with G.R.A.C.E. stems from a long-standing family engagement that began some 35 years ago. Both his parents, Willis and Adelaide, were avid horseback riders. One day, the couple discovered the healing magic of G.R.A.C.E. and the Center’s need for special horses.  Willis, who owned a Palomino named ‘Molson’, felt that this tall, gentle creature now aged 25 and ready to be put to pasture, could be an ideal candidate for the program. They were right and so for the next 15 years, Molson proved to be a much loved team member of G.R.A.C.E. where he worked assiduously until his passing at the late age of 40.

Willis later found a new venue for G.R.A.C.E. when, in the mid 1990’s, the former property in Woodford had to be sold by its owners. He decided to buy it and lease it back to the organization for a nominal sum, still the case today after 26 years. Rob’s mom, a paediatric medical doctor who understood children’s mental and physical challenges, was instrumental in assisting with G.R.A.C.E.’s fundraising efforts. Thus it has been, and still is, with the McLeeses. For the past three years, Rob’s son Geoff and wife Heather have also been helping out at the G.R.A.C.E. Center.

Rob is Founder and President of Access Capital Corp. (Toronto), as well as Chair of ACI Energy, Inc. (Wilmington, DE). Rob has sat on a number of Boards including that of Export Development Canada (Ottawa), a federal crown corporation, where he chairs its Audit Committee. He is also Founder and Chairman of the international Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegence, Canada’s signature event showing casing rare and historic vehicles. He was the recipient of the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Susan Richardson

Director

Susan is a social worker with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Western Ontario (UWO), a Master of Arts Degree in Adult Education from Central Michigan University, as well as a Diploma in Art Therapy, also from UWO.

When she was a youngster, her family had a few horses. She fell in love with riding and galloping through the countryside near their home at Strathroy in Southwestern Ontario. She particularly enjoyed the rodeo fun of Western style riding but also the challenges of jumping and dressage in English riding. Family trips to Arizona ranches were shared with her family and cemented her love of horses.

Her early career as a social worker was spent helping children with emotional and psychological challenges. Following those initial formative years, she worked at Merrymount, a Family Support and Crisis Centre in London, Ontario.

She was later hired in the Neurology Program at London’s University Hospital, following which she ran support groups for Cardiac Patients for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. She worked for Woman Power, a non-profit organization, counselling women returning to the work force, and was a social worker at the London Inter Community Health Centre.

After completing her Art Therapy Program in 2005, she helped clients find joy, friendship and communication through art, working with people in long-term care at McCormick Home in London, and then at McCormick Dementia Services, providing art therapy for clients in the day program.

Susan retired from professional life in 2014 and moved with her partner to Owen Sound. She has been volunteering on the Board of G.R.A.C.E. for the last 3 years assisting with fundraising and grant applications.  She is the proud mother of a son and daughter, and delights in her four grandchildren living in Quebec and New Zealand.

Staff

Nancy Wilson

Secretary & Treasurer

Nancy has a lifelong love of horses.  Over the past 10 years, this love has been renewed through taking riding lessons, leasing a horse and many great trail rides.  Over the past year and a half, she has served as Secretary / Treasurer of G.R.A.C.E. and has volunteered as a leader in past programs.

Susan Foster

Barn Manager

For the last 12 years Sue Foster has been our Barn Manager at G.R.A.C.E. Her job is to keep our most important members, the horses happy and healthy. Sue also volunteers for classes when needed. She finds it so rewarding to watch the progression of our riders!  G.R.A.C.E is such a valuable program. She feels blessed to be a part of it!!

Karen Hanna

Barn assistant

Karen Hanna has been with G.R.A.C.E. as a volunteer for 17 years, been a horse mom for the past 12 years and has been helping Sue out in the barn as a stable helper for almost a year. 

Instructors & Therapists

Kathleen Hunter

Head Instructor

Kathleen is the Head Instructor for the G.R.A.C.E. program. The role of head instructor is new to her but she has been teaching riders for more than 30 years. Kathleen was previously a certified CANTRA instructor and is newly certified as an Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator. Kathleen’s background is in Hunters, Jumpers and Dressage. She is also a practitioner of natural horsemanship training.

Sandra Hall

Physiotherapist

Sandra is a Registered Physiotherapist with over 20 years’ experience.  Sandra owns and operates Sandra Hall Physiotherapy, providing private paediatric physiotherapy services for children in their homes, community and at G.R.A.C.E. where she incorporates hippotherapy into physiotherapy treatment sessions.

Gillian MacNeil

Instructor

Gillian has been involved with G.R.A.C.E. for many years as a volunteer, leading and sidewalking in lessons and also as a horse parent. In 2011, Gillian was certified with CANTRA and took on the role of Instructor. Gillian usually teaches on Tuesday evenings and enjoys every moment of her time with the riders and volunteers. In her leisure time she rides her horse Faith out on the trails in and around the area.

Mary Lynn Morrison

Instructor

Mary Lynn has been involved with G.R.A.C.E. since the fall of 2003. A “Wanted Volunteers” ad in the local paper along with mention of horses drew her to the G.R.A.C.E. program. For the next 4-5 years she volunteered with classes. During that time, she started assisting the instructor with the Wednesday night classes and helped elsewhere when needed.
In 2006, Mary Lynn started the process of becoming a Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association Assistant Instructor and achieved that goal in 2009.
While continuing to assist with the riding class, Mary Lynn was asked to take on the driving program in 2011. This program allows a few of G.R.A.C.E.’s clients, who are no longer able to ride, to remain a part of the program through the use of a horse, cart and volunteers. An experienced driver is in the cart with the client and the basic principles and skills of driving are taught. Of course, it’s not all work and usually there is time to play a game or two. With the assistance of volunteers, the driving portion of the G.R.A.C.E program has continued, much to the delight of the current G.R.A.C.E. drivers

Danyle Havey

Instructor

Danyle started with G.R.A.C.E. volunteering on Wednesday nights in spring of 2014 and soon realized that she wanted to become more involved with this amazing program. Through the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association, she became certified as a CTRII Instructor. Danyle started teaching single lessons in 2016 and group lessons in 2018. To see the rider progress in a ten-week session makes her heart sing.