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Board Members

Give a Buck Board Member Biographies

 

Dr. Margaret (Peggy) Bass, PhD

 Executive Director

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Peggy Bass is Executive Director of the Good Hope Equestrian Training Center, a position she has held since co-founding the center in 1999. An equestrian professional, Peggy combines her passion to assist special needs individuals and her lifelong love of horses to provide a unique learning environment. She specializes in the use of recreational, rehabilitative, educational and community-based training programs including equine-assisted programs that have been proven to cause positive modifications to the behavior and health of program participants. Peggy seeks to enhance the quality of life of children, youth and adults, including military veterans, who have varying mental and physical disabilities and increase their independence. Good Hope is the only facility in Miami-Dade County, and one of only 11 facilities in Florida, accredited as a Premier Center, based on quality industry standards, by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International.

Peggy's interest in horses began in childhood when she developed her skills and competed as an active member of her local Pony Club. In her teen years, she participated within Hunter & Equitation Divisions at local and rated shows throughout Northern Virginia. While in college, she trained and competed successfully on the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team under the direction of Heidi Ericksen, a member of the US 1988 Olympic team.

Prior to co-founding Good Hope, Peggy spent several years as a special needs educator in the public school system and is credited with developing the program curriculum and many of the equine-related technological applications taught at the center today. As part of her extensive community involvement, Peggy has served on the Miami Dade County Equestrian Advisory board and is a frequent speaker at local and national conferences & venues.

Peggy holds a Bachelor's Degree in Recreation/Business Management from Radford University in Virginia;  a Master's Degree in Exceptional Student Education from Barry University, Florida and a Doctoral Degree in Special Education Administration. Peggy is certified as a Clinical Educator for Miami-Dade County Public Schools and as a Professional Educator by the State of Florida for Educational Leadership at all levels and for ESE, Grades K through 12.


Sissy DeMaria

sdemaria@giveabuckeq.org

305.608.5350

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A sidekick for special-needs riders

A lifelong equestrian, I fell head over heels for horses when I was five years old after my mother took me for lessons. By age 10, I had already read Black Beauty and ended up begging myparents for a classmate’s Shetland pony named Princess. When I grew older and Princess “grew shorter” with my feet nearly touching the ground, I persuaded my parents to buy a horse. Whistles Louis, an Appaloosa trotted into my life and a succession of chestnut and bay thoroughbreds, warm-bloods and quarter horses later became my constant companions and self-prescribed therapists. The rigors of growing a public relations and marketing firm, while raising three daughters left me little time to volunteer. I felt the stress of my career was starting to rob me of my soul. While I had been active on a few non-profit boards, nothing set my heart a flutter like the feel of a muzzle, the click-clack sound of hooves on pavement, a welcoming whinny, or the thought of being able to share this love affair with those less fortunate.

In the spring of 2013, I conceived the idea of Give a Buck, while riding Jazz, my Kentucky bred thoroughbred, a relative of the great Secretariat. The organization’s name is a catchy play on words that was inspired by the simplicity and ingenuity of one of my client’s social-corporate responsibility campaign, which asked real estate agents, buyers and sellers to consider making a donation to a women's homeless shelter with each transaction.

Give a Buck encourages horse owners and riders to make a small donation – as little as a buck or as much as a hundred dollars – with their monthly boarding payment to therapeutic riding programs for children and adults with physical or mental disabilities, or for those who are economically disadvantaged. In May, along with four other women and a sixth grade student, we launched Give a Buck in Vero Beach to support the Special Equestrians of the Treasure Coast. Since then it has begun to spread across Florida.

I have been blessed in so many ways and have had the great privilege to own many wonderful horses throughout my life. They ask nothing, yet speak in so ways through their loving eyes and kindred spirits. Give a Buck is a wonderful way to share these amazing creatures with others.


Dr. Heather Kuhl

Postdoctoral Psychology Resident

Heather@giveabuckeq.org

305.989.0497

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Heather is a Licensed Psychologist and the founder and director of a private practice, Kuhl Psychological Services, Inc., in Fort Lauderdale, specializing in conducting psychological and psychoeducational evaluations for children and adults with developmental or academic concerns, as well as emotional, behavioral, or social challenges.  Aside from her private practice, Heather is the Assistant Clinical Director at Lucida Treatment Center, a residential facility which helps adults recover from substance abuse and mental illness.  Heather has been an avid equestrian for 30 years. She started riding at the age of seven, and does not recall a time when horses were not in her life. During her childhood, she competed locally and nationally in the hunters and jumpers with her own horses, and rode and trained ponies and horses for several of her trainers. As an adult, Heather has continued her passion for horses through riding, competing, and training. Feeling passionate about horses and psychology, Heather became interested in equine assisted therapy. She pursued certification as a mental health provider though the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). She has joined the team at Stable Place, a non-profit organization that provides equine assisted therapy to individuals, families, couples, and groups. While at Stable Place, Heather has also been involved in community outreach, clinical trainings, and equine assisted learning activities. Heather is excited to continue incorporating horses in her work with people to offer them unique experiences to learn about themselves and change their lives.


Cheryl Ernst

Treasurer

I started riding when I was 5 years old on a little Shetland pony named Merrylegs.  My parents knew I was hooked when I refused to let them help carry my saddle even though it weighed more than I.  Each time I’d tumble off Merrylegs, my trainer would tell me I owned that little piece of land on which I fell; if only she was telling the truth, I’d own enough land to care for a whole lot of horses!  I continued to ride and my dad eventually bought me a really really really fat large welsh pony named Max and he would jump and do anything.  He and I spent many a summer day, jumping anything that could be jumped, swimming in lakes and riding in fields in Chester County, PA.  I continued to ride and compete in Hunter/Jumpers through the end of high school at which point, life got in the way.  I wasn’t able to keep up with my riding through college and always thought I’d get back to it when I had a job, but that never happened.  Then my oldest daughter was bitten by the horse bug and that was all that was needed to reel me back in.  Now my life is once again full of all the “wonderfulness” that horses have to offer.

When I was about 9 years old, I rode at a barn that also served as a therapeutic riding facility and even as a young child, I was in awe at the connection the horses had with these very special human beings.  If I was riding at the same time a therapy session was going on, I remember not being able to concentrate on my riding because I was so enthralled with what they were doing.  My daughter became involved with Give A Buck first and when I realized that I could be of assistance too, it was pretty much a “no brainer” that I should.

I’m currently the Assistant Treasurer for George E. Warren Corp., a petroleum products wholesaler, and have been in the accounting field for almost 20 years.

BSAccounting and Masters of Accountancy from the University of Denver

In addition to spending time with my two daughters and husband, I am passionate about fitness; I have run a few marathons including the New York City Marathon.  I also participate in all sorts of boot camps and group training classes.  I have done many mud runs, including two Tough Mudders.  I also enjoy skiing in Montana and absolutely love to travel, the more adventuresome, the better!


Jimmy Torano

Board Member

Internationally recognized trainer and competitive Grand Prix rider, Jimmy Torano, has joined the Board of Directors of Give a Buck for Special Equestrians, a Miami-based non-profit supporting children and veterans facing difficult physical and emotional life challenges.

Also the operator of JET Show Stables in Fort Lauderdale, Torano has been on the Grand Prix tour for more than fifteen years, having ridden in his first Grand Prix during the Winter Equestrian Festival in l989. Following his marriage to his wife Danielle, he spent several years building up his show barn, and is now regarded as one of the nation’s top importers of young and up and coming show jumpers equitation and hunter prospects.

A competitor in many World Cup Finals, Torano has collected numerous Grand Prix Wins across the country and won the highest hunter stakes class in the world in 2013— the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final at HITS Saugerties. This accomplished equestrian and regular analyst on show jumping telecasts, is also, a Big “R” judge, having judged many major classes. 


Ashley Miller

Board Member

A resident of Palm Beach Gardens, Miller enjoys a notable career as the Chief Operating Officer of KAR Properties, a real estate development company led by New York developer Shahab Karmely, with over $200 million invested in South Florida. Miller’s background in business and finance makes her a powerful addition to the rapidly growing organization’s influential board of directors.   

 

Munisha Underhill

Board Member

Born and raised in England, Munisha Underhill is an art historian, philanthropist and an accomplished fundraiser with more than fifteen years of experience in non-profit arts organizations.

Munisha received a BA in History of Art with a First Class Honors from the University of Leicester and was awarded a scholarship for PHD Study at the established art institute, the Courthauld. She began her career at the Henry Moore Foundation and Christie’s before moving to Miami from London in 2001.

Since 2001, she has held leadership roles in major arts organizations in Miami, including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) - Miami’s internationally recognized art force - where she oversaw fundraising for more than 6 years. And in 2008 she made the move from the visual arts to the performing arts and served as the Senior Director of Advancement for the Adrienne Arsht Center – South Florida’s largest performing arts company - for 7 years. In addition to meeting all annual goals she oversaw the yearly fundraising events that consecutively broke all records under her leadership.

Munisha is a board member and the chair of the development committee of Locust Projects and has served on the Art Basel Junior Host Committee since its inception in 2001. She was a mentor of the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) organization for many years and a board member of LEAVE A LEGACY - an initiative of the Partnership of Philanthropic Planning of Miami-Dade County as part of a national outreach program to promote philanthropic giving. She was one of the founders and chairs of Philanthropy Miami Day. 

 Munisha’s career and philanthropy has been structured by her unwavering belief in the power of the arts to inspire and change lives. She lives with her husband and two children in Key Biscayne.