Volunteer of the Year

2020 Volunteer of the Year - Melissa Spillenkothen

2019 MJR Pic - Melissa + Logan
Melissa at the Helm
Melissa Spillenkothen & Carly

We are SO grateful to Melissa for the MANY hats she wears at SMART! Melissa joined the SMART family as a weekly volunteer in 2014 and has been amazing in everything that she has pursued. Not only is Melissa the (volunteer) Volunteer Coordinator, a member of the Board of Directors and SMART Chefs, but she also stepped up to serve as SMART’s Volunteer Interim Executive Director for 4+ months. And if this isn’t enough, Melissa has also served for multiple years as the “point person” leading the committee for SMART’s annual fundraising event. We are grateful for Melissa’s generosity as a donor and her time in ALL that she does for SMART. So, yeah, Melissa has definitely “been there” for SMART in many, many ways. THANK YOU for ALL that you do!

2019 Volunteers of the Year - Earle Benjamin & The SMART Chefs

Earl Benjamin 2
smart chefs

We are so incredibly grateful to Earle. He showed up at the farm when we needed him most. He has become a vital member of our volunteer grounds team. He takes ownership and pride in making sure that SMART looks its very best and does a great job in helping Samantha with all of her special projects!  THANK YOU for ALL that you do!!!

The SMART Chefs provide a unique way to give back to our organization while spreading the word about SMART's mission. The SMART Chefs Dinner is always a popular live auction item at our fundraising event every year. The winner gets a unique, top notch dinner, cooked, prepared and served in the comfort of their own home. These talented men and women LOVE to cook and LOVE to entertain. And we LOVE them for it!

2018 Volunteer of the Year - Dennis Lewis

Dennis 1
Dennis 2

Dennis is a "Can Do Man"...and we have depended on his support for many, many activities over the years (horse leading and sidewalking, carriage driving support, harness and carriage care, painting, painting, painting, pressure washing, donuts, laughter...) But mostly, Dennis has always been an amazing champion of our SMART Riders. We love you Dennis---and are SO grateful to you for your years and years and years of service to SMART!!

2017 Volunteers of the Year


Corinne Adams


Deb Hornbeck


Ilee Finocchiaro

It is always something special when the SMART instructors and staff cannot agree on only one volunteer that stood out above the rest for the year. This year, it is our pleasure to introduce THREE amazing women worth celebrating! Corinne, Deb & Ilee always go above and beyond. These three women can be found on the farm multiple times a week and wear many different hats. Their dedication to the SMART program can be seen in everything they do. We are very fortunate to have a great group of volunteers gifting their time to SMART and are honored to celebrate these women and how very special they are to us! THANK YOU!!!!

2016 Volunteer of the Year - Bren Wilkinson

2016 volunteer of the year

No matter who you ask around the farm about our 2016 Volunteer of the Year, Bren, the first response is a smile. Bren Wilkinson has been a member of the SMART volunteer team for a very long time. She may only come down to South Florida for the winter but she puts in enough time out at SMART while she IS here to last all year round! This lady is FULL of energy, committed to several days a week, fantastic with our horses and participants and a true pleasure to be around. WE LOVE YOU BREN!!!

2015 Volunteers of the Year - Diana & Bob Staab

This year we wanted to honor our dear volunteers, Diana and Bob Staab. They have both been amazing supporters over the years, serving in many capacities. Diana started off as a regular lesson volunteer and then took on the volunteer Volunteer Coordinator's position. She has done an incredible job of keeping our volunteers trained and on track and supporting the program. Bob has served as a board member and all around tractor guy---helping to keep our organization in the green and keeping our paddocks green, too! Both Diana and Bob have both been major supporters of SMART financially as well. We just couldn't have asked for more generous hearted (and fun) people to be part of our SMART family---and there was no one more deserving of our 2015 Volunteers or the Year Award, for sure! We are grateful for our time together---and wish them both well as they start their new journey in Naples, Florida!

2015 volunteer of the year

2014 Volunteers of the Year

Bren Wilkinson

Bren Wilkinson
Barn Crew

Michele Kailor

Michele Kailor
Barn Crew

Bob Staab

Bob Staab


Deb Hornbeck, Jacquie Denman,
Susan Hartman

Ellen Jones

Ellen Jones
Special Mention

Phyllis and Norman

Phyllis Siskel
Honorary Mention

This year was another year full of hard work by many volunteers, but as usual, there are several volunteers who always go above and beyond the call of duty. Our Barn & Program Volunteers of the Year, Bren Wilkinson & Michele Kailor are at SMART three to four times a week and work tirelessly to ensure the horses are cared for as well as helping with leading horses and assisting students. Bob Staab, Facility Volunteer of the Year, is Mr. Dependable when it comes to dragging our paddocks and keeping them in great shape for our horses. We have an awesome team of admin helpers who all share the Admin Volunteer of the Year award---helping with EquiForce entries, writing thank you notes, preparing spread sheets, clocking and tracking volunteer hours and researching projects. Special mention goes to Ellen Jones who is our Treasurer/CPA and spends countless hours keeping our books in order--as well as helping with lessons. Honorary Mention goes to Phyllis Siskel for volunteering her time and resources, being our "book benefactor" for our literacy program and being a true friend to SMART in so many ways.

2013 Volunteers of the Year


Judy Cole


Nicole Holt


Russ Fisk

2012 Volunteer of the Year - Lupe Sosa


Choosing the volunteer of the year was very difficult this year. We had SO many volunteers who worked many, many hours helping to get our new home cleaned and organized, along with keeping our lesson program going. But Lupe stood out with her widely diversified volunteer efforts. She is a parent of a SMART rider and heads up the Parent Fundraising committee, she is a board member who has personally brought in thousands of dollars in donations by personally asking for the donation, she works tirelessly on a variety of fundraising events and coordinated an amazing new home celebration for us in March! Lupe also helps out with lessons and camps---along with anything else that is asked of her. Lupe is truly the ultimate, mighty SMART volunteer---and we love her for all she has done for SMART!

2011 Volunteer of the Year - Alissa Fabian

Alissa and Gabe
Alissa and Lucien

Alissa Fabian is SMART's awesome Volunteer of the Year! Alissa has been volunteering with us for a few years and has always been one of those dependable, responsible, easy to be with, go with the flow kinda volunteers. So, of course, she was ripe for being asked to do more! She was always so good with the kids and horses, it just seemed natural that she should be recruited to become an instructor. Over the past year, Alissa has accepted every challenge we have offered her---and has succeeded at becoming a vital member of the SMART Team. She became an Instructor in February and has jumped into the lesson program with both feet, taking on many of our private lessons and agency lessons as well. Alissa is an outstanding instructor and is always willing to help out with anything that needs doing around the place. She is also always recruiting her friends to come out and join in the fun. Thank you, Alissa, for caring out SMART so much---and for making such a difference in all of our lives!


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