About Soul to Soles Connection

Soul to Soles Connection is dedicated to the mental health of our military and their families/caregivers. While being supported by the horses and our professional facilitators, participants are offered the time they need to heal and overcome challenges.

This work is client driven, meaning clients take the lead! There is always a licensed mental health professional, a certified equine specialist, and the horses (sometimes llamas too) in each session. The role of the professional facilitators is to ensure physical and emotional safety. Our team will set up experiences, support clients, and facilitate the learning process. 

During the sessions, the professional facilitation team may step away from the clients and move around to observe the horses’ interactions, behaviors, shifts, and patterns. The observations may be discussed with the client during debrief resulting in personal reflection and insight. 

Most importantly, there is no “specific way” sessions are to look and there is no right or wrong at the farm! The beauty of this experience is that horses take what is held inside of us and translate it into tangible experiences. Horses are the agent of change; when our stories change, we change! 

 We will be in a pasture with freely moving animals so closed toe shoes are recommended. Dress according to the season and weather forecast.

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CORE VALUES + VISION

Soul to Soles Connection is committed to respecting the integrity of those who fought for our freedom and offering them their time to heal. We strive to never turn away anyone who has the courage to ask for help.

Commitment | Courage | Faith | Integrity | Trust

HONESTY

OPENNESS

NATURE

OWNERSHIP

RESPECT

Aligning Veterans Strengths with Horses’ Freedom for Healing

Katie Stankiewicz

KATIE STANKIEWICZ, CPC

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR EQUINE SPECIALIST

Katie has always had a passion for horses and a deep desire to see people succeed. She understands the desire for authentic relationships in life, which horses naturally offer. Katie founded Willow Equine, in 2012, to serve those seeking personal growth, and optimized leadership capabilities. In 2017, she founded Soul to Soles Connection, and serves as the executive director. Katie is an Advanced Eagala certified equine specialist with her Eagala Military Designation as well as her ARCH Designation. Her work allows clients to look beyond “their box” and onto their higher self. Her intuitive ardor lies with embracing Horse Medicine for Higher Purpose and Balance. Katie’s unique skill sets, combined with the power of the horses, drive clients across the finish line in life!

MARIA RUSSELL, LCMHCS

CLINICAL DIRECTOR THERAPIST

Maria has always had a passion for helping individuals, couples, and families cope with difficulties in their lives. Her desire is to help clients experience healing and life change.  Maria is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor, the Clinical Director for Willow Equine and Soul to Soles Connection. She has worked with children, adults, and families in a variety of settings utilizing a trauma focused, root causes, cognitive-behavioral, systemic model, and assists clients with a variety of emotional, behavioral, personal, and relational problems. Maria is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Restoration Therapy, and utilizes the Enneagram in treatment. Maria is an Advanced Eagala certified mental health professional with her Eagala Military Designation as well as her ARCH Designation. 

ELLEN STROUD, TN LPC-MHSP

BOARD MEMBER
THERAPIST

Ellen Stroud was co-founder and vice president of Pinnacle Ranch and served as chair of the Eagala Board of Directors. At the time Eagala set the standard for professional excellence in how horses and humans work together to improve the quality of life and mental health of individuals, families and groups worldwide.

Pinnacle Ranch provided quality mental health services, personal growth, learning opportunities and organizational development utilizing equine assisted activities. It was the the Runner Up for the distinguished KOSBE Award – New Business Category.

Currently Ellen serves as the assistant project director for North Carolina’s State Opioid Response.

Ellen graduated from the ETSU counseling program with a Community Mental Health in Counseling degree. Her undergraduate work was in political science at Roanoke College.

PETE STAUNER

PRESIDENT

Pete Stauner served in the U.S. Army and is now the CEO/Owner of Computer Support Group. He is also active in our local community: F3 Davidson Group, 3 Hands Realty, and the Cornelius StormWater Committee. Peter is an advocate of community involvement, believing in bringing positive and measurable change. He strives to make his community a better place for families and businesses to thrive and grow.

MATTHEW BARONE

VICE PRESIDENT

Matthew Barone currently serves as a full-time Reservist in the U.S. Air Force at the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte. Matthew balances his full-time career as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician on the C-17 with his other job as the owner of Barone Aerial Drone Services. Matthew dedicates himself to the service of others and fostering positive changes for his community.

PAUL KELLY

TREASURER

Paul Kelly served a variety of firms as a financial analyst, controller, and bookkeeper until his retirement in 2019. He has worked in banking, insurance, medicine, real estate, construction, and convenience stores. He devised systems at the bank and at the construction firm which modeled their economic structures. Paul had three children, two of whom entered military service, both serving honorably and valiantly. He lost his 1LT son to an accident while on active duty on Fort Bragg. He strongly supports all services which seek to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life after their military postings.

DAVID DAUGHERTY MFT-A, DMin, MA

BOARD MEMBER

David Daugherty is a veteran advocate managing veteran programs in nonprofit and government. He served in the Army as a Special Forces medic (18D) and in the Air Force as a PJ. David has dedicated his life to helping veterans. His wife (also a vet) and him have several projects going under a faith-based nonprofit we call “Tikkun Pastoral Foundation.”

SHANON GERGER

BOARD MEMBER

Shanon Gerger works as a NC State Bar Certified Paralegal in the Office of the Secretary for the NC Department of Administration. In addition to her role as a paralegal, she is the Agency’s designated Rule-making Coordinator and temporary Grant Administrator and assists with drafting policies and the Agency Strategic Plan. She has worked as complaint paralegal with the State Ethics Commission, litigation paralegal with the NC Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Liaison Section and as a legal specialist for the US Marine Corps up until her honorable discharge in 2002.

DONTAVIOUS THOMAS

BOARD MEMBER

Dontavious Thomas is an Army Veteran and a Strategic Partner at Schooley Mitchell. He is the coolest guy EVER! Like, cooler than the other side of the pillow, cool! Husband, father of one, Jaden! A devout father and the best husband a wife could ask for. Barbie would be jealous she settled for Ken! Dontavious is a chill guy that doesn’t take life too seriously! Helping veterans is a passion of his and he looks forward to helping as many as he can!

GREG TRIMBUR

BOARD MEMBER

Greg Trimbur served in the U.S. Army and Navy. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Army 26 1/2 years ago. After Greg retired, he returned to the Navy as a civilian Comptroller. He enjoys spending time with his family, boating and fishing on Lake Norman.