Board of Directors
LaVonne Bower, President/Founder–LaVonne has a big heart and is a natural leader. She believes in taking action and follows through on the promises made. LaVonne is uniquely positioned by her love for animals and love and respect for those who serve to protect us and fight for the freedoms of others. In October 2016, LaVonne was diagnosed with breast cancer and required immediate surgery. She found herself receiving pet therapy from her own dogs which inspired her vision to help pair area veterans and first responders with an animal that has been “wounded” or is at a high risk for being euthanized, enabling emotional support and companionship for the veteran or first responder in need. Her understanding of how to run a business, be an advocate, and her ability to work with and inspire others will place the development of Paws and Warriors in loving and capable hands.
Krystal L. U. Heller, Vice President (Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army) – Krystal splits her time between the U.S. Army Reserves and her duties as an employee of the U.S. Government. She has 11 years serving in both Active Duty and Reserve positions and a deployment supporting Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF). Krystal is married to Sergeant First Class Jason J. Heller, retired, and has two dogs. She found a passion in networking and connecting people with like interests or those in need. This passion has driven her to PaWs, bringing together her sense of duty to the Veteran and First Response communities and her love for rescuing animals. She has since gratefully accepted the role of Vice President in order to expand her reach.
Cedar Santanna, COO and Canine Director – Owner of Omega Service Dog Testing and Consulting. Cedar has been training dogs for over 30 years and also operates her own equine assisted therapy program. As a licensed facilitator, Cedar has worked very closely with various groups and forms of Government to help raise the standards for Service Dogs in Canada. She has received various awards for her accomplishments including The Minister of Veteran Affairs Accommodation.
Karen Anne Praetorius, CFO/CIO (Industrial Corporate Controller) – Karen brings a unique set of skills to PaWs as both the CFO and CIO. Her contribution as a Corporate Controller in the manufacturing industry, alongside her many years of experience in non-profit volunteering through the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation and penchant for all things technology make Karen a formidable asset to Paws and Warriors. Karen’s interest in PaWs blossomed upon learning that her daughter’s mental health needs could benefit from a Service Dog. She was lucky enough to have the opportunity to discuss Service Dogs with LaVonne who proved to be an amazing resource. Karen is both honored and privileged to accept these positions with PaWs alongside some amazing people helping even more amazing people and animals.
Sheri Turner, Administrator – Small business owner, founder, and President of ProFinders, Inc. since 1996. Prior to moving to Bradenton, FL she was involved in many civic activities in Central FL including serving on the Orlando Chamber of Commerce Small Business Board, graduate of leadership Orlando class 45, and Co-Chair of Leadership Orlando Class 51. Additionally, Sheri has participated in many fundraising events over the years from Breast Cancer walks to JA Bowl-a-thons, to United Way fund raisers, UCP Chili Cook-Offs, numerous March of Dimes Walk-a-thons and more. An avid dog-lover, she and her husband currently have 2 boxers, 1 of which (Newton) is a certified Therapy Dog. Sheri is thankful for her role on the Board of Directors to help drive PaWs’ mission forward.
Sean Davis, Louisiana State Leader for Mission 22 and PaWs Ambassador– Sean served in the Louisiana Army National Guard from 1999-2010. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, supported 4 hurricane relief efforts, and assisted in training the Japanese Ground Defense Force. After returning home, Sean battled the demons of service, with alcohol, prescription drugs, and eventually attempted suicide. After surviving such an experience, Sean found a passion volunteering with Mission 22 and gave him a new purpose for his life: reduce veteran (22 per day) and first responder suicide rates. Since then, Sean has completed a 22 kilometer road march, a 22 mile road march, and spoken at numerous events (from hundreds to a few thousands). Sean was also featured in a local rock music video to help promote the goals for Mission 22 and encourage others to never surrender to their demons. Because of his perseverance, Sean was asked to become the Mission 22 LA State Leader in September 2018. He has since helped raise close to $8,000 and got numerous organizations to partner with Mission 22 in the State. Proudly, Sean has also agreed to be an Official Ambassador of PaWs, with the shared passion to reduce the 22!
Dog Training Partners
Trisha Robinson, Dawg Phonics – Trisha created Dawg Phonics in 2010 with her rescue dog Phoenix and her main goal of re-homing unwanted breeds to veterans as service dogs. Phoenix and Trisha worked with numerous breeds and behaviors through obedience training. Pure breeds, rescues, aggressive (human and canine) and many heartbreaking abuse cases all graduating with confidence and stability. Together they have changed the lives of over 1200 canines and their families. In the beginning of Trisha’s career, she made the decision to train service dog qualities in all cases, for in the event of something life changing, they could use their current pet for assistance vs finding a new one. Phoenix and Trisha spent many hours in nursing facilities and rehabilitation centers and through her obedience standards Phoenix was able to complete and exceed every task asked of him. He immediately picked up on who needed what or who wasn’t interested. The tasks ranged from assisting with physical therapy, activities department and of course lots of cuddling. Trisha really enjoyed seeing her dog and other students of Dawg Phonics lifting the spirits of the residents and the staff. She would sometimes take other students with her to assist. Residents would love to work with the dogs and were exceeding their goals as well. Being recognized by Tidewell for donating their time was a real honor. Trisha starting training therapy dogs for other therapists and other professions where the dog could benefit their clients, which led to personal service training. Breaking the barriers of communication between dog and human is Trisha’s passion while simultaneously showing her handlers that this is not just a dog to her, much more it’s her life.
Phoenix has been featured in 3 local commercials. 2 recycling advertisements and a Bradenton Marauders advertisement for licensing and tagging your pet through Manatee County. Phoenix has also played a part in a music video for Just for Girls, Inc in Palmetto. Which lead to Just for Girl’s winning the 2018 Giving Challenge.
Trisha was a vendor at a fundraising event she now hosts called Yappy Hour, held at Motorworks Brewery. She brought in Animal Network, Inc. for assistance in organizing this event and working together, they are raising funds for a variety of local non-profits through the event. To date they have raised over $60,000.00 for homeless pets. They educate the community on local non-profits and their missions, in addition to vendors from the community to support local small business owners.
Trisha has worked closely with Animal Network, Inc. in efforts to make their county a no-kill county. Donating endless hours at the local kill shelter working with and training the dogs and the volunteers, to better equip them in handling dogs and how dogs communicate. During this time they had decreased numbers of euthanasia significantly. After working with Manatee County Animal Services, Nates Honor Sanctuary then asked for her assistance. Trisha created a handler manual for the volunteers and staff of both facilities, working side by side with the volunteers teaching them to be trainers. Doing this increased adoptions because the volunteers understood how to interact with the dogs to encourage good behavior so the dogs were more desirable to potential adopters.
Dawg Phonics has produced 7 active service dogs to date. Service dogs performing task for PTSD, Seizures, Cerebral Palsy, Wheelchair assistance, Stability, Anxiety, Occupational and Physical therapy assistant. Security task are also performed by the service dogs upon request of the owner. Being able to take dogs that need rescuing and pairing them with a human who needs a stable, reliable and trustworthy companion to have a better quality of life is Trisha’s dream come true.