Heather’s background was human medicine and nutrition and after 10 years in the medical field, she took a chance in the world of animals, (her true love). In 1998, Heather started Critter Corral, Inc., a healthy nutrition and wellness shop for pets. It is about trust and taking the time to explain nutrition; providing knowledge to enhance longevity and researching the best products and information for positive results.
She has basic principles and an unwavering commitment to give back to her community and what better way than to use both the medical knowledge obtained with the training/nutritional skills to develop a vision that includes canines that will embrace our Veterans health and wellness when they return from serving their country. Upon befriending a homeless Army veteran in 2014, she created Tails of Valor Paws of Honor Program Inc. which became a stand-alone 501(c)(3) in February 2016. Heather's goal was to create an opportunity to save two lives, rescued canines, and our nation's Veterans, developing a form of medical modernized therapy that impacts the mental and physical rehabilitation directed towards a positive behavioral lifestyle for our Veterans.
Join us for the journey of a Service dog...
Lynda Gehris is a Gold Star Mother. When she lost her son to suicide after his 3rd deployment to Iraq in 2008, her world fell apart. She has been looking for a way to honor her son's memory but for the last 9 years feels that the most she could do was just get out of bed every day. Her friend Anna Rodriquez, who is also a Gold Star Mother, asked her to attend a Tails of Valor event last year and she was encouraged by the success stories she heard and witnessed. Lynda was inspired hearing about the Veterans who were once struggling with hopelessness and depression, who upon being partnered with a service dog began to heal. She feels that TOV offers healing support to these Veterans who have witnessed unspeakable trauma in their lives, embracing them as family. "I only wished that my son had, has this opportunity. I never want another mother to have to bury their child."
Lynda feels that she has finally found a way to not only honor her son, but to also save a dog who may otherwise have been destroyed. The partnership of this unconditional love and support is inspiring hope. They save each other - being a part of this organization helps many heal not just the Veterans.
Gold Star Mother
Jeff has built a name for himself in the Lehigh Valley for home improvement, construction, and the real estate industry. He started in construction installing windows doors then became involved with buying and improving houses. From this experience, Jeff knows what to look for when buying or selling houses and decided to become a full-time realtor with RE/MAX Unlimited Real Estate.
Jeff learned of Tails of Valor through his wife, Lisa Lake and saw firsthand how a service dog helped a friend of his who suffers from PTSD.
After that, he wanted to help more.
He is honored to sit on the board of Tails of Valor to make a difference and help veterans who have sacrificed and fought for our freedom.
Jeff is determined to help Tails of Valor grow, save more dogs and help more veterans.
Susan is a marketing professional with 30+ years experience in brand strategy, consumer engagement and business development. She is currently an independent consultant and marketing expert, who collaborates closely with Swayfield, a social media engagement and content marketing company with a mission to help non-profits fundraise and flourish. The Tails of Valor DOG STORIES fundraiser presented by Eight Oaks Farm Distillery was hosted on Swayfield’s SoCamp SaaS platform. She also has academic and clinical training in counseling psychology from Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia School of Psychoanalysis, and Kutztown University Counseling & Psychological Services. Her passion for cause marketing and interest in supporting non-profits has driven her to dedicate more time as a volunteer, board member, and supporter of various causes. Her personal interest trifecta of dog rescue, mental health, and supporting Veterans are what led her to seek out and discover Tails of Valor. Susan also sits on the board of national non-profit Saucony Run For Good Foundation, with a mission to support community-based youth running programs to combat childhood obesity and to promote health and wellness to at-risk communities. She is also helping to empower Veteran business ownership and employment as a consultant with Military Veteran Partners and JDog Junk Removal & Hauling, through the coordination of partnerships with other Veteran-facing organizations such as Veterans Advantage. In her free time, she likes to take walks in the Trexler Nature Preserve with her Labrador Retriever Levon, who was rescued as a puppy from Louisiana.
DR. KARA BALLEK
Dr. Ballek is an individual with a deep passion for animal care and their well being. Her career as a Veterinarian was born out of a childhood love for her family pets and any other animals that crossed her path.
After a very successful academic career in Saucon Valley School District, Kara attended the Pennsylvania State University majoring in Animal Bio-Science. Upon graduating at the head of her class from Penn State, Dr. Ballek continued the pursuit of her dream career at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. During Vet School, Kara worked part-time at the Quakertown Veterinary Clinic, and accepted an Associate Veterinarian position at QVC after graduating from Penn. Dr. Ballek eventually transitioned into a similar position at Lehigh Valley Animal Hospital, where she spent nine years of her career prior to opening Creekview Veterinary Hospital.
Kara has had many in her life that have served our country including her father. It is an honor to be part of such a giving organization and for both our furry friend and Veteran to benefit is an inspiration that I want to be a part of.
Jana Spess is a lover of all animals. Growing up with multiple dogs, cats and a few horses instilled a love of all animals large and small, and drove a passion for caring for and working with them. Jana has always seen herself as hopefully one day having a career working with dogs. Dogs are a huge passion as always having multiple dogs at once (currently 3) knowing first-hand how their unconditional love can help a person. As a music lover, Jana joined the Parrot Head Club Pirates In Paradise over 15 years ago. As a Parrot Head joining with others to “Party with a Purpose” as the motto goes, organizing fundraising events for local charities such as TOV and participating in community service events. Most recently organizing 2 successful events that raised over $11,000 for TOV. As an associate of Home Depot for the last 18 years working in all aspects of operations, Jana has developed strong customer service skills, product knowledge, and general problem solver for fellow associates. Jana is looking forward to putting all her skills and knowledge to use with TOV helping dogs and veterans alike.
Helen Luther is a Salesforce Project Manager at Aesculap, Inc. a division of B. Braun Medical, Inc. She previously worked as an IT Manager at Mack Trucks and a Project Manager in the clinical trials and education industries. Her professional background includes successful implementation of numerous FDA and SOX regulated projects and audits. Helen also taught elementary school children in the Lehigh Valley. Her passion for animals comes from her strong belief that during challenging times, pets provide comfort to folks of all ages and stages of life. The 3 dogs she raised during her adult life opened her heart to the training and care of animals. In her Bethlehem home, she and her family have enjoyed being puppy sitters for Tails of Valor dogs Holley and Dietz. Her dedication to supporting our veterans stems from a long list of family and friends who dedicated their lives to the US military and who are currently defending the freedoms of our great nation. She firmly believes in her duty to support vets who return from the military experiences which result in emotional and physical challenges. Helen also supports New Bethany Ministries via corporate projects and has served as her neighborhood’s Luminaria captain for over 10 years. She enjoyed supporting the Helping Hands organization which feeds and clothes the homeless. Helen has a strong belief in the power of community service to build relationships and forge bridges to new perspectives. With the support and enthusiasm of her corporate teams, she has helped drive several Tails of Valor training facility maintenance and fund raising projects.
Russell Armstrong is a 6 year Navy Veteran, He graduated in the top of his nuclear power school class and went on to become an instructor at the nuclear power prototype plant in West Milton NY. Following his duty in NY, he went on to serve aboard the USS Seahorse SSN 669, a nuclear power fast attack submarine out of Charleston SC.
Following his Navy service, Russell went on to develop and build Natural Animal Nutrition Inc. (NAN) a pet food distribution center in Northern Maryland. During the development period of NAN,
Mr. Armstrong recognized the need for the development of a high quality holistic pet food to meet the health needs of pets within the Mid-Atlantic region. In 1993, He developed Verus Pet Foods, Inc. and continues to grow and develop both NAN and Verus today. NAN services over 700 retailers throughout the region while employing over 80 people. Verus has grown and expanded and is currently available in the United States, Canada, China, and many Asian countries.
In 2015, Mr. Armstrong began the sponsorship of service dog training programs to assist organizations dedicated to Veterans suffering with PTSD and TBI. The sponsorship with Verus Pet Foods assists organizations training service dogs with pet food expenses as well as aiding veterans paired with service dogs with their ongoing food expenses.
Russell has a deep compassion for companion pets and has served as a board member for the Worcester County Humane Society as well as donating pet food to numerous rescues and humane societies throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. As well, his love of this nation and those who have served and sacrificed is well established through his support of organizations such as Hero Dogs and Tails of Valor.
Allison has spent the majority of her professional career in the retail industry. For the past 20 years she has been working in various positions within Walmart. The high paced challenging atmosphere has allowed her to gain valuable experience in problem solving, merchandising, and customer service. While with Walmart, Allison took an interest in becoming a better community partner and began volunteering with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. As a team captain and planning committee member, she helped her Walmart team raise in excess of $90,000 for the event over the years.
Allison has a true love of dogs and currently has three rescues. She began volunteering with Tails of Valor in the late summer of 2017 as a way to continue helping rescues and to help our Veterans get the support they deserve for their service to our country. Allison wanted to join the Board of Directors as she feels she has valuable skills and creative ingenuity that can help TOV continue their mission. Having the opportunity to contribute to a cause that helps both Veterans and dogs is a dream come true for her.
Stephanie has been in radio sales and marketing for 25 years with 99.9 The Hawk, Cat Country, WLEV and Fox Sports. She also orgainzes several events including Stars of Craft Beer Fest. She servied in the Army for 6+ years as a motor transport operator, administration and mail clerk in Texas and Germany. Her interests including traveling abroad and the states, reading and helping raise puppies with Talis of Valor. She heard about TOV while writing a commercial for a radio broadcast at one of her client's events and when she met Rachel at the event she was hooked. She is passionate about the TOV program, people involved and especially giving back to Veterans and saving lives.