Karen Shirk, Executive Director and Founder
Karen founded 4 Paws For Ability in 1998 after her own struggle to receive a service dog ended in rejection simply because she used a ventilator to breathe at night because in their opinion the prognosis for these people was poor and others could have a more successful life after receiving their dog. Karen obtained her own dog and trained him with the help of Jeremy Dulebohn. With ben by her side Karen returned to the workforce and dreamed of an agency where those needing dogs would not be judged, picked or denied based on the level of disability and whether those who worked at the organization felt the recipient could make a contribution to society after placement. It was this dream that led to the formation of our organization.
Karen worked her entire adult life with mentally and physically disabled children and adults. She obtained her Bachelors in Social Work from Wright State University and did Masters work at the University of Cincinnati with an emphasis on neurological disabilities like Autism. Karen’s most rewarding work before 4 Paws was her work with Autistic children and adults. It was because of this she worked with 4 Paws trainers to develop the Autism Assistance Dog as it is known today.
Karen lives just outside of Xenia with her 4 adopted children; Aaron (adopted from Bulgaria), Nerlande (adopted from Haiti), Isaiah (adopted from Haiti), and her youngest child Elijah (also adopted from Haiti). Karen was grateful for her life work in adopting Elijah who has many special needs including verbal dyspraxia, global delays, and ADHD. You can read more about Karen on the 4 Paws Story web page.
Email Karen at Karen@4PawsForAbility.org.
Jeremy Dulebohn, Training Director
Jeremy knew he wanted a career with dogs since he was in 3rd grade. His passion for dogs began back in elementary school when a police officer gave a demonstration with his police k-9. After graduating high school he attended National K-9 in Columbus, Ohio graduating in 1993 as a professional dog trainer. After completing his education he started his own business in his hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio. Two and a half years later, with the experience he now had in teaching obedience and handling behavioral problems with hundreds of different breeds and personalities, he was invited back to National K-9 as the head trainer and main instructor. It was during his career at National k-9 that Jeremy first met our Executive Director, Karen Shirk and her service dog, Ben. Jeremy worked with Ben at national k-9 to assist Karen in finishing his training. He was taught to pick up dropped items, provide balance, retrieve the phone on command, and get a medical bag that contained Karen’s rescue medications. Over the course of the next seven years Jeremy’s experience expanded as he trained dogs to do many different jobs. Some of these experiences included training police canines and their handlers in all aspects of canine work, training service dogs and their handlers to work as a team, evaluating and working through behavioral issues with family dogs, and instructing over 500 students through their graduation as professional dog trainers.
In 2002 Jeremy decided to close his own business and accept the position of Training Director with 4 Paws For Ability. He says watching the children receive their dogs and then hearing the positive change (sometimes life-saving) in the children’s lives is an unbelievable feeling to be a part of every day. His career with 4 paws is the rewarding and successful career he had always dreamed of.
Jeremy lives in Wapakoneta, Ohio with his wife of 20 years and their three children, Zak, Tyler, and Colby. They enjoy spending their time together at sporting events, family outings, and vacationing. He has his faithful companion Cody by his side every day as he works at 4 Paws as well as at home and also has two more furry family members, Angel a Golden Retriever retired from service dog work and Zoey, a Corgi mix.
Email Jeremy at Jeremy@4PawsForAbility.org.
Jennifer Lutes, Senior Trainer
Jennifer and her family were among the first volunteers 4 paws had and their relationship to 4 Paws goes back almost to the beginning. Jennifer became involved in 4H at a young age and became involved with 4 Paws when she learned of the 4H Service Dog program where she could foster a service dog in training and show the puppy at the fair. It was in 2000 that Jennifer met Karen and her service dog, Ben for the first time when she asked to foster a 4 Paws puppy. Since then, Jennifer and her family have fostered many 4 Paws dogs! Jennifer knew from the time she started working with the 4 Paws puppies that she wanted to be a service dog trainer and be an active part of the miracles 4 Paws brings to their recipients every day.
Jennifer attended college at Northern Kentucky University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human/Social Services while working part time as a trainer with 4 Paws. After graduation’ 4 Paws was excited to have Jennifer finally join us as a full time trainer and as she gained more experience promoting her to the position of Head Trainer that she holds today. Jennifer also heads up the foster care program here at 4 Paws.
Jennifer was born in Chicago and moved with her family to Ohio. She now resides in Xenia with her Golden retriever, Connor. Though she works for 4 Paws full time Jennifer continues to enjoy fostering our service dogs in training. Jennifer and Connor spend their free time hiking in one of the nearby natural areas, practicing and competing in competitive obedience, and doing pet therapy work.
Email Jennifer at Jennifer@4PawsForAbility.org.
Peg Bernert, 4 Paws Alaska Head Trainer
That day, after her son was found safe and her heart had recovered, she realized that a trained dog could have tracked her son. That’s the day she found 4 Paws for Ability. Since receiving her son’s service dog in 2007 Peg has been affiliated with 4 Paws as a client, foster puppy parent, and finally completed a training internship at 4 Paws in August of 2011. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska with her husband Dave, her four kids, and, of course, many dogs.
Autism is a rocky road,” says Bernert. “Our service dog Halo evens out that road for us. She keeps our son safe, she comforts him, and she brings peace to our family. By training dogs in Autism Assistance, Seizure Alert, Hearing Alert, and Mobility Assistance, I hope to bring the magic of 4 Paws to other families and help to even out their rough roads.”
Peg Bernert completed more than 1000 hours of training under the direct supervision of our Training Director, Jeremy Dulebohn, at 4 Paws headquarters in Xenia, Ohio.
Email Peg at Peg@4PawsForAbility.org.
Jessa Kenworthy, Trainer
Jessa was born and raised in Ohio, on her parent’s Arabian horse farm. She received her bachelor’s degree in Animal Photography from Bennington College in Vermont. Through her college experience she has been involved in many internship programs: working with wolves in NM, Sea mammals in Coney Island, and wild horses in ND. Jessa has always loved animals, but it was her experience at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary which inspired her to seek a career working with animals which ultimately led her to 4 Paws. She joined 4 Paws in 2008 and is involved in training the service dogs in a multitude of tasks, in addition to coordinating the ever expanding university program. Jessa lives in Xenia, OH with her menagerie of animals which includes her golden retriever, Coda. In her free time she sings in a choir, practices and competes in freestyle (“doggie dancing”) with Coda, and is always fostering one of the 4 Paws service dog’s in training.
Email Jessa at Jessa@4PawsForAbility.org.
Kelly Camm, Development Director
Kelly Camm oversees the identification, solicitation, and development of community, corporate, local, and national funding sources. She manages fundraising, cause-related marketing, and completes grant research and proposals.
Kelly first encountered 4 Paws in 2006 while working on her MBA at Thomas More College. After graduation, she started volunteering as a fundraiser for 4 Paws, primarily working on a cause marketing plan she had developed during her studies. She then joined the board of trustees and eventually became vice president and then president of the board. In 2010, she left the board and became an employee of 4 Paws.
Kelly has over 20 years of experience in marketing, brand management, product development, planning, communications, cause marketing, and public relations. She also volunteers her time for NAMI NKY and the Reel Abilities Film Festival.
Email Kelly at Kelly@4PawsForAbility.org.
Whitney Hitt, Community/Media Relations Director
“It was amazing to see the bond the two of them shared,” says Hitt. “Even as a child, I could tell how much they relied on each other and could clearly see how perfectly in sync they were. My uncle loved that dog, and his life really opened up when Oreo was added to our family.”
Whitney was first made aware of 4 Paws For Ability by a childhood friend and the former Community/Media Relations Director, Jessica Noll-Korczyk. It wasn’t long after that discovery that she fell in love with the organization’s mission and hoped to one day be a part of their efforts. That’s why when news came that the position would be available, she didn’t hesitate.
“All it takes is hearing just one story of a family that has been helped by 4 Paws,” Whitney says. “The work they do is truly life changing, and every person there is obviously committed to the mission. I feel absolutely blessed if I can help.”
Hitt’s responsibilities include updating the website, social networking, video production/editing, photography, writing/producing the newsletter 4PawPrints, blogging, writing stories/press releases, and working with the public and the media to relay 4 Paws’ mission.
Whitney and her husband Greg are residents of Fort Thomas, Kentucky with their furry family member, a boxer named Reagan.
Kevin Corcoran, DVM
He holds three degrees from The Ohio State University (BS, MS and DVM). He is also board certified by the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine.
In 2000 Dr. Corcoran retired from the US Army Veterinary Corps after assignments in Colorado (twice), the Philippines, Maryland, Thailand and Ohio. He then worked 10 years for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati.
At 4 Paws for Ability, he uses his experience in preventative medicine to help ensure the health and wellbeing of the dogs in all of 4 Paws’ programs.
He lives in Xenia Township with his wife, Del. Their home includes several goats as well as beehives, as Dr. C. is a novice beekeeper when not at 4 Paws for Ability. Together, he and his wife have three grown children.
Tessa Thrasher, Registered Veterinary Technician
A graduate from Columbus State Community College with an associate’s degree in veterinary technology, Tessa has worked with cats, dogs, pocket pets, reptiles, as well as exotic animals.
Tessa was a volunteer for a wildcat sanctuary in Columbus, Ohio, and worked with cougars, bobcats, lynx cats, tigers, wolves and foxes. She brings her taming, as well as surgical experience to 4 Paws.
Her favorite part about working at 4 Paws for Ability is seeing the children graduate with the dogs that she’s taken care of—it’s her way, she says, of contributing to helping kids who need it.
She lives in Beavercreek, Ohio, with her husband and their three dogs and two cats.
Board of Directors
Chad Zipfel | President
Occupation: Corporate Finance Manager at Procter & Gamble
My passion for 4 Paws runs deep. Dogs have been a part of my family since I was born, and I know first-hand the difference they can make. Here at 4 Paws, we are making differences in lives of families every day. I credit that fact to our amazing staff and best-in-class trainers. Their unique skills and specialization ensure we have near perfect success rates. At 4 Paws, I leverage my unique set of business experiences in leading organizations, setting a long-term strategic vision, and delivering on key success metrics. In close partnership with our Board and Executive Director, I also look to provide appropriate guidance for any major short-term decisions that we face. Thank you for your support and please join us in making a difference across the nation and around the world.
Kevin Allee | Expansion Committee
Occupation: River’s Bend Development Group, LLC
Greg Brelsford | Audit Committee Chair
Occupation: Senior Internal Auditor at American Modern Insurance Group
Lauren Croall | Fundraising Chair
Occupation: North America Tide Finance Manager
Laura Hardesty | Policies & Procedures Committee Chair
Occupation: Corporate Counsel at Omnicare
Patrick Richter | Expansion Committee
Occupation: Senior Portfolio Manager at Riverpoint Capital
Eric Soldano | HR Committee Chair
Occupation: HR Manager at US Bank
Paul Soos | Partnership Development Committee Chair
Occupation: Manager – Anti-Fraud & AP Recovery Services at CBIZ Risk & Advisory Services, LLC
Eddie Young | Expansion Committee Chair
Occupation: Vice President, Customer Development for Sunny Delight Beverages