Board of Directors
Tricia Zarro, Chair, Board of Directors
Tricia has been an educator in a co-taught, inclusive classroom for 20 years. She is a fierce advocate for all children, particularly those with special needs. Tricia knows firsthand the many benefits of having an autism service dog as her family received the first one placed by Caroline McCabe-Sandler in 2008. In addition, service dogs in training regularly visit Tricia’s classroom; they interact with children and help to facilitate learning.
When not teaching or with her family, Tricia can be found working at various summer camps as an inclusion specialist. She has a BS in Therapeutic Recreation from Lehman College, a MS in Education from Fordham University and is currently completing her MS in Special Education from Manhattanville College. She lives in Ossining with her husband Ernie, children Maddy, Kylie and Danny, and their autism service dog, Shade. She believes very deeply in something that Mother Teresa once said: “In this life we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
Julia Lancian, Treasurer, Board of Directors
Julia is an experienced Finance Director and Compliance Officer at a health care focused investment banking firm in New York City, where she has been since 1999. She is responsible for all compliance with local, state and federal regulatory bodies as well as all aspects of accounting. Julia earned the equivalent of an M.B.A. with focus on Finance and Marketing at the European Business School, Oestrich-Winkel. In addition, Julia completed advanced business studies at the University of California, Berkeley, Universidad de Navarra (Spain), and New York University. Julia is bilingual in English and German and is an avid traveler. Over the past 20 years she has been a passionate volunteer for Special Olympics, Coalition for the Homeless, New York Cares, BOS Foundation and Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Julia believes that the powerful bond found between canines and humans has unmatched potential in changing lives profoundly.
Maura A Smith, Secretary, Board of Directors
Maura is an experienced attorney and business executive. Her professional career spans four decades, first in private practice and later as the general counsel, corporate secretary and head of government affairs for various public companies, including Owens Corning, International Paper, PepsiCo, and Delhaize Group. At each of these companies, she participated in the development and execution of business strategies, led large legal teams, and oversaw significant legal matters. Maura has recently returned to private practice, opening her own law firm with a unique focus on alternative dispute resolution and corporate law. She is also an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association®.
Maura graduated from Vassar College with a BA in Economics, and earned her M.Phil. in Economics from Oxford University where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and her JD from the University of Miami School of Law. Maura believes deeply in the work of organizations that provide service dogs to those in need, and has participated in fundraising efforts for guide dog, therapeutic horseback riding and animal rescue organizations. She and her husband adopted Trader, a retired guide dog, in 2004, and currently live in New Canaan, CT, with their two dogs, Tucker, a released service dog, and Alfie, a rescue.
Emily Fontana, Board of Directors
Emily is an experienced attorney and dedicated advocate for children with special needs and their families. Early in her career, Emily practiced social security disability law in North Carolina, representing disabled individuals, and was a supervising attorney for Crumley & Associates. It was there that she developed a passion for serving the public interest, and being a voice for those who could not advocate for themselves.
In 2004 Emily worked as a special education attorney, and later as a compliance officer and liaison to the special education unit, for the New York City Department of Education, before going on to have her own child who would ultimately be diagnosed with profound regressive autism. Emily learned first-hand how challenging life could be for families of special needs children, and, later, how autism service dogs transform lives for the better when her son Mark received service dog Echo in 2013.
Emily is a member of the executive board for Rye All-Inclusive Special Education (RAISE), a parent organization dedicated to supporting and educating parents, and working with school administration towards the common goad of providing the best possible education for children with special needs. She resides in Rye, NY, with her husband Paul, their 5 children and Echo.
Neva Goldstein, Board of Directors
Neva is an artist with a BFA from Rhode Island School of design, and a yoga instructor. She is very active in community service and philanthropy. She is especially passionate about causes that benefit children with special needs. For over a decade she has been a volunteer with The Make a Wish Foundation of the Hudson Valley, currently as a wish granter and mentor. Neva successfully organized 5 annual Yoga for Wishes fundraising events benefiting Make a Wish.
For over 13 years, she was a volunteer teacher’s assistant in the school program at Blythedale Children’s Hospital, working with children with serious physical and mental challenges. Neva has also been a volunteer camp counselor at The Hole in the Wall Gang camp for five seasons. The camp serves children with life threatening illnesses. She currently volunteers her time to teach yoga to cancer patients and survivors at Northern Westchester Hospital. Neva lives in Cortlandt Manor with her husband and cat. They raised 2 children, and their dog Hudson, who lived to be 13 years old.
Michael Ryan, Board of Directors
Mike is an accomplished marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience driving growth for many of America’s favorite food and beverage brands. Mike has a strong track record of building brand equity, market share and profit across multi-million and billion-dollar businesses.
Mike is recognized for his unique combination of strategic thinking skills coupled with his inspiring and energetic personality. He enjoys partnering with others to solve complex business challenges that help people live better, more independent and fulfilling lives. Mike shares a passion for utilizing service dogs to help people reach their full potential. For several years, he volunteered his professional services at a major guide dog organization where he made significant contributions in marketing and strategy. Mike graduated with a BBA in Marketing and Business Management from Northeastern University. He lives in Yorktown Heights, NY with his wife Andrea, two daughters and their dog.
Dr. Jody Sandler, Co-Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer
Jody has been a practicing veterinarian for 28 years. He graduated from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine with his DVM in 1988, after receiving his BS in Biology from Binghamton University. He was a staff clinician at a private veterinary hospital on Long Island for two years before becoming the first Director of Veterinary Services for Guiding Eyes for the Blind in 1990. He remained in that role until 2014, when he assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer in which he supervised 55 staff members and provided leadership in the strategic planning process and implementation of new programmatic initiatives.
After twenty-five years with Guiding Eyes, Jody founded BluePath Service Dogs, Inc., which focuses on providing service dogs to children with autism. Jody has co-authored numerous papers with researchers and clinicians at Cornell University, as well as with researchers at the San Diego Zoo’s Institution for Conservation Research. He has lectured at conferences at Cornell University, Virginia Maryland Veterinary College, and local veterinary medical association chapters. In 2013, Jody's veterinary department was awarded the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Booker Willoughby Service Award. In 2016, Jody was recognized as the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
During his career, Jody has served as a mentor for over 50 veterinary students from 11 different veterinary medical colleges in the US, and has been coaching youth soccer and baseball for the past 10 years. He lives in Hopewell Junction, NY, with Caroline, their four children, three dogs and four cats.
Caroline McCabe-Sandler, Co-Founder, Vice President of Training Programs
Caroline was the founding director of an autism service dog program that placed 90 dogs with families since 2008. She began her career as a guide dog instructor and was certified as a master trainer in 2002. She then served as a training supervisor, providing leadership and guidance to junior staff and apprentice instructors.
In 1999, Caroline placed a guide dog named Salty, who navigated his way out of Tower One on September 11, 2001, saving his handler’s life. Caroline has presented at professional conferences and industry events throughout the country. She has also been invited to lecture about the impact of autism service dogs at Yale University, Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, and Rochester Institute of Technology. She has a BA in English from Clark University. Caroline lives in Hopewell Junction with her husband, Jody, their four children, three dogs and four cats.
Michelle Brier, Co-Founder, Vice President of Marketing & Development
Michelle is an accomplished marketing and development executive. She currently serves as the Director of Field Marketing and Fundraising Resources at the American Red Cross, with responsibility for driving marketing and fundraising best practices and innovation. Previously, she was Director of Strategic Development for Greenburgh Nature Center, where she was a member of the leadership team and developed and executed plans for all aspects of the Center’s fundraising efforts. In the past, Michelle served as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, where she developed a deep passion for service dogs and their ability to profoundly transform people’s lives.
Michelle is on the Board of Directors for the Katonah Bedford Hills Ambulance Corps, where she also regularly volunteers as an Emergency Medical Technician. Michelle has a BS in Business Economics from the State University of New York at Oneonta. She lives in Bedford, NY.
Erica Stanzione, Director of Marketing & Development
Erica oversees the strategic and operational efforts of BluePath’s development initiatives. She fosters relationships with individuals, foundations, and corporations to support our life-changing work.
Prior to her current role, Erica was the Director of Communications and Partnerships at the Alliance for Safe Kids where she was responsible for raising awareness and funds in support of drug and alcohol prevention. In the past, she served as the Events and Marketing Manager at Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
Erica began her career at the Jorge Posada Foundation where she fell in love with the nonprofit sector. She received her BS in Psychology from Mount Saint Mary College and her MS in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy from Bay Path University. She lives in Cortlandt Manor, NY with two dogs and a cat.
Maureen Mellett, Trainer
Maureen began her dog training career in 2004 as a guide dog instructor, placing expertly trained dogs with men and women with vision loss. She then spent seven years working with Caroline McCabe-Sandler training service dogs for children with autism.
Prior to training dogs, Maureen was a middle school science and math teacher for five years. She worked in a variety of classroom settings including teaching children with special needs and with behavioral challenges. She received a BA in Biology from Cornell University. Maureen lives in Patterson, NY with her released service dog.
Kate Petersen, Volunteer Coordinator
Kate’s experience with service dogs began in 2004 when her family became volunteer puppy raisers. She began her dog training career in 2011 as a guide dog instructor and spent five years training and placing guide dogs with individuals with vision loss. After being introduced to autism service dogs, she was inspired by the incredible impact the dogs had on their families and has since fostered five dogs while they completed their training.
Prior to beginning her service dog career, Kate spent several years working with shelter animals in South Carolina and in 2009 spent a year as a training intern working with beluga whales at Mystic Aquarium. She has a BS in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina. Kate lives in Bethel, CT with her husband, two sons, and two retired guide dogs.