Board of Directors
Joey Bristol, Board President
Joey started volunteering at BDF shortly after it was established and became a board member in 2007. She has spent most of her life riding horses and worked as a riding instructor before moving to Georgia. She is retired from the UGA Cooperative Extension where she worked as a 4-H Program Assistant in Oconee County. She now enjoys spending plenty of time with her granddaughters. As board president, Joey is an invaluable source of information and support for connecting volunteers and community members to the farm. She oversees short and long-term service projects with the program and heads up all major fundraising functions benefiting the farm.
Cat Thompson, Founder
Cat was born in Limestone, Maine, but since her father was in the Air Force, she moved throughout the country during her childhood years. After starting college at Oregon State University, she transferred to the University of Georgia in 1985 and has lived in Watkinsville ever since. Cat works as a speech therapist and specializes in working with children who are medically fragile, have severe communication deficits, and have difficulties with feeding and swallowing. Cat worked for St. Mary’s hospital in Athens, Georgia, for eight years, but she now has an outpatient pediatric therapy practice in Watkinsville, Georgia, that employs physical, occupational, and speech therapists. Cat has seven adopted children and a birth child. She has also been blessed with ten grandchildren. She co-founded BDF Therapeutic Riding Program with friend Tracy Mosher, after the loss of her daughter. Alli was an adopted, severely disabled child who, during her short life, experienced great healing and joy from her love of the horses at the farm that is now BDF.
Judy Marable, Secretary
Judy is a retired public school educator with more than 30 years as an administrator and teacher in the Oconee County and Greene County public school systems. Twenty-five years ago Judy ‘cantered’ into the equine world with her daughter’s obsession with horses. When her daughter left for college, she realized she missed the equestrian community and was happy to be able to support the mission of BDF by serving on the Board of Directors. She values the team effort of therapists, trainers, volunteers and parents to provide an incredible experience for the clients at BDF. Mrs. Marable is committed to serving the local community as a volunteer, mentor, and member of several organizations.
Diana Bonds, Accountant
Diana is a realtor with Virtual Properties Realty in Athens and is a Certified Health Coach with Optavia. She and her husband Cliff love to travel. They are the parents of two daughters and have two grandchildren, and 2 grandhorses named Hope and Danny that live with their youngest daughter in East Athens. Diana began volunteering at Butterfly Dreams as a side walker in 2014 and shortly after joined the Board of Directors. In her role as Treasurer, Diane oversees the management of the organizational finances.
Molly Schaefer, Website
Molly Schaefer began riding in high school and joined the UGA equestrian club team in college. When the club team transitioned to a varsity sport, she was able to ride two years for University of Georgia Equestrian Team. Fifteen years and two children later, she rediscovered her love of riding while volunteering with BDF. She enjoys supporting this amazing organization through managing the website and supporting the fundraising opportunities.
Kaitlyn Ruff, Social Media
Kaitlyn began volunteering at Butterfly Dreams while in college at UGA. After some time away to begin her career in biomedical engineering, Kaitlyn realized she was missing the experience of volunteering and seeing how powerfully the horses impact the lives of the children who come to the farm. She is very excited for the opportunity to serve as a board member and help promote awareness of the farm within the community. As a horse lover and someone with a passion for the advancement of physical and mental well being for all, Butterfly Dreams has been the perfect volunteering opportunity. Kaitlyn has owned horses for the past ten years of her life, riding for the UGA Eventing Team and serving as team president her final year at UGA. She now currently resides on a mini farm with two horses that serve primarily as pasture ornaments along with a various assortment of other furry and feathery friends.
Nicole Beitzel, Board Member
Nicole started volunteering at the farm as a side walker in 2016 when her daughter, Abigail started hippotherapy. Along with her husband, Jason, they enjoy the many adventures with their daughter. Nicole is active in fundraising for the farm and joined the Board in 2017.
Debbie Grainger, Board Member
Debbie is thrilled to become a member of a team that literally Gives Back to the community by contributing 10% of her commission to local charities and non-profit organizations for every client. She is passionate about making home ownership possible for everyone. When she’s not working for a client, she enjoys restoring her Athens home built in 1890.
Jill Smajlovic, Board Member
Jill is a Consumer Banking Market Leader in Northeast Atlanta for the Georgia Region in the Southeast Division of Bank of America. Jill is dedicated to giving back and is a supporter of the Shriners Hospital and International Rescue Committee for refugees coming to America. She is a member of the Leadership, Education, Advocacy & Development for Women Employee Network and volunteers for the local schools to provide financial literacy.
Shelley Scoville, Board Member
Shelley has always had a love for horses and a passionate place in her heart for people with special needs. She started volunteering at BDF in January 2017, where she fell in love with the program, riders, and horses, witnessing the impact of therapy lessons. Wanted to contribute more, she joined the board at the beginning of 2018. Shelley works as an Executive Assistant for another non-profit and enjoys serving the community in any way she can.
Erika Lawrence, Board Member
Erika, a P.A.T.H Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, has been teaching therapeutic riding since November 2019. She has been riding competitively since she was 8 years old and has a deep understanding of horse behavior and equitation skills which directly translate into her lessons. Erika is a graduate of University of Georgia in Risk Management and Insurance, with minors in Spanish and Religion. Her hometown is Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Post-graduation, Erika hopes to begin her career in the business world while continuing to teach therapeutic riding. Developing the relationship between the horse and rider is of high importance to Erika as well.
Marie Babcock, Board Member
Marie was “bitten by the horse bug” at an early age. Over the years she has shown hunter/jumpers, plantation walking horses and exercised off-the-track Thoroughbreds. After taking a few years off to raise her children, she resumed teaching when her daughter turned six. She spent many years as an instructor and riding program director at Camp Loquastee, Camp Ton-A-Wandah and Valley View Ranch. Her family was active in Hilltoppers Pony Club and eventing through her daughter’s college years with her horses. She has taught Special Education and reading classes in schools across North Carolina and Georgia and is now retired. Today, she and her husband selectively breed, and board UGA Event Team members’ horses, area trainers and their students.
Mandi Ellis, Board Member
Mandi is a Georgia native who received her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from the University of Georgia and J.D. from Pepperdine School of Law. She became involved with BDF when her youngest son began hippotherapy. Her son did traditional speech therapy in an office setting for several years. When they transitioned to hippotherapy they found he was more calm and engaged during the sessions. After seeing this powerful transformation with her own child, Mandi decided to donate her time and valuable expertise in both the legal field and PR.