Meet the Team


Mary joined the ministry in September of 2015 and quickly moved into a leadership role as co-top dog.  She is instrumental in the development of the ministry and is also a Stephens Minister who believes that the best part of being a handler is being so close to those who need love. She feels it is a privilege to be invited to places of grief and healing. Mary loves Addie's amazing expressions and refers to her affectionate faces as "Addie eyes". Mary loves how the dogs have the power to immediately change the atmosphere of a room once they walk in. They are truly able to lighten stressful situations.  The comfort dog ministry has strengthened her faith and her heart to reach out to those people in need. 

Joel WardenburG

Joel joined the ministry in 2013 and was one of our initial team serving Sandy Hook Elementary. Most recently Joel has taken on the role of Lead Trainer and K9 Care for the Ministry. He loves the interaction he has with the people and the dogs as a handler. He is truly amazed at the dog's ability to pick out hurting people in a crowd and provide those people with the unconditional love and support they deserve. Joel takes the dogs to Huckleberry Elementary School for reading groups as he believes early intervention and education is the key to preventing prison time later in a person's life. Joel is a veteran and also takes Addie & Leah to veteran facilities and events to assist people with PTSD and trauma. 

Cindy Ciccia

Cindy has been a handler since September 2015. She loves seeing the way people react to the comfort dogs. Whether it is children at school, elderly people at a nursing home, or recovering addicts, they all brighten up at the sight of Addie or Leah and become immediately relaxed. She decided to become a handler after hearing Jen speak at a fundraiser event. She was hesitant at first, but claims it was one of the best decisions she has made. She feels that what she receives from those she serves is far greater than what she gives. She takes the dogs to Bethel Health Care as well as a center for the homeless dealing with addiction and mental illness. She also takes the dogs to various public events, birthday parties, and different locations upon special request. Cindy says her experience with the comfort dogs has been very rewarding. She feels this ministry has truly changed her like for the better

Wendy Cole

Wendy joined the team in 2013 as a handler and is now also caregiver for Leah.  She joined the ministry after seeing the deep impact that the dogs had in her community after tragedy.  Wendy has a heart for helping those in the immediate aftermath of crisis and trauma and is our resident craft expert. 

Lisa Condon

Lisa has been a handler since September of 2015. She says that her favorite part of being a handler is meeting all of the great people and seeing the connection the people make with Addie and Leah. She wanted to become a handler because it is a great, Christian ministry that gives back to the community. It is unique and she loves how well trained and confident the dogs are. She takes the dogs to the Danbury mall to greet people in order to relieve everyday stress. She wishes to take the dogs to more events and schools that involve special needs kids. 

Cynthia Flood

Cynthia joined the ministry in 2013 and was immediately trained as a volunteer for the Danbury Women's Center.  She went on to be trained to be a volunteer at the Regional Hospice Center and also makes weekly visits to the Consolidated School in New Milford.  Cynthia has a deep love for the ministry and for all of those whom she serves each week.  She is passionate about helping those who are hurting and loves to be able to bring the calming and compassionate presence of the comfort dogs into these settings. 

Deana Haitsch

Deana enjoys taking Addie to Bethel Health Care nursing home, to veterans events and occasionally to her workplace. She is also working on our first responder ministry and is involved in our local girl scout troop. Deana loves to see the deep connections the ministry is able to make with members of the community we normally wouldn't have the chance to serve. 

Jan Hebert

Jan has been a handler since February of 2013 after the incidents at Sandy Hook Elementary school. She loves meeting all of the different people she encounters as a handler. She also loves how part of the mission is making a sad situation more positive. She was instantly amazed when she saw one of the dogs cuddling a Sandy Hook student at the mall without know who the student was. She takes the dogs to the Walden School to help show the special needs children how to comfort other people in need. Jan also brings Addie to a local drug rehabilitation center.  She became a handler because it is a Christian based ministry and she believes Christ called us to relieve other people's suffering. 

Deb Hollrah

Deb has been a handler for the comfort dog ministry for a couple of years now. She believes the best part of being a handler is to see the job Addie and Leah bring to those in need. She is amazed by how powerful the dogs are and their ability to drop people's blood pressure and give people immediate relaxation. She decided to become a handler because of her love for dogs and her desire to share love, joy, and comfort to her community. She takes the dogs to shut in visits on a weekly basis and well as schools and funeral homes. She wishes to take the dogs to libraries for story times. The experience of being a handler has given her personal comfort and inner strength. 

Bill Hunt

Bill has been a member of the ministry from the very beginning as the caregiver for Addie.  Being caregiver is almost a full time job, since Addie is busy most every day.  Bill also enjoys taking Addie to chapel and church each week at Immanuel Lutheran and makes visits to the classrooms every Wednesday.  We love to see Bill's office at Immanuel complete with Addie's water bowl and all her "babies" (her favorite toys).  

Jeanene Hupy

Jeanene was trained as a handler in 2014 and loves to bring Addie and Leah to school kids of all ages. 

Tom Schulz

Tom has been a handler since January of 2013. He loves how he can impact someone's day just by bringing the dogs to visit with people. He once had the opportunity to bring Addie into an out of control classroom shortly after the incident at Sandy Hook. Once he brought Addie in, the class immediately calmed down. He became a handler because he wanted to help the people in need after the Sandy Hook incident. He takes the dogs to the AIS magnet school and goes out on calls that come in. He feels it is a privilege to be part of such an amazing ministry.

Nancy Schulz

Nancy has been a handler since January of 2013. She believes the best part of being a handler is knowing that you helped to make someone a little happier. After the Sandy Hook incident, she wanted to find a way to help the hurting people, so she decided to become a handler for the comfort dog ministry. She loves how many wonderful people she gets to meet while handling the dogs. She takes the dogs to the AIS magnet school and goes out on calls that come in. Nancy says it has been a heartfelt and rewarding experience and she feels it has been a privilege to be part of Immanuel's Comfort Dog Ministry. 

Anneliese Schulz

Anneliese is one of our original handlers trained in the spring of 2013.  Anneliese makes weekly visits to Bethel Health Care and Monthly visits to The Gardens nursing home.  

Diane Sinitsky

Diane has been a handler for the comfort dogs since September of 2015. Her favorite part of being a handler is meeting people and seeing the smiles and the joy people have from petting Addie and Leah. She believes the dogs open the door for comfort and healing for so many people. She decided to become a handler because of her love of dogs and because she was looking for meaningful volunteer work. She loves how fulfilling being a handler is and claims it is a very rewarding experience. She takes the dogs to Laurel Ridge nursing home to visit with the elderly residents. She wishes to take the dogs on visits to the library.  

Lois Weiss

Lois joined the team in the spring of 2013 and made weekly visits to Sandy Hook Elementary school through 2016.  Most recently you will find Lois at the Magnet school or a local drug rehab center.  Spreading love, comfort and faith to those who need it most. 

Meet the Helpers

Dr. Rachel Harter

Dr. Rachel Harter is Addie and Leah's Vet.  Dr. Harter is a graduate of Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine and began her career at Seneca Animal Hospital outside of Buffalo, NY, a six-doctor growing practice which introduced her to managing heavy case-loads and also helped her build strong diagnostic and surgical skills. It was also there that she developed a particular interest in client education, leading new-owner puppy training classes and writing an "Ask the Vet" column for the Buffalo News. Dr. Harter spent7 years practicing at Brookfield Animal Hospital in Brookfield, CT where she was able to experience the operation of a smaller practice within a smaller town, which she greatly enjoyed. She is an active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).

Michelle Ferguson

Maddie Pelczar

Maddie has been a helper for the ministry since November of 2015. The best part of being a helper to Maddie is meeting new people and spending time with the dogs, handlers, and caretakers. She decided to become a helper because she saw the amazing things the dogs were doing and wanted to be apart of it. She currently takes Leah to the mall to visit with the people passing by. She has realized how many people benefit from kindness and comfort after being apart of this ministry. 

Lil johnson

Lil Johnson has been a helper for 10 months now. Her favorite part of being a handler is visiting people as well an listening to people's stories. She loves how the dogs show patience, love, and compassion to every person that needs it. She decided to be a helper once she saw the joy and comfort the dogs brought to people. 

Kathryn Struzik

Kathryn has been a ministry partner since December of 2015 and hopes to become a trained handler by October of 2016. She believes the best part of being a ministry partner is the joy in knowing you are making a difference. She says the impact the dogs have is incredible and she is happy to be apart of such a powerful cause. She chose to be a ministry partner after hearing Jen Marr speak at her church. She knew that this organization was the one she wanted to volunteer her extra time to because it combined her love for people and animals. She currently take Leah to a recovery house in Bridgeport to visit the residents and staff. She wishes to take the dogs to a local EMS group once she becomes a trained handler. Kathryn loves how the dogs are able to teach the true meaning of unconditional love and support to everyone they encounter. 

Hannah Finn

Hannah is a graduating senior at Ridgefield High School and will be attending California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo next year. She is interning with the comfort dog ministry for the end of her senior year and has developed the Got Comfort? website as well as made the Got Comfort? video. She has greatly enjoyed witnessing first hand the impact the dogs make everywhere they go as well as meeting all of the amazing people involved in this ministry. 

Lindsay Voves

Lindsay is a graduating senior at Ridgefield High School and will be attending Tulane University next year. She is also interning with the comfort dog ministry to finish out her senior year and is developing a website and video for Club Comfort. She is enjoying her time spent with Addie and Leah as well as her time with the amazing people apart of Club Comfort.