THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chris Patella - President
Chris Patella is involved in both equine and canine therapy work at AaTs. In addition to her work as director for the program, she works with clients receiving equine and canine therapy. As a professional trainer, she oversees the training and development of dogs for therapy work, Emotional Support and Service Dogs.
Chris holds a Bachelor Degree from Ithaca College in music education and piano performance and a Master's Degree in Recreational Therapy from Southern Connecticut State University.
Chris is a certified professional dog trainer through Animal Behavior College and a registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor through PATH, International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International).
Chris brings 30+ years of experience to the organization in curriculum development and staff training.
Beth Patella - Vice President
Beth is a Recreational Therapist and Educational Consultant, as well as, a seasoned performer and teacher with over 15 years of experience. Beth has a Bachelor’s Degree (SCSU) in Music and German and a Master’s Degree (SCSU/UNH) in both Recreational Therapy and Education and is a Certified Teacher in the State of Connecticut.
In addition, Beth is a Certified Sound Therapist/Healer, where she has studied at the highest level of certification with Zacciah Blackburn, PHD at The Center Of Light Institute of Sound Healing and Shamanic Studies located in Ascutney, VT . Currently, in her Therapeutic Practice, Beth uses sound and animal therapy as her two, main modalities.
In addition, Beth is proficient in voice, piano, guitar, and clarinet and is completing her second singer/songwriter album and has been nominated as best singer/songwriter in CT (2016). Beth is an Adjunct Professor at SCSU in the Recreation and Leisure Department.
Co-Chair of Canine Therapy Committee
Dita Varleta - Secretary
Dita Varleta is a retired teacher with over thirty years of experience as an educator. She obtained her BS and MS degrees from Mansfield State University.
In addition to being active in Animal Assisted Therapy Services, her volunteer interests have included Literacy Volunteers and editing news stories for WPKN. Now that her husband is also retired, they both are enjoying traveling and bicycling (weather permitting! ).
Chair of Publicity Committee
Cathleen Ryan Reneer
Cathy joined the AaTs Board of Directors in July of 2016. She is a seasoned executive with over 30 years experience. She retired from IBM in 2016 and promptly joined JP Morgan Chase as an Executive Director. Cathy has extensive experience managing security and risk, business operations, and management development. She has led several teams and key functions, collaborated globally, built alliances with business partners, and improved delivery of services to clients across multiple industries including financial services, healthcare, retail, telecommunications, energy and utility, and government.
In her current position, she is helping to drive sustainable security controls and improving access management for the firm. She held several key executive leadership positions with IBM including managing identity and access management and driving business process optimization across services delivery. As part of her security and risk management she led the development and deployment of leading edge technologies. Cathy was also the Chief Privacy Officer for a services division at IBM.
She has a Master of Science in Information Assurance from Northeastern University, a MBA from Fordham University, and a BA in Business from Assumption College. She is a Certified Information Privacy Professional and a Certified Project Management Professional. Cathy serves on the Advisory Board of Shell Systems, LLC and she is a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals and Women Unlimited Alumni. Cathy previously served on the Board of Directors for Her Haven, a non-profit whose mission was to help women through the gift of design.
She lives in Milford, Connecticut with her husband, Jeff. In her younger years Cathy and her horse enjoyed competing in three day eventing. She has owned three rescue dogs and is passionate about helping with AaTs's growth. She enjoys mentoring, traveling, learning, and spending time outdoors with her family and friends.