The Stoneybrook Foundation proudly announces the hiring of Rachel Cunningham as it’s Executive Director, to guide and lead the organization into its next period of growth and expansion. Cunningham will operate from the organization’s Stoneybrook Foundation Therapeutic Riding Center in Acme, PA, that provides its community of riders, students and patients a wide range of equine-facilitated therapies and services.
Founded in 2008 by John and Deborah McCain, the Foundation has grown considerably from humble beginnings, when it started with only 3 horses, a volunteer staff, and 20 students. Today, the steadily expanding center employs 10 staff members, has 15 horses, 6 owned and another 9 free leases, and provides nearly 2,000 therapeutic riding lessons, across a wide variety of rider challenges and conditions, each year, with a waiting list of nearly 100 more riders who await program availability.
Stoneybrook Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of children and adults who face mental, intellectual, or physical conditions and/or special challenges in a therapeutic partnership with horses through therapy, education, sport and recreation/leisure. The organization’s riders range from ages 4-92 and include a diverse group of people that includes all sexes, orientations, ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities, and interests. Each rider receives a custom program, designed to meet his/her highly individualized needs, that include a selection of focused physical, cognitive, social or emotional goals.
“The inclusion of Rachel Cunningham to our leadership team is a very exciting next step for the Board, as we have such great confidence in her talents to drive the center’s operations and as a partner to us,” said Suzanne Ward, chair of Stoneybrook’s Board of Directors. “She has amazing passion, dedication, a high level of energy, and an ideal background to understand our families, our staff, and our strategy. She’ll achieve her goals, help us target new ones, and be a strong source of support, to ensure that the rest of us do, as well.”
Cunningham has spent the last 3.5 years working in mental health and before that in corporate communications at UPMC. She’s passionate about work in suicide prevention after personal loss, volunteers on Ray of Hope Task Force. Cunningham is a QPR Certified Trainer (Question, Persuade, Refer) with Suicide Gatekeeper Training and completed the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Course in 2021. Her background is very uniquely matched for the qualifications the organization sought in the executive director role.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations/Advertising at Penn State University and her master’s degree in Journalism at West Virginia University. She is currently pursuing her second master’s degree in Social Work with a certificate in Mental Health from the University of Pittsburgh.
Cunningham resides in Unity Township, is a mother of 2 sons, enjoys outdoor activities and writes about history on her blog, Third Stop on the Right.
Leading the Center administration is only a part of Cunningham’s role; a larger part of her focus will be on raising awareness of the organization, raising funds to help move those on the waiting list to the active student roster, and raising capital investments for the physical facility. Additionally, as the most active ‘face’ of the organization, Cunningham will spend a great deal of time in the community, as both educator and advocate for their student base, to create awareness of the Stoneybrook organization and ensure that their services are known, accessible, and available to those in need of them. Not an easy job when non-profit fundraising is highly competitive and so many organizations are seeking the dollars they need to survive.
Cunningham will work to expand the volunteer base, as many of the lessons require 1-3 volunteers to assist and ensure the safety of the rider during the lesson, depending upon the challenges the specific rider faces. The organization welcomes volunteers and/or interns who want to work with students, with horses, with the facility, or with the administrative team. Training is provided and learning is encouraged, as volunteers have the opportunity to choose to advance from one area to the next and possibly even consider becoming a formal Path, International certified instructor, as part of staff. Path, International, is the accrediting body that ensures that both their facility and every student receive the highest possible quality experience available. Three of Stoneybrook’s staff instructors are certified through PATH International.
Follow the Stoneybrook Foundation on social media for more information about their organization, upcoming events and the services they provide to those who need therapeutic riding.
Suzanne Ward, President of the Stoneybrook Foundation