Our wonderful facilitators come to us from recommendations from program participants, our staff, and our friends. We spend some time getting to know them before we invite them to teach or lead activities here.
Stress Reduction (yoga, meditation, movement)
Carol Regan, Carol discovered the Feldenkrais Method over seven years ago after trying a number of different movement classes yet finding herself going back into her old patterns that caused chronic aches and pains. The work has been life-changing both physically and emotionally; she began a four-year training program in 2012, and is now a certified teacher of the Method. Her volunteer work has been focused on healing and she brings her own experiences and commitment to restorative practice to her classes
Alaina Sadick, RYT-500, draws inspiration from more than a decade of study and practice with gifted teachers from around the world. She has completed hundreds of hours of training in various styles of yoga and its therapeutic applications with a particular focus on healing in the face of cancer. Her gentle, approachable style includes mindful asana, meditation, and pranayama with an emphasis on natural flow and integration. In addition to her weekly public and private classes in DC, she has taught abroad though Anahata International, an organization committed to bringing yoga and other wellness services to communities affected by conflict around the world. With dedication and an open heart, she is honored to share the transformative power of yoga with those affected by cancer and stress at Smith Center.
Kiersten Gallagher,RYT 200 and Certified Herbalist has studied yoga for over 25 years. Over the last decade, Kiersten has developed yoga programs and has provided a place for healing in the cancer community, in underprivileged neighborhoods, for special needs children, for teens and adults with drug addiction and for those struggling with body image.Kiersten invites you on a journey of healing to help guide you to a place where yoga will make a real difference in your life. Kiersten’s goal for you is that you feel better when you leave class- mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, than you may have felt when you stepped through the door to begin your practice.
Beth Lawrence discovered yoga in early 2002 as a mother of six month old twins. She was looking to get back into shape after their birth. In yoga, she found far more than she anticipated- an age old practice designed to help people relieve stress- both mental and physical. After a few years of regular practice, she knew she wanted to share her positive experiences with others. She has been leading yoga classes in the DC area since 2007 after completing her 200 hour yoga teacher training at Nth Degree Yoga with Martha Rosen. In 2011, she went back to earn her RYT500. Her personal practice is inspired by Integral Yoga and Sivananda Yoga, both of which incorporate body and mind into the practice.
Kelly King,Founder and Artistic Director of Contradiction Dance, makes dances for theatre, film, stage, and street...and all the places people in-between. Playing in several artistic sandboxes at once, while teasing the line between art and entertainment, Kelly brings a collage of interests to each endeavor. Kelly serves the creative community as an educator, choreographer, consultant, advocate, and audience member.
Cooking and Nutrition
Cathryn Gunnerson, AYS, teaches yoga and Ayurveda in the Washington, DC metro area, and is a long-time professional chef. She is an Ayurveda Yoga Specialist through the Himalayan Institute, teaching the self-care basics of the traditional Indian science of Ayurveda and Ayurvedic cooking to groups and private clients. Since 1997, she has taught both traditional and gentle hatha yoga classes for adults and children; therapeutic classes for seniors and special-needs students; and restorative yoga. It is her deepest desire to offer tools that bring balance and well-being into the lives of those she touches.
Laura Pole, RN, MSN, Chef has served as Smith Center’s head chef and integrative oncology nurse consultant since 1997. She is an Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist and Cancer Guide with 25 years experience in caring for people with serious illness. She is also a Certified Health Supportive Chef, professional musician and Nia body-mind fitness instructor. Her popular cooking class, Eating for a Lifetime: Cooking for People with Cancer, introduces participants to the Eight Principles of Food Selection, along with truly tasty and healthy recipes. Laura is the founder of “Eating for a Lifetime,” a consulting business dedicated to teaching individuals and professionals about health supportive eating and food preparation. In addition to Laura's work with nourishment, she is the co-coordinator of Smith Center's Patient Navigation Training in Integrative Cancer Care. Laura also serves as coordinator of the "Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use" listserv.
Elise Wiarda, has been leading the poetry writing sessions, Speaking Our Truth, at Smith Center’s weeklong cancer retreats for many years. You could say that poetry is in her blood. She grew up in the Netherlands. Her mother, who died at the age of 101, knew more than 150 poems by heart in four languages, and read poetry to her children all the time. Elise’s daughter is a published poet and a tenured professor at Barnard. Elise has a long history in the art world, and for the past thirty years has been a mind/body therapist. She has a private practice in her home in Cabin John.
Erika Cleveland, Artist, writer, and healer, Erika Cleveland was trained as an art therapist at NYU. After working clinically for many years with children and adults in settings such as the International Center for the Disabled in NYC and Boston Children’s Hospital, she studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her current focus is on the ways in which changes, big and small, cataclysmic and celebratory, force us to grow and reinvent ourselves. In addition to offering healing doll workshops, she makes commissioned healing dolls. She is an Associate artist at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA, where she makes and shows her dolls. She can also be found in her new studio at the Jackson Art Center in Georgetown, DC. When not at the Torpedo Factory, Erika can be found working in her tiny DC home studio.
Rebecca Wilkinson, MA, ATR-BC, and Gioia Chilton, MA, ATR-BC, co-facilitators, are both Registered and Board Certified art therapists with twenty years of experience in mental health and in facilitating training and workshops. They serve as adjunct faculty at George Washington University Graduate Art Therapy Program and provide continuing education and development through the Potomac Art Therapy Association. They facilitate supportive workshops for those affected by life threatening illness and the professional providers working with them. They are co-founders of Creative Wellbeing Workshops, LLC, which provides training, consultation, and clinical therapy designed to reduce stress, prevent burnout and increase life satisfaction and wellbeing.
Shanti Norris is Executive Director and a co-founder of Smith Center. She has an extensive background in meditation, yoga philosophy and stress reduction, including a formal ten-year mentorship with a renowned yoga master. She has extensive experience with complementary medicine, particularly homeopathy. She is the mother of three adult children and is an artist.
Carole O’Toole serves as Smith Center’s Director of Integrative Navigation. She designed Smith Center’s innovative model and for cancer navigation which she has shared with hundreds of healthcare professionals nationally through lectures and an annual training program. Prior to her work at Smith Center, Carole was a Patient Navigator at Suburban Hospital and ran a private integrative cancer care navigation practice. Carole has been a survivor of advanced cancer since 1994. She has written two books on integrative cancer care: “Cancer Community Healing Network” and “Healing Outside the Margins,” and continues to work with individual clients at Smith Center to guide them through their treatment and survivorship in a holistic and comprehensive way.
Charles Leighton, is founder and director of the Princeton Group Support Center in Princeton NJ which provides counseling, mindfulness and stress management training and lifestyle coaching to people suffering from depression, anxiety, chronic illness such as heart disease and cancer and other diagnoses. He is also the founder and director of The Heart Group at Beth Israel Medical Center, a lifestyle modification program which, since 1996 has provided psychotherapy, stress management, nutritional and exercise counseling for people with heart disease and other chronic illness. His innovative approach to working with people with heart disease was featured in the PBS Documentary The Mysterious Human Heart. Leighton was director of group support for The Dean Ornish Program For Reversing Heart Disease at Beth Israel from 1995-1998. He was a group therapist for Gilda’s Club from 1996-2002. He currently has a private psychotherapy practice in Princeton.
Joanne Assarsson, has extensive experience working with individuals, families, and groups whose lives are impacted by a cancer diagnosis. She graduated with a Masters degree from The Catholic University of America and is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. Joanne also maintains certification as an Oncology Social Worker and is a member of the Association of Oncology Social Workers. Joanne works with people throughout the continuum of care from diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, advanced illness, and end of life care. In partnership with patients and families, her practice is focused on thoughtfully assessing and maximizing quality of life.
Jennifer Bires, is a licensed clinical social worker, who works with people affected by cancer. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. Jennifer knows how distressing a cancer diagnosis can be for patients and their families. Her goal as an oncology social worker is to help patients and family members adjust to the emotional impact of a diagnosis. Jennifer specializes in working with young adults, caregivers and patients who have advanced disease. She strives to help patients and families maintain a high quality of life in the face of their illness.
Jenn McRobbie, is a young breast cancer survivor, life coach and author. Following her diagnosis and treatment, Jenn published her first book, Why is She Acting So Weird? A Guide to Cultivating Closeness When a Friend is in Crisis. Why is She Acting So Weird? was borne from her experiences interacting with friends after diagnosis and during treatment. Jenn believes that friends are critical to successfully navigating a crisis, so she developed the resource she wished existed for her friends when she was diagnosed. It is her treatise on empowering friends to rise and lift each other during crisis. Jenn is now settling into a new role as an advocate for breast cancer survivors, their friends, and family