Our volunteers are dedicated to the belief that dogs bring comfort, understanding, education, and self-confidence to the children they serve. All of our volunteers and their dogs have been evaluated by a certified dog trainer to meet a strict set of standards. The dogs are periodically reevaluated to ensure they are well mannered enough to interact with our children.

Keep reading to get to know our volunteers and their pets!


Kit Feldman

1) What are some of your interests and passions?
I have been a freelance writer of nonfiction for the past twenty years and continue to write for various publications, including The Pennsylvania Gazette, the alumni magazine of University of Pennsylvania. In 2011, I co-authored “The Culinary Canine 30 Chefs Cook for Their Dogs” for BowTie Press (available on Amazon!). I have become known for my profiles of people and animals including Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro.

Kit Feldman with Dog

Kit and Millie

2) Why did you decide to become a Nellie’s Schoolhouse volunteer?
In my short time working with Nellie’s Schoolhouse, I have seen the power of animal therapy. Children who begin with clenched fists are often able to open their hands flat to give a dog a treat over time and many who are frightened to pet animals end up walking them around the block.

3) What has your past experience with dogs been like?
I do not think there has ever been a time in my life when my family has been  dog-less. Writing about animals seems very natural.

4) What is your home and family life like?
I have always been an animal lover and grew up in Bryn Mawr, in a large family that included dogs and horses.

5) Describe your dog.
Millie, my Golden Retriever, is the first dog that I have ever owned that is perfectly suited to this kind of work. She seems to have a special affinity with children and truly it was Millie who inspired me to pursue this activity. Millie’s breeder is very involved with Warrior Canine Connection, an organization near Bethesda that breeds service dogs to help veterans with PTSD, and I was, at some point, researching a book about their organization that never panned out. At some point, I would love to write about this experience, so perhaps this was all meant to be.

6) Do you have any personal stories about your work with children and dogs?
One little girl asked me for Millie’s phone number so she could call her to invite her to visit. I am a first hand witness to the strength of the human animal bond and feel privileged to be able to follow Millie wherever she takes me.


Michelle Krietsch

Michelle Krietsch and Daisy

Michelle and Daisy

1) What are some of your interests and passions?
I love to volunteer at my sons’ schools and spend time with my husband, kids, and friends. I also love to work with Daisy as a volunteer with Nellie’s Schoolhouse.

2) Why did you decide to become a Nellie’s Schoolhouse volunteer?
I saw how Daisy brought joy to people but I also noticed how gentle and calm she was around kids with anxiety and fears. Also, when she was a puppy she sat next to a friend’s child who was in a wheel chair for 2 hours as he pet her.

3) What has your past experience with dogs been like?
I grew up with Golden Retrievers and have always had a love for dogs. Daisy is my first dog with my family and she has brought us great joy!

4) What is your home and family life like?
I have a wonderful husband and 2 boys. We are busy with their school and sports schedule. We love to have friends over and enjoy our time at home.

5) Describe your dog.
Daisy is a sweet, calm, intuitive dog. She wants to be with other dogs and people all the time. She loves to ride in the car and take walks.

6) Do you have any personal stories about your work with children and dogs?
Daisy and I have been working with Nellie’s since the fall of 2016. Every week we go back, the kids become more comfortable and are so excited to see Daisy and I. This experience has been more rewarding than I ever anticipated. I truly look forward to the time I spend with the children and learn more every week.


Julie Kronfeld

Julie Kronfeld and Piper

Julie and Piper

1) Why did you decide to become a Nellie’s Schoolhouse volunteer?
The program and mission is easy to get behind and be in support of. Any time I can add the presence of my dog to my activities is a win for me as well. As a puppy, Piper joined me each day as I went to work in commercial real estate. She grew accustomed to new people and places at an early age.

2) What has your past experience with dogs been like?
My attachment to dogs was nurtured early in life by my mother and the dogs of my youth, Pluto (a miniature poodle) and Amber (an Irish setter). When I was growing up, I don’t recall enforcement of leash laws. It was not unusual to open the front door and allow the dogs to walk themselves. The cats in my neighborhood still have that freedom, but now the dogs and their owners are tethered to one another on daily walks. It’s a great way to be disciplined about exercise and a good way to meet your neighbors. My siblings are equally enthusiastic about having dogs in their lives, it’s in our DNA.

3) Describe your dog.
My dog, Piper, is a 4-year-old female golden retriever. Her breeder attempts to minimize the health risks of in-breeding so Piper’s father is from a field line and the mother is from a show line of the breed which means her coloring is amber and her shape is thinner than the pure show dogs. Piper’s idea of a perfect day is to have breakfast, swim for hours in a lake diving for rocks, find a gaggle of kids at a park to join in play and get belly rubs in the afternoon, and chill for the rest of the day. Rinse and repeat.

4) Do you have any personal stories about your work with dogs and children?
Piper is a leaner, so when she greets people, she will lean into them and look to be pet. Most of the children respond to her positively and adjust themselves if they get nervous by any sudden movements that they don’t expect from her. Likewise, Piper needed to adjust to the energy and commotion of the classroom when she started volunteering with Nellie’s Schoolhouse. I remember when she came home from the first session, she was bug-eyed and wiped out afterwards. After a few sessions, it soon became familiar to her and now she is more relaxed in the classroom environment. I think the children who are uneasy around the dogs find the same experience–that the familiarity enhances their experience over time and they look forward to the next visit.


Beth Burns

Beth and Brinks

Beth and Brinks

1) What are some of your interests and passions?

I love gardening & travel and I try to combine the two whenever possible. Chanticleer in Wayne is one of my favorite gardens in the area. My family recently completed a restoration of an older home & I have discovered a passion for old homes & interior design.

2) Why did you decide to become a Nellie’s Schoolhouse volunteer?

Brinks has a wonderful temperament & always seems to make people smile. I was looking for something meaningful to do together and Nellie’s Schoolhouse was mentioned by a friend. I have enjoyed the experiences very much & think Brinks feels the same way!

3) What has your past experience with dogs been like?

While I was growing up, my family had a great dog that was a much-needed source of comfort during the teenage years. I generally think just about everything is better if a dog is involved. Brinks is my second golden retriever & is a much-loved member of our family.

4) What is your home and family life like?

I have a terrific husband and a teenage son & daughter who are in high school.

5) Describe your dog.

Brinks is a sweet, funny, and eager to please dog that is very attached to me. He is right by my side when I am out in the yard & frequently is in the way of my gardening pursuits.   He loves people & tennis balls.

6) Do you have any personal stories about your work with children and dogs?

We have always had a golden retriever in the house since our children were born & I have loved watching them grow up together. One of my daughter’s first words was the dog’s name!  I think dogs can be a source of unconditional love and teach kindness, compassion & responsibility.  It is very rewarding to see the Nellie’s Schoolhouse clients gain confidence after working with the dogs.


Caryn Harris

1) What are some of your interests and passions?
I am passionate about children and animals. I taught special needs children for a number of years. My family jokes that I was born with the animal –loving gene, as I have loved animals for as long as I can remember! Dogs have always played a central part of my life. I also enjoy sports, politics, and the arts.

2) Why did you decide to become a Nellie’s Schoolhouse volunteer?
Nellie’s Schoolhouse is the perfect blend of my passions for kids and dogs! I truly believe that a dog can make a difference in the life of a person, and can shape the life of a child in particular. A dog loves unconditionally – has no interest in your clothes or weight or grade you got on your last test, will never tell your secrets, is patient and can see right through to your heart.

This total acceptance by a dog can add confidence and reassurance to any child (or adult), but to a special needs person, it can make an even greater impact. Unfortunately, many children are afraid of dogs. I believe exposing kids to dogs and teaching them the appropriate ways of greeting, handling and behaving around dogs can make a huge difference to their quality of life.

3) What has your past experience with dogs been like?
I worked with my wonderful black Labrador, Pepper with an organization called Pals for Life for about 8 years. Pepper was a therapy dog and we visited hospitals, mental health facilities, schools, libraries, Senior Citizen homes together. We made many good friends (both canine and human) and have many heartwarming stories about our visits. I volunteer at an animal shelter and work with the dogs. This is my therapy!

I am on the PA Council for the Humane Society. The council consists of volunteers who care about all animals and try to advance state policy (and sometimes federal) that benefits animals. I have also been active in a number of projects initiated by the Humane Society – for example the Pets For Life Program, which helps families in underserved areas to care for their animals. Services such as vaccinations, spay and neuter, and other services are provided at no cost.

4) What is your home and family life like?
I have a very patient husband, 3 dog-loving kids, one wonderful grandson – and a great grand dog.

5) Describe your dog.
Mamma is a beautiful black Labrador. She had had a number of litters before she joined my family, in fact she was pregnant when she was rescued. A friend of mine (from the shelter) fostered her and the puppies. She was a wonderfully caring mom and it was evident that this dog did not have a mean bone in her body. She is very attached to me and is always at my side. I have never met a person or dog that doesn’t fall in love with this wonderful dog!

6) Do you have any personal stories about your work with children and dogs?
I have many! Pepper and I visited a kindergarten class for special needs children once a month for the school year. One of the kids was non verbal and while he seemed interested in the dogs, he was not always focused on our activities. During the final visit, the other kindergarten classes (not special needs) were invited to join us. As Pepper and I walked in, this little ‘non verbal’ boy yelled, “This is Pepper. She is a black Labrador retriever!”

We also visited a program for teens who were suffering with depression. On most visits there would be one person sitting by herself in a corner. When approached and asked if she would like to pet the dog, she would indicate a definite ‘No’. In almost every case, this person would slowly become involved, and ended up enjoying the session.


Brianna Amato

Brianna Amato with Dog

Brianna and Cali

1) What are some of your interests and passions?
My interests are hiking, exercising and hanging with my dogs.

2) Why did you decide to become a Nellie’s Schoolhouse volunteer?
I joined because I enjoy watching people work together and form bonds.

3) Describe your personal life.
I have been a vet tech for five years. I have three brothers and one sister, my two younger brothers have special needs. We have five dogs, three cats, a lizard and a rat.

4) Describe your dog.
Cal is a five year old Australian Shepard, and she is the light of my life. She is the best of both worlds – she relaxes at home but also enjoys hiking, running, and playing fetch.

5) Describe personal stories about working with dogs and children.

Cali is smart and learns a trick quickly. She helped me raise my other shepherd with her enthusiasm and supportive direction.


John Cappelli

John Cappeli with Dog

John and Zoe

1) What are your interests and passions?
I like to spend time with my family. I also like to cook and train dogs.

2) Why did you decide to become a Nellie’s Schoolhouse volunteer?
When my daughter (she is a special education teacher at The Timothy School) was supporting a special needs teenager during one of our summer vacations, I noticed that Zoe (our Giant Schnauzer) was well behaved and joyful around him. I then started to search for organization that had a mission that connected therapy dogs with children with autism, and I discovered Nellie’s Schoolhouse.

3) Describe your personal life.
I have a wonderful family life that is simple and calm. My three children are grown and no longer live at home. Gianna is 27, Christofer is 22 and Gabriel is 19. My wife is a pediatric occupational therapist and works with special

needs children at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit. I have lots of nieces and nephews, and I spent much of my time at happy family events.

4) Describe your dog.
Zoe is a Giant Schnauzer. She has a terrific personality and enjoys being around people, especially children. She is intelligent and easy to train. She enjoys cart pulling and Frisbee games as well as walks in the park with her canine friends and me.

5) Describe personal stories about working with dogs and children.
I have had dogs my entire life. My father was a hunter and he trained Beagles and Brittany Spaniels to hunt small game. During our life together, my wife and I have had several dogs in our home, including a shepherd mix named Barkley and a Labradoodle we called Candy. We now have Zoe and we love her for willingness to behave and participate in volunteer work.


Anne Dutlinger Kahn

Anne Kahn with dog

Anne and Rascal

1) What are your interests and passions?
My interests are literature, art, theater, rare books, conservation, swimming, skiing, reading and baking.

2) Why did you decide to become Nellie’s Schoolhouse volunteer?
I became involved in Nellie’s Schoolhouse to help children gain confidence, connection and trust through positive interactions with dogs.

3) Describe your personal life.
I am a retired design professor and am enjoying my free and flexible time now.

4) Describe your dog.
Rascal is a mixed bred rescue dog. I got her when she was three months old at the ASPCA. She is calm and sweet dog who enjoys people. She chases squirrels and always tries to climb the trees where they are hiding from her.

5) Describe your personal stories about working with dogs and children.
Rascal and I currently volunteer at the Pocopson Home, West Chester University Counseling and Veterans Centers and the VA Hospital.


Jacob Haberman

Jacob and his dog Teddy

Jacob and Teddy

1) What are your interests and passions?
I love reading, playing with puppies, video games and squash.

2) Why did you decide to become a Nellie’s Schoolhouse Volunteer?
Two years ago, I had to decide on a volunteer project for my Bar Mitzvah. My twin sister, Riley, and I decided we wanted to train our dog, Teddy, to help people. We chose Nellie’s Schoolhouse because it gives Teddy and me the opportunity to help children connect to dogs.

3) Describe your personal life.
My family is silly. My Mom likes to wrestle with me, but I usually win. We attend Star Wars and Marvel movies together. She also helped me and my sister train Teddy, and she accompanies me to Nellie’s Schoolhouse visits. My Dad takes me to bookstores and the library, and we enjoy other adventures together. My sister, Riley, is my best friend (don’t tell her!), and we play Roblox together. We fight sometimes, but minutes later, we are laughing.

4) Describe your dog.
Teddy Bear Haberman is a silly and cuddly golden retriever. He is gentle and calm and loves chasing me around the house and then tackling me! He loves chasing balls and is also a terrific swimmer. Teddy also gives sloppy kisses!

5) Describe any personal stories about your work with children and dogs.
When I first started at Nellie’s, I was a bit nervous around the older kids, but when I started talking to them, I realized there were no reasons to be anxious. I saw the big kids relax and smile! I began to enjoy working with children, because by the end of our visits, everyone is relaxed and joyful.