our staff

Barbara Ruzansky

Founder + President

 

After spending three decades struggling with serious mental health issues, including addiction and eating disorders, Barbara began a journey into the world of whole foods eating and holistic living. She combined her passion for healing and yoga and founded West Hartford Yoga in 1997, with the first studio opening in 2001. As she worked with others who struggled, she decided to focus her efforts on bringing the benefits of yoga and holistic healing to communities that might not have access. WHY Outreach, Inc. became an official nonprofit entity in 2013. Barbara’s favorite moments include spending time with her Golden Doodles on the beach, in the water, or hiking in the woods.

Gwendolyn (Wendy) Shea Murphy Graveley

Vice President

 

A graduate of Trinity College with a degree in social work, Wendy has spent her career helping others in need. For the last ten years, she has worked for AIDS Connecticut, currently as Development Director, and is both the brain and heart behind some of their most successful fundraisers, including Art for AIDS. A passionate yogi, Wendy completed a 200 hour teacher training in 2014 and serves as the WHY Outreach board’s vice president. She loves sharing her experiences with others and strongly believes that everyone should be able to benefit from yoga, regardless of income. Her dream is to someday teach restorative yoga to people living with mental health issues. In her spare time, she likes to eat sushi, hike, run, swim, and spend time at her log cabin in Northern Maine.

Dawn McKnerney

Treasurer

 

Dawn is a professional accountant with over 25 years of experience. She currently works at Hartford HealthCare as a Finance Manager overseeing the data integrity of the organizations financial software application. Dawn discovered yoga as an alternate form of exercise when recovering from a skiing injury. She soon realized that yoga was more than a form of exercise, but rather a way of life. Yoga has become her mantra to truly experiencing life and happiness. Having lost a sibling to cancer, Dawn is honored to be part of the WHY Outreach mission of bringing yoga to the underserved communities and special populations. Dawn is also an E-RYT200 and RYT500 yoga instructor who currently lives in Southington. She enjoys spending time with her family and their newest furry addition, Grace.

Caresse Amenta

Secretary

 

Caresse, founder and creative director of CLA design, works with clients to translate ideas and objectives into intelligent, effective designs. Some of the clients she has served since 1997 include West Hartford Yoga, Concerned Citizens for Humanity, the City of Hartford, and Progressive Women’s Health. A third-degree black belt, Caresse holds teaching certifications in martial arts, kickboxing, Spinning, barre, and yoga. She completed the 200 hour Yoga Alliance certification through West Hartford Yoga in 2010 and a Therapeutic Yoga Training in 2011. Her own experience with an eating disorder drives her passion for WHY Outreach. When not working or teaching, she can be found training for a triathlon, trail running, singing at the top of her lungs, gardening, or snuggling with her five (yes, five) rescue cats.

Gillian Galen, PsyD

Board Member

 

Gillian is an instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School. She is the Program Director and Assistant Director of Training of 3East — a unique, residential program for young women exhibiting self-endangering behaviors and borderline personality traits — at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. She specializes in adolescent psychotherapy, including DBT, and has a particular interest in using mindfulness and yoga in the treatment of BPD and other psychiatric illnesses. She is the co-author of two books: Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder: Relieve your Suffering using the Core Skill of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Coping with BPD: DBT and CBT Skills to Soothe the Symptoms of Borderline Personality. Gillian also has a private practice in the area and is a registered yoga instructor.

Kara Burkhart

Board Member

Dr. Kara Burkhart is a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist dedicated to helping people decrease suffering and take control of their own wellness. Because her prescriptions often include yoga, meditation, nutrition, and other such healing modalities that WHY Outreach seeks to spread, her position on the board harmonizes well with her professional life. She received her masters in acupuncture and doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University and also completed her residency program there. In addition to studying various healing arts modalities, Kara is a certified yoga instructor through the Yoga Alliance 200-hour training program. When not working, she enjoys cooking, gardening, playing all kinds of games, walking her dogs, and walking (with) her kids.

Steven J. Meis

Board Member

 

Steven J. Meis is an attorney with over 25 years of experience. He currently works at the Rogin Nassau LLC in Hartford, serving as counsel in the firm's real estate and land use practice group, as well as its business, corporate and commercial law group. He was on the Board of Directors for the Hartford Habitat ReStore Project, and is also a member of the Troop Committee for Troop 146 of the Boy Scouts of America. Steve began his yoga practice in the late 1990s (some of his first classes were at Beth El synagogue with Barbara Ruzansky) and continues to reap the benefits of yoga. He is honored to be part of the WHY Outreach mission. Steve lives in West Hartford and can often be found in the woods or on a trail.

Kim Welch

Board Member

Kim manages a full time financial advisory practice serving individuals and business owner clients for risk management, wealth creation and preservation, and estate planning strategies. Kim’s career includes corporate banking and roles as National Sales Manager and head of strategic accounts for fortune 500 financial service firms. She is an honors graduate of Brown University and The Graduate School of Banking. Presently Kim is First Vice President of the board of the Waterbury Symphony and she also serves on the Advisory Board of Sunny Valley Preserve in New Milford. Kim was part of the first 200 hour teacher training class led by Barbara Ruzansky through West Hartford Yoga. She maintains an active yoga practice and she is also an avid equestrian.

© 2016 WHY Outreach, Inc.

WHY Outreach, Inc. is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Call us: 860-402-8790   |   Email us  |

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