FURever As Friends is the dream of Sharon and John Bednar. Laurie Appel joined them as a founding Board member. Working together they have recruited dozens of teams of handlers and pets who carry out the mission of FURever as Friends. Our services are continually changing and expanding, so we encourage you to check our web site to learn where we are and what we are doing. If you want to join us in this exciting and inspirational community work, let us know! We look forward to sharing our passion! Together we can spread the healing power of pets helping people – FURever As Friends! FURever as Friends (FAF) is a Gloucester County, New Jersey based non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization made up of dedicated volunteers and loving, well trained certified therapy dogs, cats and rabbits. We focus on serving community residents of all ages in Gloucester, Salem , Camden and Cumberland Counties. The services we provide are specifically designed to offer unconditional love via pet-assisted therapy to adults and children in a variety of different settings.
Mission Statement: Our mission at FURever as Friends, Inc. is to build upon the natural relationship between humans and domestic pets so asin order to enhance the lives of children and adults. Specifically, our organization will focus on these five areas of emphasis:
To develop social skills and build verbal communication in children or adults who may experience awkwardness or discomfort with human interaction.
To increase willingness in children and adults to participate in activities that will promote movement and pleasure and decrease loneliness and isolation.
To reduce anxiety and enhance relaxation for children and adults who may be experiencing situational or long-term stress.
To use the “contact comfort” pets afford in order to reduce depression and physical discomfort.
To build self-esteem and confidence in shy or insecure readers
Meet the Board
Sharon Bednar- President Sharon Bednar is one of the founders and serves as the President of FURever As Friends. She has been an MRI Technologist for over 20 years and currently owns and operates a pet walking/sitting business. She is a dedicated volunteer at the Salem County Humane Society as a foster mom for pregnant dogs/cats, baby bottle kittens/puppies & special need pets. In 2012, Sharon received the Gloucester County Citizen of the Year award. She utilizes her own pets in her pet therapy efforts, who were themselves acknowledged for their outstanding work when they were honored and entered into the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association Hall of Fame in 2013. Sharon has received numerous recommendations, proclamations and letters from the county, state and U.S. Senate in recognition of her dedication to volunteering. She is also certified as a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator through the AKC. Sharon lives at home with 3 pet therapy dogs, 3 cats (2 are therapy cats), 1 talking bird, husband John, and numerous foster pets.
John Bednar- Vice President John has been married to Sharon for 30 years and has lived in Gloucester County since 1997. John is a business professional with a Master's Degree holding various management level positions with several different companies. He assisted Sharon in establishing and growing the New Jersey chapter of an out of state pet therapy organization. John provides ongoing care for the special need foster animals from the Salem County Humane Society. John is the proud father of three dogs, three cats and one very talkative bird, In October 2015, John received the Presidents Volunteer Gold Service Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, Certificate of Special Recognition, Letter from President Obama, State of New Jersey Senate & General Assembly Citation, State of New Jersey Joint Legislative Commendation and Volunteer of the Year Award. John felt the manner and methods for delivering pet therapy services could be further enhanced by establishing a pet therapy organization based in his own community. With the assistance of his wife and other dedicated volunteers, John's vision is now a reality.
Dr. Laurie Appel- Secretary Laurie Appel, Psy.D is a licensed Psychologist. She is a consultant for Sub- Acute Rehabilitation and Assisted/Long-Term Care Facilities in New Jersey and maintains a private practice in Swedesboro, NJ. She has over 20 years experience as a licensed psychologist, and is a graduate of University of PA undergraduate program and of Widener and Hahnemann University Graduate School, specializing in clinical psychology. In her practice, Dr. Appel is an avid supporter of pet-assisted therapy. She has appeared on local TV and radio programs, promoting the benefits of animals in care facilities and has supported the use of pet therapy for individuals and families. She and her family rescued a Golden Retriever, Alex, who was thought to be “too wild” and given up to a rescue. Ultimately Alex became a wonderful family pet and a pet therapy dog until his death. Their new Golden, Dexter, is now a proud FAF member. In 2016, Laurie was awarded the President's Volunteer Service Award.
Jennifer Patten- Director of Public Relations & Event Planner Jennifer grew up in southern New Jersey, attending Delsea Regional High School. She and her mother raised Pygmy goats. As a child, she loved animals and began working at a horse farm in exchange for lessons and riding time. Mentored by an elderly gentleman and working hard, she eventually bought her own horse. Continuing to work, she funded the purchase of tack, show and care for her first horse Tuffy. Upon graduating high school in 1990, Jennifer began working in a veterinary office where she eventually became a veterinary technician. In December 2001, Jennifer began working at Mullica Hill Farms, Inc. as the Barn Manager. Her years of medical and horse experience make her an ideal manager. Along with the owner of the farm, Jennifer has become active in the Phillies player, Chase Utley family’s charity; The Utley Foundation along with the PSPCA. After adopting her first Pitbull and realizing the gentle nature of Case, Jennifer was recommended to FURever As Friends and became involved with the group. Jennifer is married to Anthony Jr. and resides in Mullica Hill. They have a 4 year old son, Anthony III.
Karen Spring Karen is a professional writer who holds a communication degree from La Salle University. She has been involved with FURever As Friends since its inception and first joined with Samantha, a beagle who was a rescue from Virginia. Nowadays, she is actively involved with her two therapy bunnies, Sebastian and Juliet. FAF is close to Karen’s heart and she enjoys promoting the benefits of pet therapy and teaching young children how to be kind to and respect animals. Karen lives in South Jersey with her husband Eric and their twins Connor and Aaron, all of whom are active members of FAF.
Shari Chase Shari became interested in pet therapy after volunteering at the Salem County Humane Society. Pet therapy was her way of spending time with her own pets by sharing the unconditional love of her pets by doing something special with them and sharing them with other people. She visits multiple libraries and assisted living facilities with her pet companions Pongo (dog) and Josh (rabbit) and participates in many of the community events in and around the area. Due to her dedicated service to FAF, Shari was nominated to the Advisory Board of FURever As Friends (FAF) in 2014. She also agreed to assume the position of time keeper for FAF in order to collect and record all of the volunteer hours for the organization. In 2016, Shari was awarded the President's Volunteer Service Award. Shari is married to Mark, and has raised two grown sons. She works a full time job at Pennsville High School as Administrative Assistance in the Guidance Department and has her own dog sitting business. She also brings home dogs from the shelter to work with them and to socialize them every weekends and sometimes will foster them for a few weeks.
Lisa Komadina Married since 1997, Lisa has three children, and one stepdaughter. She and her family have been active community members in Woolwich Township since 2002. Lisa has been employed by The Home Depot since 1993, and she has also worked in the Swedeboro/Woolwich school district since 2011. Her kids keep her busy running from soccer to volleyball and then to karate. Two of her children volunteer at the Salem County Animal Shelter. Lisa’s daughter Jada, is a junior team member for FAF and was awarded the prestigious gold level President's Volunteer Service Award in 2014 due to her involvement with FAF. Her oldest son, Benito, is a Kingsway High School National Honors Society graduate who is attending Stockton University. Lisa's younger son, Niko, is a sixth grade honor roll student, currently involved in basketball and soccer. He struggled with a developmental delay, while Benito struggled with ADD. Their reading abilities needed work. Both boys had participated in the FAF therapy program at various libraries, which made Lisa a strong believer and supporter in FAF’s mission. With a less judgmental and less stressful environment, and with a friendly paw shake or kiss, Benito and Niko both became more confident and their reading skills improved drastically.
Cheryl Glass Cheryl is a graduate of Glassboro State College with a BA in Elementary Education. Married to her college sweetheart, Kevin, they have two adult sons. Their ten year old cockapoo, Roxy rounds out their family. As a former educator, the SMILE program appeals to Cheryl. She values the importance of strong reading skills at an early age. Reading skills are essential for academic and life long success. Volunteering is an opportunity to change lives. Cheryl has devoted her time to a number of organizations. As a leukemia survivor, she is a First Connection volunteer with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society assisting newly diagnosed patients. After completing her treatments, the family embarked on adding a new member. Little did they know, Roxy would become the best therapy for all of them. Now Cheryl enjoys sharing Roxy with others. Cheryl is also key supporter/volunteer for the last seven years with Bryce’s Bridge of Hope which raises funds for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Make A Wish Foundation. She is an avid Eagles and Phillies fan. She enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time down the shore.
Laura Carroll Laura Carroll owns her own home and is a resident of Woodbury Heights, NJ. She grew up in West Deptford and moved to Woodbury Heights in 2008. Laura has been a Sr. Executive Administrator for Visa, the global payments company in Wilmington, DE for the past 11 years. At Visa her role encompasses many aspects of the payments industry as she supports the Emerging Acceptance, JPMorgan Chase, and Merchant Sales and Solutions teams in addition to being the Wilmington office manager. Laura has owned three golden retrievers in her lifetime and currently is the mom of Navarre, a six-year-old golden who is her best friend and sidekick. Laura and Navarre travel a lot together and love to hike and camp in Lancaster County PA, especially in the fall as that is her favorite season. She enjoys reading, writing poetry, cooking, baking, canning, gardening and shopping for antiques. She is also an avid history buff. Abraham Lincoln is one of her favorite people in history and she currently owns over 35 books on his life. Animals are her passion as Laura belongs to many animal rescue groups such as the World Wildlife Federation and PETA. Her dream is to one day own a farm either in Lancaster, PA or Vermont so she can rescue and save animals.
Phyllis McCarthy Phyllis is an ASCP registered medical laboratory technologist and has been working in her field since 1985. After receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in 1983 from the University of Delaware, Phyllis resided in Gloucester County. In 1987, she became a Salem County resident and together with her husband, she raised 3 wonderful children. Although the children are grown and live on their own, the nest is still feathered with multiple dogs and cats. Since 2009, Phyllis has been an active volunteer for the Salem County Humane Society, from where she has adopted several animals. The “Paying it Forward” theme is an important one to Phyllis and Furever as Friends has provided a wonderful way to implement that idea. The S.M.I.L.E. program has allowed Phyllis to help children now ,so that in the future they will do the same for others.
Susan Daroshefsky Susan has worked in the insurance industry for the last 26+ years handling both auto and fire commercial policy claims. She also maintains her NJ Realtor's license for the last 2 years. Susan is the proud parent of 2 amazing young men as well as 2 beautiful young female dogs, Daisy and Violet. Her love for animals and the strong belief that their unconditionally love heals all led her to FURever as Friends. As a child, Susan's mother was diagnosed with cancer and it had a profound effect on her life. The chance to help others that might be in pain or feel lonely by sharing the unconditional love and affection that a therapy pet offers appealed to her. So sharing the love Daisy had to offer seemed like a natural fit.
Anne "Mitzi" Kowal Mitzi is a lifelong resident of Gloucester County and a recent retiree from the business world. During a difficult time in her life she adopted a beautiful puppy whom she named Angel. Mitzi likes to say we rescued each other. Angel brought so much healing and happiness into her life that she decided they needed to go out and help others in the community. So in 2014 they joined FURever as Friends and now visit libraries, schools, nursing homes, funeral homes and hospitals. You may even see them at a farm stand or two! Mitzi can't express how much her heart swells every time they visit somewhere and see all the joy they bring into people's lives. Gardening is also a passion for Mitzi. She belongs to the Herb Society of America and the Certified Gardeners of Gloucester County. So besides seeing Mitzi with Angel, you may come across their path planting flowers and vegetables throughout the county or working in the butterfly house at Red Bank Battlefield in National Park.
Dr. John Vinciguerra, VMD Dr. John completed his undergraduate degree from Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Animal Science. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia. Dr. John has been practicing small animal veterinary medicine in Southern New Jersey since graduating from veterinary school in 2003. He purchased Tri-County Veterinary Hospital in January 2007. Dr. John lives in Southern New Jersey with his wife, Sheri , two sons, John and Mateo, and his dog named Ruby. When he isn't working, Dr. John enjoys spending time outdoors on the farm with his family.
Jr. Advisory Board
Aaron Spring Aaron Spring has been actively involved with FURever As Friends (FAF) since its inception in January 2014 with a pleasant personality and a kind smile has a deep affection for animals and this carries over into his work as a junior member of FAF. His responsibilities include teaching young children the proper way to approach and pet a dog, how to give a dog a treat, demonstrating the need to show kindness to animals, and explaining what FAF, a nonprofit therapy animal organization, does in the community for people of all ages. In addition to working with youngsters, Aaron assists adult members of FAF at various community events throughout the year to promote the organization's message of helping and reaching people through the use of loving therapy animals. He can be found at the Deptford Library and West Deptford Library with his parents and his two Rabbits Sebastian and each month for FAF's SMILE Program, a reading campaign that is hosted at various libraries in southern New Jersey and encourages children to read to trained therapy animals. As a junior member, Aaron handles both of his rabbits and also helps other adult members with their pets as needed. He handles all of these tasks with a smile and is happy to answer questions about FAF, his involvement in the organization, and what being a pet therapy team is all about. Aaron received the 2015 Presidential Volunteer Service Award. He has reached the Gold Level by dedicating more than 100 hours of yearly service in the community.
Jada Komadina- Jada is a resident of Woolwich Township and an honor student at Kingsway High School. She has been with FURever As Friends since the inception in January 2014. She handles numerous dogs and yes, even cats. You will always find her helping out at the libraries and community events. In October 2014, Jada received the prestigious gold level Presidents Volunteer Service Award, a letter of appreciation from President Obama, Joint Commendation from the State of New Jersey and a volunteer service pin. Along with her volunteer service, Jada also finds time to play Soccer, Softball and Karate in which she is a Black Belt.