Steve Jenkins, Co-Founder

Steve has been crazy for animals ever since he can remember - rescuing turtles in the road, squirrels who have fallen from trees, so it was no surprise when he answered the call from an acquaintance to bring a "mini-pig" into his and Derek's very small home in Georgetown.

Steve brings his incredible social media skills and love of all animals to Happily Ever Esther as the co-founder of HEEFS. He is a loud and proud speaker for animal welfare around the world.

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Derek Walter, Co-Founder and Executive Director

The road to becoming the farm manager for Happily Ever Esther was not the straightest path. Spending years becoming an incredibly talented professional magician, Derek never thought he would quit the life in the spotlight to become the animal caretaker, but this couldn't have been a more perfect fit.

Derek spends most of his time in the barn making sure the HEEFS store runs smoothly, and directing all of the events at the farm.

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Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur (

Krista Hiddema, President

Krista serves as the President of the Board of Directors for Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary. Krista is an activist/academic who is currently pursuing her doctorate in eco-feminism, while also running For The Greater Good. Krista spent six years as the Vice President of Mercy For Animals in Canada, where she led twelve undercover investigations exposing the truth of what happens behind the closed doors of slaughterhouses and factory farms. She is passionate about farmed animals, and in helping people realize that farmed animals are just as deserving of love and respect as the cats and dogs we share our lives with.

Krista lives with her husband Nigel, where together they rescue Great Danes, cats, and all manner of fur-kids!

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Kathy Fischer, Vice President

Kathy's commitment to animal advocacy started in her teens, and she brings over 25 years of marketing and communications experience to Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary. Kathy started off as a weekly volunteer at the Sanctuary and helped launch the volunteer program.

Kathy’s strong relationship-building and leadership skills help ensure that every animal at HEEFS is given the love and respect they so richly deserve. In her spare time, Kathy loves hanging out with her canine family members, Maggie and Zoli.

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Kimberly Roemer, Treasurer

Kimberly is an accomplished business woman with over 32 years of accounting experience. She started in commercial banking and has worked at both national and regional public accounting firms. She has also taught tax accounting at the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University. Kimberly is a Certified Public Accountant and has a B.A. in Economics from Rutgers University and a Masters in Taxation from Pace University. As a committed animal rights activist, Kimberly offers her unique talents particularly in the areas of financial management, organizational transparency, financial legal compliance and protecting the privacy of our donors. When she’s not working, this former classical ballet dancer loves to cook, enjoys yoga, running and spending time relaxing at home with her cat, Clive.

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Cailen LaBarge, Secretary and Advisor

Cailen LaBarge is an animal advocate and highly accomplished US-based non-profit attorney. Since going vegan in law school, she has worked with a number of animal protection organizations. Recently, Cailen served as General Counsel for the international farmed animal protection organization, Animal Equality, where, among many achievements, she implemented consumer protection litigation and a program that aims to address ineffective regulatory oversight of animal agriculture industries. Cailen lives in Massachusetts with her animal activist partner, and Floyd, her beloved 16-year old blind terrier. Cailen loves running, hates winter and is training to be a helicopter pilot!

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Andrea White, Supervisor, Animal Care

A life-long animal lover, Andrea has been involved in a variety of animal rights projects and organizations, including the completion of animal care internships at Animal Place, volunteering in wildlife rehabilitation, doing outreach with Farm Animal Rights Movements, and being involved with the Save Movement in Toronto.

At the sanctuary Andrea wears many hats, some of which include organizing events and work days, managing animal care, and assisting with administrative work. Andrea is continuing to develop a photography project highlighting individual animals rescued by farm sanctuaries across North America.

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Kevin Weil, Facilities Supervisor

Kevin comes to us from years of experience at Farm Sanctuary where he “went for the internship and stayed for the cause”. With almost a decade of Sanctuary property maintenance and resident care experience, Kevin is responsible for ensuring that our grounds, buildings and equipment are always in excellent condition. Even though he studied computer science, Kevin prefers to be working outside and with animals.

When he’s not at HEEFS, Kevin enjoys spending his time as an amateur astronomer and avid gamer.

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Joe Ditoro, Facilities Assistant

Joe has always had a passion for helping other and brings with him years of experience working on farms in the US where he was born and raised. As a lifelong lover of animals, fitness and the great outdoors, Joe is thrilled to be able to combine all three of his great loves at HEEFS as our Facilities Assistant.

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Alison Watt, Animal Care Specialist

Alison is bringing a lifetime of working and caring for animals to HEEFS.  As a young child in Nigeria, her favourite activity was playing with the toads beneath the front windows of her home. As a young adult in Eastern Ontario, she was introduced to small animal handling and first aid while volunteering in veterinary clinics.

In 2014, Alison began working with rescued farmed animals. Caring for sheep, goats, pigs, horses, cows and more. She learned how to assess their general health, treat wounds and recognize signs of ailments requiring veterinary care along with proper feeding, appropriate housing, enrichment and routine care including inoculations, hoof trimming and grooming.

As a full-time animal caregiver, Alison will help with daily medical care, animal enrichment, feeding, health checks, and cleaning. Her years of experience, and confidence with large animals will be a great asset to our ever growing animal family.

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Cheri Gibson, Animal Care

Cheri has a great love and respect of all animals and has been a registered SPCA foster for dogs and bunnies for the past 30 years. Her inquisitive nature pushes Cheri to always continue her learning path and she is especially interested in holistic remedies to support traditional methods. She is an animal reiki practitioner, and has taken courses in canine nutrition, companion animal first aid and massage therapy which she used working as a therapist in a hydrotherapy pool to support post-surgery healing for dogs. Cheri is honoured to be working with the fabulous team and residents at HEEFS.

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Nicole Surudo, Animal Care

Nicole’s love for the natural world began early in life, when she would move snails off paths to safety and beg her parents to pull over so she could admire fields of grazing horses and cows. 

When Nicole began volunteering at HEEFS, she felt immediately that this is a special place. Getting to know the residents as they lead their lives safe from harm and with the freedom to be themselves has been very rewarding. 

Nicole is studying Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus and is eager to expand her knowledge of specialized resident care. In her spare time, Nicole can be found with a book and cup of tea, and spending time with her animal companions - a dog, two cats, two guinea pigs, and a lizard.

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Crystal Downs, Accountant

Running a charity involves following many specialized and generally accepted accounting principals in both Canada and the United States. So, in 2017, we brought Crystal Downs, CPA, CGA on to our team.

In her role as our part time accountant, she is responsible for making sure that our accounting and financial reporting are accurate and compliant. Crystal, a long-time supporter of Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary, and life time lover of animals, works as a full time accountant in Georgetown and enjoys playing ringette in the winter and baseball in the summer.

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Our Key Volunteer Team

Kim Rushnell, Social Media Coordinator

Kim is a long time animal activist, whom after offering to bake a cake for Esther's 2nd birthday, was hooked on working for a pig. Kim manages Esther's various social media platforms and is passionate about spreading compassion for all farmed animals across the globe. When not volunteering at the farm, Kim enjoys spending time with family and friends and her menagerie of companion animals.  She is also Esther’s official babysitter.

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Sheryl Greenspan, Editor-in-Chief

Ever since she first visited HEEFS as a workday volunteer, Sheryl knew that she wanted to become more involved in helping the Sanctuary reach out to people all over the world spreading its message of compassion for farmed animals everywhere.

Sheryl brings a lifelong love of animals and 25 years of professional copywriting and editing experience to her role at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary.

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Christine Gittings, Tour Coordinator

Over eleven years ago, Christine started volunteering with animals - first at the Toronto Humane Society and then with Toronto Cat Rescue. During this period, she was introduced to Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary, and after signing up for a few volunteer work days she knew she wanted to get involved.

Christine now puts her project management skills to use as Tour Coordinator at the Sanctuary.  She handles the booking of the private and public tours and also acts as a tour guide.  In her spare time Christine loves spending time with her partner, Bruce, and their fur kids, crafting and enjoying live music.

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Allison Haid, Volunteer Coordinator

Since retiring from a corporate career, Allison decided to fulfill her lifelong love of animals by becoming a regular weekly volunteer at HEEFS.  In addition to helping out on the farm, Allison coordinates the Public and Private Volunteer Work Day events and maintains HEEFS’ Volunteer and Staff schedules.

Allison lives in Georgetown with her husband, daughter, son and Russell, their Saint Bernard.  In her spare time, when not at the farm, Allison enjoys travelling and spending time with family and friends.

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Jen Jones, Project Coordinator

Jen has been advocating for animals and animal rights for over 30 years. Her day job is working in fundraising technology for a large non-profit organization, but she gets her soul fulfilled by volunteering at HEEFS. 

When HEEFS opened its doors in 2015, Jen signed up to help immediately. She loves getting down and dirty, keeping the barns tidy and residents fed, but also cleans up nicely to be a tour guide to Sanctuary visitors. Jen also lends her considerable experience to helping execute various projects.

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Emily Coleman, Project Coordinator

Emily developed her spirited love for animals as a child while playing with her one-eyed bull terrier, Henry. It was this relationship that made her realize that he was no different than the animals in the meals her family ate. This realization sparked a change in both her mind and her home.

Emily began volunteering with HEEFS in May 2017 as an animal feed volunteer and now contributes her research, analytical and strategic planning skills to a variety of Sanctuary projects. When not working or volunteering, she spends her time with her husband and three fur children.

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Kate Scarlett, Special Needs Volunteer Coordinator

With her Bachelor of Social Work, Kate worked at a local school board as an educational assistant, specifically working with children with special needs. When it came to volunteering her time, she knew she wanted to combine her love of animals with her love of helping people.

Kate finds the work she does with children and adults who come to the sanctuary rewarding and enriching, and loves introducing visitors to the animal residents at HEEFS. When not at the Sanctuary, Kate enjoys spending time with her husband, her three amazing children and her wonderful fur kids.

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Rachel Douglas, Media Coordinator

Rachel has been a valuable member of our volunteer team since the very beginning of HEEFS when she signed up for one of our first volunteer workdays. From there, Rachel continued to volunteer her time for workdays and special events. Today, Rachel has a dual role at HEEFS - she manages our media requests and enjoys being one of our amazing tour guides, sharing stories about our residents and helping visitors have a memorable experience.

Rachel is a seasoned marketing and communications professional with 20 years of experience working for some of Canada’s largest brands.  Rachel’s love of dogs led to years of volunteering with dog rescues, fur-sitting for her friends and spending lots of time with her two loves: Lucky & Stella.

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Jenn Meyer, HEEFS Store Coordinator

From rescuing orphaned squirrels to sharing her home with two giant Newfoundland dogs and a cat, Jenn has always had a love for animals. It’s no surprise that after attending the HEEFS Grand Opening event, Jenn immediately signed up to be one of our regular volunteers. Jenn brings over 15 years of experience working in sales and distribution to her role as Store Coordinator. Classified as a systems expert, Jenn is able to apply her extensive knowledge of logistics and customer service to her role with us. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s incredibly creative when it comes to making some of the beautiful pieces of jewellery available on the site! In her spare time, Jenn enjoys relaxing at home with her husband and their fur family.