Our Board

Members of our board of directors are volunteers passionate about helping our clients with psychiatric disabilities live the best life they can. Each brings their unique talents to our team, together helping move the organization’s mission, vision, and financial stability forward.



Board of directors - Andrea with dog

Andrea Maney became involved with TESSD as a client in 2017 when her daughter was partnered with a psychiatric service dog, Brody. Watching how they work together and meeting others with similar experiences drives her passion for TESSD’s mission from the client’s perspective. Andrea has an extensive background in IT and has already made a significant contribution by updating and managing our website, extending our social media following, and streamlining our application process. She has many years of volunteering and supporting non-profits such as Scouts and a local dog & cat rescue, Pack Leaders Rescue. She lives with her two kids, two cats and Brody, the Exceptional Sidekick, in Vernon, CT.


Board of Directors - Joan with dog

Joan Plouffe joins our board with 20 years of advocacy experience and volunteerism. She is active in her community of Newtown, CT, where she resides with her children and her Yellow Lab named Waffles. Joan practiced law prior to starting her family and currently serves on the Newtown Police Commission. She brings extensive leadership and committee experience from her previous roles, having served on many boards and commissions, including the town’s Charter Revision Commission, PTA boards and the Long Term Strategic Planning Committee for the Newtown Public Schools. Joan is especially passionate about children, education and dogs.


Board of directors - Keri

Keri Reilly is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who joins the board with over 20 years of social work experience in the Greater Danbury area. She has practiced in a multitude of settings including child protection, VNA and residential group homes for children and dually diagnosed adults. She is currently a part time crisis clinician and a full time individual behavioral health therapist who works with adolescents and adults. Keri lives locally in Newtown with two dogs of her own, Izzy & Guinness.


Board of directors - Lisa with dog

Lisa Wallace Lisa joins our board with decades of experience in research, analysis and marketing in both the entertainment and IT industries. Here in Newtown, Lisa has been very involved with school PTA boards and the Victory Garden. She lives with two graduates of the TESSD program, Service Dog Quinlan and newest family member and Therapy Dog hopeful, Octo! Lisa is happy to be part of the excellent work TESSD does for our young people and will focus her efforts on critical fundraising opportunities.


Sandy Lee comes to us with 20+ years of non-profit, volunteer experience in fundraising, event planning, marketing, and budget management. She has been active in her community, serving previously on various boards and leadership roles, including the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls; believing strongly in Living United. While training at the Exceptional Pet for a year and a half, she was immediately drawn to the life changing work of the Exceptional Sidekick and is passionate about their mission. Sandy lives in Naugatuck, CT with her Bernedoodle Beau that she credits with saving her life. They love to go on adventures with her two adult kids, and their Labradoodle Hank.


Tara Tanzer joins the board with more than 20 years experience in public relations including business launches, fund raising, marketing, corporate communication and crisis management.  She’s the mother of three children and currently resides in Fairfield , CT. Tara has been involved in The Exceptional Sidekick since 2018 when her teenage daughter began owner training her own service dog under the guidance of Abby Hill.  This process was life changing for her family, and allowed her daughter to eventually return to school and a productive lifestyle.


Christine Dangers brings many years of experience in office management to our Board. She currently works full-time as a Medical Assistance, is a doula labor support for postpartum moms and newborns, and previously published her own Holistic Magazine. You may recognize her as the voice behind the Exceptional Pet or the handler of Chip one of our Therapy Dogs. She rescued Chip and knew he was something special as she went through all of the training opportunities at The Exceptional Pet prior to her position there. They are quite the team as they volunteer at their local library, skateboard, and learn tricks to share and bring joy to others. Christine loves spending time with her two daughters and is excited to begin her new role as a grandmother!