2020 VETERAN & SUPPORT RIDERS

Dave M.

Elgin, IL

This father of five, has a true heart of service. Dave began at BraveHearts a volunteer and quickly fell in love with the horses and individuals he was helping, volunteering at least three times a week. When Dave was asked if he wanted to ride, he jumped on the opportunity and became immersed in the veterans program. Dave rides on the all-veteran drill team and is currently preparing to become a certified PATH International riding instructor. Participating in services has helped him to open up and talk about experiences that he never thought he would speak about. BraveHearts has given Dave a community of veterans and the opportunity to help others.

Victor A.

Bakersfield, CA

Victor began riding at a riding center in California after a friend encouraged him to come ride. He immediately fell in love with riding and could not get enough, soon becoming an instructor to help grow the Veterans Program in California. Victor was introduced to BraveHearts while attending a presentation on Trail to Zero at the International Conference in 2019 and immediately wanted to get involved. Victor has stated that he cannot possibly put into words what riding and horses mean to him. He is so honored to be part of the BraveHearts Trail to Zero team in efforts to reach more veterans. He is looking forward to spreading knowledge of how equine therapy has helped countless Veterans across the United States.

Angie C.

Melrose Park, IL

Traumatic experiences during her service as a Security Policeman began a decades-long struggle with PTSD, isolation, and depression. In 2017, the VA referred her to BraveHearts, where she began to feel a sense of confidence and energy and found that working with the horses was the therapy that worked best for her.

Angie now rides on the all-veteran drill team and volunteers at BraveHearts as well. She feels part of a close-knit community and wants to give something back to the program that gives her so much. Angie’s connection with the horses and the camaraderie she shares with her Veteran brothers and sisters helps her as she continues to 

Alex R.

Montclair, CA

Alex first started with BraveHearts in 2019 after hearing a segment on WGN. Alex had recently moved to IL from California on the quest for a new life after his father had passed. Alex stated that giving BraveHearts a chance was one of the best decisions of his life. From day one, he felt welcomed by the BraveHearts team and felt that he mattered. For the first time in a long time, he felt comfortable and happy. BraveHearts has given Alex a path to doing something he is passionate about and Alex has stated, without BraveHearts he does not know where he would be today. Alex has gained so much from his time at BraveHearts not just about caring for horses but being able to process through his emotions through equine assisted therapy. BraveHearts has given Alex the brotherhood-like feeling he had in the military and he calls BraveHearts his second family.

Vince D.

Palatine, IL

Vincent DiRe, 16 year service veteran, active duty Air Force in the Vietnam era as a medical service specialist. Came to BraveHearts in 2019 and became involved as a veteran participant in lessons and on the Drill Team, volunteer, and this will be his first year riding on Trail to Zero. Last year, Vince was a part of the Trail to Zero ground support in Chicago – passing out flyers, spreading the word, and informing the public about veteran suicide awareness and prevention. Vince does all he can to support the BraveHearts Trail to Zero mission with putting in many volunteer hours at the farm, continuing to advocate in the community, and using his positive energy to welcome veterans in to the program for the first time. His passion for service exudes from him. He has created special connections with the BraveHearts herd, taken every opportunity presented to advance his horsemanship, and is grateful for the family he has at BraveHearts.

Bill M.

Machesney Park

Bill Mercurio, was drafted in 1966 for the Vietnam War. He served with the 20th Engineers Battalion in Pleiku, RVN. Bill first started at BraveHearts in 2016 with his wife, Nancy, whom an avid horse lover was looking to get back to working with horses. Bill and Nancy began volunteering and quickly became immersed in the veteran program, riding together once a week. Bill tragically lost his son in 2017 and has stated that if it were not for BraveHearts, the horses, and his faith, he does not know how he would have been able to get through such a difficult time. Bill is a PATH Intl. instructor and recently became the Veteran Relations Coordinator at BraveHearts. Bill was part of the 5 veterans who rode in the Trail to Zero pilot ride in 2017.

Ken Boyd

Gold Star Father & Board Chair

Ken is a Gold-Star Father. His son, US Marine, Cpl. CJ Boyd was KIA in Afghanistan in 2010. After C.J.’s death Patty attended, the first Gold Star Mother’s retreat held at BraveHearts, which she states, “saved her life.” Ken and his wife Patty have supported BraveHearts veterans since CJ’s death to honor CJ. Ken has become extremely active with BraveHearts riding, helping with special events, and currently sitting on the Board of Directors. Ken and Patty purchased a horse in 2016, fortuitously named Brother, who now holds the name “CJ’s” Brother. Ken has been riding weekly, ever since Brother has come into his life and attributes his healing to this remarkable horse and to the service; he has given to BraveHearts to help CJ’s brothers and sisters. 2020 is Ken’s second year participating in Trail to Zero.

Meggan Hill-McQueeney

President/COO & Master Level Instructor

Meggan Hill-McQueeney is a lifelong equestrian. Nationally, she has competed in both English and western events since childhood and, later, she competed at the Mustang Million. Meggan spent much of her time in the cutting horse and thoroughbred performance horse worlds, learning the art of breeding, raising and competing at the highest levels. Meggan is self-taught, relying on her experiences and her natural understanding of both horses and humans. She developed her own therapeutic riding program in 1996 and began a second in 1999. Meggan is a PATH International Master Level Instructor, a Special Olympics coach, a trainer for Illinois SO coaches, and a PATH evaluator. In 2010 Meggan stepped into the role of BraveHearts President/COO. She is the 2015 recipient of the PATH Intl. James Brady Professional Achievement Award, honoring her great dedication, proven leadership and high ethical standards as well as her ability to develop and implement innovative, creative and effective ideas for the industry. Meggan’s theories have resulted in the ability of BraveHearts to expand its veteran services nationally, helping BraveHearts PATH Premier Accredited Center retain its status as the largest veteran program in the nation, using innovative equine-assisted services. Meggan’s desire to provide quality programing through higher-degree horsemanship with veterans is achieved through advanced concepts including gentling wild mustangs; mentoring veterans to become PATH certified instructors, and working cattle. Under her leadership, BraveHearts has developed a top-notch team of staff and extraordinary horses providing 13,107 sessions to 726 veterans in 2017 – all at no cost to any veteran. Meggan is a firm believer, as heard in her 2015 TED Talk that all veterans deserve to be given limitless opportunities – and that belief is demonstrated daily through the veterans who organically begin to explore a world of possibilities because of the experiences with BraveHearts horses and staff. 2020 is Meggan’s third year participating in Trail to Zero.