I never thought I’d become a social worker, let alone a founder and the Executive Director of a nonprofit.
I went to James Madison University, planning to become a writer, either a novelist or journalist. All that changed (along with my major a few times) when I met a social worker at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA. She opened my eyes to the social work profession, program management, and research.
While in college, I came home weekly to visit my sister Samantha (yes, THE ‘Samantha’ in Samantha Makes It a Little Easier) while she underwent cancer treatment. We experienced firsthand the many challenges a child and their family members face during various stages of medical care, including the difficulty of funding costly medical equipment. A few days before Sam passed away, she asked me to use the money people raised for her to purchase a quality prosthetic to help children ‘like her.’
After completing my Masters of Social Services (MSW) at Bryn Mawr College outside Philadelphia, PA, I returned to Hampton Roads. I worked for a few different nonprofits while founding SMILE with a fantastic group of women. Since SMILE’s founding, I have had the opportunity to complete my Ph.D. in Health Service Research at Old Dominion University, focusing my research on young adult survivors of childhood cancer and late effects.
I love my job and am honored to be able to serve such wonderful children and their families.
Wayne Pollock joined Virginia Wesleyan in the fall of 2000 after working as a certified therapeutic recreation specialist in various healthcare settings. He received his B.S. from West Chester University and taught Health & Physical Education for seven years. He received his M.S. from the University of North Carolina in Recreation Administration, with a Therapeutic Recreation concentration and his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Old Dominion University.
Wayne’s passion for helping improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities is exemplified in his years of work as a recreational therapist working with adults with intellectual disabilities and both adolescents and adults with mental illness and substance abuse problems. At Wesleyan, Wayne teaches all courses in the recreational therapy track and core curriculum courses as needed.
Thomas Gorman is a Midwestern native with a beach attitude. He has called Hampton Roads home for the last 15 years. “If you love what you do and can do it anywhere, what’s stopping you?” With that thought in mind he moved his photography business to the beach. As a professional photographer he specializes in portraits of families, high school seniors and children.
Thomas began his business 28 years ago when he quit his job, bought a house and found out he was expecting his second child all in the same month. He has never looked back. Currently he is in the process of adopting his 12 year old step son, who is blind, and who has given him a deeper insight to appreciate being able to “see”. Thomas sees photography as a wonderful way to engage with the world, encourage exploration, and show the wonderful relationships that exist. He seeks to create images with beauty and insight.
Thomas currently works with a number of organizations, donating his photography services. These organizations include SMILE, Here For The Girls, Equikids, The Foodbank, Volunteer Hampton Roads, ForKids and Toby’s Dream.
Thomas is based in Virginia Beach, VA, and is available for assignments worldwide.
I love my job. Plain and simple. Everyday I get to go to work and help amazing patients and their families. But how did I get here? How did I find my way to my rewarding career?
I grew up in Richmond, Virginia in a family filled with careers in math and science. So after high school, much to my parents’ dismay, I went to a liberal arts school in Fredericksburg. At Mary Washington College, a wonderful Biology professor suggested I consider going to medical school. And so I did.
While in medical school at The Medical College of Virginia, the patients I felt most connected to were those that had functional and physical challenges limiting their independence. I realized that my love of physics and engineering (thanks mom and dad) made the specialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation the perfect medical career path for me.
I completed residency at MCV, and then began my Pediatric Rehabilitation career at CHKD. My husband and I relocated to Orlando, Florida for a few years for me to start up a pediatric rehabilitation program at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital and then we chose to return to Virginia and CHKD in 2014.
SMILE represents the same fundamentals that I strive to emphasize in my medical practice: Education, Encouragement and Empowerment. I am so excited to be a part of this wonderful organization.
A graduate of Virginia Tech’s Architecture Program, Joe Trost has over 36 years of experience in architecture. He joined PF&A in 1990 as a project architect and was promoted to Principal in 2001. In 2016, Joe became President and Owner of PF&A.
A national architecture design award winner, his experience is diversified with a strong emphasis in the healthcare, dental, and commercial sectors.
When he’s not at work, Joe enjoys providing community service through the non-profit Samantha Makes It a Little Easier (SMILE), golfing, listening to music, especially Jimmy Buffet and island sounds, and cheering for the Red Sox!
Courtney Rudiger grew up among the cornfields of Plainfield, Illinois. After earning her BA in mathematics/pre-medicine from Augustana College and her MS in epidemiology from The University of Iowa, she headed to the East Coast to begin her public health career, currently residing in Virginia Beach with her four-year-old son, Jace.
Courtney is an accomplished data analyst focusing in public health, epidemiology, and disease surveillance, with extensive experience in translating results into clear and concise outcomes to inform decisions on program management and policy development.
Her first position was a fellowship as an epidemiologist at the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, Portsmouth, VA, where she contributed to the surveillance and analysis of healthcare-associated infections and multidrug-resistant organism infections among military beneficiaries. After completing her fellowship, she moved to a permanent position at NMCPHC, leading surveillance efforts for influenza, malaria, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases. Her current role at NMCPHC is as a subject matter expert for disease surveillance and reporting in the Navy, establishing reporting requirements and managing surveillance programs.
Courtney has published articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Military Medicine and the Journal for the American Medical Association. She has represented military public health at multiple meetings and conferences, including the Virginia Public Health Association Conference, Association for Professionals in Infection Control, and the Armed Forces Public Health Conference.
Brandon is an associate at Kaufman and Canoles Norfolk office and a member of the Commercial Practice Group and the Real Estate Strategies Practice Group. His practice includes advising clients on commercial real estate transactions, merger and acquisitions, tax matters, general business law, and corporate and commercial transactions.
Ashton Love is an Investment Executive at Davenport and Company LLC where he helps a variety of individuals, families, businesses and organizations with their investable assets and strategically planning for their financial future. At the heart of his role is the desire to help others succeed. This desire spills over to his personal life as well where he enjoys being a part of his local community and being involved with organizations like SMILE.
In his free time, Ashton loves to travel with his wife Jeanette, surf, cook, and try local restaurants as well as spend quality time with family and friends. If he is in town, and the weather is nice, you can likely find him at the oceanfront in Virginia Beach.
Ashton graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA with a Business Administration degree focusing in marketing. Ashton has worked in the investment industry since graduating and holds a series 7 & series 66 license with FINRA.
"Samantha Makes It a Little Easier"
101 West Main Street. Suite 7000
Norfolk, VA 23510