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East County Wednesday, May 8, 2019 2 weeks ago

SMART Director gallops into new role

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Dee Danmeyer takes over in leading the East County nonprofit.
by: Andrew Atkins Staff Writer

When Dee Danmeyer has a bad day, she grabs a handful of peppermints and heads to the barn.

Horses love peppermints, she said, and being around horses can change the outlook of a bad day.

Danmeyer should be having lots of good days now that she has taken over as executive director of the Sarasota-Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART). She said she has plenty of ideas to take the nonprofit to a full gallop after she replaced former executive director Brandi Ezell in March.

Ezell left to take a job as an administrative specialist to the CEO and vice president of U.S. Tent Rental in Sarasota.

SMART provides specialized, equine-based therapeutic programs meant to help those with physical and mental disabilities and illnesses.

Danmeyer said she would like to redouble the organization’s fundraising efforts. SMART’s biggest fundraiser is the Mint Juleps and Roses fundraiser that was held May 4, but she would like to see more fundraisers along with more effort spent on reaching out and developing new donor relationships.

“It would be nice to have an endowment set up,” she said.

Dana Cornell, an equine specialist in mental health and learning for SMART, said Danmeyer’s skills will make her an asset to the organization.

“She’s very personable. She’s always in a good mood and very positive,” Cornell said. “Even though she’s only been here a few weeks, her mind is turning.”

This executive director post isn’t Danmeyer’s first such responsibility for a nonprofit.

Before she was hired at SMART, Danmeyer spent the last 15 years in three executive director positions for Habitat for Humanity in Maryland, Orlando and Sarasota.

Danmeyer used to own horses, too, when she lived in Maryland. She owned and showed three Tennessee walking horses, so her position on SMART’s campus is somewhat of a return to her roots.

Upon seeing the job posting, Danmeyer said she thought to herself, “Oh my gosh, my office would be on a 23-acre horse farm with 14 horses and I’d get to see that every day.”

Danmeyer doesn’t have horses anymore, but she does have a puggle (crossbread between pug and beagle) named Sandy and a cat named Lexy, both rescues.

Besides the horses, Danmeyer said she will enjoy working with SMART’s clients and the many volunteers who make those programs happen.

“I love to hear our volunteers talk about our SMART riders,” she said, noting that in some ways, the volunteers get just as much enjoyment and learning out of the programs as the clients.

Looking out the window of her second-floor office, Danmeyer’s view is peaceful. She sees chickens and horses enjoying the mid-afternoon sun. She has daily encounters with the two barn cats. She especially enjoys feeding carrots to the horses, such as Magic, who is blind.

It’s another good day.

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