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Tom Howd - Director, President and Co-Founder

Tom started his career in the early 1980’s as a software engineer and after 30 years in the industry retired as a software company executive from Constant Contact.  During his 30-year career he developed skills, experience and a passion for growing companies and organizing highly effective teams.  He is ready to bring those skills and experiences to bear on creating an incredible nonprofit organization.  “I love our mission and I applaud the efforts of other organizations, like This Able Veteran and Clear Path for Veterans NE, that are working hard to help our military veterans.  I am excited and grateful to be in a position to be giving back, one veteran/dog team at a time.” Tom is a graduate of Williams College with a BS in math and computer science.

Kate Howd - Director and Co-Founder

While raising 3 sons in the town of Sudbury, Kate kept very busy volunteering with many different organizations, including American Cancer Society Relay for Life, CRANE, multiple youth sports leagues and volunteering in the public schools in various capacities. Now retired and spending winters in Florida and summers in Westport, MA, and Maine, Kate is ready to dive into her next adventure - helping military veterans.  Kate received her BA in Psychology and American Studies from Williams College.

Nikki Keville - Director and Treasurer

Nikki, the mother of 3, one of whom is currently a Captain in the US Army, has had a long and successful career in corporate accounting.  For over 20 years, Nikki has been with American Superconductor and currently serves as Vice President, Corporate Controller and Assistant Treasurer. She is a certified CPA and holds a BA in accounting from the College of the Holy Cross. A native of Maine, Nikki enjoys living in Kennebunk, relaxing and reading on the beach and helping take care of her three young grandsons.

Gerard “Jay” Woelkers, CAPT, MSC, USN (ret) - Director

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Captain Woelkers enlisted in the United States Navy in August 1982 as a non-rate seaman and served aboard the USS Alamo. He then served as a general hospital corpsman, and later as a Physical Therapy Technician with a focus in sports medicine. In April 1993, upon completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Social Services from Roger Williams University, Captain Woelkers was commissioned an Ensign

as a Health Care Administrator in the Medical Service Corps. Captain Woelkers completed a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration from Baylor University in August 2000 and is a Board Certified Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. Captain Woelkers has previously served in several leadership roles, to include ExecutiveOfficer, Navy Medicine Professional Development Center, Bethesda, MD, Commanding Officer Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point, North Carolina and most recently Commanding Officer Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command at Bethesda, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, after which he retired from active duty on 31 May 2021 having served 39 years of honorable service.


Captain Woelkers served in two separate combat operations with the United States Marine Corps as Executive Officer, Charlie Trauma Surgical Company, Al Asad, Iraq, August 2006 – March 2007 and Commanding Officer, Bravo Trauma Surgical Company, Delaram, Afghanistan, January 2010 – July 2010. Captain Woelkers' awards and personal decorations include: Legion of Merit (two awards), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (five awards),Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards), Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (five awards), Iraqi Campaign Medal,Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, ISAF NATO Medal, National Defense Medal (two awards), Volunteer Service Medal (two awards), Expert Rifle and Pistol Medals,German Armed Forces Badge (Gold) for Military Proficiency and other unit and personal ribbons. He is a Fleet Marine Force Warfare Officer.

Captain Woelkers is married to the former Tracy L. Sauvigne and has 6 children.

Rich Drazin - Director

Rich is a dog person.  He grew up with them, adopted two of his own, and served alongside some of the best military working dogs in the United States Armed Forces.  Rich has seen first-hand the incredible impact dogs can have on individual’s life and cannot think of a more noble cause to be supporting.  Professionally, he is the Director of Strategy and Transformation for Care Transitions, an Optum business unit within UnitedHealth Group. Before this, Rich served in the Special Forces with multiple combat deployments.  Personally, he is an avid outdoorsmen who mountain climbs, backpacks, sails, and golfs.  Rich can often be found miles into a hike with his better half, Stacy, and their two dogs, Rory and Guinness. 

Howd's Hounds - Professional Dog Training

A resident of Westport since 2014, Mike obtained his AKC Dog Trainer certification from the Connecticut K-9 Education Center in 2015.  In the spring of 2017 Mike attended the Karen Pryor Clicker Training conference.  He has been working with dogs since 2014, including his own black lab, Toka.  For two years, Mike assisted Operation Delta Dog and gained valuable experience under the tutelage Operation Delta Dog's primary trainer.  In 2018, Mike attended two intensive training programs (Dog Behavioral Psychology Trainer Academy and PTSD Service Dog Trainer Academy) hosted by This Able Veteran.  Mike loves dogs, and like the rest of us at Toka's Friends, feels that we can do more for our military veterans.  Mike is committed to the long term success of every veteran-dog team.

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