Debra VanderBand - EAD Founder & Executive Director

Debra VanderBand, PEC ES is an EAGALA Certified Equine Specialist. VanderBand lives in Kentwood, MI with her husband and youngest daughter. She has four grown children and ten grand children. In 2000, she embarked on a journey of not just owning her own horse (her childhood dream), but rescuing horses from compromising situations. VanderBand became certified as an Equine Specialist in 2006 from the nationally acclaimed EAGALA organization (to learn more visit:


She also graduated from a Professional Empowerment Coaching program from Grace Bible University shortly thereafter. In 2010, VanderBand combined her passions, horses and serving people and co-founded Equine Assisted Development and in 2017, obtained non-profit status. Through life experience, training and education, she has built EAD from the ground, up. With tenacious spirit and unwavering love, she works to restore hope in the life of each person that comes to the farm.


Sarah Matias - EAD Board President

Sarah Matias, LMSW, CAADC is a Licensed Master Social Worker, Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor, EMDR Therapy Clinician with advanced training, and NADA Acudetox Specialist.  Sarah trained in EMDR with Dr. Wendy Freitag, President of the International EMDRIA Research Foundation and colleague of Dr. Francine Shapiro.  Sarah is a graduate of Wheaton College, completed the Law Program for Community Developers and Social Workers at John Marshall Law School, Chicago, a Master of Social Work at Grand Valley State University and earned memberships in the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society, Alpha Kappa Delta International Sociological Honor Society, and National Honor Society. 

Sarah has over 30 years of experience in community-based counseling, advocacy, and ministry, and currently serves as a clinical mental health therapist at Arbor Circle Corporation in Grand Rapids, MI.  Sarah has a passion for cross cultural work, doing international studies in Latin America, Asia and Europe, and a calling to community-based work and ministry with urban underserved populations, serving in Chicago; El Paso, Texas; Cuidad Juarez, Mexico; and Grand Rapids, Michigan. 


In these settings, she has worked with gang involved, homeless, incarcerated, immigrant and refugee, co-occurring mental health and substance abuse client populations.  She has partnered with her husband in church planting, urban and international missions, and has been actively involved in advocacy through a variety of community coalitions, program development, grant writing, and networking between the faith community and social service system.  She currently serves as President of the Board of Equine Assisted Development, an urban trauma focused treatment farm. 


She specializes in the treatment of complex trauma, addiction, attachment, and a variety of mental health disorders, using EMDR therapy as part of an integrative trauma-informed, approach.  She is dedicated to addressing complex social and mental health issues through a knowledge of societal history, multicultural issues, and mental health therapies to treat body, mind, and spirit, break patterns of dysfunction, and empower clients to build healthy, productive lives. Sarah is a member of Brown Hutcherson Ministries where her husband serves as an associate pastor.  They have 4 grown children, 1 grandchild, and enjoy family time and travel.


DeWanna Lancaster - EAD Board Member


DeWanna finds purpose in life by using her skills, education and experience to impact lives and motivate others toward meeting their greatest potential. With a mission to serve, empower and inspire others, her work with children, youth and families has provided the platform to demonstrate God’s love for people through servanthood. “My passion is to see individuals and families live healthier lives, mentally, spiritually and physically in our community, and be well”.

DeWanna is employed with Network 180, Kent County CMH, as Clinical Liaison for 17th Circuit Mental Health Court. She is a trained and certified Mental Health First Aide Instructor, an advocate and educator for mental wellness. DeWanna serves as a board member of H.I.P.S. (Helping Important People  Succeed) empowering young ladies to achieve their potential, is new board member with EAD and volunteers in her community.


Mrs. Lancaster is from the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, and enjoys the fall season of West Michigan. She is a graduate of Calvin College, witha master’s degree in Counseling and a Limited Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Michigan. DeWanna attends Messiah Baptist of Grand Rapids, and serving in music ministry, Women’s ministry, and the site coordinator for the Family Leadership Initiative, an outreach ministry and community collaboration.


Most importantly, DeWanna values relationships with her family and parents. She enjoys traveling, reading, music and meeting people. Mrs. Lancaster and her husband, Darryl, have been married for 35 years. Together they have successfully raised 3 adult children and are the blessed grandparents of 7 grandchildren. Her favorite scripture is Proverbs 3:5-7 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your way acknowledge Him and He will direct thy path”.


Scott Shaw - EAD Board Member


Dr. Scott Shaw is Professor of Human Services at Grace Christian University. Scott was clinical supervisor & therapist at Lutheran Child & Family Service of Michigan, from 2000 to 2010. Previously, he worked for seven years at Hope Network Behavioral Health (Grand Rapids, MI), serving adults with chronic mental illness in various residential, clinical and administrative positions. Scott is a graduate of the 38th Police Academy at Grand Valley State University, and has worked in local and county law enforcement.  He is nationally board certified in counseling (NCC), a Fellow of the American Psychotherapy Association, and a Certified Professional Empowerment Coach (CPEC) through the Grace Center for Empowerment Coaching.

Scott is a 4th degree black belt and certified Taekwondo instructor (ATA) who leads the Grace Christian University Taekwondo Club. Scott also holds a 1st degree black belt in Shinsei Arnis jitsu (stick & knife) and has trained previously in Pukang Tang Soo Do, Aikido, Shorin Ryu Karate, Krav Maga and Pressure Point Control Tactics (PPCT). Scott has trained in PPCT’s basic subject control curriculum including GAGE and bladed-weapon defense, and is a certified Instructor of PPCT’s “SHARP” (Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention) women’s self-defense curriculum, offered at Grace Christian University every semester.

Robyn Gransow - EAD Board Member


Certified Secondary educator since 2001. Bachelors degree in English, Art, and Secondary Education from Aquinas College. Masters in the Art of Teaching with an emphasis in English as a Second Language (now known as ELL) from Aquinas College. Currently teaching high school art. Grew up in Kentwood and still live in Kentwood just a few miles from EAD. 


Began as a barn volunteer with EAD a few years ago. Found almost instant relief from my own anxieties while getting dirty there and knew this horse therapy concept was no joke. I began to have really enlightening conversations about all sorts of people who have and have not experienced equine therapy and knew that I wanted to be more involved with bringing light to our community about this unbelievable gem right here in our backyards. 


Being a part of a non profit is not a cakewalk.  There are so many amazing non profits out there doing good work and looking for people to support that work. There is no denying that horses are expensive. They are immense, beautiful, messy, needy creatures - but they do therapy like no one else. I might not be able to personally write a big fat check to support EAD, but I can write lots of small ones and use my energy to educate others about the services that can only come from these animals. 


When I'm not thinking about how to help EAD, or working with my incredibly amazing students, I can be found in my garden learning about dirt and plants and bugs, hiking in the woods, or somewhere near a body of water with my loving family and friends.


Mikala Vanderband - EAD Board Member


Was voted onto the Board of Directors in 2020. Mikala is the daughter of the founder of EAD, and has had the privilege to watch a dream and vision become a reality and impact the lives of thousands. Through this experience of volunteering in different programs and doing horses her entire life, she brings a unique skill set to the Board in a fundamental way. Her youth also speaks to the generation EAD is most often in contact with and gives insight and intuitive observations for growth in our vision.