Recognizing Ashley Tsai & Nelson Lin: Pillars of Change Honorees

For organizing the annual 500-mile “Sanctuary ride”, raising thousands for Sanctuary for Families, and for their in-office volunteerism and additional fundraising for over five years.

This year, we are honoring Ashley & Nelson for organizing the annual 500-mile Sanctuary Ride, raising thousands for Sanctuary for Families, and for their in-office volunteerism and additional fundraising for over five years.


A message from Lisa Mueller, Director of Development & Communications at Sanctuary for Families


Riding alongside Ashley & Nelson – A testimony by John Wyeth, Director of Institutional Giving at Sanctuary for Families.

Learn more about Sanctuary Ride:

See highlights from their latest trip: 

Recognizing Caitlin Hickerson: A Pillars of Change Honoree

For her exceptional leadership of student volunteers from Horace Mann School, and over 15 years of dedicated volunteerism.

Over the past fifteen years, Caitlin Hickerson has been an avid supporter of Sanctuary for Families. She started volunteering with Sanctuary’s Annual Benefit, helping with the planning and set- up for our biggest annual fundraiser. Since then, Caitlin has continued to be a fierce supporter of Sanctuary – donating her time and resources in support of our staff and clients.

“Caitlin is a donor, a volunteer, a fundraiser, and an incredible team member.”– Amy Abramson, Director of Individual Giving.

Caitlin is a teacher at Horace Mann School, a private preparatory school located in the Bronx, where Sanctuary has a longstanding and multi-faceted relationship. For almost 30 years, the school has hosted an annual winter holiday party for over 150 Sanctuary clients. Each year, the event includes transportation for clients, activities, music, a delicious meal, and gifts for all. Emily Lo Bue, Director of Volunteer Relations remembers a few years back when there was a chance that the holiday might not happen. “When Caitlin found out, she immediately jumped into action, took the party under her leadership and has continued to make it better each year”.

Caitlin also works hard, in her role as Service Learning Coordinator at Horace Mann, to strengthen and grow the students’ connection to Sanctuary for Families. She hosts assemblies for the students to hear about Sanctuary, how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship, and connect with survivor leaders. Additionally, Caitlin was instrumental in the success of Sanctuary’s Annual Survivor Leadership conference this year and made it possible for the large event to be held at Horace Mann. Assembling a team of colleagues and staff at the school who handled everything needed for the conference and more.

“Caitlin is a very special person. She is someone I’ve been lucky to work alongside and call a friend for many years, she brings joy to our clients and staff alike, and I’m thrilled for Caitlin to receive an honor so deserved.” — Emily Lo Bue, Director of Corporate & Volunteer Relations

We thank Caitlin for her amazing commitment to Sanctuary for Families! Her impact is longstanding and dynamic, and cannot be fully captured in words!


Recognizing Dianna Scotece: A Pillars of Change Honoree

For creating the first survivor-led and trauma-informed strength training program, and raising funds for Sanctuary through her “Women of Iron” event.

Over the past year, Dianna has worked alongside Sanctuary for Families’ Survivor Leaders to create the first trauma-informed, strength training program -an innovative treatment modality focused on healing from trauma. When the program started, the goal was to see whether strength training and weightlifting could help survivors connect with their bodies, reclaim their power, and heal from trauma and PTSD.

Before committing her time to Sanctuary, Dianna worked for over 25 years within the fitness industry. She created Her Strength, a program dedicated to promoting the benefits of strength training for women over the age of 50. As a long time supporter of Sanctuary, Dianna hosted an annual event, Women of Strength, where money was raised in support of Sanctuary.

Having already done so much for Sanctuary, Dianna reached out with an idea to create a wellness program for Sanctuary clients that could utilize both her skills as a fitness instructor and connections across the city. Sanctuary’s team of Survivor Leaders had just created a committee to focus on its very own Wellness Project, so Dianna connecting with Sanctuary at that moment seemed meant to be!

Dianna collaborated with Sanctuary and mobilized a team of fitness instructors to help create the trauma-informed program, and offered six weeks of free sessions to Sanctuary’s Survivor Leaders. The Survivor Leaders Institute is an innovative program that trains former Sanctuary clients, who have been out of their abusive situations for approximately one year, to provide information about gender-based violence to the community. Survivor Leaders are living examples of how victims can recover their health, power, and self-esteem through seeking help and supporting one another.

While creating the program, Dianna understood the collaborative process and valued everyone within the project.

“I think one of Dianna’s greatest strengths is that she truly sees survivors as equals and values their voices. As gender-based violence is rooted in the abuse of power and control, it was imperative that this project centered on shared power, collective decision-making and co-creation, and Dianna got it.” — Shobana Powell, LCSW, Director, Survivor Leadership Program.

Shobana Powell was delighted to honor Dianna for all of her work this year.“Dianna should be recognized because she is the perfect combination of empathy and excellence. Because she values our clients and our mission and because of who she is as a person, she showed up 100% in every single way.  Dianna was such an amazing volunteer to work with because no task was too small nor too big for her to take on, and yet, with all of her passion and tenacity, she managed to have great patience and grace in meeting each survivor where they were, never expecting anyone to move at her pace, but empowering them to move at their own. Her humility and humanity were beautiful to see.”

Carmen, one of the participants in the program, reflected on her time with Dianna and wrote,

“During one of our sessions I made a comment, in passing, about the fact that survivors are more than an incident in a lifetime of experiences and she got it. She not only got it, but weeks later, when I had forgotten the conversation she said something after the fundraiser she did that showed me that she had not only heard me, but had been thinking about it and was preaching it loudly and clearly to the uninitiated.”

Working with Dianna has filled everyone with light, positivity, and restoration.

We thank Dianna for her amazing commitment to Sanctuary’s staff and Survivor Leaders! Her impact reaches far beyond what can be captured in words.

Recognizing Gabrielle Marshall: A Pillars of Change Honoree

For over two years of steadfast support of children receiving services at Sanctuary’s transitional shelter and at the Bronx Family Justice Center.

Over the past two years, Gabrielle has worked within the Children and Family Services Program – both at Sanctuary’s large transitional shelter, Sarah Burke House, as well as the Bronx Family Justice Center. Most recently, Gabrielle has volunteered her time and talents with Sanctuary’s chapter of the Brooke Jackman Family Literacy Program that runs both in the fall and spring. The Brooke Jackman Program hosts several families each week and runs a series over eight weeks of activities that include: reading, arts & crafts and dinner.

Gabrielle is currently a Masters of Social Work student at Columbia University and came to Sanctuary as an intern with previous experience and academic knowledge that has been an asset to her work with children. Each Wednesday, Gabrielle works eight hours at her school partnered internship, volunteers with Sanctuary in the Bronx, and then attends classes shortly thereafter! We are so incredibly grateful for her dedication to the program and our clients.

With her experience and commitment, Gabrielle has become an invaluable part of the Brooke Jackman program. She easily connects with all of the families who attend the group.

“Her energy, willingness to be helpful, and engagement is always the same” — Waleska Tatis, Program Coordinator, Clinical Department’s Children and Family Services.

Gabrielle is also a very empowering voice for many of the children in the Program. She encourages everyone’s unique artistic style that really helps the children to build confidence. Waleska spoke fondly about a time when Gabrielle was able to connect with a particular child.

“During one of the cycles, we had 4-year-old boy, from a family of five, who wanted to be seen as older and independent although everyone in the family kept doing things for him. During an arts & crafts activity, Gabby was able to help him, without taking away his independent thoughts and will. The family acknowledged his skills, congratulating him, making him feel like a big boy instead of the baby of the house. He was super thankful, even his speech improved with his confidence.”

The Brooke Jackman program has been incredibly successful over the years, and it would not be possible without the help of volunteers like Gabrielle.

We thank Gabrielle for her amazing commitment to Sanctuary’s staff and clients! Her impact reaches far beyond what can be captured in words. The experiences, memories, and confidence she instills in the family participants will last long after the stories she reads to them each week.