Executive Director and Coach
Since 2013, while volunteering at a West LA residential treatment program, Leslie has coached hundreds of people in their first year of sobriety across the finish line of the LA Marathon. She saw first hand how life changing the experience was for the participants. In 2018, she could have retired from a 30+ year career in healthcare consulting, and taken life easy. Instead, she decided to start Strides in Recovery to bring the healing power of exercise to more addiction recovery communities.
Today, in addition to leading Strides in Recovery, she still coaches the LA Marathon Team, as well as several of the Strides in Recovery teams.
Michelle, Founder of PACT (aka Girls PACT), is a professional life coach specializing in self-worth, limiting beliefs, self-talk, relationships, communication, and wellness. She is recovering from perfectionism. It’s been a long and windy road, but she acknowledges (most of the time) that she is lovable, despite all her imperfections. She found strength in her pain and ultimately created PACT to love others until they could love themselves.
Michelle values physical activity and integrates movement in her daily life. Strides in Recovery provides the opportunity to share her enthusiasm for self-love and recovery.
Hannah Bonaparte, LCSW
Hannah is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in addiction recovery since 2014 and has been running for over a decade. Hannah first started running as a child with her father who is now 20 years sober. She came to truly love the sport as she learned how cultivating her physical strength and stamina positively affects her mental health.
In addition to working with the Strides in Recovery team and running her own therapy practice on the Westside, Hannah facilitates groups in addiction treatment centers around LA. She is a two-time marathoner and one-time half-marathon and hopes to complete more races in the coming years if her joints cooperate.
Devin gained an understanding of the importance of movement and healthy habits for those working on their sobriety when one of his family members was struggling with addiction. He knew he wanted to get involved with a program dedicated to helping individuals work toward the life they want through exercise.
He has worked as a classroom teacher, soccer and basketball coach and has spent the last 5+ years as a trainer in EdTech and FinTech. In addition to running around the house with his young twins, he runs 50Ks and marathons. He believes working up a sweat outside, whether on a trail or on pavement, hiking or running, can be used as a great tool for supporting sobriety.
Alex is a trail runner with race experience ranging in distances from 5k to 50k. He primarily trains in the Angeles National Forest that overlooks the San Gabriel Valley. “Running has been such an amazing transformative tool in my own life and I love that I have the opportunity to help other reach their goals using those tools and skills.”
Alex has become a coach with Strides because he is a firm believer in everything the organization stands for and the positive help it brings the members. Alex’s philosophy is whether he sees you on the roads or on the trails all miles are good miles.
Sober since 2017, Jackie does stand up at major comedy clubs all over the globe as well as at recovery centers, jails, hospitals, and institutions. You may have seen her on Adult Swim’s "The Eric Andre Show", Last Comic Standing, or Comedy Jam on Showtime; but what Jackie says she is most proud of is her sobriety.
Fitness is also a big part of her life in recovery. “My mind doesn't fully wake up unless I am moving, so getting to run with newly sober people and help them get excited about life is beyond rewarding. I love working with people who are newly sober and helping them find their own passion. I know this work will have a beautiful ripple effect."
As a member of her college cross country team, Elaine embraced running as a coping skill that helped her deal with her emotions and inner pain, and as a release for everything she was dealing with at the time. “It molded me to become a stronger person overall. It is a tool that makes me mentally stronger and sound-minded to push toward my goals.” As a coach, she enjoys supporting people’s journey to sobriety, and for creating a space for empowerment, connection and education about sober living.
Elaine is currently studying toward her Masters in Social Work while working in the mental health field with youth and families.
“Movement has always been part of my healing journey,” Samantha explains. She comes from a family that has struggled with drugs and alcohol, and has had her own battles. Yoga helped her build a stronger connection with her body and overcome personal struggles surrounding her own self-worth. She is passionate about exercise and breathwork and believes that movement is medicine.
As a coach and yoga instructor, she hopes “to inspire by sharing my story, educate on the importance of breathwork and movement, and be a supportive ally for their healing journey.”
My love for running started when I participated in club track & field at a young age. I continued running throughout high school earning a college athletic full-ride scholarship. Throughout running I have always felt it made me a strong-minded person that could achieve anything I put my mind to.
Now I continue to work out daily and coach friends of mine. I also enjoy helping my community through working at many nonprofit organizations. I encourage people to get involved in any type of exercise because it can help improve every part of ourselves, we thought we couldn’t change.
Coaching for Strides will allow me to continue to help give inspiration and motivation to individuals to achieve anything they put their minds to.
Running cross country in high school, Ethan realized the sense of accomplishment that came from running just 3 or 4 miles. And the gratitude for what his body was capable of helped him believe that it deserved to be taken care of. "It's my desire to help people see their bodies as beautiful and strong, and I hope that message seeps into their mind as well."
As a writer in the entertainment industry, coaching provides Ethan an opportunity to get out of his own head and connect with people in a more authentic way.
No matter how many things change in my life, being active is the constant. I grew up playing baseball, basketball, soccer, beach and indoor volleyball. All at the competitive level. As well on the fitness side, I am a certified personal trainer and have been a beach volleyball coach for years. Coaching and helping is big for me!
Athletics has dominated my life, but now I’m also pursuing a career in music. I play guitar, bass, drums, and piano and perform as the rhythm guitar player in an up and coming rock band called Classless Act. Coaching for Strides allows me to pursue my passion for fitness as well as motivate people to better themselves through movement.
We couldn't do what we do without the support of our dedicated volunteers. Our assistant coaches show up every week to make sure everyone feels supported, welcome, and included, regardless of level of fitness. No matter what pace someone is going, a volunteer is there to offer uplifting conversation and make sure that nobody moves forward alone. We also have people who give their time behind the scenes, keeping everything running smoothly, from social media to accounting and more.
If you would like to volunteer with Strides in Recovery, click here
Jo Ann Stupakis
Jo Ann is a retired Executive Secretary who joined the Strides in Recovery team during a pivotal time in her life. The COVID pandemic hit right after she retired, and at the same time, her son who struggled with drug addiction entered a drug treatment program. She needed an outlet during this time of uncertainty, and discovered Strides in Recovery through LA Works.
She loves working with the volunteers and coaches and gains a tremendous sense of peace knowing that programs such as this are available to those who struggle with addiction. Her son has been clean since 2020 and activity has been a big part of his recovery. She is an avid walker and lives in La Crescenta with her husband, Alex.
Community Outreach Coordinator
I grew up playing soccer and by junior high, I realized that my favorite part of soccer was running. My favorite memories of high school are running on the cross country and track teams. Through college, adulthood, pregnancies and motherhood, running has been not just for physical fitness but also mental fitness. I say over and over again that running has saved me from what I could have been.
With a background in public relations and psychology, I am passionate about helping children stay physically and mentally strong. I am happy to be a part of Strides in Recovery because I know first hand the psychological benefits of that famed runner's high and setting and achieving running goals. I am proud to be a part of this team and support sobriety one stride at a time.
Board of Directors
Leslie is an RRCA-certified running coach who specializes in training the newly sober. She began this second career in 2013 as the volunteer coach of a Los Angeles Marathon team comprised of residents, alumni, and community supporters of a West LA residential addiction treatment program. Since then, Leslie has helped hundreds in their first year of sobriety cross the finish line of the Los Angeles Marathon, as well as numerous shorter distance runs. Inspired by the many participants who described the experience as life-changing and critical to their long-term sobriety, she started Strides in Recovery to bring the healing power of goal-oriented group training to other recovery communities. Prior to starting Strides in Recovery, Leslie spent three decades leading clinical and financial performance improvement projects, implementing decision support solutions, and developing evidence based clinical practice guidelines for hospitals across the US. She holds an MBA from UCLA and a BA from the University of Virginia. She is also a long-distance runner and cyclist.
Hillary spent the first seven years of her career in the New Zealand Foreign Service, gaining a first-hand understanding of world trade, politics, and media relations, and developing experience in consensus building while incorporating the interests of all stakeholders in negotiations. She spent the next 30 years in the global produce industry, first as the North American Manager for New Zealand Kiwifruit. Later, as the Senior VP of Marketing and Strategic Development for Guimarra Companies, she helped grow the organization to one of the largest produce companies in North America while gaining a deep understanding of what is needed to build and operate a complex, diversified global business. She holds a BA and MA from the University of Auckland. Hillary’s passion for exercise to support long term sobriety began when her brother, who now has over 30 years of sobriety and nearly died of an overdose, embraced running and cycling as part of his recovery. Since retiring in 2018, Hillary has been the assistant coach for several Strides in Recovery teams.
Nicole Kirkorian Elmes
Nicole is Sr. Director, US Market Operations in Strategy & Operations at DoorDash. Previously, she was Vice President of Sales for Disney Consumer Products, Games and Publishing, focusing on maximizing sales and profitability by building and executing on strategy across distribution channels for Disney Publishing Group. Nicole held several positions at The Walt Disney Company for 16 years--most recently as Director, Catalog Strategy & Account Planning at Disney Media Entertainment Distribution, where she led sales, operations and account strategy for all Disney and 20th Century Fox movies and television. Prior positions include Product Management, New Product Strategy and Finance at The Walt Disney Studios. Before working at Disney, Nicole spent 4 years as General Manager of Viva Media, a privately owned company dedicated to publishing high quality software for children and family entertainment, based in New York City. In addition to her MBA from Pepperdine University, Nicole holds a BFA in Acting from New York University. She is also an avid runner.
Jennifer Ross Harned
Jennifer Harned is currently Chief Financial Officer at BOOM! Studios, playing a key strategic leadership role while directly overseeing the company’s finances and human resources. Prior to joining BOOM!, Jennifer acted in a consultative capacity as a fractional executive in a variety of early stage, entrepreneurial environments (tech, beauty, consumer electronics, and sporting goods industries). She previously held progressive leadership positions in the outdoor industry across general management, finance, and operations at companies including Easton-Bell Sports, BRG Sports, and Vista Outdoor, with earlier positions at THQ, Guitar Center, and Deloitte & Touche. As a leader, Jennifer provides an entrepreneurial mindset, change leadership, and strategic vision for establishing business foundations that enable rapid, sustainable growth. Jennifer has an MBA, Honor Society from UCLA, and she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accountancy & Computer Applications, with a concentration in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics, cum laude from the University of Notre Dame.
Strides in Recovery works because so many people and community organizations have gotten involved, with each contributing in their own way. They say it takes a village, and we agree. Together we are stronger.
Addiction Treatment Providers: Working side by side with our treatment provider partners, we lead running/walking groups for their clients. Whether they are supporting the program by being part of the walks/runs or encouraging clients from behind the scenes, they are essential to the success of the program and the impact on the participants.
Grantors, Sponsors and Donors: Financial support is the other key to program success. Our generous grantors, sponsors and donors all help us support sobriety, one stride at a time.