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Our Coaches
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Leslie Gold
Founder, 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.

Coaches
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Jackie Monahan
Coach

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." 

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Jessica Martinez
Coach and Social Media Manager

Jessica became a coach with Strides in Recovery in April 2023.  She coaches two teams and is a Program Assistant with The Allen House (one of the LA CADA locations) during the day. She considers being a coach one of the most fulfilling experiences through and through.  She has learned so much and has shared many beautiful miles with so many wonderful people.   

 

She ran her first marathon in 2016 and did the New York Marathon in 2022.  When she is not running, she is spending time in the sun, enjoying coffee, doing yoga and reading.

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Hannah Bonaparte, LCSW
Coach

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.

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Julio Avalos
Coach

Julio began running with Strides in Recovery in February 2023 while in treatment and has continued running ever since. He now runs with multiple clubs, works as a personal trainer and became a Strides in Recovery coach in August 2023.

 

He enjoys showing people that “Exercise can help distract anyone from negative thoughts, clear their mind, and gain a different perspective for managing daily life stress or preventing negative outcomes.”  It also helped him lose nearly 100 pounds.

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Renée Santos
Coach

Renée Santos is an endurance athlete who spent 2 years recovering from a serious injury, and has over 10 years of sobriety. She uses these successes to inspire her teams to grow. “Once you make a decision to commit to a change,” she says, “it is a process for that unfolding, and working each week with these athletes to build their emotional and physical stamina has built both their commitment and mine. It’s been a beautiful experience.  My teams help me participate in my own recovery while I get to witness the transformation of other people’s rehabilitation too.” 

 

Renée is also a professional actress, journalist and stand-up comedian.

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Samantha Diaz
Coach

“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.”

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Maria Castillo
Coach

"I chose to coach with Strides in Recovery is because I have made it my mission to share the peace of mind, optimism and hope that fitness has brought to my life, with others. The experience of being able to provide a powerful tool to prevent relapses is centered around my love of helping others and my love of movement." Maria is also an ISSA certified personal trainer and the owner of the fitness and lifestyle brand "Flawed & Fit".  She has trained for brands and apps such as Fabletics, Nike/Jordan, NordicTrack, and Apple to name a few, and worked with celebrity clients like Grammy Award winning singer Tems, business mogul Angela Simmons, actress Vanessa Simmons, and TV personality India Royale. 

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Christina Green
Coach

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.

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Dane Pieper
Coach

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.

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Sean Walsh
Coach

Sean Walsh participated in Strides in Recovery when he was in rehab. As he recalls, “I made a commitment to myself and the staff to show up every week.  I didn't want to go in the beginning, I couldn't even run a mile the first time, but I "suited up and showed up" week after week and got better every day.  I didn't want to let anyone down, most of all myself.  I worked out all the time while in rehab, and felt a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence every time I was done.” Now, as a Strides in Recovery coach, he is grateful to be able to pay that forward and be part of something so beneficial to everyone else in the program, as well as himself.  He is also a chef at a local restaurant.

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Francine Moss
Coach

Francine became a coach in January 2024, but her relationship with Strides in Recovery began while in treatment. Because exercise has been a part of her life since her teenage years and she was aware of the many benefits, she eagerly participated in the weekly walks/runs, encouraged others to join in, and led her own workout sessions for her sober sisters during the other days. Reflecting on her new role, she says “It's kinda cool that I get to share my story with other residents, bond over the same experiences the women are going through, give advice, and encouragement.” She recently completed her training as a yoga instructor and looks forward to inspiring more people to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

Volunteers

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

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Program Support
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Jo Ann Stupakis
Volunteer Coordinator

Jo Ann is a retired Executive Secretary who joined the Strides in Recovery team during a pivotal time in her life, when she needed an outlet for the stress of uncertainty.  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 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.  While her son entered recovery in 2020, there have been many ups and downs along the way. She wants other to know that "It is a lifetime journey for both the person doing the recovery work as well as the family members."  She believes that she has to work on herself at the same time her son works his program.  Activity has been a huge component in the recovery process for both.

Program Support
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Jenna Campbell
Community Engagement Manager 

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 Members
Board
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Leslie Gold, Board Chair, 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 Brick, Secretary, 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 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 Harned, Treasurer, 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

Community Supporters
Community Supporters

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 and running shoe donations are the other keys to program success. Our generous grantors, sponsors and donors all help us support sobriety, one stride at a time.

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