Our Story

The genesis of Great Oak starts with the story of a boy, Alan Corey IV.  Alan enjoyed adaptive riding on Long Island, New York. More than 20 years ago, while visiting his father in Aiken, he asked if there was a similar program available.  When the answer was “No,” he questioned, “Why not?” That is when Specialized Therapeutic and Recreational Riding (STAR Riding) was born.

Today under the protective branches of a Great Oak, that dream is carried forward by a dedicated group of passionate individuals and reliable horses under the professional affiliation of PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship).  The future holds so many possibilities for unbridled success.

Our advantage is our knowledge and experience. We leverage our assets in  a state-of-the-art facility that is supported by generous contributions from many of our local patrons and students.

Over the last 15 months alone we have served over 200 unique individuals through creative programming, dedicated volunteers, certified instructors and our fantastic herd of award-winning GO Ponies. Great Oak now manages a facility that allows for transformative growth through equine assisted activities in all seasons.

We believe that riders aged 4 years and older with emotional, cognitive, and physical challenges will find that equine interaction may improve their condition. Prior to programming all potential participants must complete a screening session with Great Oak PATH certified staff. As we grow in our community and beyond, we look forward to the new adventures and journeys that our students will go on with us, and we know we cannot do it alone. It can take up to three volunteers and an instructor for reach individual session. We provide thorough training for volunteers assisting with therapeutic riding lessons, barn management, office administrative tasks, fundraising efforts, or community outreach.

Great Oak is located on a picturesque 40-acre farm five minutes from downtown Aiken, South Carolina. Aiken is among the foremost equestrian communities not only in the Southeast, but also in the nation. It seems imperative that Aiken should be home to one of the PATH certified riding programs. We share our expertise to empower individuals with special needs and their families. We aim to see our students discover a new relationship with the horses through thoughtful programs that guide and nurture the riders.

Simply put, we change lives. Help us build the next 20 years and beyond at Great Oak.

Great Oak is PATH Certified

The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.®), is a federally-registered 501(c3) nonprofit. The organization leads the advancement of professional equine-assisted services (EAS) by supporting its members and stakeholders through rigorously developed standards, credentialing and education. At 881 member centers, more than 66,000 children and adults, including 6,200 veterans, may find improved health, wellness and a sense of pride, independence and fun through involvement with horses. EAS at member centers may include therapeutic or adaptive riding, interactive vaulting, driving, adaptive equestrian sport, equine-assisted learning and therapy services. Through a wide variety of educational resources, the association helps individuals start and maintain successful programs and professional careers. There are nearly 62,500 volunteers, 5,011 instructors, 7,800 equines and thousands of contributors from all over the world helping people at PATH Intl. Member Centers.

Our Team

Board of Directors

  • Annie Groat

    Annie moved to Aiken from Chester Co, Pennsylvania, with her family in the 1980s. Growing up, Annie and her sisters enjoyed riding in Hitchcock Woods and going to local schooling shows. Annie is the daughter of Jeannie and Steve Groat, who were the founders of the Aiken Bluegrass Festival, which was established as a fundraiser

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    Annie Groat
  • Amy Weeks

    Amy moved to Aiken County in 1983 after graduating from The Ohio State University. She has worked for the Cumbee Center, Helping Hands and the Aiken Center for Alcohol & Other Drug Services. She is married to Solicitor-elect Bill Weeks. They live with their children, Megan and Little Bill, in Aiken. Megan is a longtime student

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  • Wendy O’Brien

    Past Chairman Wendy O’Brien is an accomplished equestrian with a lifelong dedication to equestrian disciplines, farm life, business ventures, and community causes. Her equestrian pursuits include Radnor Hunt Pony Club, horse showing, foxhunting, steeplechase racing, three day eventing, breeding and training. She is a competitive Combined Driver, and was on the U.S. Pony Team in

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  • Michael Sullivan

    Vice Chairman Michael Sullivan served on Great Oak’s predecessor board and he is interested in helping Great Oak grow to a scale sufficient to serve a broad population. Michael is a graduate of Williams College and he received his MBA from Vanderbilt University. After Michael graduated, his interest in finance took him back east, where

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    Michael Sullivan
  • Shawna Dietrich

    Vice ChairpersonShawna Dietrich grew up in Houston, Texas, “on the back of a horse.” When her family moved to Kentucky, she started showing hunters and jumpers in the Midwest, graduating into teaching and training on a professional level. Personal events led to a change of direction, and into the business world of equine insurance. Dietrich

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  • Bonnie Fulghum

    BonnieAnne Osbon Fulghum is a lifelong Aiken resident. She earned her bachelors degrees in speech communication and theater/vocal performance from the University of South Carolina and is currently working on finishing her master’s degree in special education. She grew up working in her family business, Triple O Printing Company, until it was sold. Bonnie and

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    Bonnie Fulghum
  • Jeannie Groat

    Jeannie grew up in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and attended Hiram College, studying history and art history, and performing in musical theater and concerts. Her marriage to Stephen Groat brought her to Aiken, where Steve taught at the Aiken Preparatory School and Jeannie studied at the University of South Carolina. In 1971, the Groats moved

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    Jeannie Groat
  • Mary Guynn

    Mary Guynn was born in Aiken. She received her undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and thereafter obtained her juris doctorate degree from Emory University. She is a partner in the law firm of Smith, Massey, Brodie, Guynn & Mayes, where she practices in the areas of residential and commercial real estate

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    Mary Guynn
  • Judy McConnell

    Judy McConnell joins Great Oak after 18 years of involvement at Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, including three years as the President.  She and her husband, Chuck, have three children and six grandchildren.  They retired to Aiken and reside in Three Runs Plantation with her two horses and Schnoodle.  Judy actively hunts

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    Judy McConnell
  • Tony Rickard

    Tony Rickard is a life-long resident of Aiken.  Many of you may recognize Tony from Osbon’s Laundry and Cleaners, which he owns along with his uncle and cousin.  Tony is also the President of the Western Carolina State Fair Foundation.  He has been married to his wife, Ashley for ten years and they have two

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    Tony Rickard
  • Jesse Waters

    Jesse Waters Jesse Waters has been a resident of Aiken since 2010 along with his wife, April, and two sons William and Jackson. Jesse attended the US Merchant Marine Academy with a congressional nomination from the Hon. Floyd Spence. Following his 2005 graduation, with a BS in Marine Transportation & a USCG 3rd Mate’s license, Jesse

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  • Lela Wulf

    SecretaryMs. Wulf brings over thirty years professional experience gained through assignments in Fortune 500 companies, not-for-profit and privately held enterprises, primarily in the healthcare industry. Responsibilities have included: financial and strategic advisory roles within payor/provider organizations, investment banking, valuation and consulting; and most recently in research administration. Her experiences with research administration provide key insights to

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  • Meghan Benge

    Meghan Benge comes to Great Oak as a lifelong equestrian who began her journey with horses at a therapeutic riding center, SIRE, in her hometown of Houston, Texas. After effectively graduating from the therapeutic riding center, Meghan competed with her ponies in hunter shows, then switched to driving. She was a Team Bronze medalist at

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  • Eva Finnan

    As a therapeutic riding instructor, Eva feels privileged to work with children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. As a young girl, she realized how incredibly special are and admired their ability to mirror what humans were experiencing and feeling. Additionally, the physical benefit of the sport of riding. Years later, after a

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  • Grace Flanders

    Grace Flanders is a lifelong North Augusta resident. She has grown up around horses most of her life and rode on the Lander University Equestrian Team. She received a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Lander University with a minor in therapeutic horsemanship. She is working towards becoming a certified PATH therapeutic riding instructor and can’t wait to start

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  • Nicole Pioli

    Executive Director Pioli has called Aiken home since 2016, along with her husband, two rescue dogs, cat, two miniature donkeys and horse.  She relocated from Myrtle Beach, where she was an avid volunteer and board member for a therapeutic riding program. With degrees in Public Health and Social Work, along with a love of horses, Nicole

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GO Ponies

View Great Oak’s 990s below


Great Oak Equine Assisted Programs 

Position Description: Bookkeeper 

Great Oak Equine Assisted Programs (Great Oak) is located on a 40-acre farm five minutes from downtown Aiken, South Carolina. The document below describes the position at this time. 

Great Oak’s mission is to provide equine assisted activities that promote the physical, emotional, and psychological health of individuals with special needs. 

Status: Independent Contractor 

Hours: Part-time (8-10 hours per month) 

Reports to: Executive Director 

Compensation: Range commensurate with experience 

Position Description 

The bookkeeper is responsible for assisting the Executive Director in their efforts to ensure long-term financial stability and enhance Great Oak’s ability to pursue its mission. The bookkeeper reports to the Executive Director, working with them to conduct day-to-day financial operations, provide financial data for grant applications, daily and monthly reports, and create and monitor the annual budget. 


• Perform all accounts receivable functions including invoicing, data entry, the donation system, deposits, and collections with appropriate internal controls 

• Perform all accounts payable functions, including timely bill, and payment processing • Prepare, analyze and summarize data as requested for grants, and other projects in conjunction with the Finance and Development Committees 

• Maintain an accurate record of all transactions in Quickbooks Online 

• Reconcile monthly bank statements for all accounts and provide to Executive Director when requested 

• Prepare monthly financial statements and others as required by Executive Director and Treasurer 

• Verify and pay invoices and maintain financial files 

• Assist with management of accounting, auditing, and budgeting within the organization • Reconcile accounting inaccuracies or imbalances 

• Monitor revenue generated from programs and donations 

• Provide clerical and administrative support to management as requested • Other duties as assigned 


• Excellent skills in math, accounting, and financial processes

Version 1.2: September 2, 2021 

• Ability to use Quickbooks Online and work efficiently in PC and Apple operating systems • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills 

• Strong critical, analytical, and problem-solving skills 

• Detail-oriented and highly organized 

• Skilled in time management and ability to prioritize tasks 

• Willing to work a flexible schedule to meet programming and staffing needs 

Experience Preferences 

• Bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or equivalent training 

• At least 3 years of experience in bookkeeping 

• Proficient knowledge in Quickbooks and Quickbooks Online 

At-Will Statement 

Great Oak Equine Assisted Programs reserves the right to modify, interpret, or apply job descriptions in any way the organization desires. The job descriptions in no way imply that these are the only duties, including essential duties, to be performed by the employee occupying this position.