Meet the Staff of Peace River Wildlife Center
Tricia LaPointe – Executive Director
Originally from the La Crosse, Wisconsin area, Tricia and her husband Kevin fell in love with Punta Gorda in 2016 and made it home in 2020 after moving from the Chicago suburbs. She attended Viterbo University in La Crosse and graduated in 1995. She spent the last 27 years as a development professional with various not-for-profit organizations in Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida. Her career has focused on building foundation, corporate and individual donor relationships. While she has worked for organizations that assist individuals and families in reaching their full potential, her true passion has always been animals. At 10 years old, she began volunteering at local humane societies and is currently on the board of directors of the Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County.
Fun Fact: Tricia has been to Walt Disney World 22 times but only once since moving to Florida. She has performed in Disney’s Magic Music Days and she and Kevin were married at Disney World.
Robin Jenkins – DVM, Director of Veterinary Services
A 1996 graduate of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Robin Jenkins has spent most of her professional career in service to non-profits. She has worked with animal shelters trying to improve the health and adoption rates of homeless cats and dogs. She volunteered with Peace River Wildlife Center since 2004 in every capacity from cage cleaner to gift shop clerk, from surgeon to Executive Director. Dr. Robin has been the Director of Veterinary Services since 2016. Releasing healthy animals back out into the wild is her favorite activity, but she also enjoys working with the resident non-releasable birds as an education ambassador.
Fun Fact: Dr. Robin’s favorite quote is by a fictional serial killer: “Hang on to your dreams with everything you got. Because the best life is when your dreams come true. The second-best is when they don’t but you never stop chasing them.” — Serge A. Storms
Stephanie Garrone – Gift Shop Manager
Although a Fort Myers native, Stephanie has done quite a bit of traveling in her life. In 1986, Stephanie began her career in the retail world as the Visual Merchandise Manager for Macy’s in Atlanta, Georgia. After 10 years, she traveled on to Pittsburgh as Macy’s Regional Director, then to Memphis, Birmingham, Indiana, and then back to Atlanta. After leaving Macy’s, Stephanie went on as the Visual Merchandise Director for Belk in Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2019, Stephanie started as a volunteer in the gift shop at PRWC, in 2020 she began as the Gift Shop Manager. In her free time Stephanie enjoys gardening, designing jewelry, and boating with her husband.
Fun Fact: Stephanie was a Trickster on the Florida State University Water Skiing Team!
Tammy Gerringer – Operations Manager
In April of 2017, Tammy left cold winters and her 20 year career in healthcare administration behind and moved to Punta Gorda to become a full-time Floridian. A lifelong resident of North Carolina, Tammy, along with her husband, Andy decided it was time to head south for warmer temperatures, palm trees and sunnier weather. While taking long walks down to Ponce de Leon Park and trying to figure out the next steps in her life, her path led her by the Peace River Wildlife Center. In November 2017, she began volunteering as a habitat cleaner. As luck would have it, an opportunity to move out of the animal enclosures and into the office as an administrator and volunteer coordinator presented itself in July 2018. Now healthcare administration takes on a new perspective for her as part of the PRWC team. When she is not at PRWC, she enjoys boating with Andy, keeping in touch with her four sons and binge watching BBC shows.
Fun fact: Tammy is a Certified Specialist of Wine. She loves to learn and teach others about wine and especially enjoys the homework!
Jessika Weichler – Administrator
After spending the early part of her childhood traveling as an Air Force kid, being born in Texas and spending five years in Germany, as well as some time in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Jessika has mostly established her roots in SWFL. For the remainder of her childhood, she grew up in Port Charlotte and graduated from Port Charlotte High School. You could always find Jessika on the stage performing in musicals and group music performances throughout her high school career. Now she enjoys doing local karaoke when time allows. She spent many years working at Publix before deciding to stay home and raise her five children, who now range from ages 16 years old to 4 years old. Although she has never worked with wildlife before, she is very excited to start such a rewarding career with PRWC and looks forward to all of the learning and open possibilities that come with the position.
Fun Fact: Jessika is an avid swimmer and was captain of the swim team in high school where she enjoyed racing in the long distance event called the 500 Freestyle.
Sandy Wright – Administrator
Sandy grew up in St. Louis Missouri. She left in 1979 and headed west to Arizona and then on to Nevada. She found herself missing the green landscapes and had taken up scuba diving in Lake Mead so she and her husband left the desert and moved to Homestead Florida in 1990, just in time to see their first hurricane, “Andrew” in 1992. After brief moves to West Palm Beach and the Florida Keys she accepted a job with Charlotte County Government and moved here in 2005. Sandy spent all of her adult working life in what is known today as I.T. and helped design Charlotte County’s first online employment application while working in the Human Resources Department. In 2015, while working at the county and after volunteering, her dream of working with animals came true and she started working part time at the Animal Welfare League as a Kennel Technician in the cat hospital. She continued working there on into her retirement until she joined PRWC in July 2019. She is now working as the Sunday Office Administrator where she takes calls and coordinates animal rescues and pickups.
Fun Fact: Sandy and her husband Glenn love to fish and dance. If there’s music playing and they are in the vicinity, you will very likely get to see some of their fancy foot work!
Cameron Brady – Development Manager
Less than five months before Hurricane Ian graced Fort Myers and southwest Florida, Cam, his wife Marnie (an open-heart ICU RN) and their two long-haired male rescue cats moved to Florida to finally escape Michigan winters. They have since adopted two female ‘hurricane cats’ rescued to complete their family in Fort Myers.
Having spent twenty years working for and leading a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Saginaw County, Michigan (and merging with Shiawassee County in 2014), Cam decided a new career was in order and served as a Construction Superintendent primarily on school projects. Service to those in need of safe and adequate shelter remains a passion while now advocating for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Cam and Marnie enjoy camping, hiking, kayaking, fishing, boating, Jeeping and are learning a vast number of new bird names, fish names, tree names and place names.
Fun fact: Cam once rode a rollercoaster for almost 17 hours to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. His record on The Serpent remains intact.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialists
Valerie Wolfrey – Curator of Exhibits
Valerie started volunteering with PRWC in 1996 with rescuing wildlife. In 2014, she started volunteering in the hospital and was hired as a Rehabilitator in May of 2015 and is currently our hospital manager. She previously worked at Punta Gorda Animal Hospital from 2005 – 2016, and in the veterinary profession for over 14 years. She graduated from Desoto High School, has taken a few college courses as well as numerous veterinary continuing education courses. Her favorite part of the profession is delivering compassion and loving care to her patients. She has loved and cared for animals her whole life and truly loves what she does! In her spare time she enjoys going kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, and gardening. She has nine dogs, four cats, six birds, and two horses. Her outdoor activity partner is Goldie, a rescued long-haired Dachshund who enjoys hiking as well!
Fun Fact: Although not a hoarder, Valerie has had 65 rescue animals on her farm during the course of her marriage, with 25 animals currently — a mix of dogs, horses, cats, and birds.
Katie Allen – Assistant Curator of Exhibits
Born and raised in New Windsor, Maryland, Katie always had a passion for animals. Growing up she would always be volunteering at rescues and she eventually completed an internship at a zoo. This led to her earning her B.S. in Zoology at Juniata College in 2021. After graduating, she went on a research expedition to the Florida Everglades in the heat of August. There, Katie fell in love with Florida wildlife (and the warmth). So, when PRWC offered her a job doing what she loves, she packed her bags and traveled over 1,000 miles to Florida. In her free time, Katie loves outdoor activities such as swimming and kayaking. She also loves to travel and is hoping to see as much of the world as possible.
Fun Fact: Katie once embarked on a research expedition to the Amazon Rainforest in Peru where she worked with pink river dolphins!
Jessica Malasics – Assistant Curator of Exhibits
Jessica was born and raised in Englewood, Florida and always knew she wanted to work with animals. Her passion led her to go to college in Unity, Maine where she majored in Wildlife Biology. After graduating, she came back home and started working for a veterinary hospital as a veterinary technician. She has been working with Punta Gorda Animal Hospital since 2014 and the PRWC since 2017. At home, she has two dogs, two cats, and a mini pig named Penelope.
Fun Fact: Jessica has a huge passion for wolves so much that when Unity College sent her a pamphlet of a girl petting a wolf she knew that was where she wanted to go.
Justin Knode – Assistant Curator/Maintenance
Justin was born in Fairplay, Maryland and lived on a farm most of his childhood. He really didn’t fall in love with animals until he was old enough to start exploring in the woods where he soon discovered how wonderful wildlife could be. When Justin moved to Florida in 2020, he enrolled in a veterinary assistant program. To complete his program, Justin worked an externship at Peace River Wildlife Center. Because of his hard work and excellent care of the residents, PRWC brought him on staff as an Assistant Curator & Maintenance Supervisor. Even though he has finished his schooling, Justin continues to expand his knowledge of wildlife care daily.
Fun fact: Justin worked as a painter for three years.
Cassie Tessier — Rehabilitation Manager
Cassie was born in Pittsburgh, PA and shortly after moved to Jupiter, Florida. After growing up in Florida, volunteering for wildlife centers and attending summer camps at Busch Wildlife, she traveled a bit north to Rome, Georgia where she attended Berry College and received a Bachelors Degree in Animal Science with a minor in Chemistry. Cassie worked at Busch Wildlife for a year and a half, then to Treasure Coast Wildlife for another year and a half. She returned to Busch Wildlife and worked for as the Volunteer Coordinator for another year and a half. After nearly five years she found her way to Peace River Wildlife Center as a Rehabilitator. With a love for wildlife from a young age, Cassie always knew she wanted to work in this field. She has quite the assortment of pets at home as well, ranging from 2 rabbits, 3 cats, 2 tortoises, and a Ball Python.
Fun Fact: Cassie is an Apprentice Falconer and has worked with birds from Kestrels to Eagles!
Scarlett O’Berry – Wildlife Rehabilitator
Scarlett is a seventh-generation Floridian who grew up exploring the outdoors of central Florida. She started volunteering at PRWC in 2015 which encouraged her love of wildlife to grow and led her to the decision that she wanted to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator. Scarlett previously worked at the Animal Welfare League as an animal care specialist. Scarlett’s hobbies include reading, writing, hiking, and creating culinary masterpieces for Pacino the Opossum. She also enjoys entertaining people with all the bizarre, hilarious stories that could only come from working at a wildlife center. At home, she cares for five bantam roosters, three cats, and two fish.
Fun Fact: Scarlett rescued the resident male red-tailed hawk on display at PRWC after finding him injured on the side of the highway.
Jennifer Boss – Wildlife Rehabilitator
Jennifer was born and raised in North Fort Myers, a true Southwest Florida native! She graduated Southern Technical College with a degree in Veterinarian Assisting. After school, Jennifer started as an extern at Peace River Wildlife Center in 2021 and shortly after transitioned to an Assistant Rehabilitator. She has always had a love for animals and even worked at a Havanese dog breeding facility before moving into wildlife. She loves spending time with her husband, 4 children, and dog, Nova. They love to go camping, bowling, and swimming.
Fun Fact: It scares Jennifer’s husband how much she loves crime movies.
Kevin Barton – Assistant Wildlife Rehabilitator
Although I am a proud new Peace River Wildlife Center employee, I am not new to the organization. I have had the pleasure of being their networking partner, occasional raptor re-nest volunteer, and a huge fan for my entire 23-year career in wildlife rehabilitation. Having grown up in Venice, Florida, my first exposure to wildlife rehabilitation was a group called Amber Lake Wildlife Refuge of Englewood, which was a big influence on my life. My first job in the field was at the former Pelican Man’s Bird Sanctuary of Sarasota, starting back in 1998. I worked in their hospital for 5 1/2 years, leaving as the last hospital manager and head of rehabilitation under its founder Dale Shields, “The Pelican Man”. In 2004, I co-founded the Wildlife Center of Venice, acting as executive director, as well as the state and federal fish and wildlife rehabilitation permit holder until leaving in early 2018. Currently, I work full time at Loving Care Animal Hospital of Englewood Wednesday thru Sunday and of course, you can find me at PRWC on Mondays and Tuesdays. Happy to be part of the team.
Aria Marcellino – Assistant Wildlife Rehabilitator
Born and raised in the Great Lakes region, Aria found her passion for wildlife in high school after rescuing a neglected classroom pet green iguana. She nursed the iguana back to health for two years before finding him a forever home. During the winter of 2019, Aria moved down to Punta Gorda, Florida to pursue her dream of becoming an exotic animal veterinarian (the warmth and sunshine were a bonus, too!). As soon as she moved into her new home, she applied to volunteer at PRWC. Aria volunteered in the hospital for a year before coming on as an Assistant Rehabilitator. At home, she has a cat, a hedgehog, and two bearded dragons, on top of her roommate’s three rats and three dogs.
Fun Fact: Aria is fluent in Dothraki, the horse lord language from the HBO series, Game of Thrones.
Jasmine Martinez – Assistant Wildlife Rehabilitator
Jasmine was born and raised in Florida and has always been fascinated by the beauty of nature. While other kids were caught up on Disney Channel, Jasmine was enthralled by nature documentaries and how wildlife thrives. She graduated from Southern Technical College and was given the opportunity to apply at Peace River Wildlife Center. Before she knew it, she was hired and living her dream. Jasmine has high hopes to grow in the field of wildlife medicine and hopes to one day make it to Africa for field research. In her spare time she loves kayaking and watching hockey.
Fun Fact: Jasmine is an extraordinary artist and graduated high school with her CNA, and Phlebotomy certificate.
Robert Warren – Maintenance Supervisor
Robert was born in Minster, KENT, ENGLAND and joined the Royal Navy at 16, becoming a fully qualified nuclear submariner at age 17. He spent seven years in the Navy but left after meeting his soon-to-be-wife on a trip to NATO’s missile firing base off Cape Canaveral, Florida. He immigrated to Vermont, where he and his wife raised 2 children. He has had a varied career as an electrician, furnace repairman, odd job man, theatre set builder, and most important, “Mr. Mom” duties when the children were small and in grade school. Above all, Rob is a fisherman. He doesn’t mind what kind of fishing it is- ice fishing, deep-sea fishing, surf casting, from a kayak or walking through muddy brooks, looking for that rainbow trout prize!
Rob and his wife vacationed in Florida for several years before deciding to purchase a house for retirement in Punta Gorda Isles. Rob came down from Vermont and as he was getting the house ready for a rental, realized that after spending over 30 years there, the cold winters of Vermont were enough. Okay, it was REALLY his wife who wanted to move here full time, but being an amenable soul, Rob agreed to move. They have been here since February 2019. Rob began volunteering at PRWC in February and has become very fond of the inhabitants.
Fun Fact: He is an awesome cook- he loves to bake cookies and makes wonderful caramels, truffles and other treats for Christmas. You will consider yourself lucky if you get to taste them!