Meet the Team
Our talented and dedicated team is passionate about empowering Veterans as they transition from military service to civilian life.
Chief Executive Officer and Founder
BJ Ganem leads the organization and coordination of all administrative functions for Sierra Delta. BJ is a natural leader whose personal experience with military-to-civilian transition influences his insight into what support veterans need when returning home.
Prior to becoming CEO of Sierra Delta in 2017, BJ's journey led him from the United States Marine Corps to nonprofit organizations such as the Semper Fi Fund. BJ joined the Marine Corps in 1996. At the end of his first enlistment, BJ left active duty but stayed in the ready reserves. While on active duty, BJ worked as a District Sales Manager for Kraft Foods. In May 2004, BJ's unit was called to serve in support of operations in Iraq.
On November 25, 2004, the vehicle BJ was driving was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device (I.E.D.). The attack left BJ with an amputated left leg, mild brain injury, and shrapnel wounds. Above all, the attack left BJ with the unprepared realization he would no longer be a Marine Infantryman in the fight for freedom.
After navigating the landscape of transition, BJ found his purpose in helping other men and women transition into society. He became an outspoken advocate for veterans and left a 10-year career at Kraft Foods to pursue helping veterans. BJ worked for Semper Fi Fund as an accredited Veteran Service Officer. This role allowed him to assist veterans by helping secure their federal and state benefits. BJ also ensured veterans received accurate discharges.
BJ graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Social Work with an emphasis on military life. Apart from his duties at Sierra Delta, he is captain of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football team (WWAFT). The father of four children, BJ and his wife Sarah live in Reedsburg, WI with their family and English bulldog.
Sean Downey is Sierra Delta’s Executive Director. Sean ensures our operations are streamlined and implemented so more Veterans and dogs are served.
Sean joined Sierra Delta as a board member and consulting COO in January 2020 while maintaining his role as CEO of Buddies Inc. My Buddy’s Place is a software company and online marketplace dedicated to improving the lives of animals and their pet parents. In October 2020, Sean accepted his role as Executive Director to dedicate his efforts to create a complete circle of customized training, community, and care for veteran-dog teams.
Sean has been an active entrepreneur in both his corporate and personnel life. After graduating from Rice University with a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship, he came to LA to start a unique journey. Since early in his career, from working with Simpson’s and Butterfinger to being a professional entertainer, he is always on a path less traveled.
Director of Veteran Programs
Mick Gillitzer is the Director of Veteran Programs for Sierra Delta. He is responsible for program management and strategic growth for Sierra Delta’s Alumni and Veteran Resource Development Programs. Mick retired from the Marine Corps after two decades of service and is passionate about empowering veterans to attain success.
Throughout his service, Mick has participated in five overseas deployments including two combat tours in Iraq. Later in his career, he provided non-clinical case management for wounded, ill, and injured service members since 2010 where he served as a District Injured Support Coordinator for the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment. Mick continued to strengthen the Veteran Community as a Veteran Lead with Semper Fi & America’s Fund and now with Sierra Delta.
Mick graduated from the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse with a B.S. in History and an M.S. in Organizational Development from Edgewood College. He also has an M.S. in Military History from the American Military University. Mick lives in Wisconsin with his two children and his Doberman named Nia.
Kyle Williams serves as Sierra Delta’s Marketing Specialist while also with the continued development of the Life Buddy Program. Joining the team in August of 2020, Kyle brings 8+ years of marketing experience to the team, having worked with over 20 different companies of various sizes and goals.
As Sierra Delta is his first non-profit marketing experience, Kyle is honored to have the chance to use his knowledge and talents to help empower our nation’s Veterans through the love of dogs. He is incredibly grateful for the sacrifice of all those that serve and has a deep love for dogs of all sizes.
Senior Application Support Technician
Logistical Manager & Master Trainer
Ivan Winder serves Sierra Delta as a Logistical Manager and Trainer.
Ivan is from Delaware, with a family history of working with animals. His father worked for Harness Horses and his mother had a big heart for stray animals. He grew up never knowing if he were to come home to a new cat or dog calling their house home. Ivan too began having a passion for animals regardless if it were a stray living at the house or a new one showing up at the stables.
Ivan joined the US Navy under the delayed entry program in July 1990. He spent the first 2 years deciding which career path was best. That path was realized when he inquired about the dog teams that were used to do inspections. In 04/1993 Ivan became Master-At-Arms and in 05/1996 he added the MWD NEC and never looked back.
After 20years of service, Ivan retired and signed on with a DOD Contract working abroad for 7 years in the K9 Field before returning to his family in the US.
Donna Kimbler is Sierra Delta’s Development Coordinator.
As an avid pet lover, Donna has been involved in rescue most of her life. She never met a dog or a cat she did not like.
Although Donna is not a veteran, she is the wife of an Army veteran and the daughter of a Navy pilot.
Donna pursued a degree in education from Houston Baptist University and then realized that she liked 4 legged children over 2 legged children, then deciding to attend the University of Georgia and work on a Masters of Animal Science.
She has been married for 34 years (he is an animal lover too) and has 3 grown children, who are also animal lovers.
Most recently, Donna worked at Blue Buffalo for 12 years and has a pet sitting business with her daughter. In addition to sitting dogs and cats they also sit reptiles and farm animals as well as exotics.
Social Media Manager
Katie works as Sierra Delta’s Social Media Manager, previously known as the Social Media Intern. She is responsible for raising awareness of the program, engaging with other nonprofits, and answering questions from the public through multiple social media platforms.
Prior to her role with Sierra Delta, she worked as a Marketing and Communications Systems Intern with Macco Financial Group.
Katie recently graduated Cum Laude from UW Oshkosh Honors College with an undergraduate degree in Digital Marketing. She was heavily involved with the school, serving as President of the ALD chapter (a volunteer-based program) on campus and as a member of the University Honors Student Association and the Marketing and Sales Club.
While not having served herself, Katie is the proud granddaughter of a Vietnam Airforce Veteran.
K9 Administrative Assistant
Katelyn White is a K9 Administrative Assistant and Application Support Technician. Although she is not a veteran herself, she has always been extremely passionate about serving veterans who have done so much for her, thanks to her grandfathers who both served. Katelyn loves Sierra Delta because she gets the opportunity to help such important people feel more comfortable and confident with their Life Buddy by their side. And, who doesn't love dogs? She have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know many service members in our program and hopes to continue helping make Sierra Delta's mission a reality every day!