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About Us


Samantha (Sam) Horwitz, Board Member

Sam is a 9/11 First Responder, former United States Secret Service Agent, speaker and author.


With her B.S. in Criminology and Criminal Justice, her J.D. from the Howard University School of Law, and experience as a Law Enforcement Officer, she has become an expert in handling stress and managing post-traumatic stress (PTS). She has spoken nationally to Law Enforcement, Veteran, business, and faith-based communities on how to recognize and combat the effects of PTS, how to minimize the damage stress can cause in the workplace, and how to support those who have PTS.

Sam’s been featured in People Magazine, on FOX, ABC, CBS, Blaze TV with Glenn Beck and in other local and national media. She is the author of The Silent Fall: A Secret Service Agent’s Story of Tragedy and Triumph After 9/11. Sam also serves on the board of  Heroes on the Water, and is the co-host of A Badge of Honor Podcast with John Salerno.

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Jeff Freeman, Board Member

Officer Jeff Freeman was selected as the 2007 Officer of the Year in Rowlett, TX. He has been a police officer with the department since August 1999 and has worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years.


Jeff has received 19 commendations and seven letters of appreciation during his tenure with the department. He was also recognized as the 2002 Officer of the Year.


Jeff holds an Advanced Peace Officer Certification. His special duties include crime scene, FTO training, and instructing.

He enjoys hunting, fishing, watching sports. Jeff has been instrumental in developing and instructing in-house training classes including mandated and specialized training. The classes have been made available and taught to outside departments and other personnel as well.

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John Salerno, Board Member

John Salerno is a 9/11 first responder, a retired NYPD Detective turned Comedian (aka- The Comedy Cop) and the host of A Badge of Honor Podcast.


Growing up in Long Island, John has spent most of his life as a first responder working as a Fire Fighter/EMT and retiring from the NYPD as a Detective. Working the rough streets of Brooklyn, John has seen his fair share of how bad things can get. But he has also seen and recognized the good.


Since his diagnosis of PTSD, he decided not to allow his condition to stop him from making a difference in others’ lives. John is dedicated to bringing awareness to the suicide epidemic plaguing our first responder community. We are overloaded with bad news; it is time to hear about the GOOD things!

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Steven Horwitz, DC, CCSP, CSCS, Board Member

Steve is a wellness and performance consultant.  His passion is to assist people (at any conditioning level) in obtaining an overall improved state of health and while increasing performance in any sport or competition type.  He has dedicated himself to both identify and overcome the true causes of health and performance issues, treating the source of the problem. Steve is the owner of Rockwall CPR & Dallas Sports Academy.

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John Edmonson, LPC-S, Director of Programs

John is the Director of Wellness and Life Coach at Healing Springs Ranch in Tioga, TX. He integrates preventative medicine, mindfulness, and experiential therapy with the Healing Springs Ranch holistic integrated treatment model.

John is a bilingual therapist, with a reputed talent for program planning and management. He takes the lead as an educator, trainer, and coach for both the medical and mental health clinicians, bridging the gap and integrating the innovative treatment approach at Healing Springs Ranch.

He has a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, minoring in Psychology and Communication at The University of Texas, and a Masters in Science in Counseling from Texas A&M. John is licensed with the state of Texas as a Counseling Supervisor and holds certifications as a K-12 teacher and school counselor.

He is passionate about making sure that his clients receive the proper treatment. He has firsthand knowledge that an ethical and holistic treatment approach improves the lives of the clients as well as their family, friends, and co-workers. John has made it his life’s mission to help people discover their purpose and recognize their potential. He does this by empowering both clients and those in the helping professions to be aware of their own need for self-care, and know their true potential. He coaches on how to move towards implementing that self-cultivation and spiritual insight into their lives.

He is a lifelong student of different cultures and languages and always at least one book going at any given time.  John is a connoisseur of coffee and enjoys the discovery of a new café, and he is on a quest for the world’s best veggie burger, all while enjoying the great outdoors.

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Debra (Deb) Shinder, Board Member

Debra Shinder was born and raised in the DFW area and has made her home in Rowlett since 2004. She was elected to the city council in May 2022. Prior to being elected, she served the City of Rowlett as a member of the bond committee, charter commission, the Board of Adjustment, and the Planning and Zoning Commission. She is active in the Rowlett Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Rowlett Professional Women’s Group.

Deb is interested and involved in all aspects of city government, with a special focus on public safety (police, fire, and emergency operations management), strategic planning and economic development, information technology and IT security, and animal services. Some of her current activities include:

  • Founded and chairs the public safety council subcommittee

  • Chairs the boards and commissions subcommittee

  • Chairs the court governance subcommittee

  • Serves on the government affairs subcommittee

  • Council liaison to the Rowlett Community Organizations Active in Disaster (RCOAD)

  • Serves on the Rockwall County Emergency Services Corporation board of directors

  • Serves on the Rockwall County Infrastructure Planning Coalition

  • Member of the Texas Municipal League’s broadband advisory committee

  • Member of the Rowlett Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

  • FCC licensed radio operator and member of the Rowlett1 Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES)

  • Council liaison to the Animal Shelter Advisory Board

  • Mayor’s alternate to the Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition

  • Member of the Rowlett Housing Finance Corporation board of directors

  • Member and Rowlett representative on the North Texas Crime Commission (NTCC)

  • Member of the NTCC Cybercrime Committee

As a councilmember, Deb’s priorities include keeping our city safe, making local government processes more business-friendly and more citizen-friendly, repairing or replacing aging infrastructure and facilities, and helping to guide Rowlett’s growth and future development in a way that preserves the hometown ambiance and quality of life while providing new amenities and opportunities that citizens want and need.

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Kirstin Battles, Research Analyst

Kirstin Battles is a recent graduate from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a Major in Psychology and a minor in Business Admin and Criminology. At UTSA she focused on the effects of TBI on college students and how it affects their cognitive function; specifically sleep quality using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Subsequently, as a Research Assistant at UTSA, Kirstin further explored the intersections of personality, stress, and response in the context of traumatic brain injury. This role allowed her to contribute significantly to a doctoral student's research, handling tasks like ECG monitoring, data entry, and administering the OSU-TBI-ID. Professionally, Kirstin has taken on the role of a Clinical Research Assistant at the Henry M Jackson Foundation (HJF). Here, she supports the Department of Psychiatry's efforts in studying PTSD among veterans and active-duty service members. Her responsibilities include database management, processing lab specimens, and assisting in various stages of clinical trials. Kirstin's dedication to TBI research and her role at HJF highlights her deep commitment to advancing our understanding of traumatic brain injuries and their impact on mental health. Kirstin is a volunteer with our organization as a Research Analyst assigned to track the outcomes of our Workshops using the positive psychology PERMA-V methodology.

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