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The Board

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Cheryl Wicks and 
Curt Romander, Founders

Beloved Sammie made such a powerful impact on Cheryl and Curt that they wanted to give back to the animal community by creating a non-profit dedicated to caring for and saving the lives of less fortunate animals. Starting in 2001 they made it their mission to completely change the lives of as many animals as they could. In that one year alone, they had created a volunteer program at the Nevada County Animal Shelter, and had spent over $30,000 of their own money to provide medical treatment for the animals that would otherwise be euthanized.  In 2004 they received non-profit status for Sammie's Friends so they could raise money to provide for medical care of the shelter animals.  In 2005 they expanded the program to provide medical care for animals in the community belonging to low income people who needed help to provide for their animals.


After Sammie's passing in 2007, they decided to make an even bigger impact to keep his spirit alive, and what better way to do so then run the shelter. They began the long journey and entered into negotiations with the county. In July of 2010, all of Curt and Cheryl's hard work had paid off and they signed a contract and began operating the Nevada County Animal Shelter.  Since that day in March of 2001, Cheryl and Curt and all that has become known as Sammie's Friends has saved the lives of 30,000 animals.  100's if not 1000's have joined in to help through volunteering, donating, providing goods, writing grants and planning events.   It's awesome and totally amazing.


In 2019 alone Sammie's Friends has provided medical treatment for more than 3,000 animals, and the euthanasia rate at the shelter is less than 1%! When they are not putting in countless hours saving the lives of under privileged animals, you can find these two enjoying time together,along with their 5-year-old pittie, Chula (Chu Chu for short).


Fran Cole, Executive Director

Fran is tour new Executive Director. She was formerly a partner in Diamond, Baker, Mitchell Cole, LLP in Grass Valley. Fran was an original dog walker at Sammie’s Friends in 2001 and has served as its legal counsel. She practiced business law in-house and in law firms and served as Chief Counsel, Charles Schwab Investment Management, Inc. and as Senior Vice President of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. in San Francisco.

Fran has devoted considerable energy to helping our community, advising a number of local nonprofits as their legal counsel and serving on several boards of directors. She has served on the Board of Directors of Bear Yuba Land Trust, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, Gold Country Trails Council, Nevada County Digital Media Center, the League of Women Voters and Rudiger Foundation.

She was also a Commissioner on the Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission. Fran received

the Colonel Lambert Award for community service in 2020.

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Cheryl Berg, President

While living in the Bay Area, a housemate surprised Cheryl with a gift of a purebred American Bulldog puppy which was related to the dog that played “Chance” in the 1993 Disney movie, Homeward Bound.  Cheryl became involved with several breed enthusiasts and the Working American Bulldog Club where she learned copious training tips, showmanship, a basic understanding of canine genetics, and a deep appreciation of working dog breeds.  That little bully-breed puppy grew up to compete in many Irondog events including weight pull, and to win many conformation titles, including Best Female and ABA National Conformation Champion.


In 1998, Cheryl moved to Nevada County with 3 cats & 2 dogs.  Cheryl Berg soon met Cheryl Wicks, who at the time was a volunteer at the Nevada County Animal Shelter and was just beginning her own journey that would eventually lead to the creation of Sammie’s Friends.  Wicks convincingly asked Cheryl if she would consider fostering a pittie mix that was petrified of the concrete floors at the Shelter facility.  That was the beginning of many foster dogs to come, each welcomed with loving arms, trained by the resident pets, and eventually placed in their “forever home”.  Cheryl’s focus changed from high-profile show dogs to advocacy for shelter animals and strays, especially the often-misunderstood bully -breeds.


Cheryl is a REALTOR with an interest in responsible land development and how humans, livestock, pets and wildlife can all co-exist.  She has consulted with several non-profit groups, and their employees, regarding real estate matters.   She negotiates steadfastly for her clients and brings a wealth of administrative, management and entrepreneurial experience to the table.


From the smallest reptile to the quietest cat or the most spirited canine, Cheryl wants them all to have happy and safe homes.  To that end, she is honored to serve on the Board of Directors for Sammie’s Friends, to help the organization continue its important mission, to encourage spay/neuter, and to spread animal-welfare education throughout the community.   


Miranda Leach, Board Member

Miranda Leach aka "Mandy" started her career in Animal Health in 2006 through the 49er R.O.P. program. She worked with Veterinarians Dr. Ron Rosner and Dr. Denny Nolet at Pine Creek Veterinary hospital starting as a kennel assistant at 18, cleaning kennels and walking the dogs. She quickly progressed to an enthusiastic and compassionate veterinary technicians assistant for the next 8 years. During this same time Miranda attended Sierra College majoring in English and History and volunteered with many of our local animal rescue organizations. In 2014 Miranda took a position with MWI Animal Health assisting veterinary professionals and MWI Territory Managers in California, Nevada, and Utah. Miranda is currently working with MWI Animal Health as a Territory Manager helping Veterinarians create healthier futures from the Sacramento area up to Redding Ca and doing relief work on the weekends at Pine Creek Veterinary Clinic when she can. Sammie's Friends has always been an organization that she has worked closely with and has been proud of advocating for. Miranda is looking forward to what she can bring to our organization as a board member with her years of experience in animal health and business combined. She and her husband Jon Viola live in Grass Valley with their adopted tabby cat Roman and their rescued dog Leighton.

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Michelle Seary, Board Member

Michelle retired after 30 years as a chemist and splits her time between Grass Valley and the Bay Area.  She is passionate about animal welfare, especially spay/neuter assistance for companion animals and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs for community cats.  Michelle and her husband enjoy outdoor activities and music, and share their home with a few formerly homeless felines.


Jan Fishler, Board Member

During her career, Jan Fishler has been a freelance writer, instructional designer, video producer, public speaker, and radio host. She’s also the author of four books including, Don’t Stop Now: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life. Jan has written articles on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for Vietnow National Magazine, and articles on alternative health for The Union newspaper. She’s hosted the Tell Me Something Good radio show on KNCO radio, and she’s served as board president and interim executive director for Nevada County Digital Media Center. Jan has also written grants for Hospice of the Foothills and Sierra Nevada Children’s Services. A life-long animal-lover, Jan is passionate about being on the board of Sammie’s Friends. 

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