MRT’s Team

DJ Jesser, LICSW
Farm Director and Founder

Inspired by her horses and working as a clinical therapist at a public alternative school for students with  emotional behavioral challenges, DJ established MoonRise Farm in 2002. She noticed how horses motivated and encouraged her students to view themselves in a new way. Students saw and were able to practice positive change in their lives through connection with the horses. In collaboration with Vermont Adaptive,  the program grew to serve hundreds of participants with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges. In 2018, she founded MoonRise Therapeutics (MRT), a non-profit community organization focused on mental health and wellness.

In addition to directing and growing non-profit,  DJ is a licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and offers direct  prevention and intervention services.  Her primary work focuses on anxiety, depression and issues from the impact of trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Her certifications include Gestalt Equine Institute of the Rockies, EMDRIA for level 1 and 2 as well as Equine-Assisted EMDR and PATH Intl (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) Registered Instructor and also Equine Specialist in Education and Mental Health. With forty years of experience in the counseling field, and a lifetime of experience with horses, she continues to share her passion and leadership in this work. On-going goals for DJ are to continue to learn from her horses and support positive and joyful connections of people to themselves, each other and the natural world.

Ben Fox, LCMHC
Clinical and Program Director, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Expressive Art Therapist, MRT Clinician

Ben Fox is a Licensed Mental Health Clinician in Vermont, practicing Expressive Art and Equine Therapy in the Upper Valley Region.  He graduated from Lesley University in 2006 with, M.A. in Expressive Arts Therapy and Mental Health Counseling. He is working towards his hours for PATH Equine Specialist certification. Ben has more than fifteen years of experience working with individuals and families on issues of addiction, trauma and loss.

Laura Perez
Operations Director

Laura (she/her) joyfully co-leads with a team of people who are fiercely dedicated to the delivery of transformative programs and amplifying the voices of the community they serve. She is dedicated to people-powered advocacy and organizing. Her passion is to be with her community, listen to what people want and need, and work to make those visions a reality. She brings over fifteen years of community organization experience to MoonRise Therapeutics, having dedicated her career to creating a safer, happier, and healthier place for us all to live, play, and work.

Her baccalaureate education focused on the politics of poverty and community education as a force for social change. Additionally, she holds a Master’s in Business Administration with a focus on strategic organizational leadership. In her spare time Laura finds her greatest delight in working side by side with her husband at their small family farm and traveling with her children.

Sienna Lamperelli Whitney
PATH Intl. Advanced Therapeutic Riding Instructor, PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. (ESMHL 

Sienna grew up in San Diego where she began her love of this field while volunteering for the BETH Program in the 80’s and early 90’s. The wonderful people and horses in this program helped shape and support her as she went from a teenager to a young adult. She loved being an assistant coach on the interactive vaulting team and a volunteer in lessons as well as helping out with horse care.  Sienna had the opportunity to work at the neighboring hunter/jumper training barn where she also learned the art of riding over jumps and showing. 

In the late 90’s, Sienna moved to Vermont where she worked for a great eventing barn and loved learning about dressage, riding cross-country courses and stadium jumping. After spending a dozen years in the school systems working with special education, she decided it was time to return to her roots in the therapeutic riding field. She worked for 8 years at High Horses TRP. In 2019, after several years of being a part of MoonRise Farm in supporting their programming, Sienna became an employee there as they transitioned to MoonRise Therapeutics as a non-profit organization. Sienna loves being with the herd and sharing time with others around them. In addition to teaching Horse Connections lessons, supporting the therapists with the horses and giving horse care, Sienna also coordinates the volunteer program at MoonRise.Along with her PATH Intl. certifications of Advanced Therapeutic Riding Instructor, CTRI and ESMHL; Sienna holds practitioner certifications in Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A), Masterson Method Equine Specialist (MMES) and Horse Speak. Her passion is to support her four legged coworkers in helping their work to be enriching for them as well.

Emmy Walden Fox
Administrative Manager