Board of Directors

James Forte-President

James is a native New Yorker and has lived in the Raleigh area since 2004. He is a career-long life science marketer with 21 years of experience in corporate strategy, brand strategy, marketing, and sales, and currently serves as CEO of Fairwater Marketing Strategies, a B2B marketing strategy consulting firm. 

James started his career in investment banking on the corporate communications team at CIBC World Markets in NYC. He continued his career in public relations roles on the East and West coasts, eventually serving as head of Marketing at biopharma consulting firm Campbell Alliance in Raleigh (now part of Syneos). 

James has a B.S. in Communications from St. John’s University in NYC and studied international business at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. He lives in the Raleigh countryside along with his two children, Devon and Elena, as well as their dog Daisy and cat Charlie. He enjoys adventure travel, hiking, and auto racing along with spending time at church. 

Ty Thomas – Treasurer

Ty is a Raleigh native.  He has been married to Amy for 16 years and have two beautiful children, Macon and Molly.  He has been working in Commercial Real Estate for 22 years.  He is a partner at Eastern Commercial.  He is part owner of Carolina Copacking which is our bottling company in Henderson, NC  .  He is also Managing Director of RATHCA Products Co. which just acquired another company (Sauce Products) called TonTon sauce.  Their Ginger dressing is sold in 3 regions of Costco.
Ty has proudly served on the board at SYR since inception because he believes in Ashley and everything that SYR stands for! He is proud to serve for SYR as a Christian run organization!

Sandra Harris – Secretary

Sandra is a graduate of Meredith College where she studied Business Management and Interior Design. She and her husband, Greg, have two children and live in Cary. Growing up in eastern North Carolina on a farm, Sandra has always had an appreciation and love of animals with a fascination of their impact on children. That love has been transferred to her daughter, Holly, who is an avid horseback rider and began volunteering for SYR in 2012. Sandra’s career in project management includes over 20 years in the medical software industry.

Barbara Russell-Member

Barbara’s background has been in healthcare marketing and public relations, counseling and community liaison, with 15 years as a School Counselor for Wake, Franklin, and Granville County Schools. She retired from Wake County Public Schools in 2017 and for the past 4 years, has been a Realtor for the Triangle area with eXp Realty. She works with her son, Hunter, whose background in Construction Management along with his real estate license, brings a complementary mother/son team. Her love of horses started when she began riding at 12 years old. She continued riding off and on over the years, from growing up on Long Island, New York, to her 12 years in Boston in college and graduate school, at Emerson College and Suffolk University, and again back in New York City where she rode in Central Park and also volunteered with the New York Riding Program for the Handicapped doing an auction catalogue for fundraising.  She moved to Raleigh in 1995 and to Wake Forest in 1999. As a School Counselor, she has seen the tremendous progress students have made in learning effective communication skills and building trust through working with animals, especially horses. She has been volunteering with SYR since she met Doug and Geri at a Crossroads Fellowship community partner dinner where she immediately knew that this program, combining therapeutic equine assistance and a biblical framework, was exactly where she could serve. She enjoys being the unofficial photographer for all the events!  She is a hobby photographer who loves to document spontaneous moments and experiences with her camera and loves hiking, taking trips to the mountains, photographing waterfalls, and spending time outdoors with her two Labrador retrievers.

Gary Autrey-Member

Bio Coming