Meet the Guides

Sara Solomon (on left) with Melanie Yappen (on right)Melanie Yappen

How you got started with Achilles:

My friend and running buddy, Sarah Hart mentioned that she was interested in starting a chapter back in 2011. I told her I would be willing to do anything I could to get it started. We had a goal of 5 athletes to start. Little did we know what we were about to get ourselves into.

Any special story about your involvement with Achilles (e.g., accomplishment, favorite run, anything that stands out to you):

So many stories it is hard to pick one. I remember sitting down with TNABA to explore starting the chapter, and Ricky Jones asking us point blank what experience we had guiding athletes with visual impairments. I said none, but what experience did he have being guided on a run. We all realized we had to start somewhere.  My favorite thing is unexpectedly seeing an Achilles guide and an athlete out running on their own. It makes my heart smile because I know that the bonds of friendship and running are happening outside our regularly scheduled runs.

What Achilles means to me:

Probably a big yellow heart. Take the Nashville running community and put it with amazing athletes that know no bounds, and magic happens. You can’t put it into words.

Beth Gottlieb playing the drumsBeth Gottlieb

Beth Gottlieb, Achilles guide, is a percussionist in the Lt. Dan Band with actor Gary Sinise,  Percussionist with the Walt Disney Company, Drum Circle Coordinator for Victor Wooten’s, Wooten Woods, and Percussionist with many touring artists, shows, and recording projects. She has performed and/or recorded with the Disney Company (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and hundreds of sessions of theme park music) Amy Grant, Celine Dion, Sammy Davis Jr., Natalie Cole, Sandi Patty, Kansas, Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, Steven Curtis Chapman, Donny Osmond, Tony Bennett, Regis Philbin, and many more.

The Lt. Dan Band has traveled to Afghanistan, North and South Korea, Japan, Europe, Canada, the UK, Guantanamo Bay, and all over the United States, including performances at the Pentagon, a Memorial Day television performance and a movie, Lt. Dan Band, For the Common Good.  Beth has also had an extensive teaching career, running the percussion studios at the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL), Rollins College (Winter Park, FL) and Interlochen Arts Camp, (Interlochen, MI).  She holds a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and a Bachelors of Music from the University of Alabama.  Beth is on the executive board of the Nashville Musician’s Association and along with her touring schedule with the Lt. Dan Band, has been active in the studio and live music scene in “Music City”.  Beth is an avid runner, having been featured in Runner’s World, Glamour, and Woman’s Day magazines.

Due to the selfless efforts of Gary Sinise and his foundation, I love volunteering in many different aspects.  Achilles is a perfect fit for me because of my work with the band and disabled veterans and I’m a running fanatic.  There is no greater feeling than helping runners of all types.  I love the camaraderie of Wednesday nights and the feeling of love in our chapter.  One of my fondest memories recently happened when I was volunteering at the Zoo for the Zoo Run as the giraffe and I got to “mess around” with the Achilles athletes!  Good times!

Danny Gottlieb playing drumsDanny Gottlieb

Danny Gottlieb is one the most recognized drummers in the world.  Danny is a member of actor/musician Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band, performing fundraising benefit concerts around the world for organizations that include the USO and the Building Homes for America’s Bravest Foundation.  Venues have included Afghanistan, Kuwait, the Pentagon, Walter Reed Hospital, Brooks Army Medical Center, San Diego Medical Center, and hundreds more.  He is best known as the original drummer in the Pat Metheny Group. He has performed and recorded with some of the most accomplished musicians in contemporary music, including Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, John Mclaughlin, Gil Evans Orchestra, Sting, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, the Manhattan Transfer, Gary Burton, Booker T and the MG’s, The Blues Brothers Band,  and many more. He is featured on more than four hundred recordings to date, including nine Grammy nominated recordings, resulting in four Grammy Awards.  In addition to touring and recording, Danny is a professor of Jazz Studies at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. He has authored a text, The Evolution of Jazz Drumming, and has released 13 educational DVDs. He continues to be an active as a performer, educator and is recognized as one of the top musicians in his field.

I got involved with Achilles through my wife Beth.  We love helping runners and walkers and really enjoy making people laugh!  My favorite moment was guiding Jim in Nashville and trying to keep up with him!  Achilles means the world to us because the organization is so amazing.

JoAnne (on left) with Randy Hodge (on right)Randy Hodge

Randy has been an Achilles guide since January 2016 and was introduced to Achilles by a fellow guide. When he isn’t guiding with Achilles, he works as a Software Engineer and likes to participate in Spartan and other races.

Randy enjoys sharing in the accomplishments of the Achilles athletes and helping them reach their goals while striving to become a better runner and guide. He states “One of my favorite memories is guiding my very first time in a race with Joann at the 2016 Hope and Possibility. It was a very fun 5 miles and I feel like we really bonded.”

Group shot of Disney half marathon (Ginger on far right)Ginger Roelle

My name is Ginger Roelle…picture a runner, a Joe-Shmo-ette off the street, someone who is logging the miles…but with no real destination, those miles can become somewhat humdrum. What could make those miles really mean something, give them a bigger purpose?

Well, along comes Achilles…with its Athletes and their strong hearts, its Athletes who crush boundaries and surpass supposed “limits.” They don’t just log their miles, they work extra hard for them, they sometimes work through pain for them, they pour their hearts and souls into them. Add to that, the fact that while running these miles together, Athlete and Guide friendships are formed…a familiarity and common bond. And to know that you can meet with these people, these friends, at least twice a week, and sometimes more often than that, and be welcomed as a friend and running partner…well, who can resist?!

I’m so grateful for my Achilles family and the friendships I’ve made through our runs and experiences together. As much as some of us are there to “guide” the athletes through their runs, the athletes often ending up “guiding” us by way of teaching us so much about overcoming challenges, and always striving to be the best you can be. You could say that Achilles is all about heart, it has certainly made its way into mine 😊 💗

Guide Allison Brooks ( on left) with Chassity Choate (on right)Allison Brooks

I’ve been involved with Achilles Nashville since the BEGINNING because of SARAH HART whose tireless dedication inspired me to help others by volunteering. What I did not expect is that the athlete I’ve helped most is ME! I could easily write a book about the Achilles experiences that I’ve shared: from unexpected running partners who showed me a new way to look at the world, to friends I would never had discovered, to unforgettable races and trips. I run a couple of businesses and measure myself in terms of efficiency and productivity. I like predictable challenges and predictable outcomes, but disabilities create a host of obstacles that are NOT predictable. I am learning that the goal is not always to overcome, win, or even finish, but to embrace the messy, imperfect process and to understand that the beauty lies in the challenge. The outcome is not predictable but the challenge is always satisfying.

Guide Brandon Bradford (on left) with Ricky Jones (on right )Brandon Bradford

I run with Achilles International – Nashville because I have a love for running and I also enjoy helping people. I found Achilles in the Spring of 2014 while running on our wonderful greenway system. I saw a bunch of people in bright yellow shirts running around and decided to stop in and see what it was all about. I spoke with Melanie Yappen and she advised that I should come back the following Wednesday, so I did!  I was paired with Tony Grossi before we were about to head out someone walked up to me and said ‘Welcome to Achilles! I don’t know if you’ll ever return after running with the person you’ve just been paired with!’ Of course, I freaked out! My pace was roughly about 10:00 min/mile and Tony was MUCH faster than that! Well, I’ve been back and have no regrets!  My most memorable moment was running the 2015 New York City Marathon with Ricky Jones, the atmosphere is astounding on top of running with thousands of other runners the crowd encourages you to keep going. This is by far the best group anyone could join or be a part of! I’m proud to be an Achilles International-Nashville Guide/Member!

Guide Klare Essend (on the left) with Athlete Chassity Choate (on the right)Klare Essad

Klare is originally from Michigan and currently works for Curb Records. After finishing her collegiate running career, she had continued to run recreationally, frequenting the Greenway trail in Nashville. There, she noticed Achilles athletes and guides doing weekly training. Touched by the mission of the organization, Klare joined Achilles in September of 2016 and has been training with Chassity Choate for the Tinkerbelle Half Marathon in Disneyland in May! Klare always looks forward to the Wednesday night runs and hanging out with Achilles’ encouraging, kind and incredibly inspiring athletes and guides.

Carrie RedmonCarrie Redmon

Carrie Redmon has served as the Executive Director of the Achilles International Nashville Chapter for two years but has been a Volunteer Guide with the organization since its inception.  Carrie spent 8 years at the Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital serving as the Recreation Therapist where she would introduce many of the patients to new leisure pursuits and adaptive sports programs.  When Achilles Nashville was born it was a natural fit for her!  Carrie has such a passion for assisting those with different abilities and for encouraging people to maximize their potential.  She is excited to be a part of such an amazing organization and hopes to continue reaching those in the Middle Tennessee area who may not be familiar with Achilles Nashville!

From left to right Guide Kimi Dement on left Athlete Theresa Khayyam Guide John Lavey on rightJohn Lavey

John Lavey lives in the neighborhood near McCabe Community Center. He is married to Hannah, and father to two daughters, Frances and Mary Sparks, who are also Achilles guides. John has been a runner since he was in middle school, and is passionate about his involvement with Achilles, guiding athletes to help them reach their goals of competing in races, and to enjoy the camaraderie of a training session. He works for a content marketing company, and also serves on the Achilles International — Nashville board.

Kimi deMent

Athlete Chris and Guide KimiKimi Dement is an Achilles guide who is training with Chris Pennington for the California International Marathon scheduled in December 2017. Kimi began running marathons in college and has lost count of the marathons, ultra-marathons, half-marathons, and other races she has run. In recent years, she has reduced her mileage and focused instead on helping others achieve their running goals. Whether that be volunteering for aid stations at trail races, bike leading marathon and half-marathon runners, pacing friends through ultra marathon night miles, or guiding running with Achilles International, Kimi enjoys giving back to the running community. Kimi gives back to her community in other ways as well—both through her job as a public interest attorney and through various other nonprofits with which she is involved. When she isn’t running or volunteering, she likes to squeeze in as many outdoor adventures with her dog, Georgia, as she possibly can.

Amy Harris

Athlete Stephanie Zundel and Guide Amy Harris

Amy on right

Hello I’m Amy Harris, or A2 as I am often called at Achilles (Amy Saffell, one of our awesome athletes will always and forever be A1), also often known as Lizzy’s mom, or “Lizard” as she is affectionately called at Achilles. I’ve been guiding with Achilles for going on 6 years now, having begun shortly after Achilles began in 2012. What began as a way to share physical fitness and healthy activities with my daughter has turned in to a BIG part of my life, as I volunteered for years with Achilles before taking on the Assistant Director position at the beginning of 2017. Achilles for me is a great fit, a way to share my love of running with others, and it is so much more rewarding to me at this point in my running life to help others achieve their goals. Running is a gift that I can share with others and Achilles friends have become an extended family to me.

Auden and AustinAuden Harwood

How did you get involved with Achilles?

My dad told me about it

Do you have any special stories about your involvement with Achilles (e.g. accomplishment, favorite runs, anything that stands out to you)?

Any chance I get to participate its rewarding in itself

What does Achilles mean to you?


What would you like other to know about Achilles?

The people are really down-to-earth and the atmosphere is lively

MinnaMinna Singer

How did you get involved with Achilles?

Lizzy , an athlete

Do you have any special stories about your involvement with Achilles (e.g. accomplishment, favorite runs, anything that stands out to you)?

finishing the Hope and Possibility 2015 with Lizzy

What does Achilles mean to you?

Achilles is more than group ,its a family

What do you do outside of Achilles?

outdoor activities, running,  working at Fleet Feet, my dogs, teaching kiddos

What would you like other to know about Achilles?

It’s a group everyone and anyone can benefit from. It an organization that inspires and a family that everyone is welcome into

Sean Skillern 

seanHow did you get involved with Achilles?

Through  the network and Vanderbilt University

Do you have any special stories about your involvement with Achilles (e.g. accomplishment, favorite runs, anything that stands out to you)?

Running the 15K Shelby Bottoms Boogie with James Bond,  Running the Hope and Possibility with Carson, Saturday Morning runs with Lizzy

What does Achilles mean to you?

The most important race medal Ive ever earned

What do you do outside of Achilles?

Run, Eat, and Read

What would you like other to know about Achilles?

It’s the most wonderful network of  individuals around!

Sharon Ruiz

sharonHow did you get involved with Achilles? Through the Striders

Do you have any special stories about your involvement with Achilles (e.g. accomplishment, favorite runs, anything that stands out to you)? I really enjoy doing races with athletes and with my daughter

What does Achilles mean to you?

it is such a great way to make friends and build community

What do you do outside of Achilles?

Run, Read, spending time with Family

What would you like other to know about Achilles?

It is so much fun! So positive and inspiring

Mitchell Singer

How did you get involved with Achilles?


Do you have any special stories about your involvement with Achilles (e.g. accomplishment, favorite runs, anything that stands out to you)?

I made a bet with Lizzy and lost! She crushed me in our Race.

What does Achilles mean to you?


What do you do outside of Achilles?

Play sports

What would you like other to know about Achilles?

How meaningful /accessible it is for people to volunteer