Meet the Guides


Jeannie (on left) with Amanda McDowell (on Right)Amanda McDowell

I’m Amanda McDowell and I’m an Achilles guide. I started coming to Achilles in the spring of 2015 after Harvey Freeman, a fellow guide, invited me. I have enjoyed meeting and getting to know so many wonderful people thanks to this group. I am a very social person, so I really enjoy getting outside for a walk and having someone to chat with while doing it! I have also gained a new perspective on people who live with disabilities. I am so grateful that I’ve been able to get to know some of the athletes and watch them achieve their goals. They inspire me every day because they don’t let their disabilities get in the way- they just do things a little bit differently. They provide real-life examples of what it means to persevere and I’m thankful for the opportunity to witness it.

When I’m not at Achilles, I’m either working, playing with my dog, Edie, or spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy traveling, watching movies, trying new restaurants and hiking at Percy Warner Park.

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.”

Stephanie Zundel (on left) Amy Harris (in the middle) Harvey Freedman ( on right)Harvey Freeman

Q. What do you like to do outside of Achilles?

A. Outside of Achilles I love to spend time with family and friends.  I also enjoy woodworking and working in my yard.  I love to travel as much as work will allow.  I love to snow ski and spend time outside.  I enjoy reading and trying new restaurants.

Q. How did you get involved with Achilles?

A. I live in the neighborhood and would see the athletes running and wheeling when I walked my dog.  I approached the group out of curiosity and was touched immediately by the mission.

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

A. It was my first race with Achilles and I was paired with J-Rod one of our more fearless athletes.  We were doing the Mayors 5k in downtown.  J-Rod had a pretty bad wreck and rolled his wheelchair about 2 miles into the race and busted his lip and skinned his face and arms.  I thought for sure he would not finish the race.  J-Rod ‘rubbed some dirt on it’ and finished the race.  This was one of the most impressive displays of perseverance I’ve ever seen.  Another memorable performance was running in Stephanie Z’s first half marathon.  I’ll never forget her sweet friends reaction when they found her after the race.  They tackled/mobbed her for a good 5 minutes.

 Q. What does Achilles mean to you?

 A. Achilles means perseverance to me.

Headshot of Antaeus JonesAntaeus Jones

Hi! My name is Antaeus Jones. I got involved with Achilles thru my job at the TN Rehab center in Smyrna, TN a few years ago. I’m a guide with my students when I have the opportunity to come. Outside of Achilles, I’m a recreational therapist for the state, at TRC, working with individuals with disabilities from across the state.  It brings enjoyment to help others with disabilities to help overcome some of their daily challenges and introduce them to new opportunities that they usually wouldn’t experience back in their own communities.  When not at work I’m busy being a husband and father to a little girl that is my world. Some of my hobbies are working out, video games, and fishing.

Groupshot of Peter Pressman's 70 birthdayPeter Pressman

I have been honored to be an active member of this organization since our Inaugural year in 2012. I was initially contacted by Sarah Hart and Melanie Yappen who requested my insight and assistance with our Chapter’s development. I currently serve on our Achilles Nashville Advisory Board, and volunteer as a Guide on Wednesday night’s training at McCabe as often as my schedule allows. It has indeed been very gratifying and rewarding to witness the development of our Chapter, along with the progress of our Athletes.

I am a member of the Nashville Striders [Running Club]. I have served on the Striders Board since 2000, and served as Club President in 13 of the past 15 years. In that role, I’ve been able to share my passion for running with so many in the Nashville running community.

I have been running since taking my initial steps in July of 1981. I’ve now completed 72 Marathons, and collected 44 States [and DC] in my quest to complete a Marathon in each State. I may have slowed down a bit over the years, as many of us will; however, I’m grateful to keep moving forward. My typical response these days when asked how I did in a race: “I finished upright and with a smile!” That’s my goal.  In May 2009, I suffered a significant injury when my Femur fractured on race morning while directing a race in downtown Nashville. This injury was likely related to an earlier diagnosed illness [1999] and prescribed medication taken for 10 years. Emergency surgery at Vanderbilt to insert a Titanium rod in shaft of Femur, with screws to secure, repaired my Femur in a way that I could return to running. Not running again was not going to be an option! In serving as an Achilles Volunteer Guide, I’ve been rewarded as I’ve shared my passion for running with Athletes who are in training as they overcome their obstacles.

One of my more memorable events with Achilles was the celebration of my 70th Birthday at a Wednesday evening training session at McCabe. We followed up the run with a celebration at The Local Taco.

I reside with my wife Ruth in Franklin, our home for 31 years. We have two older sons who are living in Chicago and Seattle respectively with their spouses and two children each.

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 😊 💗

Trey Mackey (on far left) with Dwaine's CrewTrey Mackey

Trey is a Tennessean who recently moved back from the Gulf region, specifically New Orleans, where he lived for the past 12 years. Trey’s professional career consists mainly of public health and wellness consulting. He graduated from Morehouse School of Medicine and George Washington University, where he completed his training in epidemiology and healthcare administration. Upon graduation, he completed a fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trey collaborated with the WHO in Africa to establish a vaccine distribution program. Currently, Trey has embarked on a career in corporate wellness where his experience has included helping over 25,000 employees maintain good health by providing access to quality healthcare services. Trey is currently a wellness consultant with several organizations in the Nashville metro area and he is excited to volunteer with Achilles International, Nashville Chapter.

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!

Athlete Stephanie Zundel (on left) with Guide Tess Levinson (on right) at the Photo booth before the Princess Half in DisneyTess Levinson

Tess is from Los Angeles, California. She is currently a Junior at Vanderbilt University and is majoring in special education: severe disabilities track. Tess learned about Achilles Nashville through her friend, Stephanie Zundel, a blind athlete who runs with Achilles. Tess works with the Nashville Dolphins –an organization that provides swimming instruction for people with disabilities. Stephanie thought that since she was really interested in Nashville Dolphins, and in sports-related activities with people with disabilities, Achilles would be a cool organization for her to join. Tess thought it sounded like a really great idea so she came with Stephanie to a Wednesday practice to check it out. She has been an active Volunteer Guide ever since. In February 2017, Tess guided Stephanie in the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando, Florida.

She is also registered to run in the Chicago Marathon later this year on her own. She has become an avid runner and amazing guide!

For more information on the Nashville Dolphins Program, click the link below:

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.