About Our TeamMeet our board members
Founder & Executive Director
Read Brad's biography
Brad Hearst is the Founder and Executive Director of Survivors Joining For Hope, Inc., the first public organization to offer both burial assistance and grief counseling to survivors of suicide. Following the passing of his brother, Brad formed the organization after experiencing the overwhelming support provided by the Casualty Assistance Officers (CAOs) of the United States Army. After meeting several families who suffered financial hardship and lack of support, Brad decided he wanted to provide the same support his own family received to individuals and families who suffered a loss to suicide. By utilizing the strengths and perspectives of other survivors the 501(c)3 was formed. From that moment forward, he has served as the executive director of the non-profit, leading the organization as it strives to guide families through one of the most difficult times they may ever face and raise awareness to the stigma surrounding suicide.
In addition to his work at Survivors Joining For Hope, Brad sits on the South Dakota Helplines, Step Forward to Prevent Suicide Committee and works as a State Farm insurance agent.
Read Jerry's biography
Jerry Cook serves on the board of directors and is the current Survivors Joining For Hope Vice President.
The course of his life was forever changed a couple weeks before his fifth birthday when his dad took his own life. Jerry lived with the effects of his father’s death since that day and has dedicated his life to helping others affected by suicide. Through Survivors Joining For Hope and other efforts Jerry has been able to directly help families impacted by suicide.
His additional suicide related efforts include working with the Helpline Center. He also serves on the Survivor’s Services Committee and the Step Forward to Prevent Suicide Walk planning committee. He is a spokesperson for the Helpline Center and Sioux Empire United Way and routinely speaks on behalf of suicide support.
Jerry is a partner and CEO of Audio Video Integrations, a residential and commercial audio/video technology company. He also serves on the board of directors for the Home Builders Association of the Sioux Empire and is also the chair and board liaison for the Member Services Committee.
Read Ashley's biography
Ashley is the director at Survivors Joining For Hope, Inc. Roughly three years ago, Ashley’s life was turned upside down when her husband of seven years passed away by suicide. A tragic event as such left her feeling lost, helpless, and extremely confused. The first several months after losing her husband were some of the worst times of her life. She had two children to raise and the financial burden of each and every bill on just her sole income. Ashley was fortunate enough to have an amazing family to help support her, but she soon realized that not everyone affected by suicide is that fortunate.
As Ashley ventured through the trial and errors of her own grief process, she felt there was an enormous need for an organization to help those in the same predicament she was facing. Most importantly, she wanted to be “that” someone who took a bad situation and made it positive for her and her children. At that point, she reached out to the Helpline, and they put her in contact with Brad Hearst. From that moment forward, Ashley and Brad have been making leaps and bounds towards their goal as an organization to assist those affected by suicide.
Read Michael's biography
Michael Schelling, CPA, MPA, is our tax supervisor and treasurer. With more than seven years of accounting experience, Michael specializes in partnership, S corporation, and exempt organization taxation. He graduated from the University of South Dakota and is now pursuing his Master of Taxation degree from the University of Denver.
Michael is a certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor and an expert at helping new businesses get started. He is a member of YPN, treasurer and chair of the finance committee for HorsePower, and also treasurer for Five Loaves Bread Company. He is also an active volunteer and supporter of the Sioux Empire United Way.
Read Jason's biography
Jason Schroeder joined the board of Survivors Joining For Hope in the summer of 2016 after talking with Brad Hearst about the goals and mission of this organization. While never dealing with a loss of a loved one directly, Jason has always felt passionate for those going through issues that cause them to feel like there are no other choices, as well family and friends, who have had to pick up the pieces after a tragic loss.
This organization is something that he has rallied behind to help people going through tough times. The fact that SJ4H not only focuses on the assistance of the financial burden that families incur due to the loss, but also aid with people’s coping and continuation with life after a major life altering situation. It is his hope that as this organization continues to grow, we can reduce the stigmatisms that are associated with suicide.
He currently is an employee at US Bank in the home mortgage department. Besides being on the board for Survivors Joining For Hope, Jason is a committee member on other non profits in the Sioux Falls area.
Read Daphne's biography
Daphne Eppinga got involved with Survivors Joining For Hope after looking to give back where there is a need in our community. Fellow board member, Ashley Thuringer, had a deep passion for this cause and had helped get it off the ground. Her story, as well as Daphne’s life experience, inspired her to get involved. A dear immediate family member of hers passed away several years ago after being in a deep depression.
At that time, there were no resources available to help with financial needs, and support was deeply needed. They pulled together as a family and did what no family should ever have to go through, but it’s very sad that there was not more financial or emotional support for families who really needed it. It brings tears, both joyful and bittersweet, to Daphne’s eyes to see how this organization has already helped survivors not have to go through this unbelievably painful loss while also in dire financial need.
She encourages others to get involved in this wonderful and much needed organization.
Read Jack's biography
Suicide was devastating to Jack’s family and each of them grieved in their own way. Brad Hearst recognized the stigma that accompanies suicide, and as a result, decided that surviving family members of such a tragedy needed more help than what the community offered and so he founded Survivors Joining For Hope. As Brad’s father, after being asked to get involved Jack felt compelled to serve on the board and to serve in whatever capacity that would help other families dealing with such a tragedy.
Jack’s career spanned 30 years. He most recently served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer for HF Financial Corp and Home Federal Bank. Prior to working for HF Financial Corp., Mr. Hearst worked for Citicorp’s Risk Assessment and Control Group. During his tenure with Citicorp he served as the audit director/global coordinator for Citicorp Bankcards and audit director for Citicorp’s North American Technology Division.
Read Joseph's biography
Joseph Stoddard is a professional massage therapist and yoga instructor currently located in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is originally from South Dakota and maintains deep roots there but has lived and worked in Las Vegas since 2008. His passions outside of work include hiking, volunteer coaching, exercise, yoga, cooking, golf, travel, and enjoying the simple things in life. He believes movement is the key to a long and happy life and uses regular activity as a means to achieve mental health.
Joseph became involved with Survivors Joining For Hope because he experienced the impact of suicide at a very young age when one of his parents made an attempt while he was still in grade school. Both parents have since made additional suicide attempts, so he is well aware of the emotional fallout of the act whether successful or not. He also has people very close to him that have lost a family member or loved one to suicide, so his efforts serve to support others impacted in a more permanent manner.
SJ4H provides the perfect opportunity for Joseph to lend a hand to an organization that can help survivors pick up the pieces and make sense of what many perceive to be an unexplainable phenomenon. He believes true healing can only take place when the worry about where to go and who to call for support has been eased. In addition, Joseph has learned through his own experience that the emotion of tragedy can be lessened when talked about openly and honestly and when one surrounds oneself with others who can relate.