Meet Our Team
Nicole Karuna, Co-Founder, Animal Care, Animal Exhibitor, LVT
Nicole has been an animal lover for as long as she can remember. She rescued her first baby bird when she was 7 or 8 years old and has been working with animals since then. Her life as a child revolved around animals. Bringing all kinds of critters into her parents home, volunteering for various organizations throughout her childhood and adolescence. She started working at an animal hospital at 16 years old (as soon as they would let her!), completed a bachelors in Veterinary Technology at Mercy College in 2004, and opened Animal Experiences in 2005. In 2009, Nicole made the move to Pine Bush with her sanctuary and life partner, Russell Lipensky. Together, the two turned Animal Experiences into the sanctuary Nicole always wanted. It’s not perfect and she still envisions much more for the animals, greater facilities, greater outreach, and so on but when she looks around and sees the love, comfort, and joy the sanctuary provides not only for the animals but also for the people who come here she is overwhelmed by how much she has accomplished. She looks forward to sharing the sanctuary, the animals, and her dream of healing for people and animals with all of you.
Russell Lipensky, Co-founder, Intuitive Bodyworker
Russell Lipensky is the co-founder of Happy Tales and practices in the healing arts. He is an intuitive bodyworker and spiritual teacher. He has worked on thousands of people and animals around the world, helping people to understand how they create their reality, how to respond rather than react to our environment. He teaches through the human body, body language and in some cases teaches people through their animals ailments. His passion is serving mankind, reconstructing bodies, animal or human, allowing people or animals to live a better life.
Michelle Costa, Animal Exhibitor, Animal Care
“Hi I’m Michelle. I am a licensed veterinary technician who has been in the veterinary field for 15 years. I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and an exotics animal handler/exhibitor for the sanctuary. I have many domestic and exotic animals of my own. I learn something from each of them in a daily basis and could not think of doing anything else other than animals 24/7. My other passions are singing and exploring new places.”
Samantha Reinhardt, Animal Care
I have been with the Happy Tales family for a few years now. I grew up on a small farm with my parents who both loved animals. It became clear to myself and others at a very young age that animals were my passion. As soon as I was old enough to work I got my first job working with ponies followed by miscellaneous other jobs all revolving around animals. As well as going to college and graduating as a veterinary technician, I am also learning the practice of Reiki in hopes of using it as another method of helping animals. Working with animals has always come easy to me, being able to be around them and get to know them as individuals and to learn from them on a daily basis is one of the most wonderful gifts a person could ask for. Working at the sanctuary everyday the animals there have become my best friends and family. I am so grateful to be a part of such an amazing place and get the chance to work with amazing people and of course the animals.
Chloe Solomon, Animal Exhibitor
“My name is Chloe and I’m part of the Happy Tales Animal Sanctuary crew. I am currently a senior in college working my way to become a vet tech. At the sanctuary I have one of the best jobs l because I get to come meet all of you guys at your birthday parties/ camps and bring my furry friends with me. I have been working with the sanctuary for a little over a year now and I love getting to work with the animals and see how excited you guys get over the new exciting facts you learn about them. I look forward to seeing you at your party!”
Kevin B. Faga, Esq., Fundraising and Outreach Coordinator
Kevin B. Faga, Esq., is an attorney, practicing in White Plains, NY. A lifelong resident of Westchester County, he graduated from Iona Grammar School and Iona Preparatory School, before attending New York University Stern School of Business, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree, in the dual majors of Finance and International Business. In 1993, he graduated from Pace University School of Law, with a Juris Doctor.
A community-minded father of two animal-loving children, Mr. Faga actively supports Happy Tales Animal Sanctuary, through both awareness and fund raising efforts, and since 2006, has served as Legal Advisor to Hispanics Across America, The New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, The Bodega Association of the United States and The Upper Manhattan Restaurant and Lounge Association.
Alyssa DeLucci, Creative Director
Alyssa DeLucci is an upcoming senior at Mercy College this year and in the process of applying to U.S. veterinary schools with hopes of beginning her doctorate schooling next fall. She has grown up around a variety of animals, and is interested in pursuing holistic medicine techniques and becoming certified in acupuncture for both large and small animals. When she has free time, she enjoys painting and drawing for businesses and simply for fun, which is how she became involved in the sanctuary. Serving as creative directory, she looks forward to not only helping Nicole out with all of the animals who call Happy Tales their home, but also assisting in the design of the artistic elements of the sanctuary.
And of course, our circle of supporters and volunteers. You are a vital part of our team and our Happy Tales Family. We couldn’t do what we do without your generosity, love, and support. We acknowledge and appreciate every single one of you!