MEET THE FOUNDERS
Ilaria Borghese, MS, MA, OT
CEO & Co-Founder
Ilaria obtained her MS in Neuroscience from the University of Connecticut. She was Clinical Coordinator for the Brain Research Center-Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC, challenged with assessing new drug treatments for children with Autism. She continued her studies at Yale University School of Medicine and published several articles in peer-reviewed medical journals.
Ilaria furthered her education at New York University and received her MA in Occupational Therapy. She used her research and therapy skills to work with canine patients and in 2001, started Thera-Paw, Inc. a company that designs, develops, manufactures, and distributes braces, soft orthoses, protective garments, mobility aids, and other assistive products for animals with special needs. Ilaria spends much of her time designing and custom-fabricating these devices and works closely with small animal practitioners to develop novel approaches to custom splinting and bracing. She teaches throughout the US, Canada, and Europe, and has contributed to the 2013 publication Canine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (J. Wiley & Sons).
In 2010, Ilaria co-founded STAAR, the Symposium on Therapeutic Advances in Animal Rehabilitation, a conference for veterinary professionals that offers advanced courses in comprehensive animal care taught by the leaders in the field.
In 2020, Ilaria co-founded Vital Vet, a multi-platform supercenter dedicated to improve the lives of animal companions. All things related to veterinary rehabilitation, animal physical therapy, and pet fitness can now be found in one central location to help veterinary professionals and dedicated pet parents learn, connect, and make more informed decisions.
Ilaria has a special interest in Greyhound dogs and their unique medical issues. She has lectured and written articles on paw-related conditions in ex-racing Greyhounds, and has conducted and co-authored one of the largest epidemiological studies on the breed.
COO & Co-Founder
Maria received a BS in Business Administration and worked at several retail and computer software/hardware companies before coming to work for Thera-Paw, Inc, in 2005. Maria is the General Manager for Thera-Paw and coordinates the development and manufacturing processes for new assistive products for animals with special needs. She works closely with other developers, manufacturers, and distributors to consolidate efforts and maximize exposure in the veterinary rehabilitative markets.
Maria is the Co-Founder of STAAR and is responsible for coordinating the Conference's schedule and venue. She is known to frequent STAAR attendees as "The Cruise Director," since she is responsible for orchestrating the social gatherings during the Conference.
When not behind the desk or on the phone, Maria enjoys spending time with her dogs. Her medical experiences with her Labrador, Haley (2 ACL surgeries, mast cell tumor removal, and pacemaker) and her pocket-pittie, Asher (patellar surgery, cerebellar abiotrophy) have helped her to better understand the special needs of animals and their owners. At home, Maria enjoys softball, volleyball, cooking, gardening and hanging out with her third level Dressage horse, Inferrous.
MEET THE TEAM
Marketing & Social Media Manager
Gia-Raquel graduated from Arcadia University with a BA in Corporate Communications and a minor in Business Administration. She began her career in promotions and "guerilla-style" marketing for a Philadelphia radio station. Through consistent refinement, this concept of direct community involvement to enhance brand awareness remains a guidepost for her online marketing initiatives.
While living in California, she assisted Los Angeles Wellness Institute with their rebranding, website, and social media marketing campaigns. Returning to the East coast, Gia-Raquel became a sales associate with Turpin Real Estate, using her tech-savvy skills to support their targeted community social media campaigns. With her marketing expertise, she spearheads social media advertising for local non-profit organizations, which have yielded increased revenue and community awareness.
A Yoga Alliance Certified Education Professional and instructor for over a decade, she uses her spare time to teach locally and online, accommodating clientele both nationally and abroad. Off the mat, she has two horses of her own sharing her passion for horsemanship and her community not only as the Vice President of the Tewksbury Trail Board, but also as the Vice Chair of the Tewksbury Equestrian Committee. Born and raised in Hunterdon County, Gia-Raquel now calls Tewksbury Township, home.
Director - Vendor and Volunteer Relations
Jill is an experienced marketing professional with a passion for helping animals. Since graduating from Monmouth University with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Marketing, she has amassed over twenty five years of experience in marketing communications.
While working in marketing management for corporate companies, Jill started a marketing communications consulting business to share her proven skills with small businesses in need of support. Jill creates custom-tailored marketing plans for small businesses of all kinds to meet their unique goals.
Jill's clients stem from many different industries, but she most enjoys working with animal-related businesses. Having consulted early on for companies focused on rehabilitating animals with special needs, the move to STAAR was a natural progression. She is thrilled to have this opportunity to combine her expertise with her love of animals.
Jill has been with STAAR for over 10 years. She has worn many hats, working closely with the Conference founders, sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, and of course our invaluable dog volunteers.
When not in the office, Jill spends much of her time working with animal welfare and rescue groups, and relaxing at home with her husband and “furry children.” Being the mom to a cat with a very rare condition (FGESF), Jill works closely with the world’s leading researcher of this condition to create and manage a site to guide pet parents, educate veterinary practitioners, and spread awareness.