In five years, 1,600+ veterans have found community and purpose through the arts with ASAP.

At the Armed Services Arts Partnership, we cultivate strong communities for veterans and their families to thrive through the arts.

More than 650 veterans return home from duty every day, but there isn’t always a homecoming party waiting for them. Transitioning to civilian life after service is often a challenging and isolating experience for veterans. But the good news is that better support really helps build resiliency.

Our mission every day is to spark connection and belonging. We do this through the restorative power of comedy, storytelling and creative expression. Our classes are taught by veterans and designed for military members and family. The results are powerful! Ninety-three percent of our first-time class participants decide to take a second class. That’s because graduates don’t just gain new skills; they gain confidence, purpose, and community.

Why It Matters

Giving back to our countries’ bravest heroes has and always will matter. But we are in a particularly precarious time right now. The end of US military operations in Afghanistan is escalating the needs of the veteran community at an alarming rate. Those who were already vulnerable are now at greater risk of retraumatization as the withdrawal is triggering PTSD and driving setbacks to individuals’ recovery.
No matter how great the challenges our veterans face, we know the power that community, art, and humor can have in fostering well being. This is why ASAP’s work matters now more than ever.

The results speak for themselves

Research demonstrates that ASAP participants experience statistically significant improvements in

Confidence & Self-Esteem
Belonging & Social Support
Skill Development & Translation
Self Discovery

Participants also reported feeling

Their anxiety was normalized
Their voices were heard
They could connect more easily with others


I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.

Bob Hope

Meet the Team

We’re On a Mission



Brian Jenkins is a social entrepreneur and community builder. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP), building creative communities where veterans thrive through the arts.

Under Brian’s leadership, ASAP has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic while increasing the annual number of veterans served by 77%, growing ASAP’s revenue by 35%, and expanding the program from two cities to four.

Brian has worked with and consulted for social impact and community building ventures around the world. He holds a certification in Nonprofit Executive Management from Georgetown University and a B.A. with honors from the College of William & Mary, where he was a Meyers-Stern Scholar.



Grace Belizario received her BFA in Graphic Design from The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University. Grace has worked as a creative professional for 18 years, producing branding, logo and app design, marketing strategies, and film projects. Additionally, she has developed public workshops focused on unlocking the creative potential in all people and has hosted networking events for the arts community in the DC area. Since 2015, she has directed the logistics and registrant experiences for week-long overnight youth camps that provide life-changing encounters for hundreds each year. Grace has two children and is a military spouse.



Josh Walker is a Cavalry Scout combat veteran and deployed to the Triangle of Death in Southwest Baghdad in 2005 with the 101st Airborne Division. ASAP is the idyllic home for his combat experience, brainiac love of data, heart for creativity, and passion for people.

Following his military service, Josh continued his service to others through disaster relief, volunteering with veteran-led and focused nonprofit Team Rubicon to provide assistance and relief in the wake of natural disasters throughout the Midwest and as far away as Nepal following the 2015 earthquake.

Over the last decade, Josh has utilized his marketing and communications skills extensively in key industries such as education, healthcare, and social impact nonprofits, helping organizations communicate their mission, needs, and vision for communities around the country.

Josh’s education and experience span a variety of discourses and areas of study, ranging from social and political philosophy, behavioral economics, advanced market research methodologies, and integrated digital marketing at West Virginia University.


Sally draws on her 15 years of experience working for small nonprofits as her foundation for the operations coordinator role for ASAP. While she primarily managed and coordinated the fundraising events for nonprofits, working in small offices provided her with opportunities to learn aspects of many roles. Sally has planned events ranging from small donor cocktail receptions, to large 700+ attendee galas that raised over $1mil, and everything in between. Sally fell into event planning while in her fourth year at NYU (where she started as an aspiring opera singer but ended with a BA in International Relations). Sally has spent the last five years raising her two children, sitting on the board as communications chair of their preschool, volunteering at both their schools, and working as an instructor at a local DIY wood and canvas studio. Sally lives with her husband, two sons, one dog, and three cats in Alexandria, VA.



Jessica Smoot is a Rutgers University Alumna, obtaining a Masters in Peace and Conflict and an Undergraduate degree in Anthropology. 

Jessica has been in love with the arts and expression since she could remember – starting violin at an early age and painting throughout college. She is a granddaughter and daughter to Veterans and is dedicated to helping others. 

Jessica’s personal mission is to contribute to the betterment of all people which is reflected through her work at her alma mater which included programming events, crisis-response, and mediation. In her spare time, she plays tennis and paints!


Tim’s interaction with ASAP started in the spring of 2018 when he attended the Hampton Roads Comedy Boot Camp. A loving husband, father, and recovering Sailor – he retired from the Navy after 24 years of service. Since retiring Tim has volunteered for multiple Veterans support organizations and has worked to make a positive impact in the Veteran community, something he is excited to continue doing through his role at ASAP. When he’s not busy, Tim enjoys reading, physical training of all types, and spending time outdoors.


Mackenzie Sanders is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She received her B.A. from the University of Arizona in English with a double minor in Spanish and law. Mackenzie has worked in restaurants and athletics, but most recently interned on Senator Mark Kelly’s Senate Campaign in communications and finance.  In her free time, Mackenzie writes short stories, explores New York City, and reads classic literature. She is eager to expand her professional horizons with the ASAP team and looks forward to contributing to and learning from this inspiring community.


Rebecca is a senior at the College of William & Mary majoring in Film and Media studies and minoring in Business Management. Thanks to her experience leading the digital teams for three campus publications, Rebecca found her way to digital communications and is excited to continue to grow and learn in her internship with the ASAP team. As an avid user of social media, both professionally and personally, Rebecca has declared Spotify as her favorite platform; and she de-stresses at the end of a long week by making playlists and discovering new music. When she’s not at her laptop, Rebecca enjoys exploring new places with her camera in hand.


Will Larroca is a Senior at the College of William & Mary, majoring in both English and Film & Media Studies at the College of William & Mary. He spent the summer of 2020 as ASAP’s communications intern, and has since stuck around as an associate. He participates in clubs such as Students Demand Action, a group that advocates for gun sense legislation, and Campus Kitchen, which prepares and delivers meals to food insecure residents of Williamsburg. Will also has performed musical sets at campus events and participated in the William & Mary Youth Filmmaking Institute, where he mentored middle and high school aged students in creating their very own short films. In his free time, Will likes to write scripts, practice guitar, and direct short comedic films and music videos.


Brianna Gettier is a rising senior at the College of William and Mary and is majoring in Art History with a focus in Critical Curatorial Studies. Brianna is passionate about the arts, receiving an Excellence Award in the Visual and Performing Arts at her community college, Richard Bland, and also co-curated a William and Mary art exhibition titled the “Art of Well-Being.” During the summer of 2021, Brianna will be taking part in a William and Mary D.C. summer institute program where she aims to gain skills to better her perception on leadership and community engagement through her internship at Armed Services Arts Partnership.

Board of Directors


Meg Krause is an Army veteran, ASAP comedienne, and communication strategist extraordinaire. Meg served more than ten years as a medic in the United States Army, including overseas tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and first met ASAP as a Comedy Bootcamp student in 2017. Meg is a Vice President at Reingold, Inc., with a focus on brand advancement, member and audience engagement, and direct marketing campaigns. Prior to this, she was the Director of Veterans Programs at the American Council on Education. She has represented brands with media outlets including CNN, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and NPR, sharing stories of veteran transition and perseverance and fostering support for her community. Meg’s nickname in basic training was Private Giggles and she believes humor is a powerful conduit of humanity. She is a proud graduate of Penn State University, an avid baseball fan and dog lover, and a self-proclaimed “honeybadger”.


Blayne is a West Point graduate, former Green Beret and highly effective business leader across a variety of industries and capacities. For over 20 years, Blayne has built teams and communities through a deep understanding of, and focus on, culture and leadership. Whether serving in corporate, small business, or nonprofit roles, his focus has remained on the people. Today, Blayne is a co-Founder and Principal at Applied Leadership Partners. Blayne was also the first Executive Director of Team Red, White and Blue, scaling the organization from 3 to 212 cities. He’s also the former President and current board member at GORUCK. Blayne was the inaugural recipient of the George W. Bush Institute Military Service Citation for exemplary leadership both during and beyond service.


Jim is the President & COO of Advanced Management Strategies Group, Inc. (AMSG), a management and technology consulting firm founded in 2008. AMSG serves numerous federal government customers including the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Energy, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Treasury. Prior to joining AMSG, Mr. O’Farrell was the COO of Applied Knowledge Group (AKG), a management and information technology consulting firm in Reston, VA focused on supporting numerous public, private and non-profit sector clients. Mr. O’Farrell has also held leadership positions of varying responsibility with consulting firms such as KPMG Consulting and Booz Allen Hamilton. Prior to entering the private sector, Mr. O’Farrell served in the U.S. Navy as a Supply Corps Officer in various positions including as a Business and Financial Manager for the Naval Air Systems Command. Mr. O’Farrell spearheads AMSG’s active support of charitable organizations including the ASAP, ArtSpire VA, HeadStrong Project (“Healing the Hidden Wounds of War”) and Travis Manion Foundation (TMF). His support of TMF includes serving as a Character Does Matter (CDM) Ambassador and Project Manager for TMF’s Operation Legacy Day of Service. At a recent Operation Legacy project at West Potomac High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, Mr. O’Farrell organized the participation of over 400 high school students, teachers, parents, military veterans and first responders to complete over 25 different service projects in a single day. Always focused on collaboration, for the Op Legacy Day of Service, Mr. O’Farrell organized a poetry contest where students wrote poems in honor of Veterans Day and invited military veterans from ASAP to judge the poems. Previously, Mr. O’Farrell was the Race Director for the Alexandria 9/11 Heroes Run 5K – an annual Community event intended to honor the fallen by challenging the living. Jim O’Farrell is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and has an MBA from Averett University. He is a member of the National Veterans Small Business Coalition (NVSBC), the Navy League of the United States (NLUS) and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs (ACVBA) – with a Mission to help military veterans become entrepreneurs. Mr. O’Farrell is an Assistant Lacrosse Coach at West Potomac High School. He lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, Christy, and two daughters.


Oscar Montes is the Chief Executive Officer for Magellan Federal and a former Program Director for the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). At Magellan Federal, Oscar develops strategic and operational plans to grow the business, optimizes and improves services to all clients, and leads a team of over 3,000 professionals. While at CMS, Oscar led an operation spanning seven states and 4,000 contract employees. His efforts helped millions of Americans obtain health insurance. Oscar holds a B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy, an M.B.A. from Georgetown University, and recently retired from the U.S. Navy Reserve. He has logged over 2,000 hours and 400 carrier landings in the F-18 Hornet.


Carter Bays is the co-creator, writer, and executive producer of the popular comedy series How I Met Your Mother, which was nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards. His other writing credits include Oliver Beene, American Dad!, and the Late Show with David Letterman. Along with HIMYM co-creator Craig Thomas, Bays co-founded the band The Solids, and their songwriting work has most recently been featured on Sesame Street. A graduate of Wesleyan University, Bays lives in New York City with his wife and three children.


Maureen Elias, native of Puyallup, WA, served as a counterintelligence agent in the United States Army from 2001-2006. She received an honorable discharge after injuries sustained in training degraded to the point where she needed to separate from the service. She spent ten years raising her children and then went back to school. After graduating with a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Bowie State University, she served as the Assistant Director of the Veterans Health Council of Vietnam Veterans of America. Today, she is the Associate Legislative Director at Paralyzed Veterans of America. Her experiences as a disabled woman veteran, mother to special needs children, and military spouse status give her a unique perspective as she advocates for veteran health issues. Maureen has participated in the ASAP storytelling, improv, and stand-up comedy courses. She uses the skills she learned from ASAP in her personal and professional life and loves paying it forward by teaching storytelling to other veterans.


James Schenck is President and CEO of PenFed Credit Union, headquartered in Tysons, Virginia. PenFed Credit Union is America’s second-largest federal credit union, serving 1.8 million members worldwide with over $25 billion in assets. PenFed offers high-yield online savings accounts and market-leading certificates, checking, mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and a wide range of other financial services to the national defense community and all who support them. Since becoming CEO in April of 2014, James has led PenFed’s asset growth from $17 billion to over $25 billion, increased membership from 1.3 million to over 1.8 million, and generated $856 million in net worth — a 45% increase over the previous 5 years. In a nationwide vote conducted by Credit Union Magazine in 2017, James was elected the National Credit Union Hero of the Year. And in 2018, James was recognized for his leadership in earning the Large Business Philanthropist of the Year Award for greater Alexandria, Virginia. James also serves as CEO for the PenFed Foundation in Alexandria, which has raised over $35 million to help military veterans heal their wounds, pay their bills, own their first homes, and start their own businesses. As part of PenFed’s leadership team since 2001, James led most of PenFed’s operating divisions. From 2011 to 2014, he was Executive Vice President at PenFed and President of its wholly owned subsidiary, PenFed Realty. In past years, he ran the credit union’s daily operations as COO and Chief Administrative Officer. James began his credit union career in 1999 as a volunteer, serving on the Board of Directors of West Point Federal Credit Union and Pentagon Federal Credit Union. James volunteers for many other charities and business groups. He serves on the boards of the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Symphony Orchestra, Armed Services Arts Partnership, Northern Virginia Technology Council, Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Carriage Services (NYSE: CSV). He also served as Co-Chairman of the International Red Cross’ Salute to Military Gala. During his military career, James flew Black Hawk helicopters in Korea and trained other Army aviators as a night vision goggle instructor pilot. He served on the Army Staff in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, and was later selected to serve as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. He received the Legion of Merit for his contribution to the Army by overseeing the creation of the $453 million Army University Access Online educational initiative. Prior to his assignment to the Pentagon, James taught Economics and Finance at the United States Military Academy. James is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and West Point. In 2015, James was selected by HillVets as one of the 100 most influential and impactful veterans in the United States. James is an avid pilot and loves adventure.


Margaret Vanderhye was the most recent Executive Director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA), a position she was appointed to by Governor Terry McAuliffe in 2014. During her tenure, she significantly expanded the roles and partnerships for arts therapy and wellness programs at the state and local levels. Prior to leading VCA, she served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2008-2010 representing the 34th District. Ms. Vanderhye is also an Advisory Council member for Our Military Kids, Inc., an organization that supports the school aged children of National Guard and Reserve personnel deployed in the war on terrorism. Until her 2014 appointment to lead VCA, she served as Vice Chair and Development Co-Chair of the McLean Project for the Arts. She has advocated at the local, state and/or federal levels on behalf of these groups. Ms. Vanderhye also serves on the State Board for UVA’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. Margaret has a degree in political science from Northwestern University and a M.A. in economics and international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She and her husband Robert live in McLean, Virginia and have two grown children.


John Newby is the CEO of Virginia Bio, a nonprofit that works to promote innovation and growth throughout Virginia’s life sciences ecosystem. Previously, Newby was the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS), where he led an 850-member team across 50 Virginia locations delivering employment, education, benefits, behavioral health and long term health care services to Virginia’s Reservists, Guardsmen, transitioning service members and 725,000 veterans. Newby has also practiced corporate, intellectual property and Hatch-Waxman biopharmaceutical law at international law firms in Richmond and Washington DC. Newby commanded an Air Force special operations unit supporting the U.S. Army’s 3rd and 7th Special Forces Groups (Airborne), and served in Iraq as an aviator aboard the Boeing B-1B Lancer strategic bomber. Newby received a B.S. from the United States Air Force Academy, with Military Distinction, and his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.

ASAP Ambassadors