About Our Team

Meet our board members


Brad Hearst

Founder & Executive Director

Phone: (605) 838-6636
Email: [email protected]

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.

Jerry Cook

Vice President

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.

Ashley Thuringer


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.

Michael Schelling


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.

Jason Schroeder


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.

Bryce Gammeter, MD

Board Member

Read Bryce's biography

Coming soon…

Gretchen Gammeter

Board Member

Read Gretchen's biography

Gretchen is one of our newest board members having joined us in January of 2019.  Her passion for helping and encouraging people is what drew her to SJ4H.

Having been a nurse for 20 years, she has seen firsthand the affects of suicide and knows the importance of family and community support.

In her free time she is a wife to Bryce and mother to two daughters, Elise (12) and Amelia (8) and is active in her church and community.

Rocky Hayes

Board Member

Read Rocky's biography

Rocky joined the Survivors Joining for Hope board of directors in 2017 and assists the nonprofit organization through graphic and web design/development, digital and print marketing consultation, communications, and outreach efforts.

From an early age, Rocky has had the privilege and responsiblity of being a close friend in need for many friends and family. Through simply listening and offering varying assistance for those struggling with depression, difficult life events, criminal activities, and suicidal tendencies, for years he’s delicately navigated through these experiences.

With over 20 years of experience in consulting, design and marketing, Rocky is the president of his own design and marketing consulting business. After growing up on a ranch and graduating high school in Murdo, South Dakota, Rocky went on to graduate from South Dakota State University with a bachelor of science degree in art with an emphasis in graphic design. He also currently serves as the El Riad Shrine Public Relations Chairman, Sioux Empire Network Referral Group President, and is on the Our Growth Project board of directors.

Jack Hearst

Board Member

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.

Talon Worlie

Board Member

Read Talon's biography

Talon Worlie joined long-time friend, Brad Hearst, on the board of Survivors Joining For Hope in 2017. Talon was first impacted by suicide on his 14th birthday, which was a pivotal moment in his life of assisting people affected by suicide. In his own experience with suicide, Talon witnessed how it can often tear families apart if they do not have proper avenues to channel their emotions. Talon has expressed how proud he is of the organization for offering not only emotional assistance, but also financial assistance.

Talon has an Associates Degree in Law Enforcement Science, and has spent the last six years of his career as a certified first responder.  Talon is currently employed full time with Metro Communications, managing emergency resources for law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and ambulances of Minnehaha County, SD.

SJ4H Services

Bill Pay Assistance


Legal Counseling Support



Grief Counseling Support



Funeral Planning


Burial Support


Survivor Career Development


Don't Be Shy. Get In Touch.

If you are interested in working together, send us an inquiry and we will get back to you as soon as we can!

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