Our Co-Founders

Ron Coppess M.A. –

Ron Coppess

Ron Coppess grew up on a farm in Sunfield, Michigan and graduated from Lakewood High School.  He went on to graduate from Ferris State University in 1974 with a degree in Engineering and Design.  He received his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from MSU.  He was recruited away from the engineering world to come back to Lakewood and teach High School Industrial Arts, including Drafting and Design for 23 years.  He also spent 21 years coaching varsity sports.

Ron finished his education career as an Assistant Principal.  He has been a licensed professional builder since 1977 and has built many homes in the area.

During his career in education, Ron saw a critical need for at risk children to have a safe place to live and mature.  When he retired, he and his wife, Ellyn, decided to found Sunny Crest Youth Ranch – bringing a lifetime of experience in mentoring kids to fulfill a dream of giving them a second chance at a brighter future.


Ellyn Coppess M.A. – 

Ellen Coppess

Ellyn is married to Ron Coppess and is the co-founder of Sunny Crest Youth Ranch.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Michigan State University and a Masters Degree in Language Arts from Grand Valley University. She spent six years as Tutorial Coordinator for Lakewood Public Schools and then twenty-one years as an elementary teacher.

Having long shared Ron’s passion for troubled youth, she retired in 2013 from teaching in the public schools in order to focus her energies on expanding the educational programming for the Ranch.

Leadership Staff

Brian De Vos M.S.W. - Executive Director

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Brian began his career directly serving children and families. He subsequently moved into various leadership positions. As an executive leader, he has been successful in financial/business operations, program development, fund development, board recruitment and development, public speaking and presentations, staff development, strategic planning and management, risk assessment and management, crisis intervention, new program start-up and growth, development of new innovative programs, and submission of grant requests and proposals. Brian enjoys negotiating government contracts and partnering with governmental entities to develop effective child welfare services, as well as advocating for policy improvement changes on multiple levels. He has worked successfully with State and national legislative bodies on needed improvements in the child welfare system serving children and families. 

Brian came to Sunny Crest with a vision to grow and further develop programs that enable at-risk youth to grow to their full potential. He is a graduate of Calvin College (BA) and Grand Valley State University (MSW). Brian currently serves as the Vice President of the board of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families.  He is married and is the proud father of two daughters.

Sherry Agostinelli - Admin Support

Sherry’s faith and giving back is indeed very important to her, which has led to this new chapter at Sunny Crest Youth Ranch. She says “it is both exciting and a calling for her, ever since Jo Raines took me on a tour around 5 years ago, I have wanted to contribute in some way”! From her positions in HR, Teachering, Nursing, Mom and Business owner, she feels that one or all of these will bless the Boys and Staff at the Ranch. So please stop by and say Hi!

Jordan Dotson M.Div.- Vocational Director

in 2009, Jordan graduated from MSU with a Bachelor of Arts degree; his studies emphasized English and German Education.  In the spring of 2014, Jordan received his Masters of Divinity from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Jordan has worked with "at-risk" youth for almost 6 years and has worked with kids throughout Lansing and West Michigan since 2006.  Recently, Jordan has developed a deep passion for fine woodworking and cultivating various life skills with young adults.  "I see an essential relationship between healthy interpersonal lives and activity/vocational therapeutic methods," Jordan explained.  Jordan began working at the ranch in the fall of 2017 as the Vocational Coordinator.


Laken Colby

Laken Colby M.A.  – Programs Director

Laken has a B.A. in Sociology from Western Michigan University. During that time she also showed horses on the WMU Equestrian Team and since then has continued to show at a variety of open shows.  She first started teaching riding lessons and assisting with Horsemanship Day Camps during college and during this time also volunteered at the Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center.

Her previous experience includes working with children who have Autism through Ionia County Intermediate School District as a healthcare aide and working with Adults with Developmental Disabilities and Mental Illness as a Case Manager through Hope Network Behavioral Health. She also owns a business in Clarksville, Michigan where she continues to give riding lessons and provide horsemanship camps.

Mario Wilcox LMSW, CAADC-DP - Clinical Director


Mario is from Bloomfield, CT and graduated from Bloomfield High School in 2003. He went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Wagner College while being a member of the football team. After completing his undergraduate program in 2007, he worked at a residential youth treatment facility for the next 8 years where his passion for working in child welfare began.

Mario has a devotion to underprivileged youth in care because of his upbringing in foster care since the age of 6 years old. Mario aged out of the child welfare system at 21 years old and has since made it his mission to give back.

Mario decided to pursue his Master’s degree in Social Work in 2011 at Michigan State University. He completed the MSW program and was also certified in school social work upon graduation in 2013.

During Mario’s career he has gained valuable experience as a Child Welfare Specialist/Caseworker before becoming a licensed Therapist in a residential treatment setting. Mario has also gained experience in substance abuse treatment while working on his development plan to be a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Mario has done extensive training in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as well as Motivational Interviewing.

Mario has returned to his roots and expertise in child welfare/residential treatment and brings invaluable experience and leadership as the clinical director of Sunny Crest Youth Ranch.

Dr. Danial Zak - Psychiatrist

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Georgina Hill M.A.- Education Coordinator

 Georgina Hill received her Bachelor Degree from Olivet College in 1991 with a major in PE K-12 and Business Administration.  In 1995, she received her Master's Degree from Western Michigan University in Vocational Education and Career Technology.  

Georgina is an enthusiastic and committed teacher who uses her natural ability to motivate and inspire others to be their best.  She has worked in public education for 26 years and is known as a role model for students of all ages.  She will not only be working on their academic success, she will help improve their physical fitness levels as well.    She is very dedicated in preparing our boys to believe and achieve in their daily lives.  Everyday is a new day and whatever your 100% looks like, GIVE IT!

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Robin Marhofer – Finance Director

Robin was born near Cleveland but spent most of her life in Ionia.  She started working for Sunny Crest 5/31/18.  Robin is married with two children and enjoys travelling and eating at new restaurants.  She received a BBA degree from Western Michigan University and an MBA from Grand Valley State University.  She is a member of the Ionia Public Schools Board of Education.  She received her CPA license in 1996.  Previously she worked in governmental accounting primarily for City of Ionia as their Finance Director.