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Our Team

While the mission of ARTS is specific to dental care, the background of our volunteers, staff, and Board is diverse. The team that went to Senegal on our first trip in 2015 included two dentists, one dental assistant, a lawyer, a teacher, and an international education advisor. Getting people and supplies to Africa is no easy task. We would like to thank everyone who donated the funds, supplies, time, and effort which made our inaugural trip possible!


To apply to volunteer for a future trip, please fill out our Volunteer Application.

For more information on our Board of Directors or to apply, please review our Board of Directors info sheet.

Gunther Heyder - DDS

Dr. Heyder is a practicing dentist in the Outer Banks, North Carolina area, where he was born and raised. Dr. Heyder is a proud graduate of North Carolina State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.

Throughout his studies, Dr. Heyder took advantage of multiple opportunities to study and volunteer in Africa. His experiences in Ghana, Malawi, and Togo inspired him to establish ARTS to work towards improving the dental health of communities across the African continent.

Dr. Heyder is also very active in his home community, participating in local school career days and several recreational sports leagues.

Founder & CEO

Mariel Butan

Mariel is a nonprofit manager based in Bozeman, Montana. She has a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Miami, where she specialized in service learning and enrollment management. She met Dr. Heyder on the soccer field in Washington, DC, and has been a part of the ARTS team ever since. As the Chief Operations Officer, Mariel combines her passions for education, healthcare, community empowerment, and world exploration into a project that is truly changing lives. When she’s not working on ARTS trips, she is usually working to support educators, on an adventure, horseback riding, or making her way down the local list of “must eat” dishes.


Chief Operations Officer

Ayla Bowling

Ayla is a first-generation Filipina-American immigrant who owns Scholfield Hospitality Group, a Cincinnati-based consulting and events group that specializes in promotions and program management, and creating one-of-a-kind event experiences for clients of all types. Before that, she worked as a Director of Development in not-for-profit and as an Events Director in both the not-for-profit, and for-profit, sectors. Ayla has her B.A. in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and is currently working on earning her NPM Certification at Drexel University. Her true loves are her husband and kids, her grumpy old Boston Terrier, sunshine, singing and hosting karaoke, and fighting the patriarchy.

Project Manager

Leela Harpur

Leela Harpur is a middle school English as a Second Language (ESL) and Spanish 1 teacher in Dare County, North Carolina. She has her MA in International Affairs with a focus on Latin America and Conflict Prevention, and her BA in Foreign Languages and Communications. Ms. Harpur's community development work in Nicaragua acquainted her to teaching ESL, and she has always enjoyed working with youth and introducing students to new cultures and languages.  Leela brings this passion for teaching and working with developing communities to A Reason to Smile where she thrives off of interacting with the patients and sharing the dental hygiene curriculum with eager listeners, many of whom have never seen a toothbrush. Leela also supports ARTS as the Chief Financial Officer on the Board of Directors.

Chief Financial Officer

Michaela Rawsthorn

Michaela owns Mergen Consultants a Cincinnati-based writing and research firm that specializes in creating content that engages, motivates and moves. Before that, she worked as a constituent aide for the Ohio government, as a lobbyist, as a policy analyst, as an evaluation manager, and as a research associate for a former employer turned client (who is still a client nearly 10 years later). Michaela has a Bachelor of Arts from the Ohio State University and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago. Her hobbies include reading, yoga, weightlifting, cross-stitch, and hanging out with her three dogs and three kids. 

Social Media Consultant

Erika Seeley

Erika is an Attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina. She earned her B.A. in Political Science and Journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and her law degree from Whittier Law School where she focused on environmental law. Serving as Secretary, she enjoys utilizing her legal and journalism background to help ARTS develop and reach a wider audience. Erika is an avid traveler and finds no greater joy than meeting new people from all over our beautiful planet. 


Adam Seeley

Adam is an IT Project Manager based in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Adam earned his B.S. In Business and Technology Management from Clarkson University where he focused on Entrepreneurial Studies.  Serving as Director of Technology Adam enjoys working with both the front end website and the back end suite of tools that help ARTS to be an effective charitable organization while reaching a worldwide audience.  Adam loves to meet new people, travel and learn about the cultures of the world.

Director of Technology

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