September 15th - October 13th, 2019

Want to go vegan, but need some help and support? Be a Vegan Pledge in the Syracuse Vegan Living Program! The Vegan Living Program (VLP) is a FREE educational program that covers the how’s and why’s of living vegan, including the ethical and environmental considerations of veganism, nutrition, cooking, meal planning, and living vegan in a not-yet-vegan world. Participants pledge to live vegan for the duration of the program, with the help of volunteer Vegan Coaches and our educational program. Pledges receive a binder full of resources and recipes, and a goody bag of free vegan stuff to make the transition easier and more fun!

It’s clear that more and more of us are interested in addressing animal exploitation, tackling climate change, and concerned about our own health. In fact, according to search engine giant Google, the search interest for “vegan” is on the rise, increasing 32% in recent years. Whatever your motivation, the Vegan Living Program is designed to provide you with the support you need, and to build a community of like-minded individuals.


The Vegan Living Program has been held with overwhelming success from 2011-2017 in Baltimore, MD, since 2014 in Long Island, NY (in conjunction with the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College), and since 2018 in Rochester, NY (in conjunction with Animal Rights Rochester) and Syracuse, NY.


This year we are happy to offer the second annual Syracuse Vegan Living Program! Join us for this life-changing program!

Registration and Ways to Get Involved

Not yet vegan? Be a Vegan Pledge.

Are you vegan? Be a Vegan Coach. 

Must be vegan for at least one year to be a Vegan Coach. First-time Coaches, please see Orientation info on application form!


Help us promote the VLP, or lend a hand at the program itself. Contact Shelly and Emily at


Are you interested in becoming a sponsor of the Vegan Living Program? Contact Erin at for details!

Sponsored By:
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The 2019 Syracuse VLP Schedule:

The Vegan Living Program sessions are 100% required attendance for Vegan Pledges and Coaches.


All sessions except Session 3 (sanctuary trip) will be held at North Syracuse Library, 100 Trolley Barn Lane,
North Syracuse, 13212. On September 29 (Session 3), we'll meet at  Farm Sanctuary, 3150 Aikens Road, Watkins Glen, NY 14891. Carpooling on October 7 is encouraged, and we try our best to facilitate finding rides for those who need one.

SESSION ONE - September 15, 1:00 - 4:00pm: 
Intro to Veganism, Cooking Demo & Coach-Pledge Intros 

Vegan Living Program Founding DirectorErin Marcus and Syracuse Vegan Living Program organizers, Shelly Bornemann and Emily Doucet will discuss the reasons for living a joyful, vegan life, followed by a cooking demo by by Stefanie Heath, Food & Nutrition Manager for the Humane Society of the United States. Vegan Pledges and Coaches will also have some time to get acquainted.

SESSION TWO - September 22, 1:00 - 4:00pm: 
Vegan Nutrition, Health and Fitness

Where do you get your protein? Is soy bad for you? Learn about healthy, vegan nutrition and get your questions answered by board certified oncologist, Dr. Steven Duffy. He will speak about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and provide data pertaining to health and nutrition. Dr. Duffy will be followed by a Vegan Health and Fitness presentation by Ben Rayland, owner of Rampage Strength and Conditioning and a Veganism in Practice presentation by vegan mom, Faith Rayland.

SESSION THREE - September 29, day trip (tour at 2:00pm):

Field Trip to Farm Sanctuary 

Held at Farm Sanctuary, 3150 Aikens Rd., Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Nestled in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York, the rolling green pastures of Farm Sanctuary’s 271-acre New York shelter are home to more than 500 rescued farm animals. They are located next door to Sugar Hill State Forest, just west of Watkins Glen. We will meet there for a tour, get acquainted with the resident animals, and learn about their lives before rescue.

Carpooling is strongly suggested. Not open to the public, but registered VLP Coaches, Pledges and volunteers may bring family and friends. Please RSVP to for everyone other than Pledges, Coaches or volunteers, so that we may let the sanctuary team know how many to expect. Allow enough time and plan to arrive early, as the tour is scheduled to begin promptly at 2:00pm.

SESSION FOUR - October 6, 1:00 - 4:00pm: 

The Environment & Living Vegan In a Not-Yet-Vegan World

This session will begin with a presentation titled "Veganism is Environmentalism" by Demosthenes Maratos. Demosthenes is the Communications Director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College and was featured in the film Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (streaming on Netflix). He will speak about the environmental impact animal agriculture has on our planet, and discuss the ethical reasons for living vegan.


In the second half of the session, Demosthenes will be joined by Vegan Living Program Founding Director, Robin Helfritch, who will moderate a panel discussion about the ups and downs of living vegan in a not-yet-vegan world. Panelists will also include Chris Cooney of "The Vegan Zombie", Theresa Stowell, President of Vegan CNY and Syracuse VegFest organizer, and Amanda Bennett, Founder of Land of Misfits Farm Animal Sanctuary.

SESSION FIVE - October 13, 1:00 - 4:00pm: 
Graduation Celebration

A celebratory vegan meal for Vegan Pledges and Coaches, with certificates of completion presented to Vegan Pledges!


Sessions held in Syracuse are free. However, a $10 per person donation to Farm Sanctuary is requested for the tour, payable directly to the sanctuary.

Please Note:


Vegan Living Program educational content is not meant to be construed as health advice, or take the place of a consultation with a medical professional. All Vegan Pledges will be given a release form indicating as much at the first meeting on September 15, which MUST be signed in order to participate in the program.​

All educational sessions will be documented with video and/or photography, which will be posted online and/or used in promotional materials for the program. Media may be invited to some sessions. Submitting a registration form for the VLP indicates your acceptance of these terms.

Speaker Bios:

Erin Marcus  
Speaker Session 1, Vegan Living Program Co-founder

Founding Director of the Vegan Living Program, Erin's roles in the organization include coordinating and co-organizing VLPs in current programs' cities and facilitating expansion in new cities, giving vegan education presentations, writing content for the VLP's email alerts, websites, literature, and social media, and serving as the group's Treasurer.


​Erin began attending animal rights events as a teenager, her first demonstration being a vigil for turkeys with United Poultry Concerns in the mid 1990s. She has been organizing for animals on the grassroots level in Baltimore since 2003. Erin co-ran the Baltimore Vegan Living Program for seven years, and in 2018 joined the Long Island VLP organizing team. She is passionate about the connections between different struggles for justice, and values the experience she has gained from volunteering for labor and human rights organizations in addition to her work with the VLP.

Shelly Bornemann  
Speaker Session 1, Syracuse Vegan Living Program Co-organizer

Shelly began attending animal rights events in the mid-2000s. She’s participated in vivisection, circus and anti-fur demos organized by local grassroot organizations. She’s donated time to help local animal sanctuaries with cleaning stalls and other labor.  


Currently Shelly is focusing on vegan education and support by co-organizing the Syracuse Vegan Living Program in addition to being a member of the Vegan Living Program's Board of Directors. She is also the Volunteer Coordinator for the 2019 Syracuse VegFest. Her passions include her two deaf dogs, Rosalie and Leia, creating vegan dishes to share with family and friends to show how easy and delicious vegan cooking is, nature walks, and renovating her home with her fiancé. She also works at a local credit union and strives to educate low income residents about building solid credit to help achieve their American dreams.  

Emily Doucet  
Speaker Session 1, Syracuse Vegan Living Program Co-organizer

Emily has been volunteering with homeless cats and dogs at local animal shelters since 2001, and in 2014, became the Volunteer Coordinator at Cuse Pit Crew, a pit bull advocacy group in Syracuse. She made the connection between the companion animals she was advocating for and farmed animals in 2012, and has been happily vegan ever since!

Emily still volunteers with Cuse Pit Crew and Syracuse's new shelter, B&R Bunkhouse, and has recently taken on the Vegan Menu Project, working with local restaurants to encourage them to offer more plant-based options on their menus. She was a vegan coach at last year's Syracuse Vegan Living Program, and is excited to be a co-organizer at this year's VLP!

She works as the Program Coordinator at CancerConnects, a nonprofit which provides programs and services to adults going through treatment for cancer. When she's not working or volunteering, Emily loves reading, hiking, swimming and taste-testing (and posting on Instagram) all the fabulous vegan food created by her partner Dan!

Stefanie Heath  
Speaker Session 1

Stefanie Heath is a food and nutrition manager for Forward Food, a program of The Humane Society of the United States. With the demand of sustainable and healthy menu options on the rise, Stefanie helps food service operators create a more diverse menu to include delicious plant-based dishes. She has partnered with Cornell University, Montefiore Healthcare system and several K12 schools in creating an effective program tailored to meet the needs of the partnering institution. She recently partnered with the United States Army to support high standards of health and sustainability for soldiers and military community.


Stefanie lives in New York with her husband and beloved rescue dog named Rocky.

Dr. Steven Duffy  
Speaker Session 2

Dr. Steven Duffy. Dr. Duffy is a hematologist and oncologist at the VA Medical Center in Syracuse. He is a board certified physician in internal medicine, hematology, and medical oncology. He will speak about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and provide data pertaining to health and nutrition.

Ben Rayland  
Speaker Session 2

Ben Rayland is the owner/operator of Rampage Strength and Conditioning and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He is also a Certified Level 1 Coach with USA Track & Field and a Certified Sports Performance Coach with USA Weightlifting. Ben is a former competitive powerlifter who has held NYS records and was the RAW Powerlifting World Champion in the Deadlift for the 165lb weight class in 2014. Ben began transitioning to a plant-based diet in 2013 and has been fully vegan since 2014. His personal transformation, including a nearly 100-lb weight loss, has been featured on the Forks Over Knives website as well as in an interview for the Big Change The Film blog. With his active profession and as an involved father to 5 energetic vegan children, Ben credits veganism as a key component in keeping him in optimal health with the energy levels needed to sustain his active lifestyle.

Faith Rayland  
Speaker Session 2

Faith Rayland has been vegan for 6 years, and was vegetarian for 17 years before that. She and her husband Ben are raising 5 vegan children. Faith considers herself a "regular mom" and takes a practical approach to feeding her vegan family.

Demosthenes Maratos  
Speaker Session 4

Demosthenes serves as the Communications Director at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, NY, where he has been employed since 2009. Demosthenes has worked in the field of environmental and public policy since 1989. He began his career with the Long Island Neighborhood Network, the New York region’s largest and most active environmental advocacy organization. There, in addition to many successful efforts, he campaigned for the two most significant pieces of pesticide legislation in New York State history - the Neighbor Notification of Pesticide Spraying law and the Safe School Grounds law.


With the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, Demosthenes is part of a team that provides community education and fosters informed debate on key issues related to sustainability. His work also includes integrating concepts of sustainability, environmental ethics, and veganism into the curriculum, operations and culture at Molloy College and the larger Long Island community. He is the Sustainability Institute’s lead organizer of the annual Long Island Vegan Living Program, and is on the Vegan Living Program's Board of Directors. In addition, he hosts the Sustainability Institute's Sustainable Living Film Series that boasts an entirely vegan menu at each screening, and makes the ethics and environmental benefits of veganism a central focus of each event. He is featured in the 2014 documentary film, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret that is streaming worldwide on Netflix.

Robin Helfritch  
Panel Moderator Session 4, Vegan Living Program Co-founder

Vegan Living Program Founding Director, Robin has been organizing for animals since 2004 in Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC, and since 2012 in New York City and Long Island. With childhood and early adult roots in local animal rescue, and many years spent campaigning against fur, foie gras, circuses, rodeos and vivisection, Robin now focuses her efforts on all-encompassing vegan education and support.


She has organized animal rights and vegan education campaigns, conferences, festivals and programs on the grassroots and national levels. She is co-founder of the Vegan Living Program organization and it's signature program, which is now in it's 9th year and 4th city.

Robin's work in the VLP includes coordinating and co-organizing VLPs in current programs' cities and facilitating expansion in new cities, giving vegan education presentations, graphic design of printed and online materials, website and social media, advertising, marketing, and serving as the group's President. 

Chris Cooney  
Panelist Session 4

Chris Cooney, born and raised in Syracuse, NY, is the creator and host of the popular YouTube show, The Vegan Zombie. He is also the co-author of the award winning cookbook, Cook & Survive. Along with his sidekick, Indy the German Shepherd, he puts his spin on his love for horror and his vegan lifestyle to teach and inspire others to live a healthy compassionate life.

Theresa Stowell  
Panelist Session 4

Though Theresa was vegetarian and pesacatarian for some time, it was in 2014, after the birth of her child, that the concept of veganism fully came into her mind and heart. She discovered that her nursing son could not tolerate dairy, eggs, and soy in her diet and ceased consuming them immediately. During that period, she made the connection between herself and her nursing baby, and the mother cows and their babies. She couldn't imagine ever going back to supporting the harm caused by the dairy industry, regardless of how much she enjoyed cheeses and other cow's milk products. 

Theresa is the co-founder of Vegan CNY, a local, all volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit. In addition to raising her child with her partner and working with first year medical students, she currently serves as the president of Vegan CNY and organizer of Syracuse Vegfest.

Amanda Bennett  
Panelist Session 4


After learning about and becoming vegan a few years back Amanda made it a goal to create a micro-sanctuary with one priority in mind: providing a forever home for misfit animals. And that is just what she is doing at Land of Misfits Farm Sanctuary, where she serves as Founder and President. Taking care of the residents at the sanctuary is her passion. Each resident has their own personality and she loves witnessing their 'sparkle' flourish. 


At Land of Misfits Farm Sanctuary animal well-being, combating speciesism, and creating a more compassionate world are all at the forefront of what they are working towards. They are motivated to showcase true "stewardship" of their Misfits in efforts to help eradicate "dominion" so many others show to our furry and feathers cousins of the animal kingdom. They strive to do our part in making the world a better place for all animals, especially those deemed commodities by our society.

Thank You To Our Sponsors:
AWFW Logo Color Horizontal Tag Only 2019
Silver Sponsor

A Well-Fed World is a vegan hunger relief, food justice, and animal protection organization. We chip away at two of the world’s most immense, unnecessary, and unconscionable forms of suffering... the suffering of people hungry from lack of food, and the suffering of animals used and abused for food.

We do this by connecting the hunger-meat issues and partnering with groups to:

  • distribute vegan food to people in need

  • support innovative food and farming projects

  • strengthen farm animal care and rescue efforts

  • develop original research and targeted outreach

  • sponsor pro-vegan and animal advocacy campaigns

Learn more at:

Partner Sponsor

Green Inside and Out’s mission is to empower and educate consumers about better alternatives for low-environmental impact living. We do this via presentations, a monthly radio show on WUSB 90.1fm., events, and blog. Topics we cover include: lowering your diet’s overall footprint while making you healthier, waste reduction, and making the least-toxic choices regarding plastics, cleaning products and dry cleaners, body care products, flooring, paints, water filters, pesticides and natural, organic landscaping.

Thank You To Our Product Donors:

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"I recommend this excellent program to anyone who is interested in learning more about the vegan perspective. The presentations are informative and practical. Myths are dispelled here. Yes, it is possible to get enough protein on a vegan diet, and vegan food can be delicious! More importantly, people who care about the impact they have on their fellow beings, and on the environment, come together to explore the possibilities for change."


~ Pamela Kenley-Meschino

Vegan Living Program participant, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019


Stay updated on news about our Vegan Living Programs!

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