Coaches and Staff

  • CrossFit Level 2 Trainer
  • USAW Level 1 Sports Performance Coach
  • USAW Level 2 Advanced Sports Performance Coach
  • Gymnastics Seminar with Jim Bathurt
  • University of Virginia, BA
  • UNC - Chapel Hill, MSW

donna benjamin

owner/director, head coach

Coach Donna started a serious workout and lifting routine in January 2010. She could no longer pretend that her routine of the suburban shuffle (some combination of walking and jogging) provided much benefit. She had endurance from her days as a high school track athlete, but virtually no strength: translation - her 6 year old laughed at her dead lift. 

After her first workout, she wasn’t so sure, but Donna kept at it, going to the gym 4-5 times/week. She saw impressive gains in strength, flexibility and speed (now proudly kicking suburban housewife butt!). Donna proudly claims the title of “almost fire-breather.” And by almost, she means that except for the fact that she's old and slow, she's breathin’ fire.

Donna fully believes that the best aspect of coaching is the community of athletes; every athlete has a unique personality and CrossFit Homeward is a great outlet for athletes of all backgrounds to reach their goals.

  • CrossFit Level 1 Trainer
  • Z-Health R-Phase and I-Phase
  • Fascial Stretch Therapy - Level 3
  • USAW Level 1 Sports Performance Coach
  • USAW Level 2 Advanced Sports Performance Coach

mitchell osborne

head coach, associate director of programming and professional development

Coach Mitchell is a CrossFit veteran with many years of training, coaching, and competing under his belt. He uses the most dynamic, varied, and safe movements to help clients quickly reach and exceed their personal goals.

He is competitive in the national Crossfit community, and placed 21st in the 2009 Midwest Regional Qualifier, 9th at the 2010 North/South Carolina Sectional Qualifier, and 35th at the 2010 Southeastern Regional Qualifier. He also placed 1st in his age group (15-25) at the 2006 Lake Hickory Triathlon.

  • CrossFit Level 1 Trainer
  • USAW Level 1 Sports Performance Coach
  • MovNat Level 1
  • UNC - Chapel Hill, BA

hugh simmons

head coach, associate director of crossfit operations

Coach Hugh is a North Carolina native who, following many family members, graduated from UNC in 2011. Hugh's background in personal training and natural movement carries over into his coaching philosophy of "earning your weight" and making steady, sustainable, and injury-free progress. His passion in the world of CrossFit is the camaraderie brought about by competition, and he is an avid proponent of stepping outside your comfort zone to test yourself. When not at the box, Hugh can be found enjoying a good whisk(e)y, cheering on the Heels, or generally still at the box.


paige schildkamp

associate director of community engagement & outreach, assistant coach

Paige was peer pressured into trying CrossFit in 2013 and has never looked back. After graduating in May 2016 with a Master's of Public Health from UNC, Paige got her CrossFit L1 and began working with Chapel Hill Strength and Conditioning's youth camps. Coach Paige plans to combine her public health knowledge, experience in youth and health education, and her passion (born of personal experience) for building stronger mental health through acquisition of physical strength towards the dual goals of community outreach and increasing self-confidence for everyone. When she is not at the gym, Paige can most likely be found reading and drinking tea in her library. Nerd.

  • USAPL Club Coach (Powerlifting)
  • Strong First Girya Level 1
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer
  • CrossFit Level 1
  • Nurse Aid I +4
  • BS in Psychology
  • NC Interventions

natalie parks

General MAnager

associate director of youth programs


Coach Natalie is a lover of all things heavy.  She started her life in fitness as a high school tennis, soccer, and discus player who strayed from her active lifestyle when entering college.  After gaining the "Freshman 15" each semester of freshman year decided on a lifestyle change and discovered strength training.  This love of strength eventually led to Natalie becoming a NASM personal trainer, StrongFirst kettlebell instructor, and CrossFit trainer in order to more widely spread the Doctrine of Iron.  When not participating in local competitions or hanging out at the gym getting swole, she can be found at the dog park with her oversized lapdog Freya or re-reading Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.

  • Licensed Massage & Bodywork Therapist
  • CrossFit Level 1 Trainer
  • NASM Certified Personal Trainer
  • Z-Health R Phase
  • First Aid/CPR/AED

ashley bishop


Coach Ashley is the proud mom of her amazing 8 year old son, Kai. She received her BS in Physical Education with an emphasis in Outdoor & Experiential Education from Winthrop University in 1999.  She’s well versed in coaching, having led outdoor experiences like ropes courses, kayaking, and climbing.

Ashley discovered and subsequently fell in love with CrossFit in January 2012, obtaining her CrossFit Level 1 in March 2013. Ashley is driven by a passion for helping others to live healthier lives. She is energized by helping people discover their strengths and abilities that are far beyond what they even realize.  The combination of Crossfit coaching, massage & bodywork experience, and personal training have proven to be a well-blended approach to her career in the health and wellness field.

  • CrossFit Level 1 (CF-L1)
  • CrossFit Level 2 (CF-L2)
  • Freestyle Connection Movement Seminar with Carl Paoli
  • USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach
  • CrossFit Goal Setting Course with Greg Amundson
  • UNC-Chapel Hill, BA

Kendra Knowles

Second Family Fit Program Director


Kendra has always been very active in sports and exercise.  She swam and played tennis competitively through high school and college and has always run recreationally.  While in graduate school, a running related knee injury and little free time lead her to CrossFit.  At first she was reluctant and intimidated but quickly noticed the benefits and confidence that she gained from CrossFit.  Ever since overcoming that barrier in 2010, CrossFit has become a huge part of her life. As a new mom, she can attest that CrossFit kept her healthy during her pregnancy and shortened her postpartum recovery.  Kendra also had the opportunity to direct a CrossFit affiliate gym for 4 years.  Through that experience she discovered the most rewarding aspects of coaching and personal training are witnessing others’ growth as athletes and, in turn, the building of self confidence and self esteem.  Additionally, she has worked with a wide variety of athletes including average folks wanting to better themselves, college athletes, pregnant women, new moms, seniors, and most recently at-risk youth in middle and high school.  

Outside of coaching and personal training, Kendra is an Interior Design Consultant.  She enjoys spending time with her family, trail running, and gardening.

Life isn’t always about where the road leads, it is about the family, good friends, and community that make the ride worthwhile.

  • NASM Certified Peronal Trainer
  • USAW Level 1 Sports Performance Coach
  • Fascial Stretch Therapy Level 1
  • CrossFit Level 1 

hugh swaso


The most important thing about physical fitness is it's carry over to your day to day life. No matter what your fitness goal is, as long as your "Quality of Life" improves, then you're taking a step in the right direction. Coach Hugh is a NASM  Certified Personal Trainer and Fascial Stretch Therapist, with a specialization towards corrective exercise.  His time at CrossFit Homeward will be to guide, educate, and inspire all of our members to achieve their individual and collective goals.

  • CrossFit Level 1 Trainer



Amanda hails from New York City where she grew up training in gymnastics and ice skating. After a bad back injury, she turned to weight lifting for rehab, and suddenly fell in love with lifting weights and feeling stronger. Amanda was introduced to CrossFit in 2011 through bootcamp-style community classes, and joined a box soon after. The camaraderie, exhilaration, and measurable progress got her hooked. She loves sharing her passion for CrossFit style METCONs and lifting heavy barbells with anyone she can get in the gym. When not in the gym, Amanda is usually nerding out in her grad school program at Duke, hanging out with her husband and pups, and/or enjoying a drink out in Durham.     

  • CrossFit Level 1

Matt Cialdini




  • Certified 5th Dan Aikido Instructor with Aikido Kokikai International
  • Teaching Aikido since 1991
  • Practicing Aikido since 1982
  • Princeton University BSEE, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Cornell University MS, Physics

eric horlbeck

aikido instructor

Eric has been studying the effortless magic of Aikido Kokikai’s principles applied to human movement since 1983. 

His current focus is complementing whole body functional strength and fitness training with mind/body coordination and awareness. The combination produces astonishing results!

He is married and actively involved with his boy’s Scouting and school activities. He enjoys ballroom dancing and training his dog Sadie.

  • Duke University, Doctorate of Physical Therapy
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, BS in Biology, Minor in Chemistry
  • Certified Dry Needling through Kinetacore

Virginia Lanier

Physical Therapist

Virginia Lanier, PT, DPT specializes in outpatient orthopedic physical therapy and trigger point dry needling. She is driven by a passion for teaching athletes how to move better so that they feel better. Preventing injuries is key to optimizing performance. Her extensive work with triathletes, CrossFitters and weekend warriors allows her to draw from a varied background to tailor programs for an individual's needs and goals. Check out more about her approach at

Photograph by Aeon Schmoock

Photograph by Aeon Schmoock

danny benjamin


Danny Benjamin MD PhD: Assistant Coach for Baseball and Youth Athletics. Danny has been a coach for youth sports teams in recreation, travel, and school for over twenty years. He's currently the head coach for Smith Middle School Baseball. In Coach Danny's spare time, he's a pediatrician.