Who We Are

Joseph Gabunilas


Operation Amped Co-Founder, Joseph Gabunilas, is a Senior Information Technology Project Manager for Quest Diagnostics Clinical Trials division in Valencia, California. He received his B.S. from August University in the School of Education after earning his B.S. Physical Science with an Education Minor. Joseph is also a graduate of “The West Point of the West – New Mexico Military Institute” where he received his Commission in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Joseph retired at the rank of Major in 2003 after 9 ½ years of Active Duty and 11 years of National Guard/Reserve duty. He has served in Europe, South Korea and in the US with the Washington State Army National Guard and Army Reserves holding a number of leadership positions from Communication Platoon Leader to Chief of Automation/G6 463rd RRC at Los Alamitos, CA.

Joseph’s work with ill and wounded soldiers and veterans began when a friend asked him to help facilitate access to the San Onofre Beach Facility at Camp Pendleton in July 2006. This was the first Surf Therapy event for Wounded Warriors called “Surfers for Soldier”. It was meant to commemorate the 5th Anniversary of 9/11 and allow surfers the opportunity give back to those who have sacrificed for America’s freedom. This first event involved 10 wounded Marines from the Casualty Barracks at Camp Pendleton. Since then, Joseph has been instrumental in coordinating the annual 3 day Operation Amped event at Camp Pendleton. His work with Operation Amped has seen him progress from volunteer to President of the Board of Directors. He continues to see the value and benefit of surf therapy and his meticulous planning skills have guaranteed the continued smooth execution of the 3 day event with increasing success every year. Joseph has a responsibility to lead the organization into an expanded role with the mission to touch and heal as many wounded veterans as possible through surf therapy.

Being an avid surfer/waterman since he was 13, Joseph brings over 40 years of surfing experience and skill to the organization. The 3 day Operation Amped event is a Family Affair where Joseph, along with his wife Cecilia, his two sons Jason, (25) and Nathaniel (23), all work tirelessly alongside numerous other dedicated volunteers to insure a memorable experience for all.

On occasion, Joseph makes his way to the break at Ventura Naval Base at Point Mugu with his favorite Custom 6’1” Roberts Diamond Fish getting pitted going “Pig Dog Style” on its backside left!

David Donaldson

Board Member

Operation Amped Co-Founder David Donaldson completed 20 years and 13 days of active duty military service in the U.S. Navy on 01 September 2003.  Serving as a Hospital Corpsman, David completed assignments with the U.S. Marines, at Naval Hospitals and clinics in the U.S. and Spain, on the USS Patterson (FF-1061), the Hospital Ship USNS Mercy (TAH-10), and at Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal Training at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Coronado, CA where he retired.

After retiring from the Navy, David helped to build the Recreation Therapy program for the Comprehensive and Complex Casualty Care Center (C5) at the Naval Medical Center, San Diego and served as the first Recreation Therapist during the first three years of C5’s presence.  During that time, David worked directly with severely injured and ill veterans that had been medically evacuated from combat theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hallmarks of that very successful program were adaptive interventions that allowed veterans with a new amputations, brain injuries, PTSD, and poly-trauma to experience, many for the first time, the excitement, freedom, and healing of adventure-based activities such as surfing, snow skiing, rock climbing, and mountaineering.  That experience was the springboard for David to seek out like-minded surfers that would eventually give rise to Operation Amped.

David moved back to southern California after a three-year hiatus in Sandpoint, Idaho where he worked as a family therapist at the Northwest Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for adolescents. David has a passion for experiential learning and adventure-based counseling, and he brings 20 years of experience working in the team building and leadership training arena.

David earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation Therapy and a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, both from San Diego State University, and is currently a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership program at California State University Long Beach.  David is a CA state-certified Recreation Therapist and a PSIA certified alpine, Nordic, and adaptive and instructor.

David is married to his beautiful wife Michelle, has two sons, a daughter, and another on the way. They all share the stoke and aloha spirit of surfing and playing in the outdoors.

On occasion, David makes his way to the break at El Porto with his favorite 9’6” Stewart that was a hand-shaped gift from the late Kenny Duncan.  “Shoulder high and trunks is the best combo.”

Reid Olmstead

Board Member

Reid Olmstead is a school psychologist in the New York City Department of Education and has also worked with San Diego Unified Schools.  He received his M.S. and C.A.G.S. from Northeastern University in School Psychology after earning his B.A. from LeMoyne College in Psychology.

Reid’s work with wounded, ill, and injured soldiers and veterans began when a friend asked him to visit D.C. and help lead a weekend long adaptive rock climbing clinic for soldiers and their related health care providers from Walter Reed Medical Center.  Since, Reid helped create Paradox Sports (www.paradoxsports.org) sitting on the Board of Directors for years.

His non-profit experience expanded to the education world when he sat on the Board of Directors and as the Curriculum Chair for The Sean O’Shea Foundation (seanosheafoundation.org).  His work with Operation Amped has lead him from volunteer to Secretary of the Board of Directors and he continues to see the value and benefit of surf therapy as well as other nature-based and community-minded organizations that support soldiers and veterans.  Being a civilian from a strong and proud military family, Reid has a responsibility to support those that have served in the Armed Forces.

Currently, all day surf sessions are in short quantity for Reid until he and his wife Tracy teach their 9 month old daughter how to swim and paddle.  His favorite surfboard is a 9’0 Chouinard HP on big winter days at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego.

Robert Donnelly

Board Member

Native to New Jersey, Bobby grew up lifeguarding and surfing in Seaside Park and Normandy Beach. In 2003 Bobby joined the Navy at 21 years of age as a Hospital Corpsman. Upon completion of his first tour of duty at Naval Medical Center San Diego his package was accepted to attend Navy EOD School in on the Gulf Coast of Florida. During a Military Freefall training evolution Bobby suffered a severe fracture of his right lower leg resulting in the eventual loss of his limb below the knee. Despite his injury and multiple surgeries Bobby has continued to surf, shape surfboards and share his passion of the ocean and its therapeutic benefits with fellow wounded service members. After a long 10 years away from the east coast Bobby is finally back so be sure to start up a conversation if you see this one legged Ginger in the lineup!

Todd Gould

Board Member

Todd Gould has been a dedicated Operation Amped volunteer since 2007 and currently serves on the board of directors.  He is an advocate, mentor, and volunteer continuing to serve alongside, and in honor of fellow veterans.  Todd served honorably in the US Army for more than seven years.  Due to service-connected injuries, his military career was cut short and he was medically discharged in 2004.  He relocated from Colorado to San Diego to assist severely wounded, ill, and injured service-members, veterans, and their families with transitional care and rehabilitation.  Todd worked extensively with the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and a multitude of non-profits geared toward veteran rehabilitation and transitional support.  He collaborates and volunteers with a number of organizations.  Todd instructs at the weekly NMCSD Surf Clinic in Del Mar.  If he isn’t at Tourmo he is more than likely changing diapers, playing the Jew’s harp, or trying to get his family up to San Onofre for a surf.

Barry Ziehl

Board Member

Barry Ziehl is one of the co-founders of Operation Amped.  When founder, Tom Tapp, came up with the concept of sharing the therapeutic effects of surfing with the men and women of our U.S. military, Barry jumped in and helped pull together the first one-day event a decade ago.  Out of that first day sprang the commitment of volunteers with not only a commitment to the cause, but skill-sets specifically tuned to understanding, and administering, the healing aspects of activities like surfing.  Having been a part of the program since its inception, Barry has witnessed the powerful therapeutic benefits and positive lifelong impact these events provide.

In his day job, Barry is Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Strategic Initiatives for Warner Bros. Entertainment. Prior to his current role, he served as Senior Vice President, Worldwide Public Relations and Marketing for Warner Bros. Consumer Products for more than 10 years.

Barry is an avid surfer, skateboarder and snowboarder.  His greatest joy is his family-his wife, Jacqueline, and their children, Kirra and Jack.