Directors and Staff

Camp Akeela Staff

Camp Akeela is proud to boast a ratio of more than 1 adult for every 2 campers. More essential than the number of staff we employ is the quality of our personnel. At Akeela, every camper benefits from the care, spirit and skills of each staff member. We undertake extraordinary lengths to find the best of the best, to ensure that campers have the safest, most fun and most transformative experience possible. Each of our staff members has chosen to join Akeela because they are excited about living, playing, laughing and learning in our camp community. They approach each summer with the energy, dedication and sense of humor that make it evident how much they enjoy and truly “get” Akeela campers!

This incredible group of people includes experts in the fields of child development, psychology, special education, therapeutic interventions, and health care. All of this combined expertise helps ensure that every Akeela camper receives the individualized care and attention that he or she requires to have a successful summer.

Our Camp Directors

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Eric and Debbie Sasson (with their daughters, Julia and Margo)

Eric Sasson has over 30 years of camp experience, at some of the Northeast’s finest camps, including Camp Walt Whitman, Camp Wingate*Kirkland and Camp Mah-Kee-Nac. He has been a full time camp professional for nearly 20 years and is an active member of the American Camp Association. Eric earned a BA in Math from Haverford College and a Masters in Education from Harvard University. Outside of the camp world, he has extensive experience working with children and young adults in a variety of settings.

Favorite Book: Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Place I’d Like To Visit: New Zealand
Camp Food: Fajitas

Debbie Sasson has been spending her summers at camp for more than 25 years. She has a BA in Psychology and a Masters in School Counseling from the University of Rochester. After 3 wonderful years as a middle school counselor in Belmont, MA, she returned to school and earned her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Yeshiva University in May 2008. She works as a full-time director of Camp Akeela, a position to which she brings extensive knowledge of the fields of child, adolescent and Family-Systems psychology.

Favorite Book: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Place I’d Like To Visit: South Africa
Camp Food: Tacos


Debbie and Eric met at a summer camp and have been partners in camping ever since. They have each held virtually every job available at camp, from bunk counselor and swim instructor to unit head and camp director. Throughout their careers, Debbie and Eric have always found themselves gravitating towards the “quirky” kids. Opening Akeela enabled them to create an empowering community for boys and girls who thrive in traditional camp setting with a little extra social support.

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Kevin Trimble
Assistant Director and Beyond Akeela Director
Kevin Trimble lives in Philadelphia and has worked at Akeela since 2009. He started as an accounting intern, and has spent his other summers as a counselor, Program Director and Head Counselor. In October 2013, he joined Akeela’s full-time staff as Assistant Director. He is responsible for finding and hiring the amazing counselors who work with your campers. Kevin also helps with camper recruitment, program planning, staff training, communication with camp families, and everything else that goes into making Akeela run smoothly.

Kevin is from Palo Alto, California. He played basketball at Palo Alto High School and was a member of the 2006 State championship team. He then went on to graduate from Wake Forest University with a bachelors and masters degree in Accountancy. After spending a year at Ernst & Young, the call to return to camp was too strong to ignore. He left his young accounting career behind to follow his passion here at Akeela. When he’s not working on camp stuff, Kevin enjoys playing basketball and traveling to see friends.

Favorite Book: The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons
Place I’d Like To Visit: Greece
Favorite Camp Food: Chicken Patties


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David Baker
Assistant Director and Wisconsin On-Site Director

David Baker has spent over 15 summers at camp, both as a camper and a staff member. Starting in 2010, he spent his summers on staff at Camp Akeela in Vermont as a Cabin Counselor, Golf Specialist, Assistant Head Counselor and Head Counselor. He met his wife Katie at Akeela in 2011 and the two had their rehearsal dinner on the porch of our dining hall in Vermont! He knew from early in his time at Akeela that he wanted to make summer camp his career, and that dream came true when he joined Akeela’s year-round team in the fall of 2016 as one of the On-Site Directors for Akeela Wisconsin.

Before joining the camp world full-time, Dave was a teacher, residential instructor and basketball coach at a boarding school in Rhode Island for students with various learning differences. He has a BS in Education from Franciscan University. He currently lives in Philadelphia with Katie, their daughter, Adelaide, and their dog, Luna. In his free time, Dave loves visiting with his huge family, watching his beloved New England sports teams, and visiting friends all around the country.

Favorite Book: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Place I’d Like To Visit: Santorini, Greece
Favorite Camp Food: Fajitas


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Katie Baker
Wisconsin On-Site Director
Katie Baker is a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) who lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Dave, their daughter, Adelaide, and their dog, Luna. During the non-camp months, she works as a BCBA with children in the Philadelphia area. She earned her Master’s degree in Behavior Analysis from the University of Cincinnati after completing her undergrad at Miami University (OH). Katie has been part of the Akeela staff since 2011 and has previously held the roles of cabin counselor, Beyond Akeela Advisor, Assistant Head Counselor, and Head Counselor, before taking over as On-Site Director in Wisconsin.

In December 2015, Katie was part of a team that traveled to Chandigarh, India with the Global Autism Project to work with kids with autism and train teachers on how to use Applied Behavior Analysis in a school. She presents to other camp professionals about how to use the principles of behavior analysis in a summer camp setting. Her favorite thing about camp is seeing how much the campers change over such a short period of time, and loves watching children and friendships grow at camp!

Favorite Book: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Place I’d Like To Visit: Ireland
Favorite Camp Food: S’mores


Greg Walker
Greg Walker
Staffing Coordinator and
Program Director (VT)
Greg Walker lives in Philadelphia, PA, with his wife, Julia. The two moved east from Des Moines, Iowa when Greg joined Akeela’s year-round team in the fall of 2017. Greg has spent every summer since 2012 at Akeela and has fulfilled the roles of Drama Specialist, Assistant Program Director, Program Director, and Head Counselor. When he first came to Akeela in 2012 from his native Manchester, U.K., he fell in love with Vermont, the great sense of community at Akeela, and summer camp life!
Greg focuses mostly on hiring Akeela’s unbelievable staff during the off-season, as well as assisting with camper recruitment, program development, and accounting and administration. In the summer, Greg acts as Akeela’s Program Director. In his free time, he loves to watch and play soccer, play online video games and socialize with friends.

Favorite Book: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Place I’d Like To Visit: San Francisco, CA
Favorite Camp Food: Pizza


Our Senior Staff

Our senior staff is composed of highly trained and experienced professionals in the fields of psychology, education, special needs, and therapeutic interventions. These “go-to” people train and provide on-going support to our counselors and activity specialists. They also work directly with campers as part of our regular program and on an as-needed basis.

Vermont Campus

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Blayne Hill
Vermont Site Manager
Blayne Hill is a vital member of our year-round camp leadership team. He has been with Akeela since the very beginning, joining Debbie and Eric in the fall of 2007. Blayne’s hands, vision and talent have touched virtually every square inch of our camp facilities. He refurbished all the buildings and cabins that Akeela has kept from previous camps that were on our property, and added many, many more new structures.

What makes Blayne such a unique and invaluable asset to Akeela is that in addition to his skills as a builder, contractor, and facility manager, he loves camp life! He and his dog, Kayla, are beloved figures around camp and play a big role in the community. Born and raised in Thetford, Vermont, Blayne also serves as our expert in all things local. When not working on camp projects, he can usually be found fishing in Miller Pond or playing in the mud with his excavator!

Favorite Book: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Place I’d Like To Visit: Japan
Favorite Camp Food: Desserts


Rob Glyn-Jones
Rob Glyn-Jones
Communications Director (VT)
Rob Glyn-Jones lives in the north of England, although he has spent the last twenty three summers working at American summer camps. Rob started his camp career in 1996 as a counselor at Summit Camp in Pennsylvania. He rose through the ranks at Summit and for eight years was a Unit Leader there. In 2010 he joined Camp Akeela as a head counselor and had an immediate and profound impact on the Akeela campers and staff. He has always been drawn to working with children and believes that camp is a fantastic environment for encouraging growth and development – as well as having a great time! In 2015, Rob moved over to the Program side of life at camp and discovered a new love for the complexities of scheduling and trying to make sure that everyone gets their top choices for Specialties! Beginning in 2018, Rob pioneered the role of communications director for Akeela. In that capacity, he works closely with Debbie, Eric and the head counseling team to continually improve how we communicate all of the successes happening at camp with the outside world!

During the rest of the year, Rob works as an actor and workshop leader. A lot of this work takes him into schools and colleges to facilitate issue-based presentations on a wide variety of topics such as anti-social behavior, bullying, community cohesion and drug issues. In his spare time he enjoys cooking, reading, swimming and watching Doctor Who!

Favorite Book: The Box of Delights by John Masefield
Place I’d Like To Visit: Nepal and Tibet
Camp Food: Hot Dogs and dessert!


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Luke Cylke
Head Counselor (VT)
Luke Cylke currently lives in Wichita, Kansas where he is pursuing his doctorate in Clinical-Community Psychology. He went to the University of Oregon for his undergraduate degree and is a huge Oregon Ducks fan. He is originally from Reno, Nevada and in his free time he loves to ski, rock climb, and play tennis and ping-pong. Luke started at Camp Akeela in the summer of 2013 as the tennis specialist. Camp Akeela was life changing for him and he couldn’t wait to get back to Miller Pond again. This summer, he will return to Akeela as a head counselor and is looking forward to implementing his teaching and therapeutic skills to help campers and counselors learn and grow over the summer. He is also excited make and wear tie-dye t-shirts!

Favorite Book: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Place I’d Like To Visit: New Zealand
Favorite Camp Food: Grilled Cheese


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Nicole Frederick
Head Counselor (VT)
Nicole Frederick was a camp counselor in 2014, and fell in love with Akeela! During the last two years, she has been working toward her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Specialization in Music Therapy at Lesley University. She has stayed active within the Akeela community, assisting as a counselor at the Winter Weekend just a few months ago! Nicole will bring her teaching and therapeutic skills to assist the campers in trying new skills, making new friends, and creating great memories.
Nicole is looking forward to so many things about camp, including getting to know her campers, sharing music at the campfires, and working with an incredible and dedicated staff!

Favorite Book: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Place I’d Like To Visit: Iceland
Favorite Camp Food: Anything gluten free!


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Celia O’Flaherty
Head Counselor (VT)
Celia O’Flaherty lives in Nashville, TN where she is earning her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education and is working toward becoming a BCBA. Celia started her journey at Akeela in 2013 as the camp photographer and nanny for Margo and Julia Sasson. She then joined the counseling crew in 2014 and will be a Head Counselor this coming summer.

Celia grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, but has been drawn to the mountains since she attended Gonzaga University in Washington state, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education. Celia loves everything outdoors, from hiking to swimming, rock climbing to cross country skiing and is looking forward to spending her fifth year at the greenest, happiest place on the planet!

Favorite Book: The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
Place I’d Like To Visit: Switzerland
Favorite Camp Food: Pigs in a Blanket


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Barb Wolfson
Head Counselor (VT)
Barb Wolfson has been a child advocate and professional educator for over 30 years. She is a graduate of UMass Amherst and has a Masters in Education from Lesley University. Barb was the director for 10 years at Camp Wingate Kirkland on Cape Cod (where Debbie and Eric met!). Barb lives in Wayland, MA with her husband Jim and their two black labs Moses and Nellie. She has two grown children, Elizabeth and Sam. Barb loves to read, cook, exercise, go to the movies with Jim, hang out with her family, spend time with friends, and take Moses and Nellie for walks.

Favorite Book: Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Place I’d Like To Visit: Alaska
Favorite Camp Food: S’mores


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Kyle Bennett
Aquatics Director (VT)
Kyle Bennett is happy to be returning to Akeela for his fifth summer. He grew up in Iowa where he worked at New Hope Village, a living facility for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Kyle attended Millikin University in Illinois and earned his degree in Theatre, and started spending his summers working at Akeela!

He then moved to Vermont and spent a year working as a behavior interventionist and helping troubled children in the classroom. Kyle now lives in New York City and is pursuing a career on the stage. In his free time he enjoys reading, taking his dog to the park, and trying new restaurants in the city. At Akeela, Kyle has always worked in aquatics but enjoys dabbling in other aspects of camp and using creativity to have as much fun as possible.

Favorite Book: His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
Place I’d Like To Visit: Mykonos, Greece
Favorite Camp Food: Eggs McKeela


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Uttunga Gaikwad
Ropes Director (VT)
Uttunga Gaikwad – or Tony as he likes to be called – is joining us as our Ropes Director in his first summer at
Akeela. He has been working as an outdoor educator in India for the past 8 years now, and is in his
third year of a Bachelor’s degree at the Mumbai University. He has been working with children, as
well as in corporate set-ups, running programs based on experiential education. In his free time, he
likes to explore new places and travel. Rock climbing really excites him. He is really looking forward
to working with the wonderful staff and meeting all of our campers!

Favorite Book: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Place I’d Like to Visit: Yosemite Valley
Favorite Camp Food: Pizza


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Keith Hayes
Assistant Program Director (VT)
Keith Hayes is from Dublin, Ireland but is currently living in Ottawa, Canada. Keith studied health and fitness where he learned to organize group activities in settings such as surfing camps, running clubs, multi-sport programs and even equestrian groups – though he’s terrified of horses! He has a passion for sports, such as archery and football (which you call “soc-cer” over here). His approach is very inclusive and promotes self-esteem, participation, team building and, most of all, FUN!

This is Keith’s 4th summer at Camp Akeela, having spent the summers of 2013 – 2015 as a counselor and archery specialist. He’s looking forward to returning to Akeela, reconnecting with old colleagues and campers and meeting new people. He’s particularly looking forward to implementing new camp activities and getting to see everyone enjoy themselves in the great outdoors!

Favorite Book: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Place I’d Like To Visit: Vietnam
Camp Food: Pizza


Ben
Ben Jerez
Outdoor Adventure Director (VT)
Ben Jerez is from a town called Bunbury in Western Australia, and moved to Perth, the state capital, to pursue a career in Education at Curtin University. He is so glad to be returning to Akeela for his third summer. Ben spends his time tutoring and mentoring young people in his community while also enjoying football, hiking and the occasional surf. Ben has a passion for travelling and looks forward to bringing his experience in places like Papua New Guinea, Iceland and Hawaii to his role as the Outdoor Adventure Director.

Favorite Book: Wonder by R.J Palacio
Place I’d Like To Visit: Chile
Favorite Camp Food: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches


Julia Schettler
Julia Schettler
Arts Director (VT)
Julia Schettler is from Iowa and currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband (and Akeela’s year-round staffing director and program director) Greg Walker. She is a graduate student in Drexel University’s Master of Science program in Interior Architecture & Design. Before arriving in Philly, she worked at New Hope Village, serving a diverse population of adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Prior to that, she was a residential instructor at the Middlebridge School in Rhode Island. She’s also a certified yoga instructor!

She first came to Camp Akeela in 2013 after graduating from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting. Working as an arts specialist, she came to love the integration of her creative background with her drive to empower special populations. She is thrilled to help children embrace their creative expression in all forms and media.

Favorite Book: It by Stephen King
Place I’d Like To Visit: Costa Rica
Favorite Camp Food: Vegan Cookies


Wisconsin Campus

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Lauren O’Brien
Head Counselor (WI)
Lauren O’Brien currently lives in Madison, WI where she teaches 7th grade math and social studies.  She joined the Akeela staff in the summer of 2016 in Vermont as a Cabin Counselor and made the jump to Head Counselor in her homeland of Wisconsin in 2017. In December of 2016, Lauren graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and English as a Second Language.

Since joining the Akeela family, Lauren has fallen in love with camp life and couldn’t be more excited for another summer filled with awesome camp traditions (evening meeting and campfire being her personal favorites) and a wonderful crew of campers and counselors.

Favorite Book: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Place I’d Like To Visit: Ireland
Favorite Camp Food: Tacos and desserts

Joe
Joe Torok
Head Counselor (WI)
Joe Torok Joe currently lives in Detroit, Michigan. After two years as the director of Beyond Akeela and one year as a head counselor in Vermont, Joe will be joining the Wisconsin crew as a head counselor this summer.

He teaches writing at Wayne State University, and he has also taught a number of writing, reading, and student development classes at Eastern Michigan University and Lansing Community College. Joe has written for a newspaper as a restaurant critic and reporter, done a little college sports reporting, and worked for a time with the most wonderful kids in the world (besides Akeela campers!) at a special education school in Lansing, Michigan.

Favorite Book: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Place I’d Like To Visit: Budapest
Favorite Camp Food: Fajitas

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Catricia Morris
Program Director (WI)
Catricia Morris currently lives in Boston, MA, where she is working towards a Master’s degree in Prevention Science and Practice and a license in School Adjustment Counseling. Before returning to school, she worked as a Behavioral Therapist for children and adolescents on the Autism Spectrum in her native Minnesota.

Catricia joined the Akeela staff in 2015 as a Cabin Counselor. She moved to the program side of camp in 2017 as the Lead Program Specialist at Akeela Wisconsin and will be the Program Director in Wisconsin this summer. In her free time, Catricia loves to dance, listen to music, and spend time with her family and friends. She is originally from Minnesota and has loved being part of Akeela’s move to the Midwest. Catricia loves all things camp life and is looking forward to her fourth summer with the Akeela community!
Favorite Book: My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Place I’d Like To Visit: India
Favorite Camp Food: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

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Preston Gilchrist
Arts Director (WI)
Preston Gilchrist lives in Alexandria, Louisiana, which is the geographic center of the state and referred to locally as “Cenla”. Preston received his BA in Fine Arts at the University of New Orleans, and finished his Master of Fine Arts at Louisiana Tech. He has over 25 years experience as an arts educator, including four summers as the Art Director at Camp Akeela, four years as
an Art Therapist at Central Louisiana State Hospital, and 20 years experience directing day camps and educational programming for arts organizations in Central Louisiana. Currently he serves as Lead Teacher for the Talented Art Program in the Rapides Parish School System. Preston revels in the creative energy and unlimited potential for success that accompanies working with children in an artistic environment. He looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for art in Wisconsin this summer!

Preston and his wife Karen have spent a good portion of the last five years building a house and studio space in
their free time and plan to finish before Akeela Wisconsin this year.

Favorite Book: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Place I’d Like To Visit: Bruges, Belgium
Favorite Camp Food: Pizza, of course!

Summer camp Wisconsin