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
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 over 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.
Akeela Wisconsin 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
Akeela Wisconsin Director
Mike Deutschman hails from Wakefield, Rhode Island, where he lives with his wife, two children and their dog, Dexter. Mike began working for Camp Akeela in 2010 as a cabin counselor. That summer, he met and fell in love with the camp nurse, who became his wife 3 years later. Mike has worked as a head counselor at Akeela off and on for the past 8 years. He is known for his energetic Richard Simmons impression and signature bushy red beard!
Originally from the Midwest, Mike graduated with a degree in child psychology from the University of Minnesota. During and after college, he spent 4 years working at an autism and early childhood intervention center. He loved working one-on-one with clients to improve their social skills, as well as running after school groups for teenagers. Mike traded in the Midwest flatlands for the Rhode Island ocean and has spent the last 8 years as an Assistant Dean at Middlebridge School, a private boarding high school for students with learning differences. During his free time, Mike enjoys exploring the world with his family, directing the school play and engaging in any card or sports game he can convince others to play with him!
Favorite Book: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Place I’d Like To Visit: New Zealand (to walk the trail to Mordor) Favorite Camp Food: Chicken Patties
Beyond Akeela Director
Kristin Trimble joined the Akeela team in 2015 as a counselor, and has spent every summer since in the Akeela community, including her role as the Beyond Akeela Head Counselor in 2018. When she’s not at camp, Kristin is a school & mental health counselor at a performing arts high school in Philadelphia. She obtained her graduate degree in Counseling Psychology from Temple University, and has focused her career on high school aged students. Kristin brings her counseling expertise to camp and oversees the social success and emotional well being of Beyond Akeela teens. During the off-season, Kristin works closely with her husband, Akeela’s Assistant Director Kevin Trimble, to build the Beyond Akeela curriculum and meets with each new family. When she’s not focused on camp, Kristin enjoys playing in a local volleyball league (with Kevin!), exploring Philadelphia, and finding new recipes to try at home!
Favorite Book: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara Place I’d Like To Visit: Portugal Favorite Camp Food: Vegan cookies
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.
Staffing Director & Program Director (VT)
Ben Jerez is from a small town called Bunbury in Western Australia. After moving to Perth, the state capital, to earn his degree in Education at Curtin University, Ben started a tutoring and mentoring business serving disadvantaged youth. After his first summer at Akeela in 2015 Ben realized he loves camp! Ben enjoys his free time playing football, hiking and surfing. Ben has a passion for traveling and in 2018, he brought his experience in places like Papua New Guinea, Iceland and Hawaii to his role as the Outdoor Adventure Director. In June 2019, Ben joined Akeela’s full-time year-round staff. In his capacity as the Program Director during the summer, he makes sure that all activities, trips and special events are safe, memorable and fun! In the off-season, he works closely with Debbie and Eric in all aspects of the operation, focusing primarily on hiring our incredible staff members. He is so glad to be returning to Akeela for his fifth summer.
Favorite Book: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn Place I’d Like To Visit: Chile Favorite Camp Food: Hike day lunch!
Assistant Director (VT)
Rob Glyn-Jones lives in the north of England, although he has spent the last twenty-four 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 2017, 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!
Head Counselor (VT)
After a one summer hiatus, Lily Baker is so excited to be returning to camp as a head counselor in 2020! Lily started at Akeela in 2015 as the camp photographer, then became a cabin counselor, and in 2018 was an assistant head counselor. During the off season she has been working in a Vermont public school as a behavior specialist. She will be relocating after camp to Nashville to pursue her graduate degree in school counseling. Some of Lily’s favorite camp activities are campfire, daraoke (a mixture of dance and karaoke), and the camper play. In her free time she likes to hike, camp, and eat cheese!
Favorite Book: The Help by Kathryn Stockett Place I’d Like To Visit: Hawaii Favorite Camp Food: Chef Trina’s Oreo Pie
Head Counselor (VT)
John Gallagher, originally from Seattle, is a 6th grade English teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools out in frigid Minnesota. He worked as an Akeela cabin counselor in 2017, and is thrilled to be back on the shores of Miller Pond this summer as a Head Counselor! John received his Teaching license and a Bachelor’s degree in English in the cornfields of Iowa at Grinnell College, where he also ran Track and Field and Cross Country. In his free time, John loves running, playing soccer, going to sporting events, and watching Netflix. John loves working at camp, because it gives him a chance to connect with awesome young people outside of the classroom.
Favorite Book: Wonder by R.J. Palacio Place I’d Like To Visit: Wherever the 2023 Women’s World Cup is! Favorite Camp Food: Chef Trina’s Bread Pudding
Head Counselor (VT)
Steph Harmelin has a long history (and love!) of camp — from a camper for many years to counselor, Waterfront Director, and even Camp Director! Inspired by children she met at a camp specifically for those who had lost a parent in the 9/11 attacks, she received her Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a Licensed Social Worker in PA. In her free time, Steph enjoys traveling to far-off places where she doesn’t speak the language, and hanging with her dog, Boone. Those three things — travel, Boone, and camp — are what she always claims to be the greatest things in her life (plus her family. And snacks). Camp continues to change her life, and she’s always excited to see how she can help it change the lives of others.
Favorite Book: Anything by Robin McKinley Place I’d Like To Visit: Madagascar Favorite Camp Food: Fajitas
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
Aquatics Director (VT)
John Alberts is eager to begin his first summer at Camp Akeela! Starting his camp career on the shores of Lake Cobbosseecontee, he began as a swimming and bunk counselor at Camp Cobbossee for Boys in Monmouth, ME. With years of competitive swimming experience, he quickly moved to the assistant waterfront director position. He spent two summers in that role, implementing a structured, safe, and of course engaging swim program in which campers strove to be the best versions of themselves. Over the last two years, John has spent four seasons working with kids and adults with special needs and challenging illnesses at Camp For All in Burton, TX. Making residential camping his career objective, his experience at Camp For All gave him a better understanding of not only why he does camp, but also the population he enjoys serving best. John believes camp has a monumental impact on those who truly step outside their comfort zones, and being able to provide a safe environment for campers to thrive makes places like Camp Akeela feel like a second home.
Favorite Book: The Body by Stephen King Place I’d Like To Visit: Tokyo Favorite Camp Food: Cheeseburgers
Arts Director (VT)
Darra O’Keeffe is from a town called swords, in Dublin, Ireland. He is currently working in a baby department store as a baby expert and regional car seat trainer. However, this is just to fund his summers at Akeela and his crafting hobbies! In his spare time, he’s either drawing, designing or building something. (He was Akeela’s woodworking specialist for 3 summers before becoming the Art Director in 2019.) When not building, he can be found in the kitchen cooking or baking. He also loves outdoor activities (for as long as his Irish skin tolerates the sun) and spend many weekends hiking in the Wicklow mountains. He’s more excited than ever to return to Akeela and to continue heading up all of our art programs.
Favorite Book: Read Nothing In Here by Sheema Sharma Place I’d Like to Visit: Australia Favorite Camp Food: Bread pudding
Ropes Director (VT)
Rob Brennan lives in Dublin, Ireland. This will be his third summer working at Camp Akeela. In 2016, he worked as a cabin counselor and in 2017 as our lead ropes specialist. Now, after a summer away from camp, Rob is very excited to be returning as the Ropes Course Director!
After graduating from university with a Bachelor of Education in 2017, Rob has spent the past two years working as a primary school teacher. After enjoying his first year working as a mainstream class teacher, Rob was delighted to be given the opportunity to spend this past academic year
working as a Special Education Teacher. In this role, Rob works mostly with children with Emotional Behaviour Disorder, ASD, ADHD and other needs and works on more individualized programs with these students to promote their emotional, social and academic integration in the mainstream setting. In his free time, Rob loves to play the piano, go rock-climbing and spend time with friends and family.
Favorite Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Place I’d Like to Visit: Mumbai, India (or anywhere with a Camp Akeela reunion!) Favorite Camp Food: Ice cream
Site Manager (VT)
Keefe Traendly was born in nearby Lebanon, NH, and grew up along with his two brothers and two sisters right down the road from Camp Akeela! He graduated from Thetford Academy in 2000 and began working as a carpenter for several years before deciding to move to North Carolina to attend college. After 10 years down South, the opportunity arose to come back home to Vermont to help his ailing father run his contracting business. Since then, Keefe has made carpentry into a career, on that gives him the type of satisfaction most only dream of. In 2013, Keefe married his wife, Yvette, who is a special education teacher at the Newton School in Strafford. His hobbies are hiking, fishing, hunting, and going to see as much live music as possible!
Favorite Book: Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss Place I’d Like To Visit: Brazil Favorite Camp Food: S’mores
Chef Trina Triacca
Head Chef (VT)
Chef Trina is from Orlando, Florida and currently lives in Gainesville, where she is a chef for a fraternity at the University of Florida. She is a graduate of the prestigious culinary arts program at Johnson & Wales and has been working in food service for nearly 20 years. She has explored her love for food and people in a variety of settings, including catering and food specialty stores. She has even owned, managed and cooked in her own food truck! In addition to her talent, her contagious laugh and her unwavering positivity, one of the things we love most about Trina is her passion for making people happy through food. Every summer, she wows us with a great menu, and a sharply tuned attention to all of our various preferences and special diets.
When Trina isn’t in the kitchen she enjoys spending time with her family and her old dog, Bender. She loves trying new restaurants and traveling. Her travels have taken her to much of the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and all over Europe. She has a quirky love of 80s movies, especially anything starring Bill Murray. She also loves painting, crafting and everything about Camp Akeela!
Favorite Book: The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King Place I’d Like to Visit: Australia Favorite Camp Food: Tacos!
Program Director and Assistant 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