The John Austin Cheley Foundation (JACF) advances low-income, underserved youth towards a successful future through transformative residential, nature-based summer camp programs.
Founded in 1989 in the memory of John Austin “Jack” Cheley, Owner/Director of Cheley Colorado Camps in Estes Park, Colorado, JACF funds need-based camperships for youth ages 10 to 17 to pay for tuition, travel, and equipment toward a high impact summer camp experience. Jack was the driving force of Cheley Colorado Camps from 1941 to 1981, and he continued as an advisor until his death in 1987. Jack was known for his positive outlook on the future of young people and high standards for his staff and for the campers who attended Cheley Camps. He was highly regarded in the camp industry and was often called upon for assistance and advice on camp issues. Because of Jack’s interest in people and his desire that young people have a positive camp experience, friends and alumni of Cheley Camps organized the John Austin Cheley Foundation following his death.
The Foundation has positively impacted young people all over the United States by awarding over 1300 camperships at a value of over $6 million.
Leading Us Forward
From our Staff Team to our Board of Trustees, the John Austin Cheley Foundation has a skilled, dedicated and passionate group of individuals willing to do whatever it takes to help change kids’ lives for the better through the summer camp experience.
Founding Trustees & Supporters
Mary Lou Montgomery Blair
Eleanor ‘Sis’ Cheley
Bryant ‘Curly’ Denniston
William W. Hottel
Maridan Stanley Kassab
Hon. Nancy Kassebaum-Baker
Robert W. Stafford
Virginia S. Stafford
Kirstin Sullivan, Chair: Ames, IA
“In my spare time, I like to be outside whenever I can, read, write, and do photography. I went to Cheley Camps (GTE) from 1981-1986 and was on staff in Senior Chipeta in 1989. My 2 boys both attend Cheley Camps. Children inspire me. I’m in my 23rd year of teaching high schoolers and have spent the last 10 years working to send kids to camp through JACF. The satisfaction is intrinsic when you get to see first hand how your efforts helped another person. There is nothing better. My mother has always made service a big component of her life and she has always been a big influence on me and my foundations that moved me toward adulthood. I think my mission moment was when I was a junior in college and I realized that having money and a paycheck is necessary to sustain life but teaching kids to understand their place in the world and helping them to reach their full potential is what I stay alive for. I love my work, both professional and volunteer because I feel like it has a purpose that reaches beyond me.”
Jennifer Tipton, Vice-Chair: Englewood, CO
Sally Kubly, Secretary: Whitefish Bay, WI
“I serve on the Board of Trustees because I know the power of the summer camp experience, having attended Cheley Camps myself. I am passionate about the out-of-doors and youth development. I have 2 adult children who have attended camp and have similarly experienced the magic. I work as a Career Coach and Resume Writer in Milwaukee, helping adults in career transition. Prior to working in career services, I worked in mental health as a therapist and as a Director of a Nonprofit organization, which raises funds to support mental health initiatives in Wisconsin. I enjoy skiing, sailing, and hiking. As empty nesters, my husband and I have joined the ski patrol at our local hill. Anything to get outside!”
Todd Lebor: Niwot, CO
Mara Friedman: Phoenix, AZ
“I am a wife, a mom to two girls (and a giant golden retriever), a writer and a partner in a very, very small graphic design firm. I went to Camp Thunderbird for 15 summers between 1979 and 2017 and, more than any other life experience, camp shaped me. Now my girls go to Camp Thunderbird and they love it as much as I did. Every summer, when they come home, I’m amazed at how much they’ve done and learned. If I can help give that experience to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have it, I’ll feel like I’ve done something good. When I’m not working or taking care of elementary and middle school kids, I love to cook, travel, do CrossFit and hike.”
Gregory Euston: Marietta, GA
Leigh Fatzinger: Cherry Hills Village, CO
Jeff Nichols: Houston, TX
“I have two children that have been transformed by camps. I think that if I were not practicing law I would be a camp counselor because my best memories with my children are spending time with groups of them with their friends in camp-type experiences. They are grown now, and I want to see if I can help other children have the same life-changing experiences at camp that my kids did. The social skills these kids learn at camp—how to work in groups; how to make friends with strangers; how to lead and how to follow—will make them happy and successful adults. Unfortunately, many kids do not have the resources to enjoy these experiences, which is why JACF is so important.”
Casey Pettit Babcock: Denver, CO
Kate Verlaan: Denver, CO
“My 15 years in the nonprofit sector has taken me all over the world, to the front lines of disease, poverty, and injustice. It is my belief that philanthropy will reduce inequalities and drive change for humanity. I currently serve as a Partner at For Impact – The Suddes Group, coaching organizations to find a new way of working that will radically transform organizational income. I am excited to bring my expertise to JACF and help fund the foundation’s vision for growth. I am personally driven by the opportunity of making the world a better place. I was a camper at Camp Lake Hubert in Minnesota and Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Wyoming.”
Steve Yale: Truckee, CA
Hillary Shaw: Atlanta, GA
I am a mother, wife and lawyer. I spent many (many!) years as a camper and counselor at Camp Thunderbird and credit those summers with building confidence, self-reliance and empathy. I believe traditional education doesn’t sufficiently emphasize these skills, which is why the camp experience is so essential in creating happy and successful adults. I can’t wait until my 2 young boys are old enough to go to camp, but in the meantime, we love to explore the lakes and mountains near where we live.
Kathy Scheu: North Hampton, NH
As a daughter, sister, aunt and mother of Cheley campers I have become a dedicated supporter of camp opportunities for all young people! I am inspired by the effect camp had on my family and friends and feel fortunate to have the opportunity to help other families participate. Over the years I’ve shared many inspiring stories about the benefits of camp and know there are many more families who need to hear this message. I’ve spent the last 7 years working with a nonprofit helping people access healthcare no matter their financial situation, and now look forward to helping young people grow and discover who they are in life-changing camp settings. Although home is the great state of New Hampshire, I spend as much time as possible with my husband and two daughters in the Rocky Mountains enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer.
Mike Brower: Allenspark, CO
Mike attended Cheley Camps in the mid 70’s as a camper. He came back to Cheley as a counselor for 4 summers in the early 80’s. He is currently the Sr. Vice President & Controller for a co-working franchise company in Boulder, CO. He has over 35 years of experience having worked in the outdoor advertising, insurance, franchise, manufacturing and financial services industries in the capacity of CFO, Director of Finance and Controller. He obtained his B.S. in Accounting from the University of Wyoming and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants. Mike is married to Elizabeth and has two sons, Jackson and Cade.
Dave Brown: Ridgefield, CT
Dave Brown is the president & CEO of IDOC, an alliance that empowers independent optometrists to live the practice of their dreams. Dave joined IDOC in 2014 after a successful 23-year career at Johnson & Johnson. Dave is a graduate of Colgate University and received an MBA from Columbia University. Dave and his wife Christine are strong believers in the power of the camp experience and strong supporters of JACF as well. This stems from their two daughters experiencing over 20 years combined at Cheley Camps, both as campers and counselors. We are thankful for all the summers at Cheley as they provided transformative experiences for our daughters and created lasting friendships for the entire Brown family.
Ellen Wagnon: Houston, TX
Sara Gilbertson: Bethesda, MD
We support youth development in an extremely unique and effective manner. We are changing the lives of children by sending them to high powered, impactful summer camp programs across the United States. Our reach into all corners of the country proves that this organization is making a real difference for so many people. I’m really proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization! Please join me in supporting the John Austin Cheley Foundation!
Kirstin Sullivan, Chair of the Board of Trustees