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 1200 camperships at a value of over $5 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
Mara Friedman, Secretary: 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.”
Sebastian de Atucha: Denver, CO
John Boylan, Houston, TX
“I am inspired by the amazing people around me. My mother always said that surrounding yourself with good people will make your life infinitely better. I experience this with my fellow trustees at JACF. It’s something that I do not take for granted. This work provides an opportunity to give back, to connect with people who share similar values and beliefs, and to participate in the community and make it a better place. I feel more connected to humanity when I venture out and form relationships with others.
I’ve found it so inspiring each time we are able to hear directly from, and personally visit with JACF campers. These young people are so capable, and willing to share their gratitude for working to provide them with such a life-changing experience. When you hear first hand how this work positively affects their lives, it can bring you to tears. Tears of joy for finally finding work worthy of unconditionally giving to.”
Gregory Euston: Marietta, GA
Leigh Fatzinger: Cherry Hills Village, CO
Ali Frick: New York, NY
“I am a civil rights lawyer. I spent nearly a decade at camp, as a camper and counselor, and know its potent magic. At camp, I learned independence, fortitude, and self-confidence, and I made life-long friends from around the world. As a new mom now, I am dedicated to spreading the life-changing power of wilderness camps to as many young people as possible.”
Sara Gilbertson: Bethesda, MD
Sally Kubly: 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!”
Debbie Leibold: Littleton, CO
“I have been on the Board of Trustees since 2009. I got involved as a way to share my passion for the summer camp experience and the life-changing impact it can have on a young person’s life. My time as a Cheley Colorado Camps camper and staff member inspired me to become an educator. Both of my boys attended Cheley, and I saw growth in their confidence, independence, leadership, and love of nature as a result of their time at camp. All of JACF’s Associate Camps provide transformational experiences for kids and the great kids with whom we work continually inspire me. I also volunteer for several other community organizations in the Denver area and for our local school district. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, skiing, golf, and spending time in the mountains with my family.”
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
Phillip Sanborn Perry: Golden, 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.”
Ellen Wagnon: Houston, TX
Steve Yale: Truckee, CA
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