Small World Connections

When starting a new job, it’s always nice to see a familiar face – even if it has been quite a while. During the start of her internship, Liz Morris noticed a name on the attendee list she recognized immediately: Lindsey Bromm! Lindsey was one of Liz’ campers in G3 back in 2011. The two Conistonians caught up about that summer – including the cabin photo where everyone wore a towel on their head – and lots of summers since.
Lindsey is a rising senior studying business at Indiana University Bloomington and is interning with CVS Health’s Wellpartner group in CVS-Caremark. Coniston taught her how to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable” and make meaningful friendships. Her favorite Coniston memory was running through the dining hall to Eye of the Tiger as a West Coast CIT. 
Liz is currently an MBA student at the Tuck School of Business and interning with CVS Health’s PBM Strategy & Innovation Team. She credits her time at Coniston with innumerable experiences in problem-solving, going out of her comfort zone, and leading teams that prepared her for roles in health care. Her favorite camp food is a tin foil dinner cooked at Flume.

Parker Olson—Entrepreneur—Coniston: 2003-2017

How old were you when you started Camp?
8 years old. 

How were you introduced to Camp?
My brothers, Brenden and Kyle attended before me. We initially heard about Coniston from the Lenson Family.

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
I attended the University of Minnesota where I studied finance, entrepreneurship, and  neuroscience.

What is your current job? 
I am the founder and CEO of Forij

How has your career journey evolved?
Radically… I started my career in a management consulting role, but quickly found that I wasn’t going to be happy without a creative outlet where I had full autonomy.

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
100%—I attribute much of my creativity, drive, and out-of-the-box thinking to my development that happened at Camp!

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
Being a Camp counselor forced me to become a truly resourceful problem solver and taught me how to effectively work with others of different backgrounds and ages. Helping children navigate new experiences away from their parents while managing group morale and relationships with other staff members requires balance.

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
Too many to share. Working with the youngest children, it was awe-inspiring to watch them evolve over a few short weeks. Often their first time away from their parents, they must discover themselves and begin to form their identities for the first time. I still chase the high of fostering these experiences.

Howie Kalfus—Judge—Coniston: 1980-1991

How old were you when you started Camp?
11 years old. 1980-1991; Camper 1980-1983; CIT 1984; LIT/junior counselor (whole summer) 1985; Cabin counselor 1986-1988 (archery staff); Program Director 1989-1991.

How were you introduced to Camp?
My parents had some friends, from my father’s time in the Air Force, who lived in Claremont, NH.  They’d heard about Camp Coniston from their children’s friends so they told us about it.

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
I attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where I studied music.  After that (and a gap year where I lived with three other former Coniston staff: Peter Twadell, Lael (Lambert) Jepson and the late Denice (Brigante) Choiniere in Burlington, Vermont), I attended Seton Hall University Law School.  I should also note that, after law school, I lived for a couple of years with another former Conistonian, Rick Hutchinson.

What is your current job? 
I am currently the presiding hearing officer (judge) for the Vermont Judicial Bureau (VJB).  The VJB hears all types of civil violations including traffic, municipal ordinance, fish and game, low-level environmental, boating, underage possession of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.  I cover the entire state going from county to county (like the circuit judges of old).  I also spend roughly 20-30% of my time covering superior court, most often juvenile court.  This includes child abuse and neglect (including termination of parental rights), delinquency and truancy cases.  

How has your career journey evolved?
I began as a public defender in Vermont’s biggest county where I represented indigent defendants in misdemeanor and felony cases as well as parents and children in juvenile cases.  From there, I went to work as an assistant attorney general representing the Vermont Department for Children and Families.  Most of that work involved prosecuting termination of parental rights cases when parents were unable to resume parenting their children.  After that I spent a few months in private practice handling a domestic (mostly divorce) and criminal caseload.  That wasn’t a good fit, so I left for a job representing the Vermont Department of Public Safety (DPS).  DPS includes the Vermont State Police, Emergency Management, Fire Safety, the Vermont Criminal Information Center and the state’s crime lab.  There I provided general counsel to the Commission of Public safety and the Department’s employees.  Most of the time was spent working with the State Police.  In 2011, I was appointed to be the VJB’s fifth ever Hearing Officer.

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
Without a doubt it did!  It was at Camp Coniston where I learned what it meant to become responsible and to handle whatever work is thrown my way.  As a sixteen-year-old, there where times when a co-counselor would be on a day off and I was responsible for 10 or 12 six- and seven-year-olds.  Along with ensuring their safety, I was responsible for keeping an eye on their health and hygiene, their emotional wellbeing and their entertainment.  Not only did this give me the skills I needed to problem solve, it gave me the confidence to go out and learn new skills at every turn in my academic and professional careers.

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
I became more compassionate as a result of my time at Coniston.  This has helped in all my law-related jobs but has probably had the greatest impact on my current job.  Whether I’m imposing a fine on a motorist, sentencing a criminal defendant, ruling on a request for a restraining order or even terminating a parent’s rights to their child, the ability to show compassion can soften a blow or at least demonstrate that I’ve listened and that I care. 

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
Every one of them. There is still no greater view in the entire world for me than looking over the lake and the surrounding mountains in the moonlight.  Thoughts of vespers and chapels still make me smile and become a bit teary.  I can smell the dining hall and hear both the old bell in the dining hall and the big bell by the waterfront as if I smelled and heard them this morning.  I consider my camp friends to be among my closest.  While we’re all over the country, I still think about them all regularly and try every day to channel their competence, their work ethic, their demonstrations of love for people and the environment and their overall decency.

Kitter & Gordie Spater—Entrepreneurs—Coniston: 1978-1994

How old were you when you started Camp?
We both started when we were 8 years old.

How were you introduced to Camp?
Our neighbors from Chester VT, the Masses (Amy, Andy, and Cathy) all went to Camp Coniston. Our parents owned a business in town and worked 6 days a week, in the 80s there weren’t a lot of supervised activities for kids to do in the summer, so camp was an awesome option.

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
BA – University of Vermont – Studio Art and Anthropology and MID – Pratt Institute (Masters of Industrial Design)

Gordie: Studied Economics and Political Science at the University of Vermont and then went on to specialize in business with an MBA.

What is your current job? 
In 2003 we started a pet products company together called Kurgo Dog Gear. Kurgo was focused on creating gear that makes it easier for dogs and their owners to get outside and enjoy adventures together. We created car products for dogs (seat covers, safety harnesses, etc.) and a full range of outdoor gear like backpacks, running harnesses and lifejackets for the dog. Kitter’s primary responsibility is user-based research, product design, manufacturing and marketing. Gordie oversees the business operations which includes managing their team in Salisbury, MA and selling to our customers such as Petco and Petsmart. 

How has your career journey evolved?
itter: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Lego designer and run my own company. Although I have had a number of varied jobs – I’ve been a ski instructor, prep cook, a graphic designer, and started a few companies –  I have always come back to the essence of this childhood dream of being engaged in design, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Gordie: I started my career in NYC doing advertising. It was during a work weekend at Coniston that I determined I needed to move out of New York. I moved to Sunday River as the Marketing Director and then to Boston to business school. Since I graduated I have helped to found three companies.

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
Kitter: As with many of us, my first job was a counselor at Coniston. The early experience provided me with a solid understanding that a job can be tough, fun and fulfilling all at the same time. This early experience has guided me in making a company that had purpose for the people working there.

Gordie: Coniston gave me the confidence at a young age to be myself and try new things. Camp Coniston was one of the most formative experiences of my life.  

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
Kitter: Leadership, creativity, adaptability, pivot, make it fun. It was always been part of my camp experience to make sure that the campers and staff had a good experience. This has stuck with me whenever making a product, working with clients, managing people and making sure the end consumer is happy with their purchase.

Gordie: I am pretty good at meeting new people and getting along with them. Seems cabin life is a perfect training ground for my job at Kurgo

Is there a specific moment or example from your career that you used these skills or traits?
Gordie: When we started Kurgo I literally had to go door to door selling our products and dealing with all the different types of customers I ran into. Meeting cabinmates on the first day of the session was pretty good training for those early days at Kurgo.

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
Kitter: One of the lifeguard training tests was to hold a brick over your head and out of the water for 2 minutes. At that age I was a sinker and couldn’t for the life of me tread water for two minutes with a brick over my head. I learned that sometimes you need to adapt and pivot, I held my breath for two minutes instead of treading water. Oh, I also met my wife, Erica at Coniston.

Gordie: I loved Dirty Night, it was a license to laugh a lot and play in the mud.

Guiseppi Marzelli & Alan Finlay—Entrepreneurs—Coniston: 1997-2006

Guiseppi and Alan believe that building a great network filled with good people is vitally important to growing ideas. Growing up in the family of a local business owner, Guiseppi directly saw the impact of technology and its role in commerce. While large corporations had the resources to learn to navigate new technologies, small and local businesses struggled to bridge the gap. Guiseppi and Alan teamed up to found Boomtown, turning their camp dreams of entrepreneurship into reality. Guiseppi points out that “reflecting back on the journey, it is crucial that it is understood that I could not have done this without Alan.” Today, Boomtown has 80 full time employees and 2,000 active technicians around the United States.

“Coniston personally taught me how to better understand everyone’s individual talent, creativity and personality. Not every person is the same and some people are extremely different than others, but when you’re off the grid and only have the same resources, you learn to be patient with each other and better understand the meaning of community. Coniston truly helped in the initial stages of building a company by being more thoughtful of other’s thoughts and ideas. If you look past others because they don’t have the same ideology, you will quickly find yourself siloed from the rest of society. It’s important to know your integrity is the same and without many resources you can still accomplish many things as a team.”

I know this will sound hard to believe, but there were times running the psych ER at Bellevue where I felt that lightness and ease and unity that I associate with Camp. One night, I had a bunch of patients singing “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” with the patients making up the verses. At one point, we were all singing, He’s got the Bellevue Hospital in his hands” and I really felt it. I believed it. I believe in the power of people coming together as one, in song, in nature, under “God” whatever we perceive that to mean. Camp gave me optimism. It made me believe in Oneness, and that is a great gift.”

Julie Holland—Psychiatrist & Author—Coniston: 1975-1984

Julie graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a major in The Biological Basis of Behavior, a combination of neuropsychology and psychopharmacology. While starting her own private practice in psychiatry, Julie worked at Bellevue Hospital. She is married with two children and is a published author, a noted lecturer, and a frequent guest expert. 

“My father-in-law used to call me “omni-capable.” I credited Camp with that. Every summer, learning different skills, whether archery, riflery, guitar playing, canoeing, or lifesaving. That kind of comfort with novelty, and most importantly, learning how to learn, is what I use in my professional life. Camp taught me how to do this with openness and compassion. Coniston helped me get in touch with my own talent for empathy, and that is a skill I use daily in my professional life.

I know this will sound hard to believe, but there were times running the psych ER at Bellevue where I felt that lightness and ease and unity that I associate with Camp. One night, I had a bunch of patients singing “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” with the patients making up the verses. At one point, we were all singing, He’s got the Bellevue Hospital in his hands” and I really felt it. I believed it. I believe in the power of people coming together as one, in song, in nature, under “God” whatever we perceive that to mean. Camp gave me optimism. It made me believe in Oneness, and that is a great gift.”

Rua Kelly—Trial Attorney—Coniston: 1984-1988

Rua was introduced to Coniston at 13. She spent the next four “life-changing” summers at Camp. Today, Rua is a dedicated mom and senior trial counsel with the Securities & Exchange Commission in Boston, working on investigating the many forms of financial fraud.

Rua recently reflected on how Camp influenced her life—“As a CIT and a counselor, I learned so much about leadership and decision-making.  When an 8-year old girl is homesick and crying inconsolably, you don’t have a manual to tell you what to say or do. You are constantly having to rise to the challenge.  I never felt like I was good at anything, or could make a difference in people’s lives, until I came to Camp.  My ability to succeed really came from Coniston.

Leadership, building teams, empathy, not judging people based on stereotypes – those are all skills and traits (gained from Camp) that I use in my job, especially when I have had to appear before juries in court, and make arguments that persuade people from all walks of life.  But the most important place I have used those skills is as a parent.  I learned how to really listen, how to empathize, and how to help people who are feeling vulnerable find their way when things are hard.”

David Koch—Chief Commercial Officer—Coniston: 1977-1982

After Coniston, David studied Mechanical Engineering while in the ROTC at MIT and was a Naval Aviator and Flight Instructor. After receiving his MBA, David moved into the corporate world and is currently the CCO for FI.SPAN, a company he helped found. 

 “… I was probably the youngest CIT and a young kid when I was exposed to Camp, and I consider myself lucky to have experienced it at a time when I could learn from those experiences and nurture them. In high school I wasn’t doing all the leadership things, so Coniston and the CIT program gave me the ability to launch some of my talents and use them. That gave me the confidence to continue on…”

“Each piece of your life builds on the other. For me, it was Camp that had a big impact on the things I was able to do in my later years of high school and that translated to what I brought to MIT. I don’t think that without that confidence I would have been successful in ROTC and the military. It’s also possible that people would suggest camp is nothing like the military, but I would suggest camp and the military are not so different and that a lot of things I learned at camp were directly attributable, to and directly helpful to succeeding in ROTC and the military. I’m not sure I thought that at the time, but looking back I think that’s absolutely true. I think Camp indirectly, [and even] much more directly, helped [me] in the military. The military piece that translates to later in my career is leadership. I left behind the technical skills of the military because I don’t fly anymore but the leadership piece carries over.”

Career Counseling for 2020 Staff

Coniston staff make connections and are naturally skilled at adapting to a situation and solving problems effectively. In the summers, it is what they are asked to do on a daily basis, executing at a high level. With Camp unable to occur to ensure the safety of our campers and staff, it left our staff with the prospects of finding a new job or internship for the summer. With summer approaching many staff may be feeling overwhelmed with navigating the job and internship search in the current COVID-19 climate. However, we are privileged to experience the support from the Coniston community.

Patricia Hunt Sinacole, founder of the human resources consulting firm First Beacon Group and mother of one of our Counselor In Training directors, volunteered to sit down with the Coniston staff via Zoom to help them navigate finding summer employment and continue to professionally develop. Pattie covered many topics from immediate plans such as improving resumes and LinkedIn profiles to reaching out to employers and providing valuable skill sets to gain experience. Pattie sat down with every attendee and helped tailor a plan to their specific needs for summer internships or employment.  Each plan depended on the attendees interests and motivations for summer employment, such as gaining industry specific experience or financial compensation. At the root of the conversation was the opportunity to pivot the skills utilized at camp to lead staff to a summer that helps them gain valuable experiences.

Among the many ideas and pieces of advice offered was the idea of pivoting the skills our staff excel at during the summer and utilizing the connections they make. Whether it is embracing entrepreneurship and helping a restaurant or retail company adapt to new guidelines through remote internship or utilizing the childcare and lifeguarding skills learned at camp and offering childcare, staff were encouraged to look at their own skills and recognize creative ways towards a summer that fulfills their professional needs.

Coniston staff was also encouraged to utilize and recognize their networks including family, friends, their schools resources and of course the Coniston Community. Conistonians were also sitting in on the call as prospective recruiters and looking to gain information on the current needs of staff, while offering their advice for career exploration and experience. Coniston staff member Michael Hawley, found an internship in wealth management through the Career Counseling meeting with Pattie showing the power of Coniston connections at work. If you have any opportunities or are willing to offer guidance for staff or recent alumni please post in the YMCA Camp Coniston Career Development Group on LinkedIn or contact

COVID-19 Brings the Most Talented Communications Team of Volunteers to Life!

In response to COVID-19, a Communications Committee was formed to support the communication needs for Camp. Without this committees support and hard work the Coniston Community would not be as well informed.

The committee is chaired by Board Member, Lynne Delise, and a group of highly talented communication and fundraising alumni. Members of the committee include:

Anna Kelsey, Grassroots Prospects Manager at Democratic National Committee

Liz Morris, MBA Candidate | The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and Formerly the Assistant Director of Planned Giving for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Joe Whelan, Assistant Director of Development, Regional & Global Programs at University of Delaware, MBA Candidate