Back row: Abby Fritz, Danielle Peterson, Chelsea Abrozaitis
Middle Row: Heather Ziac, Brian Lapis, Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer (Executive Director), Herb Knight,
Rev. Pat Kriss, Lara Edmondson, Cindy Cayer, Jonathan Russell
Front row: John Bourdeaux, Rev. Erick Olsen (Board Chair)
Not Pictured: Chrissie Wadelin
The Silver Lake Board of Directors is an advisory board to Silver Lake Conference Center, chartered by the Missionary Society of Connecticut. Members are drawn from Silver Lake supporters throughout the Southern New England region and serve for a term of 3 years and can serve two consecutive terms. The Executive Director and the Conference Minister serve as members ex officio.
Erick Olsen lives in Norfolk as the husband of (his frequent co-dean) Tina and father of Elias, Ellie, and Olivia. They have lived happily in "The Icebox of CT" since 2003 when Erick was called there as Pastor of Church of Christ Congregational (UCC). In addition to serving as a local pastor, Erick has always been active in UCC work, including his time as a member of the Conference Minister Search Committee from 2011 through 2013. He is committed to social justice, particularly to affordable housing, efforts to live greener lives, and improving relations between people of different races and creeds. He enjoys running, good coffee, time with friends and family (including his dog, Zoe), reading, rivers, and learning about the passions of others. He is honored to serve on the Board of Directors of your Silver Lake Conference Center, and he is excited to help more people of all ages to discover this place where "you can truly be yourself and know that you are loved for who you are."
Chelsea Ambrozaitis first came to Silver Lake as a camper when she was going into fifth grade. Chelsea has been a camper, a counselor, a staff member, a dean, and has served on the board since 2015. Her experiences at SLCC, especially on the A-Team, led Chelsea to her career path at the YMCA, where she has been a Day Camp Director and now serves as the Director of Member Engagement and Communication at the Greater Waterbury YMCA. In her spare time, Chelsea enjoys running, hiking, and spending time with her family, friends, and yellow lab, Mia.
John Bourdeaux serves as the Vice President of Advancement for the Connecticut Science Center, an organization dedicated to scientific exploration, teacher development, and education transformation. At the Science Center, John is responsible for the marketing and fund development functions. Prior to this appointment, John served as the Director of Development for Hartford Stage. He transformed their program, bringing in thousands of additional donors and $1 million in operating revenue, as well as launching a major gift initiative that enabled the completion of a multi-million dollar renovation. Prior to Hartford Stage, he worked with the Melville Charitable Trust and the Partnership for Strong Communities, organizations focused on homelessness and affordable housing policy. He has served the development offices of the University of Chicago, The Hotchkiss School, and Yale University. In all of these positions, he has been responsible for securing tens of millions in philanthropic support while promoting the mission of each organization, bringing many new supporters and advocates into the fold.
Early in his career, John founded and managed his own not-for-profit theater company in Chicago, IL, production modern American drama and late-night improvisational comedy. He has also served as a consultant and board member for academic institutions as well as social action and arts organizations. John is a graduate of The Hotchkiss School and the University of Chicago.
Cindy Cayer has a lifelong association with Silver Lake. She has been connected to The Lake as a conferee, parent, dean, and had a former stint on the SLCC Board. She is glad to be back on the Board serving with this creative, motivated, dedicated group of volunteers. One of the things she loves about Silver Lake is the sound of children playing while they experience the joy of God’s creation. Cindy and her husband, David, enjoy visiting with friends, road trips, and spending time with their family. Their children Will and Chris are SLCC Alumni. She recently retired from a 34-year career in educational fundraising and currently serves as an adjunct professor at Central Connecticut State University. Cindy had had many leadership roles Plantsville Congregational Church and enjoys singing in the choir and playing in the bell choir. She had recently served on the UCC Global Ministries Board.
Lara Edmondson started attending Silver Lake as a conferee in the early 1980s and continued to volunteer as a Counselor, Dean and Fall/Spring Action participant through the mid-90s. She became involved with Silver Lake again as a parent once her children became old enough to attend, and was invited to serve on the Board of Directors in October 2016. Lara and her husband, Jeff, live in Milford, CT, with their 3 children and golden retriever. She is a lifelong member of the First United Church of Christ, Congregational in Milford. She enjoys reading, photography, thrift shopping, and the beach. If she could sit down today and share a s’more with someone, it would be her grandmother, whom she would treasure more time with. Her favorite place at Silver Lake is the ball field at night stargazing, or the peace and comfort of the Hubbel Chapel.
Abby started coming to Silver Lake in 2009, and she has never stopped coming! She has attended more than 58 weeks of sleep-away camp in the past 9 years, including 15 weeks as a conferee at Silver Lake, as well as 4 Action work weekends, 1 week of counseling, and a summer serving on Camp Family. Abby is from Bethany, CT, and currently attends Nichols College in Massachusetts, where she studies Hospitality Management with a minor in Integrated Communications and Marketing. She loves s'mores, camp songs, all kinds of music, and hula hooping.
"Silver Lake has and will always be a home to me," Abby said. "This is my first year on the Board of Directors. I feel very honored since I go to camp to just go to to camp because it makes me happy."
Silver Lake parent.
Rev. Pat Kriss has been the Pastor of First Congregational Church UCC, Danbury, CT, since 2012. Previously, she was the Pastor of First Congregational Church UCC, North Adams, MA. She earned her M.Div. at Yale Divinity School.
Priory to entering minsitry, Rev. Kris worked in nonprofit administration, fundraising, and marketing for 34 years. She is also an artist, a writer, and a published cartoonist. Rev. Kriss resides in South Salem, NY, with her husband of 49 years, Gary Kriss.
Brian Lapis began his lifelong love affair with Silver Lake as a conferee in the summer of 1982. Since then, Brian has served Silver Lake on the summer staff, as a counselor, and several years as the co-dean of the long-running summer conference, Fun in the Son! Brian says, "I love that SLCC usually brings out the best in people, which results in joy and inevitably, laughter! There's nothing more fun than laughing at camp."
He is an active member of First Congregational Church of South Hadley, MA, where he has served as Moderator and on the Stewardship committee. In the wider UCC, Brian is the vice chair of the board of directors of The Office of Communications, Inc. (OC Inc.) , the media justice ministry of the UCC. When he’s not at camp, Brian is a broadcaster, employed as the evening weather anchor at WWLP TV, the NBC affiliate in Springfield, MA. Like many professional broadcasters, he has worked at a variety of stations, both radio and television, in a variety of cities, predominantly in southern New England. Brian is a past member of the UCC Executive Council and Office of General Ministries Board of Directors. Brian holds a B.S. in Television, Radio and Film Management from Syracuse University and a Broadcast Meteorology Certificate from Mississippi State University. Brian has twin middle school-aged daughters, who are enthusiastic Silver lake conferees!
Danielle first came to Silver Lake in the third grade with her youth group for an off-season retreat weekend, and has returned every year since in some capacity. After being a conferee, counselor, and summer staff member, she was honored to be offered a seat on the Board of Directors. She was on Camp Family in 2014 (McCantruefyres) and has served on Maintenance/ETF as well as Kitchen. She was excited to be a part of ETF during the major Lodge renovations, especially because that was the first camp building she stayed in at camp, for that retreat with her youth group! Concerning the Board, she thinks her first-hand staff and counseling experience will prove useful in bridging the gap between those that run camp and those who attend it.
For more than 30 years, Jonathan Russell has been married to his best friend, Cindi Bates. Their adult children, Emma and Sam, had amazing beneficial experiences at Silver Lake, where they both attended as conferees and served as counselors. Emma also served on camp staff and as co-dean. A longtime member, Jonathan is very active in the First Church of Christ Congregational in Glastonbury, where he currently serves on Trustees and is putting his construction management background to work as chair of the building committee for the Micah Chapel project. Immediately adjacent to First Church, the project involves renovating and expanding a 300-year-old home in Glastonbury’s historic district and converting it into a community use chapel. Cindi and Jonathan are both committed to social justice, diversity, and equality, and to that end Jonathan served on the board for 13 years and as President for 3 years of Glastonbury A Better Chance. Jonathan and Cindi love theater, traveling, reading, and walking together on the beach.
Having graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1982, Captain Russell retired after a 33-year active duty Coast Guard career. The last 28 years were spent as faculty at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT, where he taught engineering and ultimately served for 5 years as Dean and Head of Engineering. His UMass Amherst PhD is in structural engineering and he has a Master’s degree from RPI in Business Administration. A new member of the Silver Lake board, Jonathan will put his extensive experience with higher education accreditation to work in helping guide Silver Lake to achieve American Campground Association accreditation.
Chrissie Wadelin Van Steelhart is a member of Camp Family 2009 and has been active at Silver Lake ever since. Being on staff at SLCC and being the camp nurse in more recent summers, Chrissie has filled many different roles on site. Now she is excited to be on the Board of Directors. Although she was never a conferee, Chrissie really feels like she has grown up at SLCC and is excited to give back through her role on the board. Outside of camp Chrissie is a Registered Nurse in the MICU at Yale New Haven Hospital and a member of Wallingford's First Congregational Church. She hopes to see many of her home church's youth at SLCC this summer!
Heather Ramos Ziac first came to Silver Lake when she was ten years old. She was a conferee through high school and has continued to volunteer as a counselor and a Dean. She is currently a Co-Dean for the Family Camp conference and a parent of conferees. Heather feels that her experiences at Silver Lake have helped teach her to be independent, build strong, genuine, long-lasting relationships, and to be her authentic self. She has a deep connection to her Silver Lake community whom she considers extended family. With the help of this community, Heather and her husband (who she met at camp) are raising their family with the values they have learned through Silver Lake. Heather decided to accept the role of being on the board to help ensure that Silver Lake continues its mission in serving the youth, adolescents, families, and communities of today and future generations.
Heather is the owner and operator of Womb to World Family Massage Therapy, LLC in her hometown of Fairfield, CT, where she resides with her husband and two children. Heather received her B.A. from Southern Connecticut State University and her massage therapy education at The Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy.