Activity Connection was founded in 1999 as an online community and resource for activity professionals. Over the years we have evolved into the website that you see today. We are headquartered in Portland, Oregon and our founders, partners, staff and freelance contributors are located throughout the country. Here are just some of the biographies of the great people that help make Activity Connection the amazing resource it is today.
Nancy and Bob Ewald
Nancy has a BS degree in Medical Technology and a MS degree in Allied Health Education. As a microbiology and hematology instructor, her early “activities” involved working with test tubes, pipettes, and Bunsen burners. While taking some time off to raise her three children, she discovered her interest in helping seniors. When Nancy returned to the work force, she did so as an assistant activity director for a full-service community. She became the activity director a year later. In 1999, she accepted the position of National Director of Lifestyle Enrichment with Marriott Senior Living. When Marriott exited the senior care market two years later, Nancy devoted herself to developing Activity Connection, an online resource for Activity Professionals.
Bob’s background is in Finance. He left the corporate world in 2005 to help Nancy with Activity Connection. They live in Winter Garden, Florida, and in addition to their Activity Connection duties, they enjoy being active grandparents.
Lynne has worked at Activity Connection since October 2014, beginning as a writer and eventually moving up to become our Senior Director. Having had the opportunity to work closely with activity professionals in a number of settings, Lynne developed an appreciation for the vital role they play in the well-being of the senior population—a population that is near and dear to her heart. The opportunity to assist in developing ongoing resources and support through Activity Connection for these dedicated professionals has been tremendously rewarding.
As a registered nurse with extensive training and experience in gerontology, Lynne has worked in a variety of areas ranging from emergency room, long-term-care, oncology, and hospice. Understanding the serious nature of health care, she appreciates the importance of regular doses of creativity and humor for those who work in the field. One of her favorite quotes reminds her to accept, adapt, and enjoy the journey. The quote from Robert Louis Stevenson is, "Sit lightly in the saddle of life."
Lynne lives near Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband Jeff and a large (some might say insane) number of rescued cats and dogs. She and Jeff share a family of five children and 10 grandchildren. When she's not spoiling grandkids, she can be found reading, drawing, and traveling.
Dawn has worked with Activity Connection for seven years, first as a freelance writer and currently as our Director of Content. Working for AC is her dream come true, and she loves working with such creative people and improving the quality of life for so many seniors around the country. She also loves being part of a team of people united in their desire to contribute, perhaps inspiring her love of the Helen Keller quote “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Dawn studied psychology at Rutgers University and has worked in the field of activities for over 27 years as a consultant, Director of Activities, and activities assistant. She is both a certified activity consultant and dementia practitioner and has been recognized for her efforts in the field: she was a recipient of the Frances Black Humanitarian Award and has been a three-time nominee for the LeadingAge Professional of the Year award. Dawn has dedicated her life to the service of the senior community.
Dawn lives with her husband, Chris, in New Jersey, close to her childhood home. A lifelong Mets fan, she loves to watch baseball and movies, but her passion is travel. In the past six years, she has managed to visit both the Great Barrier Reef and the Galápagos Islands with her husband, and she intends to visit many more wonderful places in the years to come.
Beckie has been Activity Connection’s resident puzzler for the last 10 years. Whether it be standard puzzles, Picture It puzzles, or Cranium Crunches, you can be sure Beckie has worked her magic on them. As a puzzle enthusiast, she loves both creating and solving them. She has fun with her creative side in coming up with new ideas and finds it rewarding to be able to share her love of puzzles with so many people.
Beckie attended Portland Community College, where she earned an Administrative Assistant Associates Degree. During her youth, she worked as a waitress and enjoyed building relationships with her coworkers and regular customers. She also worked for a marketing company as a designer for magazine and book displays at stores.
Outside of work, Beckie and her family enjoy camping and trips to the beach. Her love of puzzles and mental challenges also spills into her personal life, which she fills with games, puzzles, and trivia nights with friends. She also paints and draws whenever she can and has recently taken up curling as a possible hobby. And when we say “curling,” we mean the game—a far cry from what you do with your hair, although a brush is involved with both.
Brooke is Activity Connection’s Portland, Oregon-based content writer and editor. Originally from east coast, she has called Portland home for 25 years. Brooke comes to us with 12 years of experience as an activity director and four years as a writer/editor. She lives with her daughter Lenore (an actress) and boyfriend Kevin (an artist).
Brooke’s college history has taken her from Colorado College, where she earned a B.A. in English literature, to San Francisco State University to study recreation therapy. She holds a certificate in case management from Boston University. Brooke was the recipient of Providence Health Systems Emilie Gammon Mission Award, for service to the Oregon’s most poor and vulnerable populations.
Brooke is a member of the American Society on Aging and is especially interested in end-of-life care planning and memory care. Her favorite past-time is treasure hunting. Especially for vintage greeting cards, plastic dinosaurs, wild mushrooms, and giant pine cones. Her favorite holiday is Arbor Day and her favorite saying is “Start anywhere” as it reminds her that nothing is as linear as we think.
Brooke has used Activity Connection as a trusted resource since 2007 and describes being part of the organization as like working with an old friend. We feel the same way!
Carrie has been a contributor to Activity Connection for eight years, providing recipes and lending her lovely voice to songs and voiceovers among other things. She loves working with the senior population and creating projects that they can truly appreciate, believing in the words, “Not every day is a good day, but there is good in every day. Look for it.”
Carrie found her way to AC through her love of helping others. She has worked as a camp manager and activity director for adults with developmental disabilities, as a special education assistant, and as a development coordinator for a nonprofit organization. She currently also manages a thrift shop whose proceeds benefit her local humane society.
Carrie lives with her husband of 13 years and two young daughters in middle of the beautiful Willamette Valley in Oregon, where her family has lived for five generations. She also takes care of her three dogs: Baxter, a 12-year-old wiener dog; Tiberius, a 5-year-old Cairn Terrier mix; and Lucy (Lulu), a 6-month-old Jack Russell mix who was found on a sugar mill in Hawaii. When she’s not helping others or taking care of her family, she enjoys cooking, gardening, and researching her family history.
Charlie is Activity Connection’s Corporate Account Manager. He enjoys the opportunity to work with the senior population and the activity professionals who serve them.
After studying arts and science at Lower Columbia College, Charlie worked a variety of roles, including photo technician and horse wrangler/ranch hand. He also worked as an activities coordinator at a senior facility, where he planned and led exercise classes, sensory stimulation classes, and a weekly men’s club and music program.
Outside of work, Charlie is a fan of technology and is learning how to write code for programming and web development. He loves music and moonlights occasionally as a DJ in addition to creating his own music. Given his science background, it’s not a surprise one of Charlie’s favorite quotes comes from noted science educator, Neil de Grasse Tyson: “I look up at the night sky, and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the Universe is in us.” And Activity Connection is glad Charlie is a part of our Universe.
Cherie Rene Atiyeh
Cherie has had a couple of stints with Activity Connection; she wrote for us between 2003 and 2005 and then returned in 2017. She loves the fun and challenge of writing for AC and especially enjoys learning new things each time she researches an activity.
Cherie achieved a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and English before obtaining her Master of Fine Arts in Writing. She has worked in all manner of positions in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, ranging from professional management to working as a pantyhose delivery driver! She is also an award-winning professional photographer known for her colorful and story-imbued art.
Cherie lives in Oregon on eight-and-a-half acres, which she shares with her poodle-dachshund mix, Henri. She has three children and four grandchildren. She loves to write and travel and also enjoys taking in a baseball game or a play. In addition to this, she currently serves as board president for her local Family Promise affiliate, assisting those who are struggling with homelessness. A lover of literature, her favorite quote comes from Julian of Norwich, the first known female author in the English language: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Cyndi brings her impressive artistic talents and highly developed sense of fun to Activity Connection much to our delight. She is a doting grandma and a mother of three grown children, a stepdaughter, and a misfit cat she rescued as a kitten. Her husband is a fellow artist and a drummer. The couple has transformed much of their home into a “create-space” with an art studio, music room, and a stocked kitchen of gadgets and goodies for exploring their mutual love of the culinary arts.
With a BFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design, Cyndi has had a rewarding career as a graphic designer, illustrator, atmosphere designer, exhibiting fine artist, and an art teacher. She now works full-time for Activity Connection as the Director of Arts and Crafts.
Outside of work Cyndi enjoys practicing yoga, meditation, and doing at least one cartwheel on her birthday every year…in January…outside…in the snow. We have no doubt no matter her age, she’ll still be doing cartwheels!
Educational Slides for Older Adults – esoa.ca
In photo from left to right - Jamie Miller is a certified Recreation Facilitator in a Personal Care Home (PCH) and has been working with seniors since 2011. She began her recreation career working with Karen Hart as a student where she was introduced to developing PowerPoint presentations. Jamie has been hooked ever since, realizing a creative side she did not know she had. Jamie graduated from the Recreation Facilitator for Older Adults course at Red River College. Her passion is working with seniors, enhancing their lives through Therapeutic Recreation. Jamie started in this field because she loves working with people and to give something back, but has found she gets so much more from the residents. Her background is in Office Administration where she had a long career in Career Management, assisting people through their career transition. Jamie has a blended family and enjoys time spent with family and friends, especially her grandchildren.
Amber Guy has been helping create PowerPoint presentations for Older Adults since April 2011 and enjoys designing and learning as she creates them.Amber has graduated from Red River College with her ECE ll (Early Childhood Education level 2) and has been working full time in this field for 11 years. She finds it very rewarding being able to provide a nurturing and safe environment for the children. She plans and provides activities based on the children's interests and adapts them to fit their individual needs. "Always take advantage of teachable moments!" In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her friends and family; whether it's doing some sort of outdoor activity, bowling, watching movies or just hanging out.
Karen Hart has been making PowerPoint presentations to go with AC scripts since January 2010. She works full-time in an adult day program and states, "It is nice to know that the work you do makes a difference." How many people can say, "I get paid to make people happy and enhance their lives?" It is very rewarding. Graduating from Red River College with her Recreation Facilitator for Older Adults course and Therapeutic Fitness Leader Certificate allows her to be creative and be fit at the same time. She has been married for 28 years, has four adult children and her first grandbaby on the way.
As our Customer Support Specialist and Executive Assistant, Elisha has taken on the formidable task of keeping all of us straight. She works closely with her team in providing helpful information to customers about navigating the site and assists with requests and needs.
Elisha’s career path has been both varied and interesting—everything from working in hospitality and a travel agency to a high-tech industry. Her most interesting jobs include selling used cars and scanning documents over 100 years old for an archiving project. She is currently in the process of obtaining a human resources certification.
Elisha especially enjoys the culture of Activity Connection and working with such creative and talented people. Outside of work she is active with her children’s education and serves on the PTA (Parent and Teachers Association) Board. Her children, Fox and Moxie, keep her busy with fun activities such as playing board games, going to the zoo, and shopping at local farmer’s markets. She volunteers at the Portland Dharma Center.
One of Elisha’s favorite pastimes is going to the local escape room facilities and plotting how to get out before the time expires. Little does she know, there will be no escaping Activity Connection!
Ginger, Activity Connection’s Creative Director, is an artist in every sense of the word. She works hard to make sure everything we produce looks great! She loves helping make activity professional’s jobs easier, thereby enriching the lives of the seniors they serve.
Ginger studied Fine Arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, concentrating in painting, sculpture, and ceramics and minoring in women’s studies. Her varied professional experiences include arts library archivist, wedding DJ assistant, sales assistant, art and dance teacher, government bid specialist, and marketing administrator at a chocolate company. Perhaps her most interesting job was as a self-employed milliner, or couture hat maker, creating beautiful headwear out of eco-friendly materials.
Outside the office, she loves to dance and has learned many styles including contra, salsa, swing, and bellydance, which she performed and/or taught for 11 years. She also loves animals and nature, and spends as much time outdoors as she can. Her creativity extends to throwing elaborate Halloween events with lavish costumes and handmade props. Though constantly busy, her favorite quote “Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear” by Lao Tzu, reminds her to slow down so life can balance itself.
“Keep calm and trust your editor,” and that is what we do at Activity Connection. Jessica has been our editing director since 2010, and without Jessica and her talented team, we would most certainly be at a “grammarly” loss.
Jessica lives in Worthington, Ohio, with her husband and four young children—Isabella, Niccolo, Sofia, and most recently, Francesca. Life in the Melfi household is guaranteed to be always busy and never dull. Jessica has a B.S. in English from Marietta College and a M.A in English from Clemson University. She has spent the majority of her publishing career editing textbooks for educational publishers SRA/McGraw-Hill and Zaner-Bloser, Inc.
Activity Connection came into her life serendipitously when she was asked to recommend someone to help with the site’s proofreading. She decided to pursue the opportunity herself and is so grateful she did (as are we)! Her position on the AC team allows her to work from home and spend more time with her children during these developmental years. In addition to editing, Jessica enjoys birding, exploring the Buckeye state, and cheering for her team, the Cleveland Indians.
An artist at heart, Joan has been working with Activity Connection for six years. She has mostly worked on Alzheimer activities cards but has also worked on special scavenger hunts and paint-by-numbers activities. She loves the enthusiasm and capability of her compatriots at AC as well as the caring and appreciative environment she has worked in.
Joan studied art at the Columbus College of Art & Design, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree before working towards a graduate degree at both Ohio University and Washington State. She has worked as a freelancer for graphic designers in both Ohio and Washington before working for Highlights for Children for over fifteen years. Beyond that, she worked as an art teacher for the Washington YWCA, teaching oil painting to seniors in the community. Joan says that was one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.
Joan lives in Grandview Heights, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, who is a professional photographer. She loves to spend time with her two sons (one in Colorado and one in Grandview Heights). She spends as much time as she can with her teenage grandchildren, exploring the greenhouses and gardens of Grandview. She is very active in her community, volunteering and doing pro bono artwork for the city, as well keeping active at the local senior center and being a member of a book club. She loves to be around people and always remembers to “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you,” firmly believing that the most rewarding times are those spend being kind to others.
Kera’s work for Activity Connection is a marriage of her passion for music and her knowledge of and experience in working with people with dementia. She received her bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from Colorado State and her master’s in Human Service and Nonprofit Management from The University of the Rockies. Since then, she has worked for senior resource and care centers, including adult day care, and as director of a memory care unit. She has received certificates in gerontology, dementia care, and recreational therapy and most recently served as Early Stage Program Coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. Kera is a valued contributor to Activity Connection, especially in the EZ Does It and music features.
Kera’s baby son joined the family last November, which also includes Jack Russell terrier Mowgli and four lively chickens. Her passion for her work with seniors is inspired by one of her favorite quotes from legendary composer, Beethoven: “To play a wrong note, insignificant. To play without passion, inexcusable.” Kera’s passion for all she does translates to a world of fun, adventure, and music and Activity Connection is thrilled to be along for the ride.
Activity Connection’s Print & Media Director, Kris is in charge of the Print Shop and manages customer accounts, file preparation, and the printing and shipping of orders. In addition, we’ve happily discovered his expertise extends to videography and audio production as well. His talents in these areas are on display in our video slide shows and voice-overs for short stories and more. Kris feels it’s important to make a positive impact on the lives of others and being able to do that every day at Activity Connection puts a smile on his face.
Kris studied commercial design at North Idaho College. He has worked as a graphic designer for seventeen years and has been in print production for seven. In the 90s, he also worked at an indie record store, although he admits that most of his wages went directly toward his CD and vinyl collection!
Outside of work, Kris enjoys photography and tinkering with various forms of technology. He also enjoys playing the guitar and exploring different mediums of art. Ever the optimist, Kris’ favorite quote is “Even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day.”
Laura, Activity Connection’s Assistant Designer, uses her excellent design skills to create our activity documents as well as our slide shows that everyone has come to enjoy. She loves working at Activity Connection because it gives her the opportunity to use her artistic skills to help make a positive difference in people’s lives. She also appreciates the close-knit and friendly nature of the company.
Laura studied illustration at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. After college, she worked at a retirement community as a nutritional aid for skilled nursing and memory care units. Her time spent there helped foster her passion for helping the senior community and making their lives as fulfilling as possible.
Laura spends her free time illustrating and exploring the great city of Portland. She loves the outdoors and goes running whenever she can, stopping to make friends with the local cats along the way.
Lights, camera, action! Lauren has been producing the AC interactive videos we have come to look forward to since 2016. With her Go Pro camera strapped in place, Lauren has taken us to such interesting places as Portland, Oregon; Colorado wildflower fields; Charleston, South Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Prior to Lauren’s video ventures, she was a customer service team member at Activity Connection. Before that, she received her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and also spent time working at a public transit agency, physical therapy clinic, and as an after-school program coordinator and teacher. Recently, Lauren decided on occupational therapy as her career path and relocated from Oregon to North Carolina to pursue her studies.
We can’t wait for Lauren’s next adventures and are delighted to hear she will be accompanied by her rescue cat Leo. We look forward to meeting Leo and seeing what “me-WOW factor” he brings to the videos.
LeAndra joined the writing team at Activity Connection in September of 2017. She loves the flexibility of her work and having the opportunity to share her knowledge of activities with so many people.
LeAndra has worked with the senior community for many years. A trained music therapist, dementia practitioner, and activity director, she began her career working in a large skilled-nursing home and assisted-living facility affiliated with the Orthodox Jewish community. She later served as Recreation Director for over ten years and as Director of Activities in Continuing Care for another twelve years. She has loved the work she has done with the senior community and looks forward to continuing to work with them through Activity Connection.
LeAndra lives in Central New Jersey with her husband, and while she has no pets at the moment, her life has been filled with a variety of pets, including dogs, cats, and exotic birds. A lifelong music lover, LeAndra sings and serves as a cantor for her church choir and is also involved in a women’s ensemble called Interludes.
MJ has been a contributing writer for Activity Connection for since 2011. She loves the people she gets to work with and has a deep passion for the mission of doing anything she can to make seniors smile. She also loves the fun of the material and is always ready to dive headlong into more trivia, her area of expertise.
Prior to working with Activity Connection, MJ traveled the world as an international flight attendant before settling down as a technical and help writer, after which she became absorbed by the entire process of publishing books and magazines. A journalist by training, MJ’s proudest accomplishment is her Civilian Medal from Operation Desert Storm.
MJ lives in the Athens of the South—Nashville, Tennessee—with her three cats. She loves to cook, garden, and travel. She lives by the motto “When the fun runs out, I’m outta here.” Thankfully, given her love for the job, it doesn’t look like MJ will be “outta here” anytime soon.
There was a time when everything you saw on the Activity Connection site was posted there by Ryan. Looking back, we can’t imagine how that was even possible! Today his diverse talents are focused on back end web content and IT support as well as product management for the shopping section.
Ryan attended Oregon State University and graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design. Before starting at Activity Connection 10 years ago, one of his more unusual jobs was delivering flowers, especially on Valentine’s Day and other special occasions. Also, if you want to know anything about a movie or TV show just ask Ryan. He is a living encyclopedia for who performed in what and when.
In his spare time, Ryan enjoys building and fixing things as well riding motorcycles and rooting for his two favorite baseball teams, the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, another favorite pastime—napping—has become just a distant memory since the birth of Mable Grace in July, 2017. However, no one in the family is complaining (even Duke the dog), because when it comes to being cute, Mable steals the show.
She’s got the look! The Activity Connection look that is. Sarah has been our graphic designer and illustrator since 2008 creating everything from the bingo cards and the birthday set to calendars, decorations, clip art, and more.
Sarah started out studying nursing, but quickly realized she needed something more creative to hold her attention. She changed direction and obtained a degree in Visual Communication from Otterbein College. She did freelance work for several years focusing on logos and business identities before coming to Activity Connection. With her strong computer skills and extensive knowledge in design and illustration, she brings creativity and energy to her work.
Sarah is the mother of three young children (two of them boys—need we say more?) whose boundless energy, imagination, and delight in all kinds of shenanigans keeps her on her toes and provides her with a constant source of inspiration, laughter, and joy. What her children don’t think of, her husband does, so life in the Gray household is never dull! And, with Sarah’s help, life isn’t dull at Activity Connection either.
Sheri has been writing for Activity Connection since 2017. She loves the breadth and variety of the work she does for the company, as well as the sense of community and support she feels, despite being a remote worker.
Sheri is a professional newsperson, having studied journalism and television production at Ferris State University. She has worked as a writer, producer, and newspaper reporter over the course of nearly forty years. Sheri’s career has led her to meet titans of business and entertainment, working with powerful men and women in a number of different industries. Perhaps it is her exposure to these powerful people that inspired her love for this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Sheri lives with her husband and dog in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but has also lived in California for an extended period of time, where she raised the youngest two of her four children. In her spare time, she loves to relax with a book or a bike ride, walk her dog, or play with her grandchildren. Sheri is always fostering her creative side and finds her life shaped by these words from Pablo Picasso: “Inspiration exists, but it must find you working.”
Susie has been a proofreader and copy editor for Activity Connection for five years. She loves the variety of material provided to its customers and the fact that the needs and interests of its audience is always considered.
Susie entered the editorial profession by a circuitous route: she has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and statistics (Miami University) and a master’s degree in sport management (The Ohio State University). After working for minor-league hockey teams for several years, Susie switched gears and received a Certificate to Teach English as a Foreign Language (CTEFLA) from Cambridge University and put her training into practice in Indonesia for a few years. After returning to the U.S., Susie began her career in editorial services, specifically in educational publishing.
Susie met her husband, Juli, while working in Indonesia, and today they live in Central Ohio and have three boys who keep them on their toes. Her favorite quote is “I love you, Mom,” but she also holds dear Albus Dumbledore’s quote from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: “… there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” She hopes we will all choose what’s right.
Ted has been a valued Activity Connection contributor for the past nine years. Prior to that, he worked in publishing, as a park ranger in New York City (he was there on 9/11), and then as a high school English teacher. With the birth of his first daughter nine years ago, he became a full-time, stay-at-home dad. Since then, two more daughters have joined the family, and Ted has come to appreciate the happy chaos created by three bright and busy girls.
While working for Activity Connection, Ted has written short stories, skits, the monthly newsletter, the Daily Chronicle Extra, and anything else asked of him. While his assignments have changed, one thing remains the same—his deep appreciation for the work done by Activity Connection. The mission of providing interesting and engaging resources to senior living communities is immensely valuable and Ted is honored to be granted the opportunity to contribute. His greatest hope is when people read his work it stimulates curiosity and imagination, sparks conversation, and arouses laughter and joy. And, in the meantime, those three girls will keep Ted laughing. You never know, maybe one day he’ll write a book!
With Yits on board, Activity Connection never has to worry about getting “lost in translation.” We have her to thank for the ability to provide our French- and Spanish-speaking subscribers with translations of selected publications and puzzles on a monthly basis. Yits has a BA in Communication and a teaching degree in English. Her diverse work experience has included advertising executive, marketing director, English teacher, and freelance copywriter.
Yits took time off from her advertising job to work as a Spanish teacher at a French High School located 40 kilometers outside Paris. She enjoyed her time spent abroad and the opportunity to fully immerse herself in the French language and culture. In January 2007, she returned to her Mexican hometown, Guadalajara, and started her own business—a translating company offering a wide variety of services (http://www.onegloballanguage.com). She lives with her daughter Alfa and husband Francisco (a mathematician and innovator in computer programming) and spends the rest of her time gardening, writing her blog, and oil painting. Whether we want to say it in English, Spanish, or French, Yits is our language expert.