About Us

Our Team

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 Grip

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 Doran

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 Calhoun

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.

 

Beth Kerner

Beth works as both a Customer Service and Print Support Specialist for Activity Connection. She stays busy assisting customers, managing accounts, designing and preparing files for print, and shipping orders. Beth enjoys helping others and connecting with them. The camaraderie and fun working environment at Activity Connection is a great culture fit for her.

Beth studied illustration at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. She has worked as a freelance illustrator and designer for numerous clients. With her people skills and generous nature, it’s no wonder she has also worked in a range of customer relations jobs.

In her free time, Beth enjoys drawing, going to museums, hiking, and listening to audiobooks and music. She loves creating art targeting the STEM audience—a curriculum combining Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—and strives to inspire people to develop an interest in science using artwork. She has created mission patches and outreach art for NASA and JPL missions. She loves cats and enjoys befriending the local crows by feeding them peanuts every day. Activity Connection is lucky to have such a talented and hardworking team member in Beth!

 

Brooke DeNisco

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 Fairchild

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 Mendoza

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 Bellerose

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!

 

Eryn Clark

Eryn has worked as a freelance writer and poet for Activity Connection since 2016. She loves the creative nature of her work and how it allows her to stretch her creative muscles within a flexible schedule. If you haven’t done so already, check out her rhyming skills with the monthly birthday poems.

Eryn studied illustration at the University of the Arts before obtaining a Master of Social Work degree from Rutgers University. Prior to working for Activity Connection, she spent nine years in a continuing care retirement community, first as an Activity Assistant and then Director of Activities. She loves her work with the senior community and always tries to remember that progress is made little by little over time.

Eryn lives in New Jersey with her husband and young son. Outside of work, she enjoys expressing herself artistically through a variety of endeavors, including drawing, wood burning, and cut-paper card making. But, perhaps her favorite works of art are the ones she creates with her toddler using Play-Doh and Legos.

 

Jessica Melfi

“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.

 

Joan Etter

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.

 

Kris Russell

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 Steves

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.

 

Lauren Audick

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 Smith

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.

 

Mathew Guilfoyle

Mathew is a constant strategist, an entrepreneur and brand builder who specializes in technology, high performance team building and organizational continual improvement. He has achieved success in various leadership positions throughout his career, owned and operated a small creative agency, and has helped to scale businesses and develop teams for companies of all sizes. His broad technical and creative skills combined with experience crafting world-class digital experiences and dynamic, highly engaged online communities make him a strong member of our team serving as our Technical Services Director.

In his free time, Mathew likes to relax with family and friends as often as he can and tries to plan at least a few outdoor adventures each year to backpack, hike, snowboard, and cycle. Many don’t know this, but he secretly dreams of being a small-scale farmer, walking the orchards of a family plot, enjoying the sun on his shoulders and his dog by his side. We’ll have to report back on his progress soon!

 

MJ Plaster

MJ has been working as a writer for Activity Connection for at least six years. She loves the people she gets to work with and has a deep passion for the mission, 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.

Before working with AC, 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, living 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.

 

Patty Lawlor

Patty has worked with Activity Connection since 2017 in the areas of fact-checking, writing, and copy review. Her work on the Special Days and Monthly Event pages gives her great satisfaction every time she finishes a document and sees the final result. She enjoys writing content and has fun coming up with new ideas and learning about different holidays and traditions.

Patty attended Moravian College graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She currently works as an Early Head Start teacher and is pursuing her certification in Children’s Literature at Penn State University. She has spent much of her life working with children and loves the energy and diversity it brings to her life.

Patty and her significant other live in East Windsor, New Jersey, with their new pet, a guinea pig named Quinn. In her free time, she enjoys baking and also loves to exercise, doing Pilates and weight training at the gym or at home. Always one for living in the moment, her favorite quote is “Wherever you are, be there,” which she attributes to a family friend. While his use for it was as a caution to distracted drivers—Patty believes it has a meaningful application to life in general.

 

Robin Bacon Hoffman

Robin’s spiritual expertise is a valuable asset to Activity Connection. In addition to monthly spiritual programs, her wide range of writing talents are also featured in other areas of the site. Her favorite part of the job is the opportunity to brainstorm new and exciting ideas for fresh content. For Robin, working at Activity Connection is a labor of love and as she often says, “It’s all about the love.”

Robin has had an interesting range of careers from science to religion. Originally trained as a chemical engineer at The Pennsylvania State University, she worked as an engineer for Exxon before returning to school to achieve two master’s degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary. She now works as a chaplain at Springpoint at Meadow Lakes, a senior living community near Princeton, New Jersey, where she also serves as chair of the Springpoint Ethics Oversight Committee.

When she’s not working, Robin loves to explore the arts and indulges in theater, reading, and music, as both a singer and a guitar player. However, her greatest love is to spend time with her two daughters and playing with her grandchildren at her home in Central New Jersey.

 

Ryan Musch

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.

 

Sheri Barile

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 Karya

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 Boretti

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!

 

Yits Jimenez

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.