Helping Each Child Find Their Own Light

Our Team

  • Ben’s Lighthouse is led by a dedicated volunteer Board formed in September 2013. (Prior to that, the Vestry of Trinity Episcopal Church performed Board responsibilities.)  The organization was originally founded as a program of Trinity Church under its 501(c)3 umbrella and in the summer of 2015, Ben’s Lighthouse became it’s own independent 501(c)3.  The Ben’s Lighthouse Board meets monthly and Board members will lead or participate in various committees to support the needs of the organization. Over time, new Directors and Advisors will be added as needed.

    Cori Chertoff

    Chair

    The founding partner of Dream Jam Productions, a multi-media children’s entertainment and educational development company. Cori has extensive experience in child development, as a program director, curriculum designer and producer. She has developed innovative programs and performances for children ranging in age from infancy through adolescence. Her anti-violence programs address the needs of at-risk youth. She is trained in Restorative Justice practices and mediates severe violent crime dialogue. She is the co-author and facilitator of The Longtermers Responsibility Project: Coming to Terms.

    Tim Carlson, CPA

    Treasurer

    A public company CFO with extensive experience in accounting, financial planning, treasury, risk management, compliance, audit, and investor relations.   Earlier in his career, Tim held a series of global finance, strategic planning, and auditing roles at various divisions of Campbell Soup Company and at Ernst & Young.  Tim holds a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant.

    Mary Chamiec-Case

    Board Secretary

    Has a BS and MS in Special Education. She currently provides children and their families with early intervention services within Connecticut’s Birth to Three Program. She has taught American Sign Language to parents/caregivers and their young children. She and her husband raised a grown daughter, a niece currently in college and a daughter who attends Newtown High School.

    Rich Stein

    Vice Chair

    In his professional life, Rich has been a private investor for the past 13 years. Rich earned a BA in Economics from the University of Chicago and his MBA in Marketing and Strategy from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management – Northwestern University. He serves as the Chair of the Finance Commission and the Investment Committee for Trinity Church, and as Treasurer for the Episcopal Province of New England. Rich lives with his wife in Sandy Hook.

    Rossella Fanelli

    Has 35 years experience as a school psychologist and is a licensed psychologist. She has worked with youth and families to improve behavior, social-emotional outcomes. She has presented workshops on motivation, social-emotional learning, executive functioning and loss and grief for parents and educators. She has served as president of the Connecticut Association of School Psychologists and is now on the Executive Board of the National Association of School Psychologists. She has been an adjunct professor for Long Island University, teaching school psychology graduate students and has served on an Advisory Panel for the Connecticut State Department of Education.

    Priscilla Jones

    Has been an educator at the elementary level for 30 years, working in schools in Nigeria, Michigan, Maryland, Wisconsin and Connecticut. She has a BA in Elementary Education and in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Teaching Math and Science. She currently teaches both math support and gifted workshop in Westport, Connecticut. She lives with her husband and two children in Newtown, and enjoys gardening and hiking the many trails in town, as well as spending time with her extended family in the Midwest.

    Dr. John Woodall

    Is a Board Certified Psychiatrist formerly of the faculty of Harvard Medical School and the Founder and Director of the Unity Project, a resilience learning system that was developed to promote resilient strengths in youth. Dr. Woodall has lectured, consulted and developed programs on resilient responses to crisis, human rights, conflict resolution and inter-ethnic dialogue across the US, in Central America, Canada, the Balkans, Cyprus, Israel and the Palestinian Territories for universities, the US Department of State, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

    Carla Tischio

    Has taught in the Newtown Schools for 16 years and is currently a 5th grade teacher at Reed Intermediate School. She has a BS in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in Teaching. She and her husband have two children in Newtown schools.

    Francine and David Wheeler

    Parents of Ben Wheeler and his brothers Nate and Matthew.

    Kara Wanzer

    Has a MA in Education and a BA in Sociology/ Anthropology. She has worked with children and families in the Greater Danbury Area addressing the education and mental health needs of young children for the past seventeen years. Her work has included programs such as the Mental Health Association of CT, Head Start, Even Start, and the Danbury Public Schools. She is the founder of the Solid Ground Project that supports educators, families and communities in building social emotional competence in young children. Kara lives in Sandy Hook with her husband and two children.

  • Ben’s Lighthouse is committed to fostering children’s potential to build a more compassionate and connected world. Our advisors provide a unique perspective that help us better achieve our goals.

    Rick Haylon

    Advisor

    An entrepreneur and Newtown-based businessman, founded Ben’s Lighthouse on December 17, 2012 and led the organization for its first four years. Rick and his wife and three children have been very involved in youth athletics, theater and music activities, religious-education programs, and other organizations within town. Rick has strong organizational development skills from years managing at GE Capital and at several entrepreneurial start-ups. He currently runs a multi-million dollar internet-based sales company.

    Daniela Z. Kaisth

    Advisor

    Daniela Z. Kaisth has over twenty years experience in international non-profit management. She is a partner in Gratias Partners, a philanthropy consulting firm focusing on phiianthropic entities, encouraging more effective giving through collaboration, grant-writing and fund development. Prior to founding Gratias Partners, Ms. Kaisth was Vice-President for External Affairs and IIE Initiatives at the Institute of International Education, in charge of development, communications, new initiatives and emergency assistance to students and scholars. Ms. Kaisth was responsible for leading IIE programs that addressed critical higher education needs in crisis, post-conflict, and transition countries. Ms. Kaisth received a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and a Diploma in International Studies from John Hopkins’ Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from John Hopkins University.

    Chris Lyddy

    Advisor

    Is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a strong focus on the treatment of psychological trauma and extreme stress in children and adults, results-based accountability, and implementing evidence- and research-based interventions. A former State Representative, he has experience with legislative process, best practices in the human services, child welfare and juvenile justice fields, and ability to diplomatically and collaboratively engage constituencies and stakeholders on public and social policy issues.

    Ricki Seidman

    Advisor

    Ricki Seidman, a senior principal at TSD, is a seasoned communications strategist. At TSD, Ricki advises a wide range of clients in the corporate and non-profit spheres. She previously served in government and worked in campaigns. She served as VP Joe Biden’s communications director during President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and in 2009 assisted the White House in their effort to confirm Justice Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court. After a senior role in the 1992 campaign, Ricki held several positions in the Clinton White House, including Deputy Communications Director, Counselor to the Chief of Staff, and Director of Scheduling and Advance for the President; she subsequently served as Deputy Associate Attorney General in the Department of Justice. Her experience also includes a stint as executive director of Rock the Vote, on the staff of the late Senator Edward Kennedy and at the civil liberties organization People for the American Way. She received a B.A. from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio and a J.D. from the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

  • Ben’s Lighthouse is committed to fostering children’s potential to build a more compassionate and connected world. To that end, BLH utilizes dedicated, trained staff members to create, implement and run programs and activities (with the assistance of volunteers).

    Rebecca Cosgrove

    Program Manager

    Rebecca Cosgrove joins Ben’s Lighthouse as Program Manager, bringing an extensive background in mission-driven non-profit environments, working hands on with individuals from diverse populations. She takes an innovative approach to program development and has always been drawn to opportunities to help motivate people to fulfill their potential and become engaged participants in their communities. Rebecca’s passion for service has led her to be actively involved in volunteer work in New Orleans, Haiti and locally, in her own community. She has her Masters Degree in Public Administration from Marist College.

  • Since January 2013, the Ben’s Lighthouse Planning Committee has been developing activities and events to fulfill the mission of Ben’s Lighthouse both in the short and long-term:

    Jessica Thompson

    Is a junior at Masuk High School in Monroe. She also attends the Regional Center For The Arts magnet school, where she is a film major.  After volunteering for the first Colorado outreach trip, she decided that if there is a volunteer opportunity she will do everything she can to be apart of it. Jessica is the founder and President of the Ben’s Lighthouse Club at Masuk High School.

    Mary Chamiec-Case

    Board Secretary

    Has a BS and MS in Special Education. She currently provides children and their families with early intervention services within Connecticut’s Birth to Three Program. She has taught American Sign Language to parents/caregivers and their young children. She and her husband raised a grown daughter, a niece currently in college and a daughter who attends Newtown High School.

    Carla Tischio

    Has taught in the Newtown Schools for 16 years and is currently a 5th grade teacher at Reed Intermediate School. She has a BS in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in Teaching. She and her husband have two children in Newtown schools.

    Chrissie Pierce

    Is a 3rd Grade Teacher at Head O’ Meadow School in Newtown. She has a BS in Elementary Education and a Masters in Education. She and her husband have two children.

    Sue Vogelman

    Has lived in Newtown and worked with children for her entire career. She has a BA in Psychology and a BA in Political Science and taught at Sandy Hook School for 10 years, before becoming the Church School Director at Trinity Episcopal Church. She and her husband have two children, one who just started college and one still in the Newtown Schools where she continues to work part time and volunteers often.

    Larry Coleman

    Is a retired airline pilot and professional contractor who has served on Trinity’s Youth Commission, Property Commission, Vestry and other committees for many years. He is active with Habitat for Humanity and Group Workcamp, among other endeavors. He brings a great wealth of experience in working with the Town of Newtown and knows how to get things done.

    Eileen Cullen

    Has taught special education for 27 years and has recently retired from Newtown Public Schools. She has a BS in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s degree in Special Education. She is currently working as a job coach for adults with disabilities. She and her husband have raised 2 children.

    Karen Brown-Bowditch

    Is a consultant in financial services with a MBA, BS and AS. She has spent several years as a youth leader and church school teacher. She and her husband have a child in Middle School.

    Cathy Huffman

    Has been an educator for 30 years in NY, TX and CT. She has an undergraduate degree in Special Education and M.ED in Gifted and Talented and Curriculum and Instruction. She also holds a CT administrator’s certificate. Cathy works for the Trumbull Public Schools and is an adjunct professor at University of Bridgeport’s Graduate School of Education. She lives in Newtown with her two children.

    Michelle Brissette, RN, BSN

    Is an Infusion Nurse Specialist for 6 pharmaceutical infusion companies, treating patients and their families in the Connecticut area. She has taught Church School at Trinity for a number of years. She and her husband have two children, one entering Newtown High School and one at the Sandy Hook School.

    Julie Dunn

    Has a BS and MS in Nursing and works part time as a nurse practitioner in a private Gastroenterology practice. She has spent several years as a church school teacher and volunteers in other capacities. She and her husband have two children in the Newtown school system.

    Clare Boyle

    Is a junior at Hopkins School in New Haven, where she sings in Spirens, one of two all girl a cappella groups, participates in drama productions, writes for the school paper, and plays volleyball. She lives with her parents and brother in Newtown.



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Funding Partners

Funding for a portion of our programs has been provided through grants from:

Fairfield County Community Foundation
Episcopal Relief and Development
Newtown Sandy Hook Community Foundation
Give Back Brands Foundation