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.

Keith Alexander

Keith Alexander

Keith a Software Architect with a Bachelor of Science from Penn State and has written and designed software to distribute stock market data and drive industrial machinery. Keith has seven years of experience on the Board of Education in Newtown, half as Board Chair. During his tenure, the Board of Education implemented full day kindergarten and added an elementary foreign language immersion program. He is currently serving on the Newtown Board of Finance. Keith and his wife, Elizabeth, have lived in Sandy hook for over 20 years. Their two children have grown up in town and are in various stages of moving out.
Tim Carlson

Tim Carlson, CPA

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.
Priscilla Jones

Priscilla Jones

Has been a public school educator for 30+ years, working in schools in Nigeria, Michigan, Maryland, Wisconsin and Connecticut. She has degrees in Education, Psychology and Elementary Math and Science teaching. She is currently teaching in Westport, Connecticut, and lives in Newtown with her husband and two children. She enjoys gardening and hiking the many trails in town, as well as traveling to the Midwest to be with her extended family.
John-Woodall

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.
David Wheeler

David Wheeler

David, Ben’s father, is a designer and illustrator working in the gift publishing industry. His gratitude to the founders and other members of the Ben’s Lighthouse team is without end.
Kara Wanzer

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

Rick Haylon

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 Kaisth

Daniela Z. Kaisth

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

Chris Lyddy

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

Ricki Seidman

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
Cori Chertoff

Cori Chertoff

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.
Mary Chamiec Case

Mary Chamiec-Case

Mary is a special education teacher who presently works with preschoolers. Over the years, she has taught special education in both the private and public sector, as well as in CT’s  Birth to Three early intervention program, where she worked with children and their families.  Mary and her husband Rick, reside in Sandy Hook, where they raised their family.

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).

Francine Lobis Wheeler

Francine Lobis Wheeler

Francine Wheeler is a wife, mother, actor, singer, writer and teacher. On December 14, 2012, Francine lost her son Ben in the Sandy Hook School shooting.  Twenty years experience teaching young children and Ben’s love of lighthouses led Francine to conceive The Isle of Skoo, an original music and puppetry Ben's Lighthouse program featuring characters who come to life in the community around a lighthouse. This music, mentorship, and arts program guides high school age youth in assisting and supporting children ages 5 and 6 while junior-high-age mentors learn from the high schoolers. Facilitated by two adults, the program builds strong social/emotional connections and foundations of expressivity for the younger participants and provides meaningful opportunities to learn mentor-based interaction skills for the older participants. Francine wants to provide this Ben's Lighthouse program free of charge to the young people of Newtown and honor Ben’s life and legacy by providing the children who survived 12/14 and the new generation of Newtown’s kids an environment of understanding, compassion and love.
Twyla Hafermann

Twyla Hafermann

Twyla Hafermann is an acting and musical theatre teacher, audition coach, and director in Newtown, Connecticut. She received her BFA from the University of Evansville, Indiana and her MFA in Acting from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in New York City. Twyla has worked on the stage professionally as an actress in many regional theatres and festivals, some of which are, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Humana Festival, Cleveland Play House, San Diego Repertory, the Maryland and Utah Shakespeare Festivals, and the New Harmony Project. She also made several television appearances on One Life to Live. She originated the roles of Caitlin in the play Gunshy and Cory in the play Private Eyes. She has taught improv for the organization, Spark; directed plays for Parks and Recreation in Newtown: and directed plays at the Newtown Middle School and the Newtown Intermediate School. Twyla currently works to creatively inspire children 4 years of age to 18 years of age with teaching musical theatre and directing shows for Dance Etc.; teaching and directing plays for the Community Learning Project, a homeschooling community, in Newtown, CT; directing the Newtown Intermediate school play; and by helping to facilitate the Isle of Skoo for The Ben’s Lighthouse organization.

Shannon D’Amico

Kinga Walsh

Kinga has been a volunteer with Ben’s Lighthouse for almost two years. Kinga, her husband Glenn and their four kids (Logan, Gordon, Owen and Aniko), have lived in town for 18+ years. Throughout this time, Kinga has been actively volunteering for many town organizations in an effort to give back to a community she and her family value and cherish. Examples of programs she helps range from pre-school fundraisers to school PTA/PTSA events to education budget reviews to youth and high school sports teams to food or clothing drives to town programs such as the Community Center Commission and, most currently, chairing the Community Center Committee. She is also currently on the board for the Newtown Education Foundation. Her background is marketing and advertising/promotions and project management. Kinga is delighted to be a part of Ben’s Lighthouse and looks forward to continuing to support its mission of “..helping young people find their unique ability to make a difference in the world; to be beacons of hope and change; to be the light and lead the way.”