Staff

Kim McKearnan

Executive Director

Years at Camp: 3

“I am grateful for the opportunity to call Camp 'work.' As a health care provider, it is a gift to see survivors and their families outside of the hospital environment. Being witness to their laughter, triumphs, friendships, courage, creativity and resiliency is a privilege. It is all I need to fuel my passion for making Camp the best it can be. Steve Jobs was quoted as saying, 'Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.' Camp is definitely great work. It is beyond satisfying. For me, it is a work of love.”

Kim returned to Montana after living abroad in Qatar where she helped open a much-needed children's hospital. She earned her Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Washington and has 25 years of experience in pediatric health care. She started with bedside clinical care and progressed to organizational leadership positions.

Beth Jones

Camp Director

Beth is on far left in the photo.

Years at Camp: 13

“One of the things I like most about working at Camp Mak-A-Dream is the people ... I get to spend each day that I wake up at Camp with some of the most generous, funny, kind and inspirational people one could ever hope to meet. Over the last 12 years I have met thousands of campers, volunteers and supporters who have changed my life. I am thankful for each time I have been brought into a conversation or shared a memorable moment; my favorites include reaching the top of the butte that overlooks Camp with someone who didn't think it was possible. I am often told that I have a great job and I couldn't agree more!”

Beth joined Camp Mak-A-Dream as residential director in 2006. The following year she moved into the position of camp director. She first became acquainted with Camp as part of the staff at the Missoula Children's Theatre that presented workshops with campers. Beth received a Certificate in Public Health from the University of Montana and is currently working on her master's.

Jennifer Benton

Program Director

Years at Camp: 24

“Since first volunteering, then joining the staff in 1995, I’ve been fortunate enough to hold several different positions and witness countless milestones and special moments here at Camp. Whether it’s watching the growth and success of our annual RATPOD cycling event, or welcoming former campers back years after their cancer to serve in a volunteer capacity, or sending someone down the zip line for the first time, magical moments happen day after day in this land of dreams. I feel fortunate to play some small part in helping those who come to Camp make memories, build confidence and form lifelong friendships.”

Jennifer began as a volunteer with Camp our very first summer in 1995. The next year she joined our team full time. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Ovarian Cancer Survivors Foundation based in Helena, Montana. A graduate of Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, Jennifer immediately discovered Camp after moving out West.

Jake Wood

Facilities Director

Years at Camp: 17

“My favorite thing about working at Camp is meeting all the great people and the view never gets old!”

A Montana native, Jake first started as a groundskeeper and maintenance assistant at Camp in 2002. He was promoted to property manager in 2006. Jake quite literally keeps the wheels on the bus and the roof over our heads.

Jen Emendorfer-Wade

Camper Manager

Years at Camp: 4 (plus years as a volunteer!)

"My Camp journey started years ago when I volunteered as a concierge at Winter YAC. Camp quickly became one of my happy places and opened my eyes to what I wanted to do when I 'grew up.' I knew someday I wanted to find my place within the cancer community, helping others find their way to resources and the support they needed to make a difficult time a little easier. Thanks to a twist of fate, that place ended up being the same one that started me on this journey. I was offered a position as the Program Administrative Assistant in 2016 and have loved every minute since I emphatically accepted!

"I have the pleasure of helping campers with their application paperwork and answering questions to prepare them for their adventure. I get to be among the first to greet out-of-state campers when they arrive at the airport, and one of the last to say goodbye as everyone prepares to fly home. I love chatting with everyone at the end of their week, seeing the friendships that formed or grew in only a few days, and hearing about what made Camp special for them."

Jen volunteered in our foundation office in Missoula in 2001 and went to Camp her first time as a concierge for the 2002 Winter Young Adult Conference and returned for subsequent summer and winter programs for two years. A graduate from the University of Montana with a bachelor's degree in psychology, Jen is delighted to work closely with our program staff.

Melissa Darbandi

Program Manager

Years at Camp: 1

“Summer Camp combines fun, growth and healing. I feel so fortunate to be a part of a camp where individuals affected by cancer can feel at home and participate in engaging activities. The Montana countryside is unparalleled in its beauty - I can’t wait to be immersed in it this summer during camp and make some lasting memories.”

Melissa relocated to Missoula from her hometown, St. Paul, MN in March 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota. Melissa has spent the majority of her career working to help clients of nonprofit organizations lead healthier, happier lives. Melissa is an AmeriCorps alumnus, having served terms in New Orleans and New York City rebuilding homes, leading volunteers in disaster recovery projects, and connecting homeowners with affordable home repairs. Prior to starting work at Camp Mak-A-Dream, Melissa worked as a camp director for an organization in Minnesota helping children with muscle disease, where she first fell in love with camp.

Shelley Cooper

Business Manager

Years at Camp: 8

"I came to Camp Mak-A-Dream in 2011 with a lot of excitement and because I wholeheartedly enjoy working for an organization that has a focus of helping children and families in need. Whether it’s in the office or getting to help at the airport or camp, it’s amazing to be part of this organization."

After working at Community Medical Center in the Pediatric Specialty Clinics in Missoula for nine years, Shelley joined Camp Mak-A-Dream in 2010. After growing up in Montana, she attended college in East Texas with a focus in business management. Shelley is passionate about helping others and has found her niche at Camp after returning to Montana to raise her children.

Amy Surbrugg, RN

Health Care Coordinator

Years at Camp: Joined Camp in 2019

“Camp is a magical place. It is amazing to watch a group of campers go from essentially strangers to family in just a matter of days. I am very excited to work in such an amazing place.”

Amy was raised in Montana and graduated from Carroll College in Helena, Montana with a degree in Nursing. She has been working in Billings as a nurse working with pediatric and adult medical and surgical patients. She is a certified medical surgical registered nurse and a pediatric chemotherapy and bio therapy provider certified through the Association of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Nurses. She worked at camp Mak-A-Dream as a cabin counselor in 2012 and 2013 and is excited to join the organization year round.

Kathleen Cotter

Executive Administrative Assistant

Kathleen is second from the right in the photo.

Years at Camp: 8

"To me Camp is about the relationships that develop overnight that will last a lifetime. I made friendships when working on core (summer) staff that changed my life. And now, as part of the foundation, I enjoy helping others make those bonds that last forever.”

Kathleen was born and raised in Montana and graduated from the University of Montana with her bachelor's in English literature and creative writing. She served as seasonal staff at Camp for four years starting in 2010 and then transitioned to working at our foundation office year-round.

Peter Rutledge

Operations Coordinator

Years at Camp: New to Camp Team- February 2019

“I have always tried to make a difference larger than oneself. Having done so in a personal, volunteer and professional capacity before, I am happy I can continue to do so with the Camp Mak-A-Dream team. I take great satisfaction from the intrinsic value of working for, and with, such a tremendous and impactful organization.”

Peter has grown up in Western Montana and has been around Missoula for most of his life. He graduated from the University of Montana acquiring bachelor’s degrees in Business Marketing and Management, and a minor in Political Science with a non-profit administration focus. He enjoys being active in the community, the outdoors, biking, hiking, camping, soccer, floating the river and good music.

Joe Colistro

Camp Chef

Years at Camp: New to Camp Team- January 2019

Joe is a retired police officer who has been refining his culinary skills at the Portland Yacht Club and then a fishing lodge in Alaska. He is author of Giuseppe's Recipes.