Kim McKearnan

Executive Director

Years at Camp: 6

“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.

Jennifer Benton

Camp Co-Director

Years at Camp: 26

“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 and has served in a number of roles over the years. Outside of Camp she also serves on the Board of Directors for the Children's Oncology Camping Association, International, has served on the board for Ovarian Cancer Survivors Foundation based of Montana and volunteers with other area non-profit organizations. A graduate of Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, Jennifer immediately discovered Camp after moving out West and enjoys camping, fishing, hiking, skiing and exploring with her husband and two black labs.

Lauren Bender

Camp Co-Director

Years at Camp: Joined in 2022

Lauren grew up in Idaho and graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in Social Work. She spent 8 years as the Program Director at a camp in Idaho and has been part of the Camp Mak-A-Dream team for a year. Lauren enjoys any and all sports, music, and exploring the outdoors.

“Camp is all about the people! It is such a privilege to meet so many incredible people at camp and hear their stories!”

Jake Wood

Facilities Director

Years at Camp: 19

“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.

Kelsey Werner

Assistant Camp Director

Years at Camp: Joined in 2023

"Working at a summer camp has been an integral part of my story and I am thrilled to be back in this space. I am looking forward to working with our staff and volunteers to create impactful experiences for our campers." 

Kelsey grew up in California at the beach but moved up to the mountains in Missoula in 2016 after graduating with her BA in Sociology. She has a background of administrative roles in social work related fields. She enjoys hiking, rafting, reading, and sharing meals with friends.

Jen Emendorfer-Wade

Camper Manager

Years at Camp: 6

"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.

Kelly Valerius

Brand Development and Community Engagement Manager

Years at Camp: Joined in 2022

Kelly was born and raised in Minnesota and earned her undergraduate degree from Drake University in business management. She then moved to North Carolina and began her career in finance with SBA Lending, while completing her MBA at UNC Charlotte. She moved to Missoula in the spring of 2020 and fell in love with the mountains, the people and the endless adventures. Kelly spends all her free time in the mountains hiking, riding horses and backpacking.

“Camp is such an incredible place that touches the lives of so many people from across the country. I am proud to work with such a great team to help create lifelong connections and an unforgettable experience for our campers.”

Stu Kaplan

Director of Medical Operations

Years at Camp: 9 (1997-1998, 2005-2012, rejoined 2022)

Stu has served at camp in the past as a volunteer cabin counselor, volunteer physician, Board Member, and on staff as Camp Director and Executive Director. After 10 years away pursuing an MBA overseas and a career in Eating Disorder Care and Advocacy, he is thrilled to return to Missoula and Camp Mak-A-Dream. Stu's passions include baseball (Let's Go Mets) and Performing Arts and he has been a longtime volunteer at the Missoula Children's Theatre.

"Camp is where everyone can leave baggage at the door and be celebrated for who they are, not judged for what they have. Camp is the epitome of the community we all crave. I think we have all learned that lesson the past few years. It's great to be home".

Linda Baldwin

Business Operations & Donor Relations Coordinator

Years at Camp: 2.5

“I found Camp Mak-A-Dream through participating in the RATPOD ride several years ago. The compassion, fun, gratitude and support were outstanding. Meeting the people and knowing what I was aligning with sparked a familiarity in me to beliefs about community and service I’d had all of my life. I knew someday I would find a way to serve the camp more permanently! Whether I am working in the office, or at camp meeting amazing people and looking out over the luscious scenery, this camp has a magical and beautiful quality that has to be experienced. I am honored to be a part of the team.”

Linda grew up in Montana, and comes from a background in health care and nutrition, adventure and bicycle travel, and overall service. She’s a born “foodie” and loves to indulge her creativity in the kitchen.

Maria Davis Thrasher

Bookkeeping and Business Operations Coordination

Years at Camp: 2

“Montana is my happy place and I am thrilled to be working behind the scenes for other cancer survivors. I truly wish it had existed to support myself and my family at the beginning of my cancer journey. I cannot wait to see it in action for all the people who need its beauty and camaraderie.”

Maria has an accounting degree from Siena College. She has been providing accounting services in a variety of fields for virtually all of her working life. She lives in the Sapphire Mountains with her husband and all their critters, including four horses. She spends the majority of her free time on horseback or reading a good book.

Erin Benson

Camp Chef

Years at Camp: Rejoined in 2023

Erin grew up in Alaska and went to culinary school in Oregon and received her degree in Culinary Arts. She moved to Montana in 2007 where she worked at Camp until 2012 when she married her husband and moved to Bozeman. After cooking in Bozeman for 5 years she moved to Helena where she lives with her Husband, Son and Pets. She enjoys cooking and baking, bowling, quilting, board games, exploring outside and spending as much time as she can with her family. After a 10 year adventure she is back at Camp. Chef Erin has returned!

“Camp has always been a special place for me. I am happy to be returning to a place that brings me and so many others happiness. I can’t wait to meet new people and catch up with those I remember from before."

Alexa Martinez

Assistant Camp Chef

Years at Camp: Starting May 2023

I grew up in Deer Lodge, Montana. My goal in this life is to spread love and joy through food. I’m passionate about wholesome ingredients and supporting people through local food systems. I attended the Culinary Institute of Montana and have been involved with Camp for as long as I can remember. In my free time I enjoy painting, quilting, and gardening.