Board Seeks to Expand Camp Program that Supports Thousands of Grieving Children
with Transformative Experiences
WESTPORT, CT, November 10, 2021 – New York City’s Vishal Amin, Philadelphia local, Emily Krueger, and Fairfield County resident, Ashley Pelzel were named to the Board of Directors of Experience Camps, a national, no-cost program for grieving children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver. The organization’s one-week, overnight summer camps, and year-round programs help to empower kids with invaluable coping skills and community that enables them to move forward with their lives.
As Board members, Vishal, Ashley, and Emily will leverage their unique backgrounds across a variety of industries to support the organization’s programming, branding, and strategy with the goal to further the mission and transform the lives of grieving children.
One in five U.S. children will experience the death of someone close to them by age 18, and 5.3 million will mourn the loss of a parent or sibling. Over the last five years, demand for Experience Camps programs has increased 500%. The COVID-19 pandemic means tens of thousands more kids are now being impacted by grief. Grieving children are at higher risk than their non-grieving peers for depression, anxiety, truancy, isolation, behavior problems, lowered academic achievement, drug and/or alcohol abuse, incarceration or suicide.
Experience Camps provides a safe environment where kids can explore their grief and ease the loneliness they typically feel. These programs connect grieving children to a community of peers who understand what they’re going through while normalizing the grief process and giving them hope for the future. This past summer, 700 campers from 36 states attended Experience Camps programs in-person across their five locations.
“It is normal for children to struggle after a loss and we want to give them all the benefits of traditional camp experiences and additional programmatic support while showing them they are not alone,” said Todd Arky, Chair of the Board. “Our board members are key ambassadors of the organization and are integral to ensuring we can continue to deliver a high-quality program to as many grieving children as possible. Vishal, Emily, and Ashley exemplify a strong commitment to the mission and desire to grow the organization. We are thrilled to welcome them to the board.”
Vishal Amin is a Managing Director and founding member of Blackstone Growth, where he leads investments across Technology, namely Enterprise Software and Consumer Internet. Prior to joining Blackstone in 2018 to launch BXG, he was a Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, where he led growth investing and capital execution across software, internet, financial technology, and healthcare. Before joining Andreessen Horowitz, Vishal was at TCV where he spent time focusing on software, healthcare technology and business services. Before this role, he spent several years within the investment banking group at Allen Company.
Vishal grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and attended a number of sports and academic summer camps over his childhood including Camp Cody in Freedom, New Hampshire. He is a graduate of Duke University and has spent time in the field of Bioethics / Neuroethics, primarily researching implications associated with new brain technologies. He has also completed the Back End Web Development course at General Assembly.
“I believe that grief is more than a personal tragedy, it is a significant public health issue as experiencing loss at an early age can certainly alter the trajectory of a child’s life. Experience Camps helps to break down walls of isolation, and helps kids develop strong bonds and coping tools that carry them forward through life – therefore granting them freedom of opportunity.”
Emily Krueger is a business development leader who has built dozens of partnerships with private foundations, governments, and Fortune 500 companies generating millions of dollars and delivering profound social impact. From her earliest days as an AmeriCorps member working for the public health department in Indianapolis to developing multi-million dollar public/private partnerships that provided lifesaving nutrition treatments to severely malnourished children, Emily combines her program, financial, and fundraising acumen to change the world.
Emily has developed partnerships with leading institutions including USAID, CDC, Comic Relief, ELMA Philanthropies and led proposal development for MacArthur 100 & Change, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and Caterpillar Foundation. She has worked with nonprofits including Action Against Hunger and Best Friends Animal Society creating game changing social impact, partnering these organizations with companies including Google, Apple, Netflix, (WW) Weight Watchers, Humble Bundle, and Hard Rock Café to create mutually-beneficial relationships, each generating six and seven figure gifts and building brand visibility.
Her experience designing new and innovative fundraising structures and awareness programs will help the organization as it enters into a new phase of growth, finding new ways to expand its reach and mission beyond the boundaries of camp.
“Young people have so much to deal with in our quickly changing world and to add the loss of a parent or sibling could feel insurmountable. Experience Camps allows kids to be kids while giving them a safe space to digest their grief and to realize they are not alone. My hope is to reach more kids so they know that a support system is here and available to them.”
Emily has also published articles in the Journal of the Grants Professional Association and spoken on the topic of advancing organizational development strategies for overcoming fixed budgeting challenges. She is commonly sought after for discussions with other leading nonprofits about ways to grow grant funding and has personally changed the trajectory of multiple organizations with her game changing strategies.
Emily graduated from Indiana University with a graduate degree in biomedical ethics, and lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, son, three dogs, and two chickens.
Ashley Pelzel is the Head of Technology Operations at Bridgewater Associates—the world’s largest hedge fund with over $140 billion AUM. She leads teams that design and implement processes so the rest of the department can focus on developing quality software that multiplies investor productivity.
Her specialty is shaping operations in fast-paced environments where strategies are frequently shifting. During her time in the Technology department, Ashley helped scale the operations of the department as it grew an overseas presence, developed a cloud management program, and redesigned the financial operations of both the Infrastructure and Corporate Technology areas.
In addition to her experience in operations, Ashley’s expertise in risk management, sourcing/negotiation, and technology asset management will be invaluable to Experience Camps as it continues to set up its highly scalable operations for long term sustainability and growth.
“For me, one of the most formative experiences of my life was having a mother battling terminal cancer in my late teens and losing her in my early twenties. That experience not only shaped who I am today and how I approach my life, but it gave me a glimpse into how complex and ever changing the experience of grief can be. Grief can be isolating, but the idea of turning that on its head and bringing together a community of support gives me incredible hope, and I want to help spread that hope to every grieving child.”
Starting at a young age, Ashley was inspired to participate in leadership and philanthropy programs, organizing a wide range of fundraising events. She continues that spirit of giving back and leadership, spearheading Bridgewater’s technology donation and asset sustainability efforts.
Ashley received her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. She currently lives in Weston, CT with her husband and pet rabbit. Outside of work, she enjoys making her own vinegar.
About Experience Camps
Experience Camps is a national nonprofit that gives grieving children experiences that change their lives forever by working to foster a more grief-smart culture and raise awareness of childhood grief as an issue that deserves attention.
Experience Camps provides no-fee, camp and other innovative programs for kids who have lost a parent, sibling or primary caregiver, as well as resources and advocacy to benefit many more. Since 2009, the organization has empowered thousands of children with the confidence, skills and support to move forward with their lives. Experience Camps’ five-year goal is to double the number of kids attending camp and expand our reach and resources to millions more through innovative programs and childhood grief advocacy and education so that every grieving child lives a life rich with possibility.
Media Contact: Michelle Cove, (617) 319-4434