Peter Bell- President & CEO
As an advocate and father of a young man with autism, Peter has been a highly effective leader and powerful voice within the autism community. Prior to becoming the President and CEO of Ascendigo in May 2017, Peter and his wife Liz served on Ascendigo’s Board of Directors. Most recently he served as President and CEO of Eden Autism based in Princeton, New Jersey. Prior to Eden, he was executive vice president for Autism Speaks where he championed several public policy changes and established the family services division. From 2004 to 2007, he served as President and CEO of Cure Autism Now, one of the country’s first autism advocacy organizations to focus on the science of autism. There he championed the passage of the federal Combating Autism Act of 2006 and 2011, launched autism insurance reform that led to the passage of mandates in over 35 states and established the Autism Treatment Network (ATN).
Peter’s career also includes a White House appointment to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities by President Barack Obama, founding and chairing the Consumer Advisory Committee of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) and serving as the Vice Chair of the Autism Research Program for the Department of Defense. In 2014, Peter received the INSAR Advocate Award for his commitment to research, advocacy and services for people with autism spectrum disorders.
Peter earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a BS in Hotel Administration at Cornell University. He and his wife Liz have three children.
“Our vision at Ascendigo is to build upon a proven model that allows individuals with autism to thrive, reaching their potential within the communities where they live, work and play, regardless of their challenges.”
Dan Richardson- Chief Operating Officer
Dan Richardson first learned of Ascendigo when our first residence, the Yellow House, was obtaining town approval in 2014. Dan was a neighbor and supported the home’s use as a residence for Ascendigo’s adult residential program. He continued to follow Ascendigo’s success then ultimately joined the organization as COO in April 2018.
Dan brought 24 years of experience in sustainability, budgeting, strategic planning, employee engagement, client service and project management. As a Senior Consultant and Consulting Services Sector Leader for SGM, an Engineering, Consulting and Surveying firm based in Glenwood Springs, he consulted with over 40 local government agencies and many private sector clients.
Serving the community is a way of life for Dan. In fact, he is the Mayor of the Town of Carbondale, a part-time position that he loves and has held since 2016. Dan has also served on a number of community boards including the Glenwood Springs City Council, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA), and the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork.
In addition to advancing Ascendigo’s mission and strategic goals, Dan’s role involves ramping up the organization’s capacity to take on new clients, managing the organization’s increasing real estate and project development needs, and overseeing various systems improvements. Dan has always been drawn to help people with special needs. “I’m thrilled to work with Ascendigo and to be able to contribute to its model of helping people with autism thrive.”
A native of Glenwood Springs, Dan graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a Bachelor’s Degree of Environmental Design in Architecture. He lives in Carbondale with his wife and two sons. Besides spending his spare time following his sons in their sports activities, Dan loves backpacking in the wilderness, skiing, and biking.
Maureen Muller – Business Director
Maureen was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium, but has had close ties to the Roaring Fork Valley. She spent most of her summers and part of her winters in Snowmass since the age of 8. She attended Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and then relocated to Boulder, CO with her husband. In 2001, Maureen and her family relocated to Belgium where she worked for Levi Strauss Europe in the HR department. At Levi Strauss Maureen fell in love with volunteer work, helping to better her community and giving back to non-profits. For three years she was the president of the Levi Strauss Europe Community Involvement Team and received an award for her efforts.
When Maureen relocated back to the Roaring Fork Valley with her husband and two children she knew her work needed to involve helping to improve lives. Ascendigo was a perfect fit. She joined Ascendigo in July 2011 and has worn many hats since–from bookkeeper to registration coordinator to compliance and HR. The most rewarding part of her job is seeing the positive impact Ascendigo has had on so many campers and their families. Maureen has seen the organization grow from two full time employees when she started to over 20 today.
Courtney McEleney- Director of Development
Courtney brings nearly a decade of experience as a development professional with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) to her position as director of development for Ascendigo. She oversees all development, fundraising, marketing and public relations for Ascendigo. Courtney first worked at the district level of MDA in Long Beach, California and Denver then with the national office.
As community relations manager for the MDA national office, Courtney helped facilitate a national rebranding effort to increase awareness, relevance and engagement. Additionally, she expanded MDA’s mission and stories in National communication materials including videos, blogs, media interviews and marketing collateral.
Courtney realized her passion for health-care oriented non-profits while she was in college. She volunteered for for the Ronald McDonald House and an AIDS organization in Los Angeles while earning her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Global Studies from UCLA.
Originally from Laguna Nigel, Courtney lives in Aspen and spends her spare time skiing, hiking, taking yoga classes, training to run half marathons, reading, listening to live music and hanging out with her boyfriend, Jarrod.
“I am thrilled to be a part of the Ascendigo team at an exciting time in their history. I enjoy collaborating with our dedicated group of staff, volunteers, donors, community members, and supporters who strive everyday to fund our mission and enhance our program initiatives.”
Ashley Martin- Marketing & Events Coordinator
“Everything you could possibly want is just right outside your comfort zone.”- Robert Allen.
Ashley believes this is an appropriate quote for Ascendigo clients and a recurring mantra for her own life as well. Ashley took a leap of faith in 2013 to leave the familiar mountains of North Carolina for the curious snow capped peaks of Colorado. She has fallen in love again with the outdoors. Having experienced recreation management, business, corporate policies and long commutes, Ashley learned that “the down-valley life was #MadeforMe!.” Now as a resident of this awe-inspiring valley she finds herself yearning to give back to the Carbondale community that has inspired her in so many ways.
“I could not imagine a better opportunity than to better the lives of those on the spectrum than by generating awareness. As the Marketing and Events Coordinator since November 2016, I sincerely believe in Ascendigo and the organization’s mission to enhance the lifestyle of those with autism.”
Matt McCabe – Adventures Co-Director
Mathew has a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation, Parks, & Tourism Administration with an emphasis on Therapeutic Recreation. He also earned additional minors in both Outdoor Leadership and Business Administration. Mathew started with Ascendigo as a Ski Buddy in the winter of 2010 and returned the following summer as a River Specialist. Since then he has been involved with nearly every aspect of the Adventures program at Ascendigo and is now Co-Director of Adventures. Mathew is an avid outdoorsman and athlete with professional experience in many disciplines including skiing, rafting, kayaking, lake sports, biking and climbing.
“By teaching sports to people with autism, we can inspire them to get outside and learn new skills. It is my greatest passion to share my enthusiasm for recreation with individuals impacted by ASD.”
Joseph Breiling- Adventures Co-Director
Joseph has been working with and coaching individuals with disabilities for over 14 years. He has coached Special Olympics soccer, basketball, and softball. He has served as an adaptive instructor for many sports such as skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, climbing and more. Joseph started working specifically with individuals on the autism spectrum in the summer of 2010 as a counselor for Ascendigo. He completely fell in love with the camp and the Roaring Fork Valley so he decided to make working in this field his passion. Now approaching his eighth summer, Joseph runs the day-to-day operations of the Lake Program and sets up travel camps across the country. Joseph’s patience and positivity is unparalleled. He has an overwhelming desire to encourage athletes to achieve success. When not at work, you can find Joseph hiking a mountain, floating a river, or hitting the slopes with his wife Alix and dog/co-worker Nika.
Conlan McGough- Adventures Program Manager
A Colorado native, Conlan knew early on that his passions are being outside and helping people. He discovered adaptive recreation during his freshman year of college and earned a B.S. Degree in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources from Colorado State University. Conlan has worked as an adaptive sports coach teaching students with a variety of physical and cognitive disabilities in a wide range of adaptive recreational activities including rock climbing, river sports, lake sports, and skiing. Conlan is a PSIA certified alpine and adaptive ski instructor. He discovered Ascendigo the in the summer of 2014 and “fell in love with our kids and the mission of the organization.” As Adventures Coordinator, Conlan plans camp activities, interfaces with families, teaches skiing, and job coaches camp employees.
“I learn so much from our participants and I absolutely love helping people who otherwise would not be able to do these activities.”
Sydney Horwitz- Ranch Manager
Sydney Horwitz moved to Carbondale when she was 12 and has been working with horses since. Now Sydney is leading Ascendigo’s Ranch Program where she can combine her love for people and horses. Her horse background spans from working in equine therapy at Sopris Therapy Services to guiding tourists on trail rides at Maroon Creek Outfitters to crisscrossing the country taking care of horses on the polo circuit. Ask Sydney about parallel parking a semi-truck full of horses next to Central Park in New York City for a polo match! She is thrilled to be working in the equine therapy again. Sidney earned a bachelor’s degree in Animal and Veterinary Science from the University of Wyoming where she was on the Rodeo & Equestrian Team.
“Horses are my therapy. I love the bond I have with horses and want to share that with others. It’s very rewarding to get everyone having fun caring for and riding the horses.”
Bob Barnes- Sports Curriculum Project Manager
Having grown up skiing and paddling the rivers of Maine, Bob spent many summers guiding whitewater river trips on the east coast and extended open canoe expeditions in Canada
while teaching skiing in Colorado in the winters. He taught skiers of all levels and trained instructors at several resorts before moving to Aspen in 2014. An examiner for Professional Ski Instructors of America, Bob has developed numerous written and multimedia instructor training and support materials used nationwide. He authored the best-selling Complete Encyclopedia of Skiing.
Bob has worked for Ascendigo since 2015 as a River Sports Specialist. He took on the role of Project Manager for the Ascendigo Sports Curriculum in 2016, coordinating an internationally renowned team of scholars, autism experts, and sports instruction professionals to create a comprehensive manual, as well as online, classroom, and field-training support. Bob lives in Aspen with his wife, Susan, and spoiled Birman cat, Razi. His parents still wonder what he is going to do with that Biology degree from Colby College in Maine.
“Sharing some of the sports I love with individuals who may have few opportunities otherwise brought me to Ascendigo. Seeing the life-changing benefits and growth that results has kept me here.”
Peter Magnum- River Manager
Peter Magnum may be a Washington, D.C. native, but he has a lifetime connection to the outdoors. Years ago Peter traded in his suit jackets for life jackets and ski jackets to pursue his passion for mountains, rivers and streams. His impressive training and experience include Certified Professional River Guide, Swift Water Rescue Technician, Outdoor Emergency Care Instructor Trainer, Alpine Mountain Guide, Professional Certified Ski Patroller and Mountain Rescue Aspen Rescue Technician. Peter has been working with Ascendigo since 2009. As Ascendigo’s River Programs Manager, Peter implements human powered water sports activities such as inflatable duckies, rafts and standup paddleboards. He also instructs and develops our athletes and certifies our coaches. What attracted Peter to Ascendigo was wanting to “make a difference” in some way.
“Multiple seasons with this organization have allowed me to witness the ‘magic’ of Ascendigo and the transformation of athletes. We often see stories of the worst the world has to offer. Ascendigo coaches have shown me the best of humanity.”
Life Enrichment Team
Mark Zoller – Employment Manager
It’s a familiar story–Mark and his wife, Chelsie, moved to the Roaring Fork Valley four years ago to ski for a winter and they are still here. Mark’s background as a special education teacher at an elementary school on the southside of Chicago makes him well suited for working with individuals at Ascendigo. He started as a ski buddy and summer camp counselor with Ascendigo in 2014 then started working in Life Enrichment as a skills trainer the following year. Ascendigo is a licensed vendor for the Department of Vocational Rehab and Mark heads up our employment program. Not only does he find suitable employment for our adult clients, he helps train them for their jobs. “Carbondale employers are great about wanting to be part of our program.” “It is rewarding to see clients’ passions and interests develop. As their personalities and strengths shine through, we can determine where they fit vocationally so they can find fulfillment as a fully productive member of society.”
Mike Pittinaro – Outreach Director
Mike recently moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from Stowe, Vermont, where he was the Supervisor of Behavior Services for a school district. Over the course of 8 years, Mike has worked as a behavior specialist, a behavior interventionist, a speech and language teacher, and has developed two educational garden initiatives for schools and mental health organizations in northern Vermont. Mike’s belief that the natural environment and real life experiences are highly effective approaches to therapy and skill development, and his commitment to the health and well-being of others, has brought Mike to Ascendigo. Mike earned a BS in English and Sociology from SUNY Geneseo in 2008. He went on to earn his Master’s degree in Education and Applied Behavior Analysis from Johnson State College and has recently received his certification in Applied Behavior Analysis. As Outreach Director, Mike collaborates with the Ascendigo Outreach team to provide both in-home services and school consultations for children in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Jessica McAllister – Outreach Manager
Jessica is a Roaring Fork Valley native who grew up in Carbondale. Moving to the front range for education, Jessica graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Psychology and Human Development & Family Studies. She went on to earn a M.A. in Special Education and a teaching degree. After four and a half years as a paraprofessional in an autism program and one year as a teacher, Jessica and her husband returned to the valley where she discovered Ascendigo. The mission to provide community-based opportunities to individuals with autism resonated with her and she became the Adventure Camps Administrator in February 2016. By October, Jessica missed working directly with children and transitioned to the Outreach program. Currently, Jessica works with children providing 1:1 therapy. She is completing a graduate certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis through Arizona State University as part of the process to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.