August 19, 2016

Rain can’t dampen spirits at Kicks for a Cure

Mike Reilly Photo

From left, Leah Swanson, Kerry Hill, Owen Brady, Blair Knowles, Katie Taylor, Clara Kelly and Chelsea Lafayette are with the Burlington Young Professionals Steering Committee and chamber staff. Andrew Stickney, CEO of Burlington Bytes, is photo bombing in the back.

BURLINGTON — About 70 people braved the on-and-off rain and threatening skies to be a part of the 7th annual Kicks for a Cure Kickball Tournament, sponsored by Burlington Young Professionals (BYP), on Aug. 12 at Oakledge Park in Burlington. The event raised more than $800 for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a year-round camp for children with cancer located in South Hero.

The event also included a networking barbeque for players and spectators, who donated to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta to watch the matches and enjoy the food. Eight teams registered for the tournament, with the squad from Burlington Bytes claiming the Golden Cleat award, symbolic of the championship.

Team Burlington Bytes took home the Golden Cleat Trophy at the 7th annual Kicks for a Cure tournament at Oakledge Park in Burlington recently.

Provided Photo

Team Burlington Bytes took home the Golden Cleat Trophy at the 7th annual Kicks for a Cure tournament at Oakledge Park in Burlington recently.

BYP is a program affiliate of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. Clara Kelly, workforce development and entrepreneur coordinator at the chamber, also coordinates BYP and its steering committee, along with Katie Taylor.

“The steering committee isn’t necessarily a governing board, but is a group of individuals who volunteer their time to help us program BYP, plan events, and provide feedback,” Kelly said. “They’re definitely a very supportive group and range in age, mostly from 25 to 35 years of age.  They meet monthly as a big group, and then break up into four committees: marketing, event planning, partnership, and charitable engagement.”

Kelly was excited about the Kicks for a Cure tournament.

“I love this event,” she said. “It’s a great way to get out of the office. It’s very popular and it’s also a social networking event. The registration and other fees go to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta.” Kelly said she and Taylor introduced a new wrinkle this year, giving teams the option to purchase “extra outs,” with those added fees also going to the camp.

BYP has another event coming up on Aug. 31 with BYP Night at the Lake Monsters.

“Joe Doud, general manager of the Lake Monsters, is also a member of our steering committee,” Kelly said. “He hooked us up with a great package. It’ a great way to kind of wrap up the summer.”

Zack Engler and Rich Gardner represented Camp Ta-Kum-Ta at the event. Both serve on the board.

“Camp Ta-Kum-Ta is a camp for kids ages seven to 17 who either have, or have had, cancer,” Engler said.

“It’s a year-round camp now. We have one main summer camp, but we have winter weekends and programs for the families of the children as well.” He said the board currently included 13 members.

Jonathan Torrey and Melissa Carlson prior to taking the field.

Mike Reilly Photo

Jonathan Torrey and Melissa Carlson prior to taking the field.

Gardner said the board’s main function involves the facilities and actual camp functions.

“Things like how we will do outreach,” he said. “Happily, tonight’s event really wasn’t something we initiated. The Chamber and BYP approached us. That’s the great thing about Vermont. A lot of companies and communities will look for causes to support, and Camp Ta-Kum-Ta is a very easy program to get behind.”

Individuals and groups volunteer at the camp for a variety of activities, according to Engler.

“We probably have 120 volunteers for the summer camp alone,” he said. “But we really need them year-round. It’s a large property, with a lot of events going on.” Besides services for the children themselves, Camp Ta-Kum-Ta offers “siblings weekends” and other supports to families. “Cancer affects everyone in the family,” Engler said.

The variety of small events such as Kicks for A Cure, golf tournaments, and others all help fund the Camp, Gardner said. “It all helps. We’re lucky enough to have some big donors, but the camp is also built on small fundraisers and $5 and $10 donations.”

Jonathan Torrey is a market intelligence analyst at

“My job is basically to know about market trends and dealer trends to inform our market strategy to develop the next best products. To help make sure we build and do the right things.”

Torrey said participating in a tournament for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta fit the mission.

“They definitely encourage us to get out in and support the community,” he said. “They give each employee one paid eight-hour day to volunteer, and the company sponsors many community programs and events.”

Blair Knowles was celebrating nearly one year of coordinating her own real estate team through Keller Williams Real Estate.

“Keller Williams is really supportive of folks building and growing,” she said. “I was there for about two-and-a-half years on someone else’s team, and then they gave me the green light and the big thumbs-up to launch my own team a year ago. It’s been great. I kind of get to put my own stamp on things — whether it’s choosing the advertising I want or working with the photographer or courier I want to use.”

Knowles said she’d like to grow the team to 10 to 15 people in the future. “Creating jobs,” she said. Knowles’ specializes in working with sellers. “I call myself a listing specialist,” she said, “and I also like to work with multi-family properties. Because I’m also a landlord and I’m interested in investment properties and making good choices with your money.”

Alan Cunningham works in human resources at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont.

“It’s been an interesting road to get to today,” he said of the tournament. “We had a great group of Blue Cross employees, but about half had to drop out for one reason or another.” Cunningham said employees from several other companies answered the call to fill in. “I think it’s going to work out — we’re already having fun,” he said prior to taking the field.

Cunningham said, “Our company sponsors Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, to a certain extent. It repurposed some funds so we could come out here and participate tonight, and we’re really excited about that.” He also mentioned the company is hiring for customer service positions.

“So college grads, tech-savvy people — we’re looking,” he said.

Ian Sutherland said, “I’m with Hickok & Boardman Insurance Group, and we’re here supporting Camp Ta-Kum-Ta. A lot of us have personal experiences with people, including kids, who have cancer and know what a challenge that is. So we’re definitely here to support that cause — and also have some fun, drink some beer and play some kickball.”

Union Street Media fielded a team that included, among others, Emma Shank, business operations analyst, and Lauren Sickler, project coordinator in the production department.

“Tonight is part of a broader initiative to give back to the community,” Shank said. “We love working in Vermont, and it’s important to keep roots to where we are at. Our services really focus on the real estate industry — we do a lot of websites and digital marketing for real estate brokers and agents. And we work with a number of companies that have teams here tonight.”

Sickler said in addition to building platforms and digital marketing services, “We are working on new software that will differentiate us in the future. So there’s excitement to come, and as a growing Vermont company, we’re excited to give back to the community.”

Pete Pikulski said, “I manage a Nationwide Insurance agency on Shelburne Road.” He said it’s one of two locations of the Jared Jabaut Agency, with the other located in St. Albans.

“We recently moved the Shelburne office into The Creamery building near the center of Shelburne,” Pikulski said.

He said he works with a lot of farmers.

“Nationwide started out writing auto insurance policies for farmers, so it’s always been a cornerstone of the business. Now we have a whole Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance, which has been super competitive. We do a ton of business with area farmers, and maple syrup producers in the St. Albans area.”

The agency offers a full line of auto, home, life and business insurance products.

“Jared and his wife Courtney, who own the business, are both financial planners, so offer everything on the life insurance and annuities and financial investments side of things as well,” Pikulski said.

Elena Yakimova works at MyWebGrocer and said she enjoys it very much.

“It’s grown from a small family-owned company to a successful large business. And it’s going to grow even more”

Originally from Yaroslavl, Russia — coincidentally, a sister city of Burlington’s — Yakimova came to Vermont to earn a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Vermont (UVM). She hadn’t initially planned to stay in Vermont beyond graduate school, but feels a connection.

“I joined Burlington Young Professionals to connect to more people, to network, and to help others who live and work here and enjoy this beautiful state of Vermont.”

Yakimova secured a full-tuition scholarship to UVM by winning an academic competition. She successfully completed her MBA program in 2013.

Business Vermont roving reporter Mike Reilly offers regular coverage of Chittenden County business networking events, with notes on events, hosts and sponsors, with news and snippets from those in attendance. For events sponsored by Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, check the website at

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