Meet the Staff of Happy Valley

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Tim Dodds Executive Director

Tim has been an outdoor educator and administrator for over thirty years and currently serves as the Executive Director of Happy Valley Conference. Tim began his career in the camp industry as a youth minister in Denver, Colorado in the early 1980’s. During that time he led both resident and high adventure camps in the Colorado Rockies. Upon obtaining his Teaching Certificate in Earth Sciences, Tim taught in Kansas City, Missouri in a special at risk program, while creating a unique curriculum in partnership with the Kansas City Zoo, leading the way for other inventive hands on science programs. When he shifted back into camp and youth ministry, Tim became the coordinator of a camping program for youth ages 6 – 26 years of age. Beyond resident camps of up to 250 campers, Tim created a variety of mission and adventure camps. In 1998, Tim moved into the role of Denominational Camp Specialist for the Community of Christ, with training and development of camp programs throughout North America, Russia and Tahiti. Tim has been a member of American Camp Association since 1994 and served as the National Chair of the Religiously Affiliated Camp Committee. As a member of ACA, he has completed the Basic Camp Director Course, the Camp Director Institute and served as a Standards Accreditation Visitor. During this time, he co-wrote the acclaimed “Games for Change” resource on small group transformational games. Additionally, Tim led a group of writers in the creation of three camp curriculums used throughout North America.

Amanda McKnight Food Service Manager

Amanda joined Happy Valley as a member of the food service staff over five years ago. Now, as the Hospitality and Food Services Coordinator, she has a variety of roles, the most important one is her capacity to brighten even the cloudiest day! As the voice of Happy Valley from the moment you contact us, Amanda will work to meet your needs with confidence, charm, and wit and a meticulous attention to detail. Beyond the initial contact, Amanda will follow through to meet your group’s needs whether it is a family reunion of 25 or an organizational corporate retreat for 150 employees. Beyond her customer service excellence, her fingers fly over the keyboard daily, keeping the business running smoothly and efficiently. As groups make decisions about how to tailor our services to create the experience they want, Amanda will be the point person for lodging, scheduling, programming services, and helping you choose from our tantalizing menu. As a resident of Santa Cruz for over twenty years, she will be your gracious guide to the loveliest spots in the area and other places of interest to experience on your visit here to Happy Valley. Prior to joining Happy Valley, Amanda studied early childhood development at San Jose State University and enjoyed working at Holy Cross School, where she lovingly cared for the pre-school children. In addition to the Happy Valley family, Amanda has two beautiful daughters Fiona and Isabel who keep her hopping outside of work. But she doesn’t skip a beat because she practices yoga, and is a healthy eating enthusiast. Amanda loves music and enjoys getting out into the natural and glorious surroundings of Santa Cruz. Amanda sees the movement and transformation at Happy Valley as a positive change and appreciates the chance to hone her skills in office management to serve Happy Valley.

Tess Nichols Business Development & Hospitality

Tess brings over 25 years of event planning and management experience to Happy Valley – organizing everything from small women’s retreats to medium-sized camping festivals to very large cultural festivals. Her corporate event experience includes coordinating professional training sessions, large showcase events, and business development conferences. She comes to Happy Valley most recently from The Castle of Muskogee, where as Assistant Manager, she was responsible for supporting all aspects of 6 large open-to-the-public events each year, including the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival, the annual Halloween Festival, and the Zombie Run for charity - all of which makes her equally capable of organizing a mermaid guild, wrangling pirates, and holding the barbarians back from the gates. Tess has wide-ranging expertise in publicity and promotion, business networking and development, social media, public relations, site and facilities management, and volunteer coordination, and is thrilled to bring her unique skill set to Happy Valley. Tess is married to Donald, originally comes from Chicago, enjoys puttering in the garden, researching megaliths and mythology, and seeking new ways to connect to the Journey of Service. When she’s not at Happy Valley, she loves snuggling her husband and 3 cats, exploring the gorgeous redwoods of Santa Cruz, and planning to put on a wetsuit and jump in the ocean.

Donald Nichols Site & Facilities Manager

Donald brings 30 years of carpentry, contracting, and maintenance experience to Happy Valley. His most recent building experience included the creation of crashed pirate ship and Harbor area, the construction of an Italian piazza, and the development of stables for a jousting arena, among many other unusual and creative projects. In true Renaissance-man style, Donald enjoys stage fight choreography, numerous martial arts (especially in the Fiore dei Liberi tradition), acting improvisation (from playing a pirate to a noble guard), mountain lion wrestling (housecat style), and tinkering with electronics. Donald embraces an expansive vision for Happy Valley, filled with numerous opportunities for growth. He is thrilled about the chance to develop a farm-to-table organization, loves the variety of guest groups that visit Happy Valley, and can’t wait to jump in the ocean. He thoroughly enjoys sharing his knowledge of all things mechanical with both apprentices and fellow staff. Donald comes from Kansas City, grew up in Pensacola, FL, is married to Tess, and has 5 sons, 3 cats, and a brain full of ideas.