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The Class of 2016

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Owner and Trainer, Energia Fitness and 50/50 Fitness/Nutrition; Age 25

Justin Killeen

Justin Killeen


“I always knew what I wanted to do,” Justin Killeen said of his entrepreneurial success at a young age. “I just didn’t know how I’d get there.”

What he did know, while employed at a fitness facility in South Deerfield, was that he didn’t enjoy working for someone else.

“I was motivated to start something on my own, so I started doing in-home training in 2013,” he recalled. From there, he launched a personal-training program from the ground up at Energia Fitness in Hadley; a year later, he purchased the gym and went about building up its membership and expanding its roster of programs and classes. In 2015, he launched a second business just down the road, 50/50 Fitness/Nutrition, which focuses on personal training.

The rapid growth of both businesses testifies to Killeen’s training philosophy, one that treats every client differently.

“We constantly assess and determine individual need and continue to raise the bar higher, while teaching and educating every step of the way,” he said. “We look at injuries, muscular imbalances, flexibility, strength, cardiovascular health, and nutrition. More importantly, we determine where our clients stand, where they could stand to see improvements, and where we fit in.”

Killeen says he wants to bridge the gap between fitness professionals and healthcare professionals like doctors, nutritionists, physical therapists, and massage therapists.

“There is so much information and misinformation out there, which is why we meet with every new client to discuss our program in detail,” he said. “We don’t prescribe diets, we don’t promise instant results, and we don’t injure our clients. What we do offer is a renewed sense of balance, a promise for lifestyle change, and a community of support.”

Speaking of community, Killeen is active outside his workplace as well, as a board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County and a supporter and sponsor of several nonprofits and charity events.

“Businesses have to be willing to be out there, present in the community,” he said. “We’re looking to help in a number of different ways.”

He calls the past few years a “whirlwind” and says he hasn’t had much time to take a breath and simply appreciate it, but the results of his work keep him motivated.

“When you look around and see the energy and excitement in the room when people come together and really work toward a higher level … that, to me, is the most satisfying thing.”

— Joseph Bednar


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Program Project Coordinator, Girl Scouts of Central and Western Mass.; Age 33

Katie Chappell

Katie Chappell


Katie Chappell likes to joke that she has 105 children, and 45 happen to live with her — along with a 90-pound dog named Fenway.

This thumbnail sketch of Chappell’s life says a lot: She loves to work with young people, she’s not afraid of hard work — not to mention a lot of noise — and she’s a perennial Red Sox fan, as is her canine companion.

But it’s not the whole story. Those 105 kids comprise the girls Chappell works with through her position as program project coordinator with the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Mass., and the women she lives with as house director of the Sigma Delta Tau Psi sorority at UMass Amherst.

These are just the two latest positions Chappell has held in an already-impressive career working with youths and nonprofits, including as fund development coordinator with the Springfield Boys & Girls Club Family Center and Dunbar Community Center, senior program director with the Boys & Girls Club of Hartford, Conn., and recreation building supervisor with the Manchester Recreation Department in Manchester, Conn.

Chappell has worked with the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Mass. since 2012, holding three different positions as she advanced in her career. Her accomplishments in that time have included increasing the number of programs offered by 346%, summer-camp attendance by 20%, and recipients of Bronze and Silver awards, which recognize exemplary service by Girl Scout Juniors and Cadettes, by 10%.

But the Girl Scouts organization has been instrumental in bringing her out of her comfort zone for much of her life, said Chappell. She earned her own 25-year pin in 2014, and maintains her membership in the national chapter.

“I truly believe that Girl Scouts make the world a better place. It taught me how to give back to the causes and issues I care about as I grew up, and now, I can instill what I got out of scouting in others,” she said, noting that this includes her volunteer work with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, the Massachusetts Park and Recreation Assoc., and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, to name a few.

“Everything I do is a passion for me, and why I give back and do everything that I do,” she said. “If it’s important to you, you make time, and make things happen.”

— Jaclyn Stevenson


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Director, Office of Enterprise Resilience, MassMutual Financial Group; Age 36

Jeffrey Trask

Jeffrey Trask

Jeff Trask was at his home in Springfield when the call came in.

It was an official at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which Trask served as emergency management administrator, informing him that campus police officer Sean Collier had been shot and killed as he responded to an incident on campus by a man later identified as one of the Boston Marathon bombers.

Upon hearing the news, Trask, using his phone and computer 100 miles from the MIT campus, helped a team that orchestrated an organized, comprehensive response to the shooting. It included activating the emergency operations center, locking down the campus, conducting emergency notification and communications, and other steps.”

As he talked about it, Trask implied that this was all in a day’s (or week’s) work, only there are not many days or weeks like this.

Which is precisely why companies and municipalities have to be ready for them. And getting and keeping MassMutual ready is what he does most days and weeks as director of the Office of Enterprise Resilience, a position the financial-services company recruited him for in 2015.

“This is about emergency preparedness, business continuity, and disaster recovery,” he said before defining ‘enterprise resilience.’ “We’re looking at ways to ensure that the business can continue operating in light of any technology outage, workplace outage, or even staff outage, like in the case of a pandemic. Our focus is on how to weather the storm.”

Trask has made a career out of helping companies and municipalities do just that, in capacities that have ranged from a stint as senior adviser on emergency management to Chicopee’s mayor, to work on the staff of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (during which he assisted area communities following the 2011 tornado), to his own business venture, Trask Emergency Management.

When not helping clients and employers weather the storm, Trask is active in the community, chairing the board of trustees for Holyoke Catholic High School, which recently merged with Cathedral to become Pope Francis High School. He’s also active with a number of industry associations, as well as his church, St. Stanislaus Basilica.

He’s devoted a good portion of the remaining time to restoring a cardinal-red 1968 Mercury Montego convertible, which he purchased in 2002 and finally put on the road just last year.

So it’s fair to say that, in all aspects of his life, he’s, well, driven.

— George O’Brien


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Vice President, Commercial Banking, United Bank; Age 38

Robert Kain

Robert Kain


Robert Kain moved to Western Mass. just over five years ago, but has enjoyed a strong sense of support and community since relocating.

That’s been important for him, his wife Alex — a professor of astrophysics at UMass Amherst — and their two sons. Originally from Lethbridge, Alberta in Canada, Kain is far away from the country, landscape, and people he once recognized as home.

“That said, we moved here and established roots here; we both enjoy what we do, and have felt embraced by the Western Mass. community,” he said — so much so that he’s felt compelled to give back in myriad ways.

A long-time banking professional, Kain earned a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Lethbridge and first worked as a portfolio manager with the Bank of Montreal. Upon arriving in Western Mass., he served as a credit analyst and later a commercial lender with People’s United Bank, and now holds the title of vice president, commercial banking with United Bank, specializing in commercial loans and investment real-estate loans.

Kain is a long-time contributor to youth and healthcare causes, having volunteered for several youth and healthcare-based organizations throughout his career. He began at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver coordinating fund-raisers, and moved on to similar roles with D.A.R.E., Junior Achievement, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kid’s Help Phone — Canada’s only free, 24-hour telephone and online counseling service — and youth basketball camps.

Most recently, he’s applied his skills as a volunteer with Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s finance committee, and served for three years on the board of directors for the Gray House, a private, nonprofit, social-service agency in Springfield’s North End that provides food, clothing, and educational services to individuals and families with immediate and transitional needs.

While the Rockies are far to the west of him now, Kain spends much of his personal time outdoors with his family, hiking in and around their new hometown of Amherst, and occasionally taking advantage of a regional golf course or two. He credits his employers with helping to create a happy life in a new place.

“Work-life balance is promoted by the bank, and this area has a lot to offer,” he said. “It’s been great to be able to work my way up, but the highlight, I feel, has been that I’ve been in a fortunate position with my leaders and mentors. They’ve put me in a position to be successful.”

— Jaclyn Stevenson


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Chief Financial Officer, PeoplesBank; Age 38

Brian Canina

Brian Canina

Brian Canina calls himself a “math geek,” which has served him well in both phases of his career.

First, he earned a degree in accounting and worked for Wolf & Co. in Boston, then in Springfield. That firm’s niche is in banking, and he audited banks for a decade before being contacted about an open controller position at PeoplesBank in 2009. Late last year, he was named CFO.

“Essentially, I oversee all the financial aspects of the bank,” he explained. “I manage the loans and deposit balances and financial statements for the bank. We have to make sure we’re lending out at higher rates than we’re taking money in, make sure the bank stays financially healthy. From that standpoint, I manage the bank’s assets and liabilities and also financial reporting.”

In that role, he has increasingly embraced new technology, using sophisticated business-intelligence tools to ensure PeoplesBank remains competitive and responsive to customer needs. “That’s a new undertaking, this concept of big data, where we gather different data sources around the bank and bring it into one large database, then slice and dice and analyze it to get to know our customers better, see which customers are using which products. That’s the wave of the future, and we’re probably one of the first community banks around here using data analysis like that.”

That’s typical for PeoplesBank, which prides itself on staying on the cutting edge in banking. “We’re a smaller community bank, so we’re not going to be the one that comes out with anything first, but we consider ourselves fast followers behind the big banks, and typically first to market in Western Mass. with some of the up-and-coming technologies in banking.”

He says the math geek in him truly enjoys the strategic aspects of his job. “I love digging into numbers to find trends and different things that can give us an advantage.”

The father of two children, Aidan and Addison, with his wife, Sarah, Canina clearly has a heart for kids. So, in his spare time, he helps young people get a leg up in life, from coaching youth sports to his work as a board member for Children’s Study Home in Springfield, which serves young people and families with special needs, including behavioral, psychiatric, and cognitive issues related to experiences they’ve survived.

“It’s a little overwhelming how many different things they do. They’re active in so many different aspects of children’s lives,” he said. “I enjoy being part of that in any way I can. Getting involved in the community and helping children in need is probably one of the best things anyone can do.”

— Joseph Bednar


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Director of Accounting Programs and Associate Professor, Bay Path University; Age 34

Kara Stevens

Kara Stevens

Kara Stevens’ path to an accounting career was not as straight or well-marked as those taken by most who choose this profession.

She didn’t have a family member with the letters ‘C,’ ‘P,’ and ‘A’ after their name to inspire her, and she was, to use her word, an average math student. And while attending Springfield Technical Community College, she struggled to identify a major.

But while there, she developed not only an affinity for business, and especially accounting, but a liking for it as well.

“It seemed pretty interesting, it turned out I was good at it, and soon people were asking me to help tutor them,” she explained. “And it really progressed from there.”

She went on to major in accounting at UMass Amherst and then join Wolf & Co. in Springfield, where the next chapter in her career would unfold, somewhat like the first one. While teaching as an adjunct at Westfield State University, she discovered she was not only adept at teaching, she had a real passion for it as well.

So she made a career course change and joined Bay Path University as a full-time instructor and would go on to blueprint the school’s master’s-degree program in accounting. She described it as a course of study that is, by its nature, heavily focused on numbers, but it also helps students with the subjective nature of accounting, or what Stevens called the “big picture.”

She said there are many rewards in this profession, but perhaps the biggest is helping students gain not only the skills, but the confidence to break into the field or advance within it.

“To get that phone call from a student — that they’ve gotten that second interview, or got the job, or got the promotion … that is something really neat to be a part of,” she explained.

And while she developed expertise in accounting and then teaching, maybe the skill she’s most proud of — one she’s admittedly still mastering — is that of achieving work/life balance, something she owes to a strong support system anchored by both her current employer and her husband, Matthew.

“I feel that I’ve been able to find a wonderful work/life balance,” said Stevens, mother of 4-year-old Mary-Kate, “being able to continue growing professionally and academically, as well as being the type of mom and wife that I want to be.”

With the couple expecting their second child in a few months, that work is about to get that much more challenging.

— George O’Brien


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Corporate Engagement Coordinator, Training & Workforce Options; Age 30

Christina Grass

Christina Grass


Christina Grass says it’s often difficult for friends and family members to get both hands around what she does for a living.

But to those in the business community or the region’s network of economic-development agencies, the words on her business card certainly resonate. All of them.

Indeed, the program known colloquially as TWO (Training & Workforce Options) has increasingly become part of the local lexicon since it was established five years ago, and the title ‘corporate engagement coordinator’ speaks volumes about her role with this initiative, launched jointly by Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College.

In short, she engages with individual business owners and leaders within individual economic sectors to devise solutions to that perplexing problem known as the ‘skills gap.’

Specifically, she plays a lead role in identifying needs (usually in the form of workers with a certain set of skills) and then blueprinting initiatives to put more of these workers into the pipeline. Her résumé includes work on a project to develop the Advanced Call Center & Customer Service Training Program, an endeavor to provide training in lean manufacturing to area companies, and a collaboration, led by Dress for Success, to pilot a workforce-readiness certificate training program, among others. Such work, she said, is rewarding on many levels.

“That side of my job is amazing … I get to work with individuals who are looking for a second chance; they’re looking for a career instead of just another job,” she noted. “They just need help getting their foot in the door. It’s been great for them, but also for employers, because we’ve been able the deliver the type of candidate they’ve been looking for.”

While helping close the skills gap, Grass has also been active in the community, especially in her native Holyoke. She’s a member of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee and strong supporter of the city’s Boys & Girls Club, especially through a program called “A Night for Nick.”

This was a fund-raising initiative — one that garnered more than $120,000 for the agency — named in honor of her bother, Nick, who was killed tragically in a car accident in 2003 along with three fellow Yale classmates.

She completed the New York City Marathon last fall, her first, and has signed up to run the Hartford Marathon in October. That’s appropriate, because her career is now devoted to helping people reach higher and cross the finish line.

— George O’Brien


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Project Manager, Tighe & Bond; Age 36

Darleen Buttrick

Darleen Buttrick


A bachelor’s degree in chemistry can lead to an array of careers. When Darleen Buttrick was earning hers at Bucknell University, her research into how tire-wear particles leach harmful substances into the environment piqued something inside her.

“That fueled my fire for taking what I knew about chemistry and getting into the environmental field,” said Buttrick, who enrolled at UMass Amherst for her master’s in environmental engineering. There, she became involved in research in the field of drinking water, “and I haven’t looked back.”

In her 11 years at Tighe & Bond, the region’s largest civil-engineering firm, she has specialized in the water-treatment arena, managing projects for some of the firm’s largest clients, including the recently completed, $3 million ultraviolet disinfection facility for Holyoke Water Works.

It’s important work, she said, even if most people don’t think about it often. “Treatment facilities tend to be out of sight, out of mind, until you see something like what happened in Flint, which brings the reality of drinking water to the forefront.”

In fact, cities face a constant challenge balancing needed infrastructure upgrades with limited funds, she added. “One of the big things I’ve been working on is assisting them with evaluating the condition of their infrastructure and targeting the most critical needs for improvements, and from there coming up with a cost-effective solution to upgrade their facilities.

“I love the feeling that I’m having a positive impact,” she went on. “If we can make water-treatment plan operators’ lives a little less stressful or develop a solution to construct a new system, that’s so satisfying.”

Recently promoted to an associate in Tighe & Bond’s stock-ownership program, Buttrick is excited to be with a rapidly expanding company that has grown from 175 to 275 employees over the past five years. But she’s just as passionate about her volunteer work, which includes wearing many hats at her church, serving on the Aquifer Protection Committee in her hometown of Easthampton, and launching and co-leading a Girl Scout troop in that community.

The Girl Scout work is personal to Buttrick, who recalls being diagnosed with scoliosis at age 9 and wearing a back brace, and struggling to develop friendships — until she became involved in the Pioneer Club, a church-based youth organization. “Those friendships lasted my entire childhood; they were constant friends who were always there,” she said. “I wanted my two girls to have the same chance to build lifelong friendships.”

— Joseph Bednar


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Director of Operations, The Good Dog Spot; Age 36

Elizabeth Staples

Elizabeth Staples

In her mid-20s, Elizabeth Staples had a job at MassMutual, a love for animals … and an idea.

As a board member with the national Pet Care Services Assoc., she noticed doggie day cares were becoming more popular, many launched by people in the corporate world who had built some savings and decided they’d rather play with dogs all day. She thought she could do it better.

“I had this ‘a-ha’ moment. On the East Coast, you mostly saw the warehouse style of boarding — put the dog in a cage and go away, which is kind of sad,” she explained. “But nationally, the trend was toward an off-leash play center, where people could feel good about leaving their dog and not feel guilty about it. That’s what we wanted to bring to this area.”

So she launched the Good Dog Spot in Chicopee in 2007 — a place where canines can mingle and have fun during the day. “We wanted to build a day-care facility based on the pet-owner relationship,” she said.

Since its opening, the business has grown from one employee to 18, with some 2,000 clients and 50 dogs in day care each day, in addition to overnight boarding for dogs and cats. The business moved to larger quarters nearby several years ago and recently expanded again, doubling the dogs’ play space to 10,000 square feet.

Staples said her success reflects a shift in the way dogs are cared for in the U.S.

“It’s amazing to me we’d be here 10 years later, with steady growth through the recession and hard times. But it goes to show that dogs are part of our family. You don’t see dogs tied in the backyard anymore; we do treat them like family.”

The Good Dog Spot also offers grooming services and a small retail area, but keeps the main focus on humane, play-centered boarding. And Staples is serious about pet welfare; she’s trained in pet first aid and CPR through the American Red Cross, and has donated time and resources to Dakin Humane Society, Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center, and Rainbow Rescues. She also recently donated pet oxygen masks to local fire stations.

She said she gets a kick out of new clients who are initially baffled by the report cards and even art projects that get sent home with their furry friends each day, but clients soon come to look forward to those personal touches.

“This is a lot of work,” she said, “but it’s worth it if you do it right.”

—Joseph Bednar


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Owner, Brightwood Press Co.; Springfield City Councilor; Age 32

Adam Gomez

Adam Gomez


Whether it’s serving his neighboring business owners through his printing and marketing outfit, Brightwood Press Co., or as their newly elected Ward 1 city councilor, Adam Gomez is a man of the people.

Indeed, his service in the realm of civic leadership is extensive. In addition to his councilor duties, Gomez also serves on the New North Citizens’ Council board, the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade Committee, and with Neighbor to Neighbor — a statewide nonprofit that educates residents on voter registration and social issues.

Through his role as national liaison for the Gamma Phi Sigma fraternity, also known as Hermano Unidos, Gomez has organized and promoted annual basketball tournaments for the past seven years, which raise funds for youth scholarships and also represent one of many anti-violence events and programs with which he’s actively involved.

But service to community is a common thread through all of his endeavors, both professional and volunteer, and Gomez says the coming months are packed with myriad tasks aimed at bettering the city he’s always called home, particularly its North End and the neighborhoods he now represents.

“Ward 1 wants to grow with the city — as fast as every ward,” he said. “There have been a lot of developments, and we’re in a good place. One of my goals will be to unite neighborhood boards, councils, youth organizations, and nonprofits so we are all working together.”

He’s also looking toward further collaboration with the business community in the North End, as both a city representative and fellow business owner.

Brightwood Press works extensively with downtown clubs and restaurants, for instance, as well as several nonprofits, including Springfield schools, Baystate Medical Center, and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. Gomez said his focus is on offering fair prices and services most relevant to his core customers.

“If small businesses or nonprofits are overcharged, they can’t stay marketable,” he said. “My people — my customers — need niche services, and that’s what I provide as an entrepreneur who’s also invested in the ward.”

He’s also looking toward safety initiatives, particularly those aimed at reducing violence, and the role both businesses and residents can play in their success.

“I was born and raised in the North End, and I’ve encountered several mentors,” he said. “I want to keep on motivating young people to get involved and support the community. Our parks and schools need to be up to par, our streets need to be safe, and right now, there is a lot of opportunity.”

— Jaclyn Stevenson


Photography by Leah Martin Photography