Meet the Staff

From the directors who steer the ship, to the year-round staff who head-up different program areas, to our seasonal crew of Group and Trip Leaders... you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who isn't passionate about what they do at Wilderness Adventure!


Colonel Gene Nervo, Owner & Founder

The Colonel is the heart and soul of this operation.  As he regularly likes to remind his young staff, he has the wisdom and the vision that is needed to bring life to a program as unique as Wilderness Adventure.  After 35 years in the Marine Corp and raising 7 children, he decided to use his retirement toward the betterment of today's youth.  He spent 15 years as a boy scout leader and while he respected the organization, he knew that he could perfect the outdoor experience by building his own program.  With over 50 years of experience leading men, boys and now children of all ages, he came up with his 4 principals of success that still give added depth and perspective to our trips today.  Work ethic, communication skills, respect and a positive attitude are the foundation of every good trip and the building blocks for character and confidence in every child.


jay Howard, Director of Operations

A graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, Jay joined the WAEL staff in 2013 and has served in many roles—Trip Leader, Base Camp Store Manager, and Adventure Camp Director to name a few. With previous experience from Nature’s Classroom Atop Lookout Mountain in Mentone, AL and Boston University’s Sargent Center for Outdoor Education in Hancock, NH, Jay’s background in teaching has been a great addition to the WAEL program. An avid traveler, he has been to 47 of the 50 U.S. States and says his favorite adventure was an 18-day rafting trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. When he’s not in the office, you can often find Jay guiding kayak trips, instructing swiftwater rescue clinics, leading groups through caves, or sending clients down our 900’ zipline.



Nick Wilson, Activities Director

Nick is an avid backpacker and has been covering ground since high school. Before joining WAEL in 2014, he worked at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, but his experience goes far beyond that:  Nick completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2013 and the Pacific Northwest Trail in 2018.  He graduated William & Mary with a degree in History and Global Studies which makes for some great campfire conversations.  A well-rounded adventure specialist, Nick is the go-to instructor for mountain biking, rock climbing, caving, and whitewater kayaking. This expertise, coupled with his training as an EMT make him an integral part of our program.  During the winter months, Nick serves as a snowboard instructor.


Kora White, Store Manager & Hospitality Manager

Kora joined us in 2016 and quickly made her way into the position of Hospitality Manager.  With an eye for detail and love for thoughtful organization, she is the force behind maintaining our "rustically-elegant"  lodges.  Kora hails from right here in New Castle, VA and holds a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Davis & Elkins College.  When she's not setting the bar for work ethic, or adding nice touches to our Base Camp store or buildings, you can find her adventuring with friends or making the punniest jokes you've ever heard!


abby williams, Boat Barn Manager

After a a successful season with us where she completed her college internship, she graduated with flying colors from Slippery Rock University with a degree in Outdoor Recreation Management.  Her kind and thoughtful personality makes her leadership style a perfect fit for our program and we are happy to have her taking care of our boats!  As an experienced paddler herself (she is often found on the river whenever she has a spare couple of hours!) she has patiently coached both clients and fellow staff members alike to perfect their kayak roll!  During her off season from WAEL she is also a ski instructor at Holiday Valley in NY. 

year-round staff (Left-Right)

Derek Thompson (Instructor, Leader), Lisa Hancock (Support Staff), Amy Gallimore (Cook/Support Staff), Dylan Sim (Bike Barn Co-Manager, Leader)