Meet the Team

Kai Lightner, Founder

Kai Lightner is a professional rock climber who started climbing at age 6 and became the Open/Adult Lead Climbing National Champion at age 15. Throughout his career, he has won 12 National Championships (2 adult; 10 youth), 5 Pan American Championships (1 adult; 4 youth), and 1 Youth World Championship. Outside he is credited with climbing his first 5.14c/8C+, Southern Smoke, at age 13, and Era Vella (5.14d/9a) at age 15. In addition to climbing, Kai is a freelance writer who has always enjoyed working with organizations focused on minority outreach in outdoor spaces.

Constance “Connie” Lightner, Board Member

Connie Lightner is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Management, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship at Fayetteville State University (FSU). As the mother of an elite climber, Kai Lightner, Connie played an instrumental role in guiding her son’s success domestically and internationally; she possesses a unique understanding of the opportunities and challenges presented to climbing families. Additionally, Connie serves on the Board of Directors and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force for USA Climbing; previously she worked on their Strategic Planning Working Group, which developed their 2020-2024 Strategic Plan.

Diane Kay, Board Member

Diane Kay’s career capped off as Sports Marketing Manager for adidas Outdoor in the USA. Responsibilities included managing all the outdoor athletes, climbing gym partnerships and events within the US. She believes in the mission of C4C and is excited to support Kai 100% in this endeavor to help bring his dream to a diverse community and watch the recipients grow to love the outdoors.

Cyndi Lightner, Board Member

Ms. Cyndi is a licensed social worker with 30 years of experience providing leadership, training, and social services to a disadvantaged population. She is the founder of When in Need (WIN) Coaching Solutions, a nonprofit organization that has served the Greater Cleveland area for over 15 years. WIN offers a variety of outreach programs and personal growth development services.

Greg Thomsen, Board Member

Greg Thomsen started out as a young rock climber and mountain guide, and in 1974, co-founded Wilderness Experience, which produced a wide range of outdoor products. In 1981 Wilderness Experience was the first outdoor sports company to go public. In 1987 Greg was recruited by Nike to start their outdoor division, which they named ACG. After the launch of ACG, Greg was promoted to Director of Marketing for Nike’s overall apparel division. In 1990 Greg founded American Sports Group, providing hundreds of brand name outdoor companies with marketing, product design, and production sourcing. In 2008 Greg sold everything he owned and traveled around the world with his family for one year. Upon his return, Greg was recruited by adidas to set up their outdoor business in the US. Over the next 10 years, Greg marshaled the adidas Outdoor and Five Ten brands into one of the largest outdoor brands. Today Greg is the Chief Outdoor Officer of adidas outdoor for the US.