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Ellen Dalton - Founder & CEO

Ellen Dalton has more than 30 years of experience in the humanEllen pic services and mental health fields as a senior administrator for Eliot Community Human Services (a large, Massachusetts based, non-profit). Ellen has a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University and a master’s degree in Social Education from Boston University.

Most importantly, Ellen has gained experience and expertise in the area of youth suicide through the tragic and untimely death of her daughter, Nan. Ellen had nowhere to turn and she and her family were confronted with the stigma surrounding depression and suicide. She is working to transform her pain into finding answers and addressing gaps in the mental health system, gaps that had allowed Nan to slip through.

Realizing that most people are unwilling or unable to talk about suicide, she launched a campaign to open up the conversation and advocate for those whose voices rarely rise above a whisper. Telling the story of her family and Nan on WBUR and Chronicle, Ellen realized how prevalent depression and suicide were throughout families and communities. Using the unrelenting “what ifs” that consumed her daily quest to understand, Ellen established The NAN Project to bring awareness to schools, and hope to young people struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide. She has become a well-respected advocate for those grappling with the darkness of suicide.

Ellen is the proud mother of four children, and currently resides on the North Shore of Massachusetts.


Jake Cavanaugh - Executive Director

Jake Cavanaugh is Nan's older brother and the co-founder of The NAN Project. Jake and Ellen started brainstorming ideas about how to promote mental health awareness way back in mid-2015, and officially launched The NAN Project at the start of 2016. Nowadays, Jake is the Executive Director of the The NAN Project, heading up much of the outreach and training, with the help of an amazing, ever-growing team. His daily activities revolve around connecting with schools around Massachusetts, providing professional development workshops, recruiting Peer Mentors, presenting to students, and everything in between.

Jake graduated from Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School in 2000, where Nan also attended. Upon graduating from the University of Miami, with a double major in Political Science and International Studies in 2004, Jake went to work on a presidential political campaign in Florida. Jake moved to China in 2005, where he soon met his wife and adopted a mangy street dog named Marley. He spent nearly 10 years living in the tiny metropolis of Suzhou just outside of Shanghai, working at a boutique market research firm. Jake returned to Massachusetts in 2015 and now resides in Beverly with his wife, Marley, and their newest family member, a Golden Retriever named Jasper.

Lizzie MacLellan - Senior Peer Coordinator

Diagnosed with an anxiety disorder during her most turbulent year of high school, Lizzie MacLellan sees a lot of herself in many of the young adults she meets while working for The Nan Project. Whether she is presenting her own story or helping others to do the same, Lizzie strives to destigmatize mental health and empower those like her to use their lived experience to make a difference in their own lives and in their communities.

She recently graduated with honors from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a bachelors of science in Psychology, with a minor in Human Rights. The combination of these two fields has led to an understanding of mental health that is person focused, evidence based, and considerate of intersectional identities. At UMass Boston, Lizzie was hired as a peer mentor for a freshman seminar, and completed her senior thesis project with a literature review on social and environmental factors impacting externalizing mental health problems in adolescence.

Lizzie is also involved in the Gathering and Inspiring Future Talent Peer Mentor Training, where she works for Dr. Kim Bisset, teaching communication and professional skills to aspiring peer mentors.

In her free time, you can probably find Lizzie visiting her family in Wareham, Massachusetts,  or at home in Dorchester spoiling her pet hamsters.

Elli Peltola - Peer Coordinator

Elli started off at The NAN Project back in 2017, starting off as a Peer Mentor. She has since worked her way up to the position of Peer Coordinator, a leadership role where she helps train, schedule and support The NAN Project’s young adults. Since middle school, Elli has strived to support her classmates with mental challenges, interned as a tutor for students with special needs and served as a counselor at Girl’s Inc. in Lowell.

Elli now uses her own lived experience to promote mental health awareness throughout Massachusetts, telling her own story of struggle and resiliency, providing encouragement to young people with her hopeful journey to recovery.  She is excited to work with The NAN Project because she can participate with the rest of the team to offer means, skills and hope to overcome challenges that are so common among high school students today.

Elli likes to spend her free time with friends. She loves to be outdoors, whether it be sitting on the beach listening to the waves crashing, or taking a long walk through the woods. Elli also enjoys doing art. Lately she's been into pour painting, a type of abstract art the makes the canvas look like it has a marble effect on it. Elli currently resides in Woburn, MA with her emotional support animal, Jasper. He is a 2 year old cat with lots of energy, making him perfect for Elli.

Tom Castelline - Social Media Coordinator

Tom Castelline started at The NAN Project in October of 2019 as the team’s Social Media Coordinator.  Tom contributes to all aspects of The NAN Project’s mental health education programming, but has a particularly strong footprint in writing and maintaining the NAN Line Blog for the website and conducts the Peer Mentor Spotlight interviews; he also posts regularly on Facebook and takes the lead role in publishing the quarterly newsletter, The Nanner, which is sent out to all of our supporters. Prior to working for The NAN Project, Tom had spent over 7 years as a Peer Mentor Specialist for Eliot’s YAVP (Young Adult Vocational Program).  He earned an Associates Degree in Graphic Design from Middlesex Community College, graduating in 2011.  

Tom uses his empathy to help others that are going through difficult times in their lives. Outside of work, Tom also likes to play guitar, sketch animals, and do graphic design projects using Photoshop. Finnegan is Tom’s trusty companion, a 13 year old Scottish Terrier, who loves people and long walks outside. Tom also likes to spend time with his family and enjoys travelling to the Cape in during the warmer seasons of the year.

If you need help and want to talk to someone, call:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

For the Crisis Text Line, text "Listen" to 741-741

For the Samaritans, Call or Text (877)870-4673

For immediate crisis evaluation call the Emergency Services Program / Mobile Crisis Intervention at 1-877-382-1609 & enter your zip code; you will get the phone number of the closest ESP/MCI that serves you.

If you are in immediate danger, please call 911