CEO and Founder Jill Vialet has worked for more than 25 years in the nonprofit sector, focusing her entrepreneurial skills on creating and developing two successful nonprofit organizations.
Playworks for every kid.
Playworks has a national office in Oakland, CA, with program offices in each of the cities it serves throughout the US. To see who is leading our efforts in the cities, see the Community Pages.
National Leadership Team
President and Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Cushing brings 20 years of nonprofit management experience with organizations focused on youth development, children's advocacy and women's issues to Playworks. Elizabeth is responsible for creating, communicating, and sustaining our strategic development, communications and training initiatives, as well as managing major foundation relationships and contributing to expansion strategy. Elizabeth is a product of Oregon public schools, Stanford University and the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs.
Regional Executive Officer Kate Capossela brings over a decade of nonprofit and corporate management experience and a deep commitment to strengthening nonprofit leadership to Playworks. Kate is passionate about motivating and leading teams, and has worked across marketing, fundraising, finance, and operations in organizations in San Francisco, Washington, DC, New York, and Europe, and most recently, in the consumer division of Johnson & Johnson. Kate is a California native and enjoys filling her weekends with hiking, running, discovering new art and theater, and games with friends. She is a long-time advocate and national board member for Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN), which promotes an inclusive nonprofit sector and empowers thousands of leaders across the country.
David joined Playworks after financial leadership roles at the California Association of Food Banks and Community Foundation Sonoma County. David also spent nearly a decade working in public policy, including serving as research director at the California Budget Project and finance policy director at the California Association of Public Hospitals. David enjoys hiking in the Oakland hills, yoga, and biking to work.
Regional Executive Officer David Dial has over 20 years of experience as a senior leader in nonprofits. David was the founding executive director for Zeum, San Francisco's hands-on multimedia arts and technology experience for kids. He served on senior management teams during the launching of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center. When David is not busy overseeing school programs in cities across the country, he enjoys playing badminton, table tennis or throwing a frisbee with his family.
Regional Executive Officer Eunice Dunham began her Playworks career as a coach at a school in Berkeley, then quickly advanced into management roles. Eunice was the first executive director of Playworks Boston in 2006, then led the expansion team during the fastest three years of growth for the organization. Eunice now manages executive directors including developing innovative solutions to address the daily challenges of communication and best practice sharing across multiple sites. When not traveling for work, Eunice seeks new hiking adventures with her dog, plays a mean game of tennis and expands her culinary repertoire by cooking for her friends.
Chief Program Officer David Gallagher began his career with Playworks as a coach in an Oakland elementary school. After years of managing school programs in the Bay Area, he moved onto spearheading Playworks Training, and later transitioned into the role of national program director. As CPO, David and the national program team are responsible for managing our cities and programs, ensuring that quality standards and program operations are consistent and supported across the country. In his spare time, David enjoys coaching a high school soccer team and loves a fierce game of curbside 4-square.
Marie has over 25 years of experience generating revenue and building impactful donor and client relationships for nonprofit and for-profit entities. Most recently, she served as the Director of Development for Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the legal advocacy organization in Boston that pioneered marriage equality for the LGBT community. She has also held development positions with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC. Outside of work, she enjoys going to the theater, singing, delighting her gourmet senses, relaxing at the beach and cheering on her pre-teen twins at any number of sporting events.
Director of IT Richard Ng was drawn to Playworks because of its mission and model of structured and meaningful play with children. Born and raised in Oakland, Richard spent many years working with children as a recreation leader. Over the last nine years, he worked as an IT network administrator for Golden Gate Regional Center, a state-funded not-for-profit agency serving the developmentally disabled.
Director of Government Programs Tracy Williamson began working with children in a therapeutic program for infants and toddlers. After receiving her JD at Northeastern University, she went on to work on public policy research studies, and most recently spent six years as a contracts attorney in the private sector. Tracy is very excited to return to working for a non-profit focused on improving the lives of children.
Tomika has spent the past 11 years working in the nonprofit sector and served it in a variety of ways: from being a wild land firefighter, to working with the juvenile court system, to creating memorable volunteer experiences for people from around the globe. Tomika has a huge passion for AmeriCorps and has completed two terms of national service. She is excited about supporting the unique and meaningful experiences of Playworks' AmeriCorps programs. She enjoys running, soccer, playing the piano, and is an avid major league baseball fan.
Darcy Brown-Martin comes to Playworks with 18 years of experience in both the corporate and nonprofit worlds. She has worked variously as a journalist, publications specialist, and nonprofit development manager, securing funding to support a notable Bay Area arts institution. As Playworks' Corporate Strategy Director, Darcy forges and nurtures collaborative partnerships between Playworks and a variety of national corporate supporters, and also advises and supports Playworks' city-specific development staff in creating strong corporate partnerships in their regional markets. Darcy is a graduate of Brown University, loves to dance, and is delighted to have access through Playworks to rich opportunities to hone her novice-level Four-Square skills.
Melissa began with Playworks in 2006 as an AmeriCorps member. She then worked as a Program Coordinator for three additional years in the East Bay, CA. She is thrilled to broaden her role as an advocate for children and bring the power of play to as many people possible. She is grateful to be surrounded by wonderful, like-minded people that make every day fun and exciting. In her free time Melissa enjoys bowling, cooking, music, tending to her chickens, and playing!!!
Jennette comes to Playworks with more than twelve years of work experience with social service agencies, both domestically and internationally. Her roles have included direct service provider to children and youth, advisor in the organizational development of a small non-profit, planning administrator, and data administrator. Her significant data management and analysis experience comes from her recent work with First Five Contra Costa County, as well as experience gained while working on her Master of Social Welfare degree (MSW). Her favorite playground game is Knockout.
Director of Grants Sarah Clark has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years and managed campaigns to raise millions of dollars, primarily for social justice organizations. Her experience includes raising funds to support opposition groups and U.S. solidarity with El Salvador during the civil war, citizenship and economic development for immigrants in the U.S., and women’s health. In her faith-based community she teaches “Godly Play”, helping children learn ethical skills in a safe, healthy setting. Sarah is delighted to be part of the Playworks team to raise lots of money for safe, meaningful play!
Lynn Debilzen is a National Trainer out of Playworks Denver office. She came to Playworks with years of experience in the youth development and nonprofit management fields. She’s passionate about informal education, relationship building, and talent development, and believes that Playworks is changing the world. Lynn has led trainings for her Corps Members as a Jumpstart Site Manager in Massachusetts, while serving as a Youth Development Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines, and during her two years of service as an AmeriCorps member in Wisconsin and Montana. Wanting to work for a “high-impact nonprofit” and having a zest for play, Lynn is making a difference in the lives of thousands of children by engaging the adults who work with them in transformative and playful trainings. Lynn’s favorite things include traveling and cultural immersion, cooking, and laying in the grass.
Director of Cloud Solutions Kyle DeRoos spent five exciting years as a program coordinator and program manager in Oakland and the Silicon Valley before trading in his whistle and kickball for a mouse and keyboard in the national office. Since moving indoors, Kyle spent two years on the development team before transitioning to focus on administering our data management system, Salesforce.com. After ten years with the organization, Kyle is still amazed at the impact Playworks can have on students who often slip between the cracks of traditional school programming. And he's super good at traveling baseball.
Alexandra Destler serves as director of growth capital campaign. For two decades, she has been recognized for her expertise and skill in creating strategic, solution-focused educational programming across sectors to address complex health and environmental challenges. She has successfully secured major funding to launch and create financial sustainability across programs. Alexandra holds a bachelor's in communications from Cornell University and a multi-disciplinary Master’s degree from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. Her passion is to foster environments that support healthy, active and happy children – and she’ll climb over the tallest mountains to reach this goal.
Senior National Trainer Eben Dower has recently moved to New York City from San Francisco and is thrilled to bring big time play to the Big Apple. Eben has been with Playworks for five years and several states and positions. Eben started with Playworks as an AmeriCorps coach in Washington, DC and San Francisco. He then moved over to the national office in Oakland as the national recruiter, and is now entering his second year on the rapidly growing Playworks Training team. A Manhattan native, Eben sees the busy crowded streets of New York City as an opportunity for endless high fives. Let's play!
Naelis Ervin is a National Trainer in her hometown of NYC. However, she started her Playworks journey in 2012 as an Americorps Program Coordinator in Baltimore, MD. Over the years she has honed her skills working both directly with kids and adults. Passionate about the performing arts, Naelis blends her creative skills with her playground gaming skills in order to deliver high-quality, inspirational training. While in Baltimore, Naelis acquired 10+ years of youth development and creative strategic planning through event coordinating, youth theatrical productions and her very own summer camp and company called, CreatyveXpressionz. She enjoys hosting game nights, long walks on the blacktop, and trying out new cupcake recipes whenever she's in the mood for baking!
James “Jamie” Firmage started his career in Sales and Marketing with a job as a day camp director and now after a 20+ year career at the director level in sales and marketing, has come full circle at Playworks. Jamie joined Playworks from Vivo Girls Sports, a social networking start-up, in a sales consulting role for the rapidly expanding Playworks Training department and has now joined the team full-time the as the national senior account manager. His past experience includes selling online, including social media and offline direct mail and marketing services into financial services, nonprofit, high-tech and advertising industries.
Simone Gonder comes to Playworks with an extensive background in finance/accounts payable, which includes 11 years in the nonprofit industry. She loves working with numbers and feels that working in Finance is an easy fit for her. She is a native of Oakland, an avid Oakland Raiders fan, and she enjoys participating in competitive games/selective sports activities such as bowling and billiards. Some of her favorite childhood games in school were volleyball, softball, dodgeball, kickball and soccer. One of her favorite things to do is 'laugh' and she enjoys having a natural sense of humor and being around others that spread the cheer.
Tina comes to Playworks with more than a decade of development experience and several more years of experience in information management. She has worked as an analyst and research manager, and was most recently at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, where she developed a comprehensive advancement services program in support of the largest campaign in its history. As the Director of Prospect Research and Management, Tina supports prospect development for the regional and national teams. When not at work, she enjoys hiking, reading, music, and having fun with her family. Tina is delighted to be a member of a team which puts children front and center!
Beth Jersey is responsible for payroll at Playworks. She has the distinct pleasure of making the entire staff happy at least twice a month. She brings more than 20 years of payroll and accounting experience, much of it in the corporate world, and is happy to work with an organization that makes a difference in children's lives. When she's not working, you can find her in her garden, taking long walks, reading mysteries or crossword puzzling.
Sean Keelan began with Playworks in 2011 as a mid-year hire program coordinator in Baltimore; in 2012 he served as a Program Manager in Baltimore, and is now the Trainer for the Greater Baltimore Region. Sean is thrilled to bring his commitment to Youth Development, love for the game, and knowledge of Playworks to everyone he meets. Throughout his eight years in the field of Youth Development Sean has developed a love for collaboration and the cross-pollination of ideas.
Beth Kimberly has worked in child development for more than ten years. Beth began her Playworks career as a coach on the playground in the San Francisco Bay Area. She later became a program manager overseeing programs at nine different school. Today as Social Media Manager, Beth is responsible for leading Playworks' efforts to build an online movement to support the power of play. She also occasionally leads Playworks Training workshops with other schools and organizations. Beth enjoys advocating for play by networking parents and community members both in person and online. And Beth loves to play outdoors--both on the playground and in nature!
Nell joins Playworks with 25 years of sales and account management experience in a variety of businesses - both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. As account manager for Playworks’ training services, she plays a key role in expanding the power of play for all children. Nell enjoys hiking, travelling, yoga and bull dogs!
Dana Logsden was thrilled to join the Playworks team in 2007 following two years of AmeriCorps service with Habitat for Humanity. Dana currently manages Playworks' California AmeriCorps program—from grant writing to compliance and reporting. An Iowa-native, Dana is thankful for Oakland's moderate climate and year-round farmers markets. She enjoys hiking, riding her bike, travel and learning new games.
Myla comes to Playworks with over ten years of experience in the fields of environmental education and nonprofit management. Most recently, she facilitated trainings across the country for adults leading youth on outdoor trips. At Playworks, Myla is excited to support trainers as they inspire others to promote meaningful play. She has worked with young people in schools and nonprofit organizations and is is thrilled to combine her passion for physical activity, youth development, conflict resolution and community building in her role at Playworks. Also, Myla loves summer fruit, especially when eaten along a river during a long hike with friends.
A Wisconsin native and life-long Packer fan, Louis spent three years with Playworks, working for schools in the greater Los Angeles area. He started off with Playworks as an Americorps coach on the playground – drawing on years of experience working in outdoor leadership settings as well as classrooms – before becoming a Program Manager. Wanting to move closer to family, Coach Lou made the move to Chicago. Today, as a Playworks Trainer, he is thrilled to be teaching educators and youth workers nationwide on the power of play . Louis greatly enjoys singing and dancing, and does both badly, most frequently at weddings – of which there are many due to the size of his family.
As director of learning, Mariah Martin leads and organizes trainings and learning activities to ensure all Playworks cities are equipped to bring the best programs to children. She had a PE teacher in the Oakland Public Schools, Ms. Himes, who changed her life by making physical activity accessible to her despite having asthma, and she believes Playworks has the power to ensure all children have a Ms. Himes in their lives. Mariah has a Master of Public Health, and has developed and implemented physical activity-based training/learning programs for multiple organizations, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the California Department of Education. She enjoys a good headstand, and thinks recess rocks.
Bryan brings his energy and experience built from over 16 years of providing meaningful play to youth, helping professionals develop a deeper toolbox, and expanding the reach of several youth serving organizations. Armed with a business degree Bryan has worked tirelessly over the past decade to reach a broad range of youth through after school programs, adventure experiences and play. Bryan's deep rooted passion for play serves as a sharp tool in Playwork's goal of finding new program partners and expanding the reach of their training's. Bryan learned the life skill of play at a young age and continue's to practice on a daily basis by enjoying rock climbing, hiking, disc golf, and chasing his 2 year old daughter around the Boston area.
Sam comes to Playworks with seven years of professional youth development experience from working with young people around the Bay Area. He has taught students extensively in violence prevention, self-defense, conflict resolution and martial arts. Growing up in Oakland as part of Destiny Arts Center, Sam knows the value of strong organizations that help guide youth and allow them to express themselves. He still loves to play games and is the founder of 4 Square of the East Bay, a weekly free four square game for grown-ups that has been meeting in Oakland since 2008.
Rob Norris, IT Associate jumped ship from nine years in the for-profit world at Amazon.com, where he was system administrator at Alexa Internet. Rob also worked for four years as Operations Consultant at the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco's Chinatown. When he's not running the support function at Playworks, Rob is an avid cook, brewer (beer) and music aficionado. Rob gets annoyed thinking about how the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. His Amazon Green-Cheeked parrot is also another source of annoyance.
Maya held several positions throughout the Bay Area program, in direct service and management, before leading the internal training efforts of the National Program Dept. Most recently Maya has taken on a support role as the National Program Administrator. Even after 11+ years, Maya is still impressed and amazed by the level of dedication of Playworks staff, as well as their capacity to turn almost anything into a game.
Rosa joined Playworks in January 2013 and brings 20+ years of working in finance and human resources. Rosa is excited about working and playing at the same time. Rosa is a California native and being outdoors and enjoying nature comes natural to her.
Kate brings to Playworks a diverse range of experience in fundraising, communications, and nonprofit administration. Passionate about connecting individuals to causes that inspire them, she coordinates with both national and regional staff around annual giving. Kate has held positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Children's Museum and enjoys good food, British detective shows, sea kayaking, and walks in the New England woods.
Eileen brings more than 15 years of experience in education. Prior to joining Playworks, she's served as executive director of the Yaxche School; program director at Citizen Schools; independent education program design consultant school board director and classroom teacher. As director of program quality, Eileen designs and implements systems and tools to support Playworks' program teams in managing and measuring program quality and impact across the country. When she's not on the road supporting city teams, Eileen enjoys running, hiking, photography as well as hanging out with her 3-legged dog and amigo, Jack. She's a big fan of kickball!
As the marketing manager for Playworks Training, Alex strives to increase access to resources that will help build play into our communities. She is inspired by the artistic, culinary, environmental and entrepreneurial expressions within the Bay Area and around the world, that offer opportunities to re-define persons and people. With a background in sociology, art, adventure and eco-tourism and development, Alex hopes to focus her efforts on institutionalizing playful and positive change. Her favorite game during office recess is Sepak Takraw, a kick volleyball game taught by a co-worker who recently traveled to Thailand.
Quisqueya "Qiqi" Rodriguez has served youth and their families through nonprofit work for the last ten years. She was the Playworks East Bay executive director for two years, supported the national office with expansion for a year, and is now working for the government grants department as an AmeriCorps program manager. Qiqi was born and raised in Oakland, California and enjoys camping, running, swimming, and traveling/exploring unknown places.
Account manager for Playworks Training, Hector Ramon Salazar, is in his ninth year with the organization. Providing direct service as an AmeriCorps member, program coordinator and program manager in Oakland, Richmond and San Jose for the previous seven years, Hector has now shifted his focus to the national expansion of Playworks Training. He received both his bachelor's and master's degree in education from Oakland's Holy Names University. During his time at HNU, he served as a point guard and head assistant coach on the men's basketball team while working as director for the Youth Summer Hoop camp. In his spare time, Hector enjoys playing catch with his son Xavier, coloring with his daughter Nina and participating in some sort of food activity with his wife Anna.
Finance/Grant Director Marco Santos is responsible for monthly financial and grant reporting, countless hours of spreadsheets and distributing financial news throughout the national and city Playworks' offices. Marco has been with Playworks since March, 2008, joining the team from a landscape design company. In his spare time, Marco coaches baseball, football, basketball and soccer, which he has enjoyed for more than 16 years.
Melissa Simpson is helping Playworks build its opportunities for community involvement through volunteer efforts. Before coming to Playworks Melissa worked with homeless mothers and children in the bay area, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Vanuatu. She has several years of experience working in the non-profit field with volunteers and community. Her favorite playground game is four square which she played with her older sister while growing up.
Grants Manager Heather Small brings to Playworks 10 years of experience fundraising for education equity and youth development non-profits. An arson investigator at first, but later as a manager at State Farm Insurance, she also brings years of corporate management, communication and mentoring skills to Playworks. As Grants Manager Heather’s role is to support and advise Playworks’ regional development staff as they create successful foundation partnerships. When not at work, she can be found cheering her boys on from the pool deck, or even better at a lake.
Deb Sugerman comes with 20 years of experience teaching in higher education, where she trained educators to design youth programs and lead activities with elementary and middle school students. She also ran a consulting business where she trained adults in group facilitation skills. She has a background in program evaluation, most recently evaluating the impact of activity-based programs on youth participants.
Deb believes that youth workers who value the power of play have the ability to positively impact children and organizations. Deb is an avid outdoors person and spends her free time hiking and kayaking.
Michael Tran got introduced to Playworks back in 2008 as a FLEX coordinator. He continued as a full time program coordinator at an East San Jose school from 2008-2010 and recently served as a program manager. Throughout his time with Playworks he has developed a great passion for play and what it can do to bring people together, as well as a pretty mean pirate accent. He is looking forward to sharing this passion for play and all that he has learned with everyone who is as passionate about bringing play into their lives. When he is not playing, he loves to do his other passion which is belting out songs as he sings along on the radio in the privacy of his car.
Using my experiences as a Playworks Coach, program manager, program director and trainer as well as years as a classroom teacher, I provide our regional offices with the tools and resources to create and manage high quality school programs. Seeing the intense and immediate impact that Playworks has on recess culture and the individual students has kept me here - working and playing hard for my 10th year! When I'm not at work, I also enjoy playing volleyball, practicing T'ai Chi and Kajukenbo Kung Fu, backpacking throughout California and gardening.
Kristina Walden joined the Playworks Training Department in 2012 with a decade of experience working in youth development, both as a human/social service provider and as an educational trainer. She also has a wealth of experience facilitating interactive diversity workshops, as a peer educator and independent training consultant. Kristina is an advocate for under-served communities and is inspired by the opportunity to expand minds and support educators and youth workers, through playful professional development. Two fun facts about Kristina are that as a youth her sport of choice in PE was badminton, and she admits that anytime someone mentions the word "icebreaker", she lights up a little inside.
Director of Communications Cindy Wilson has been providing public relations and communications services for more than 20 years, working with public relations agencies, corporations and nonprofit groups. Now sworn to use her powers for good, she is passionate about children's issues and educational equity, and is committed to help build a movement by getting the word out about the role of play in learning. In addition to her work with Playworks, she is active in community and school causes, is the assistant coach of a girls' soccer team and loves two-square.