Work Together, Play Together
Founder and Magical Bridge Visionary, Olenka Villarreal (left), with long-time friends and co-founders, Jill Asher (middle) and Kris Loew (right). After working together to open Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto, the trio joined forces to create Magical Bridge Foundation in response to the overwhelming need to build innovative and inclusive playgrounds in more communities. With seven daughters between them, Olenka, Jill and Kris are deeply inspired by friendship and family — and dedicated to their mission of creating the new foundation for innovative and inclusive playgrounds, where everyone can play together.
Olenka Villarreal, Founder and Visionary
Favorite thing at Magical Bridge Playground: “I love the top level of the playhouse café — gazing over the magic of the playground through the beautiful windows above the stage always makes my day!”
One of the most playful people you’ll ever meet, Olenka is the heart of Magical Bridge. Earning an undergraduate degree from Pomona College and MBA from Golden Gate University, Olenka spent 18 years working with start-up and technology companies in Silicon Valley. When her second daughter was born with disabilities in 2003, she turned her focus on improving the quality of life of those with disabilities. In addition to being Founder of the Magical Bridge Playground, and Magical Bridge Foundation, Olenka guest lectures at Stanford University, serves on the Board of Directors for Life Services Alternatives and Friends of the Palo Alto Parks and is a frequent speaker about the magic of inclusion. In June 2014, she was presented with the prestigious Jefferson Service Award in recognition for her efforts to make the Magical Bridge Playground a reality, and April 2016, Olenka was awarded the Outstanding Citizen Volunteer Tall Tree award from the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce. Olenka and her creative and musical husband live in Palo Alto with their two beautiful daughters.
Jill Asher, co-Founder
Favorite thing to play on at Magical Bridge Playground: “The Disc Swing! I love to swing, and especially LOVE swinging TOGETHER with my daughters. I laugh so hard that tears of joy stream down my face!”
On any given Sunday, you may find Jill playing at Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto with her four year old daughter. Jill firmly believes ALL lives matter, and we ALL deserve a place to play. Respected and recognized as a seasoned public relations and digital/social media executive, Jill was responsible for media relations during the fundraising and building of Palo Alto’s Magical Bridge Playground. Today, Jill joins the founding team of Magical Bridge Foundation, overseeing fundraising, public relations, social media, blog/influencer content, and community engagement. Jill brings a wealth of knowledge and connections to Magical Bridge Foundation after spending the past 15 years working with early stage startups in Silicon Valley, specifically focused on mobile, edtech and consumer products geared towards parents. Jill and her CFO husband (and partner in life) are the proud parents of 3 super talented girls and a cat named Kelsey (who thinks she’s a dog).
Kris Loew, co-Founder
Favorite thing at Magical Bridge Playground: “I love the roller slide! I vibrate and laugh all the way down, which always reminds me to take some time to let loose and have fun. You’re never to old to play!”
Ironically, Kris never really liked taking her two daughters to playgrounds, but then again, Magical Bridge didn’t exist then. Celebrating all things visual, Kris has worked as a graphic designer, writer and marketing communications strategist for over 25 years. She began her career in high tech, serving as Creative Director for Brio Technology, before starting her own design consulting business in 1999. Since then, Kris has established brand identities and developed marketing collateral for small to mid-sized companies, entrepreneurs, and community organizations. In 2013, she and her two teenaged daughters, Sydney and Toni, founded Poketti LLC, an award-winning stuffed toy company. She joined the Magical Bridge Playground team in 2012 and continues today as a co-founder of Magical Bridge Foundation. As a volunteer, Kris mentors students in entrepreneurship and design, and provides graphic design and photography for various schools and civic projects. She lives in Palo Alto with her husband, two creative daughters, and a super cute bunny named Willoughby.
Samantha Frenkel-Popell, Magical Intern
Favorite thing to play on at Magical Bridge Playground: “I am in love with the laser harp! I see it as one of the core pieces of the park that brings everyone together, regardless of age, gender, and ability. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone at the harp without a smile on their face, because everyone loves making beautiful music!”
Samantha was inspired to join Magical Bridge after attending the Grand Opening in April 2015. When she saw the kids (and adults) experience a playground for the first time, she knew Jill, Olenka, and Kris had something so unique and special that she wanted to be a part of it. When Samantha is not working at Magical Bridge, you can find her trying to rap all of Hamilton, reading books about U.S. history, playing with her dog, hiking the dish, obsessively following the presidential race, or exploring everything the Bay Area has to offer. She is currently a senior at Menlo School and getting really excited about University next year. Samantha lives in Woodside with her mom, little brother, and adorable labradoodle, Rezi.