Work Together, Play Together

MAGICAL BRIDGE FOUNDATION TEAM  

It takes a MAGICAL TEAM to bring to life Magical Bridge Playgrounds

Olenka Villarreal, Executive Director and Founder

Founder of the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto, Magical Bridge Foundation and Vice President of the Friend of the Palo Alto Parks, Olenka brought together an effective team of experts, City officials and volunteers to design and develop the groundbreaking Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto, CA. She has since emerged as a respected industry leader and advocate for playgrounds that reflect the needs of everybody in the community. She is co-inventor of several new technologies that enhance the play experience for individuals with special needs and serves on several boards including Life Services Alternatives in San Jose. Prior to Magical Bridge, Olenka served as the Director of Marketing for TotalPass, Inc. and Siemens Communication amongst other roles for Silicon Valley companies. She has a degree in Economics / Public Policy from Pomona College and an MBA in Marketing. 

Jill Asher,  co-Executive Director and co-Founder

Jill is part of the founding team of Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto and co-founder of Magical Bridge Foundation  A seasoned public relations and marketing executive, Jill left a successful high tech career to run the Magical Bridge Foundation and lead administration, community engagement, development,  public relations and marketing. Jill actively engages with communities to promote inclusive play and kindness through a full spectrum of communications and fundraising programs. She is instrumental in promoting the values and principles of Magical Bridge to the media and the global community. She holds degrees in Economics and English from Rutgers University.

Anne Johnston, Director of Marketing and Brand

Anne comes to Magical Bridge with a unique skill set at the intersection of design, branding, and product development. As a member of founding teams for brands such as Jamba Juice, GoldieBlox, Kiwi Crate, Osmo and more, Anne gained extensive cross-functional experience in marketing, branding, and design. She’s passionate about driving change through human-centered design, creativity, visual thinking, and storytelling. Being a mother of three children, and raising a son with autism has expanded her skill-set and she’s become a (self-professed) “mommy-master” in the area of behavior and play-therapy. You’ll often find her volunteering in schools and universities to educate others and build empathy around autism.

Maria Hassid,  Director of Development

Maria knows that something truly magical happens when people can play together. She is honored and excited to lead the development efforts at Magical Bridge and is grateful to be a part of something that brings so much joy to so many people every day. Before coming to Magical Bridge, Maria had a long and varied career in the nonprofit sector; for many years she served as the program director for Alternative Ventures for At-Risk Youth, a Marin based nonprofit dedicated to children with parents in prison. She has led summer camps at various locations around the state of California because she believes that playing outdoors together is the best way to form meaningful communities. Before working in youth development, she was an award-winning public radio producer, trained at This American Life, and wrote a book with her father about their 300-mile trek across the north of Spain. Maria received a B.A. in developmental psychology from Smith College and was the valedictorian of her MBA class at UC Davis.

Peter Jensen, Lead Designer and Landscape Architect

Peter Jensen is the key architect behind the Magical Bridge Playground and is instrumental in developing the original design philosophy of Magical Bridge’s mindfully-designed play environment. A founder and principal at Groundswell Design, Peter has been the Lead Manager for both private and public projects, including these public projects, including Northwest Park – Las Vegas (2004); Jefferson Elementary School Playground – Santa Monica (2008); Eleanor Pardee Park Playground – Palo Alto (2011); Magical Bridge Playground – Palo Alto (2015); and Bowden Park Playground – Palo Alto (2016)

Barbara Butler, Custom Wood Structure Designer

Founder of Barbara Butler Artist-Builder, Inc, Barbara is one of the nation’s premier architects and builders of custom wood playhouses. Over the past 30 years, she has constructed hundreds of imaginative play spaces for both public and private spaces. These unique, custom projects involve tough terrains, unusual sites, special circumstances or special requests, such as matching existing architectural elements. Her projects have long exceeded ADA accessibility standards and ASTM compliance and use all natural and sustainable materials. Barbara designed and built the very first wheelchair-accessible two-story playhouse for Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto.

Deborah Getz, Director of Community Engagement and Events

Deborah’s career began in corporate event planning, which eventually led to various marketing positions at Bay Area medical device start-ups. At Avinger, Inc, Deborah was the Director of Marketing Communications before taking over as the Director of Brand, Creative and Interactive. Following Avinger, she helped start Recreation, Inc, a brand strategy, and design agency headquartered in San Francisco. Now focused on bringing magic to many different communities by managing events and programs, Deborah is excited to build inclusive playgrounds with the Magical Bridge team. She received a B.A. in Humanities from University of Oregon.

Meg Gale, Director of Community Outreach

Meg’s career began by working for the federal Environmental Protection Agency and for the City of San Francisco in environmental education and outreach. At her most recent job at the City of San Francisco, she designed and implemented large-scale education programs for both adults and children, teaching them to tread lightly on our planet. Meg has two wonderful, rambunctious boys- Lucas is her 8-year-old biological child with her husband and was born with special needs. Logan is her 4-year-old, whom they adopted at birth from Anchorage, AK. After spending some important years at home with the boys, Meg is re-entering into the working world as the Director of Community Outreach.

Jay Beckwith, Playground Apparatus Designer

Since the 1970s, Jay has been a leading voice in the design and development of play experiences that align with and support the critical needs of both children and adults for physical activity that enhances growth and well-being. Equipment based on Jay’s design for a “Post and Deck” system can be seen in almost every modern playground. Jay has written several books on designing and building children’s play equipment. He has also been involved with safety commissions, is a Certified Playground Safety Inspector, and has written publications and developed programs for playground safety. He has consulted with several playground manufacturers in their design processes and pushed towards new directions in play environments. He holds a lifetime achievement from Gymboree Play and Music for making this world a better place to play.

Kris Loew, co-Founder Emeritus

Kris led the effort to create an effective and consistent brand, messaging and visual communication strategy for Magical Bridge Foundation. She helped create the inviting, visual appeal for Magical Bridge Playgrounds that fosters a sense of well being and calm amongst visitors, especially for individuals who may be highly sensitive to their visual surroundings. She runs her own Graphic Design firm, is co-founder of Poketti, LLC, and previously served as Director of Marketing Communication for Brio Technology. She has a BA degree in English. As a volunteer, Kris mentors students in entrepreneurship and design and provides graphic design and photography for various schools and civic projects. Kris serves on the Magical Bridge Advisory Board and continues to support the on-going efforts of Magical Bridge Foundation. 

The Magical Bridge Board of Advisors

  • Jill Asher co-Founder, Magical Bridge Foundation and original member of Magical Bridge Playground team
  • Jay Beckwith “Father of Modern Day Playground,” Former President, Kompan, Consultant, Boundless Playgrounds
  • Dawn Billman Director of Leadership, Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and original member of MBP team
  • Anne Cohen Founder, Disability Health Access, Expert and Advocate for Disability Rights
  • Carrie Farber Senior Product Manager,
    Digital Accessibility & User-Generated Content, Walmart
  • Karen Holman City of Palo Alto Mayor 2015, member City Council since 2010
  • Peter Jensen City of Palo Alto Landscape Architect, Inclusive Design Expert for Magical Bridge Playground
  • Adam S. Juratovac Attorney and Founder, AthletesLTD
  • Xin Liu President of Enlight Foundation, advocate for improving education inequality and anchor donor for Magical Bridge Playground and Magical Bridge Foundation
  • Nicole Ofiesh PhD Learning and Educational Specialist, Stanford University researcher and internationally renowned speaker about inclusive education
  • Diana Olin Attorney, Box, Diversity and Inclusion Visionary
  • Melissa Rick Legal Counsel, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich, and Rosati
  • Joyce Reynolds-Sinclair, PhD Managing Director, GEO Strategic Services and co-founder/Strategic Advisor to Association for Strategic Planning NorCal chapter
  • Lee Sanders HMD, MPH Chief, Division of Pediatrics, Stanford University
  • Jules Sherman Award and Patent Winning Human-Center Designer and Entrepreneur
    Design Consultant, Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Abra Siegel Healthcare executive with extensive background in strategic initiatives and operations
  • Olenka Villarreal Chairperson, Founder & Visionary, Magical Bridge Foundation and Magical Bridge Playground
  • Holly Wade, PhD, Former Assistant Superintendent, Student Services of Palo Alto Unified School District, former Director of Special Education for both Palo Alto and Los Gatos-Saratoga Districts

Magical Bridge Board of Advisors – Emeritus

  • Chad Bojorquez  Director, Destination Home, Inclusive and Diversity Expert, Disability Rights Advocate
  • Ben Crockett Founding Partner, Peery Partners and strategic advisor to Magical Bridge Foundation
  • Jill Escher Attorney, President of Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area, Chair of Autism Adult Housing and Lifespan Care Solutions Initiative, and Escher Fund for Autism
  • Kimberly Lin Part of the original Palo Alto playground leadership team, and a valued community advocate
  • Kris Loew co-Founder, Magical Bridge Foundation and original member of Magical Bridge Playground team
  • Amanda Steckler Anchor donor of Magical Bridge Playground and Magical Bridge Foundation
  • Vince Stecker Anchor donor of Magical Bridge Playground and Magical Bridge Foundation and CEO, Avast Software

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Join us as we spread the joy of Magical Bridge Playground throughout the Bay Area and nationwide!

Magical Bridge Foundation seeks partners, suppliers, artists, designers, and sponsors as we bring innovative and inclusive playgrounds to more communities. Our valued partners engage in the brainstorming and development process, feedback and usage studies, community engagement events, and placement and construction activities. Bringing a playground to life is an exciting process, and when it’s innovative and inclusive to all ages and abilities, the rewards are beyond compare. As a vendor, supplier, volunteer, artist, designer, or construction partner, we hope you’ll join us on our incredible journey.

We thank the following partners who have joined Magical Bridge Foundation in our mission to bring more innovative and inclusive playgrounds to life:

  • Babygrand Web Design
  • Barbara Butler Artist-Builder, Inc.
  • Enlight Foundation
  • Groundswell Landscape Design
  • Jen Lewin, Artist
  • Northbound Films
  • RHAA Landscape Architects
  • Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
  • Singer Associates Public Relations