Meet Our Team

At the PlayGarden our diverse and experienced staff and board work together to lead our inclusive programs, design our beautiful and fully-accessible gardens, care for our animals, and provide children of all abilities a safe, accessible, and adventurous place to play.

STAFF

BOARD

YOUTH LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

Executive director, Liz Bullard, headshot Elizabeth Bullard, Executive Director
Elizabeth is also the visionary behind and founder of the PlayGarden. She has an MA in Speech-Language Pathology from Indiana University at Bloomington, and a BA in Speech and Hearing Sciences/Spanish from Indiana University. She has worked with children and families in the Seattle area since 1985, and enjoys working and playing alongside PlayGardeners of all ages.

 

 

lead teacher, Sophie headshot

Sophie Barnett-Dyer, Lead Preschool Teacher
Sophie received a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education with Special Education certification in 2005 from Mills College, in Oakland Ca. Her childhood spent playing in her family’s garden in Seattle,and later as an adult visiting school gardens in the Bay Area, has inspired a life-long love of teaching and learning with young children in the garden. She is also an avid gardener herself, as well as cook, camper, crafts person, and the mother of two fantastic children.

 

Program assistant Asher in the gardenAsher Brown, Program Assistant
Asher started working as a Preschool Helper in the fall of 2017. He supports the teaching staff by setting up for the morning program, greeting preschoolers and families, and engaging with kids during morning play. When he’s not working, Asher stays busy as a volunteer at Swedish Hospital and participates in Special Olympics, including swimming, soccer, and his long time favorite, downhill skiing. He has been a member of the Skihawks Racing Team for the past 8 seasons. Asher graduated from Garfield HS and Nathan Hale’s transition program.

Office Manager, Emma

Emma Simonson, Office Manager
Emma graduated from Pacific Lutheran University where she earned a BA with majors in Global Studies and Hisp
anic Studies. She has a lot of experience working with kids, having previously worked at Seattle PlayGarden as a Summer camp counselor and as a nanny for 5 kids. Emma is passionate about helping others and enjoys running, reading, baking, and spending time with family and friends in her free time.

 

 

program assistant, Nicole at the PlayGardenNicole Ijeoma, Preschool Program Assistant
Nicole is joining our preschool team on Tuesdays and Thursdays and will be in the classroom assisting with snack, storytime, and playtimes, as well as helping us prep projects for preschool. Nicole loves reading and writing poetry, and she’s looking forward to playing with the preschoolers. 

 

 

 

Caretaker Dave headshot Dave Langton, Garden and Animal Caretaker
Dave is the caretaker for the PlayGarden, providing facility and grounds maintenance. He has home remodel construction and maintenance experience and is currently enrolled in the Landscape Horticulture program at South Seattle College. His previous work experience includes working with children and adults with disabilities and their use of assistive technology in education, work, and play. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems. He discovered his love of the outdoors after walking on the Appalachian Trail for a few months. Dave enjoys the beautiful mountains and scenic waterways of the Pacific Northwest.

Inclusive Programs director Hannah

Hannah Gallagher, Inclusive Programs Director, Camp Director and Lead Preschool Teacher
Hannah  is an inclusive, community-focused  environmental educator, speaker, disability-rights advocate from Seattle, WA. Hannah holds a graduate certificate in Education for Environment & Community from IslandWood, a Master’s in Education and a graduate certificate and non-profit management from the University of Washington.

Hannah works as the Inclusive Programs Director at the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden. Hannah has over 15 years of experience working with children and youth with and without disabilities.  This experience aids he in her role as Summer Camp Director and as one of the organizations Lead Preschool Teachers.  She is the co-author of two books on inclusion and has been sharing her gained knowledge in the form of community-based inclusion workshops and presenting at local, national and international conferences on the topics of nature-play, inclusion, child-directed and multi-age learning for the last five years. Hannah is a 2015 Natural Leaders Legacy Camp Leader, and currently serves on the Board of Directors as an alumni representative for a youth-outdoor leadership program here in Seattle called POST 84.

When Hannah is not working, you can find her at local food banks and farms sorting and growing produce, visiting farmer’s markets, hiking the wonders of the PNW forests, on her bike and sharing a home-cooked meal time with friends and family.

Program assistant Michaela McCarthy at the PlayGarden

Michaela McCarthy, Program Assistant
“I am excited to be working at the PlayGarden because I like being around kids. I had a lot of fun going to the PlayGarden when I was little and I want other kids to have fun at the PlayGarden, too. During my free time, I like listening to music, writing on my iPad, and taking care of my companion dog, Mellie.”

 

 

 

preschool assistant Sofia headshot

Sofia Muro-Wells, Preschool Teachers Assistant
Originally from the Portland area, Sofia made the trek up North to Seattle for University and has loved her years here since! She spends her time baking and eating her way through Seattle, enjoys the easy access to water all around the city, and caring for her first pet of her own, a 12 year old cat named Arjuna!

Sofia is excited to join the PlayGarden for its nature based curriculum, as she feels everyone could stand to learn a bit more of the natural world around them. As we all move into a new school year, Sofia excited to help to support students as they grow and discover themselves and she hopes to make them feel empowered and safe to advocate for themselves and others.

Carter Sturms HeadshotCarter Sturms, Assistant Caretaker
Carter is excited to be the new gardener at Seattle Children’s PlayGarden! He has been attending camps and programs at the PlayGarden from a young age, and is devoted to maintaining its magic for future generations. He has a dog named Nuggets and he loves movies! His favorite movie? The Spiderman series!

Say hello when you see Carter raking leaves or spreading mulch – you will probably hear his joyous laughter and want to join right in!

 

 

Ava Headshot

Ava Fitzgibbon, Preschool Teachers Assistant
With a degree in psychology and 10+ years experience working with children and young adults with disabilities, Ava serves as an informed, inclusive and inquisitive guide to each student’s learning adventure. Initially just looking to volunteer, Ava joined PlayGarden as Open Play, Summer Camp, and Preschool support and now continues her PlayGarden journey as Assistant Director of Summer Camp. Having grown up with a nature-based curriculum, Ava is excited to share accessible nature-rich play opportunities with her community.
 
preschool teaching assistant, Ali SmithAli Smith, Preschool Teachers Assistant
Ali was an early elementary teacher in culturally, linguistically and socio-economically diverse elementary schools for nine years before taking a break as she and her husband had a family. Ali loved being a teacher because of her deep respect for children, childhood, and learning. Everyone is born to learn and she loves to encourage children’s natural curiosities through play and active engagement in their surroundings.
 
Ali’s children attended co-op preschool, and as a co-op parent she and her husband volunteered as classroom assistants weekly. It was such a joy to be back in the classroom, surrounded by play and paint and play-dough. Now that her own children are in elementary school she is delighted to spend her days playing and learning alongside the children of the PlayGarden. When Ali is not in the classroom you will usually find her gardening, knitting, sewing, baking with my two children, and playing with her family and two cats.

Annie and her service dog

Annie Jones, Preschool Program Assistant, Camp Counselor and PlayGarden Youth Representative on King County Public Health Youth Moving in Solidarity Coalition
Annie is a born and raised Seattleite. She went to Nathan Hale High School and is hoping to continue my education while working at the PlayGarden. Annie started coming to the PlayGarden when she was 3 years old and graduated from camper to counselor. The transition has been a lot of fun! She said “I like using all my knowledge of the PlayGarden to help other kids have fun.  I like working with kids because they always find a way to have fun and I love watching them grow and get smarter every day!” On the weekend you can find Annie hanging out with her friends and family, painting and walk my dog.  

 

 

 

 

Susan Moore, Board Chair
Parent Educator, Parent/Child Center
Seattle Central College

 

 

 

 

Nick Weiss_HeadshotNick Weiss 
Marketing specialist, freelance creative, and person with Cerebral Palsy

Through his production company, Subculture Productions, Nick pursues projects that connect, feature, and empower grassroot disability communities. Nick continues to support local nonprofits through inclusive media projects, coaching wheelchair basketball, and advocacy work.

Patrick Henry, Treasurer
Parent Advocate 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Bullard, MA
Executive Director and Founder of Seattle PlayGarden

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becca Bull

Becca Bull, LAc
Licensed Acupuncturist and East Asian Health Practitioner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chuck Cowan
Emeritus Clinical Professor
University of Washington School of Medicine, Dept. of Pediatrics

 

 

 

 

Steve Barker

Steve Barker
Parent Advocate and Facilities Manager,
Member of International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) and  American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS). 

 

 

 

 

Paul Kraegel, MSW, MEH, Secretary
Urban ecologist, Parent advocate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zoë Maddox
Human Rights Lawyer
Director Human Rights Watch

 

 

 

 

 

Shelly Haverkamp

Shelly Haverkamp
Person with type 1 diabetes, cancer survivor, and senior content manager at Microsoft 

 

 

 

 

 

Eli Sitchin
Aerospace Engineer
Eli started attending the PlayGarden in 2002, two years after his autism diagnosis. After many years as a camper – during which time he came up with the idea for the PlayGarden volcano – he returned as a summer camp counselor in 2016 and 2017 before joining the board in 2022.

 

 

 

Linda Hunter Suzman
Board Emeritus
Financial Service Professional
MassMutual Financial Group

 

 

 

 

Abraham Bergman, MD
Board Chair Emeritus
Harborview Medical Center
Attending Physician
University of Washington
School of Medicine
Professor of Pediatrics.

MEET OUR YOUTH LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
These youth are all paid employees at the PlayGarden. We are committed to elevating youth-voice and supporting youth with mentorship and leadership skills to become ever stronger social justice advocates in our community.

Annie Jones, Preschool Program Assistant, Camp Counselor and PlayGarden Youth Representative on King County Public Health Youth Moving in Solidarity Coalition

Annie is a born and raised Seattleite. She went to Nathan Hale High School and is hoping to continue my education while working at the PlayGarden. Annie started coming to the PlayGarden when she was 3 years old and graduated from camper to counselor. The transition has been a lot of fun! She said “I like using all my knowledge of the PlayGarden to help other kids have fun.  I like working with kids because they always find a way to have fun and I love watching them grow and get smarter every day!” On the weekend you can find Annie hanging out with her friends and family, painting and walk my dog.  

Leiney Gamache, Preschool Program Assistant, Camp Counselor and PlayGarden Youth Representative on King County Public Health Youth Moving in Solidarity Coalition.  

Leiney Gamache is a sophomore at Western Washington University’s- Fairhaven College of  Interdisciplinary Studies. Leiney is a disability rights advocate and very passionate about social justice. Leiney has worked as  summer camp counselor at the PlayGarden for 5 years and serves as a representative in King County’s Moving In Solidarity Youth Coalition. She  has spent time canvassing, with DVCanvass for Amnesty International. She was the leader of Roosevelt High School’s student club, the F-Word, a club focused on Intersectional Feminism. When not studying, Leiney spends her time acting and working with a variety of organizations, including Playgarden, to fight for social justice across King County.

Ella Mae MacPherson-George, Camp Counselor  and PlayGarden Youth Representative on King County Public Health Youth Moving in Solidarity Coalition. 

Ella Mae is a student, writer, artist and disability rights advocate. She herself has Cerebral Palsy. She self-published her first book of art and poetry, You Don’t Know Me in 2019. This book is a celebration of her work and the expression of her mission to inform others about disability, the struggles to find meaningful connections, to break down barriers to understanding differences and to share life’s universality through art.

Josie B

Josie Barker, Camp Counselor and PlayGarden Youth Representative on King County Public Health Youth Moving in Solidarity Coalition. 

Josie is a May 2022 graduate from Carroll College with a degree in Health Sciences and minors in Business and Public Health. Growing up, Josie attended summer camps at the PlayGarden and volunteered and worked at the PlayGarden throughout high school and college. “The PlayGarden is such a special place and I learned so much about helping my community throughout my work at the PlayGarden!”

The importance of representation

At the PlayGarden we know how important representation is. The impact of seeing yourself represented, whether that’s in media or in the classroom, is powerful.  Our team is made up of individuals across different ages, genders, experience levels, educational backgrounds and across a variety of racial, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The PlayGarden hires people with and without disabilities to ensure that all of our campers and preschoolers can see themselves reflected in our staff. 

Equal Opportunity Employer 

The Seattle Children’s PlayGarden is an Equal Opportunity Employer and welcomes a diversity of applicants to apply. Having a staff that authentically reflects the communities we serve is a critical step in creating the inclusive world we envision.