Meet the GiGi’s Playhouse Denver Team!
Leslie Klane – Executive Director
With a passion for service and making a difference in the quality of others’ lives, Leslie Klane accepted the position as the first-ever Executive Director for GiGi’s Playhouse Denver. She brings the organization a long-standing career in nonprofit leadership and fundraising.
Most recently, she served as the chief executive officer of the Drennen’s Dreams Foundation, a national drowning prevention and water safety foundation. She has held additional leadership positions, including the chief executive officer and president of the Greater Golden Chamber of Commerce and a two-year appointment as a Jefferson County Cultural Council member. During COVID-19, Leslie led the Council as chairperson awarding $1.1 million in grants that supported 92 smaller-sized nonprofits.
For nearly 15 years, Leslie enjoyed a successful career with the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, gaining extensive experience in local and national fundraising initiatives as its vice president of corporate relations and special events.
Hannah Billerbeck - Operations Coordinator
Hannah is a Colorado native that has had the pleasure to be the big sister to her brother Luke, who has Down Syndrome, and their youngest sibling, Ozzie. While growing up together, Hannah has been able to witness Luke’s struggles and victories, which fostered her passion for working with individuals with Down Syndrome and persons with other needs, such as was the case with her most recent role at Kavod Senior Life as their Health and Wellness Administrative Assistant. Hannah is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Nonprofit Management, and is very excited to be part of the wonderful GiGi’s community! When not working, Hannah enjoys reading, hiking with her siblings, and playing the guitar.
Denver Board of Managers
Kendra Vander Wal – Board President
Kendra and her husband grew up in North Dakota and, after college, experienced living and traveling around the country. In 2018, they eventually settled in Colorado for the appeal to be closer to family after their son, Ben, was born. The biggest motivation was to surround themselves with the wonderful resources for individuals with Down syndrome that the Denver metro area had to offer. Since moving to the Front Range, they have grown their family and enjoyed meeting many other families in the Down syndrome community. Kendra is grateful and honored to help bring GiGi's Playhouse to the Denver metro area to help create their family's warm, welcoming feeling upon moving to Colorado.
Kendra has a master's of science in Occupational Therapy and a minor in Special Education from the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. She currently works with the pediatric population in the Denver metro area. She is excited for the opportunity to share her skills to help individuals and families with Down syndrome achieve their fullest potentials
Joseph Wainwright – Treasurer
Joseph is a Colorado native, born and raised in South Denver. Growing up, he was close with Jack and Breck: two of his late relatives with developmental disabilities that lived lives of incredible selflessness, perseverance, and kindness that he uses as aspirational and guiding principles today.
While living in Scottsdale, Arizona for three years, he became involved in the Down Syndrome community through GiGi's Playhouse – meeting many incredible friends and mentors. Then, as an engineering professional in the space & defense industry, his work and family brought him back to Colorado in 2021, where he was thrilled to find the Denver Playhouse had been recently established and continues to grow rapidly. Joseph holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Denver.
Maggie Phillips – Board Vice President
A Colorado native, Maggie and her husband Steve are parents to two incredible girls, Stella, who was born with Down syndrome, and her younger sister Lily. Maggie continues to be awed by Stella's determination and infectious joy and is inspired to create opportunities for Stella to be seen as a capable and valued member of society.
Maggie holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Colorado Boulder and has spent the last 15 years working at Accenture, a global management and technology consulting firm. In her free time, she loves to knit, make pizza, spend time outdoors, and always looks forward to Saturday morning pancakes with her family.
Maggie is excited to become a part of the GiGi's team and support the Denver Playhouse as we continue to grow, spread a message of acceptance, and reach more community members.
Kelsie Brandt, Board Secretary
Kelsie is a pediatric nurse whose first job was at a respite care center for children with developmental disabilities. This role revealed to her a passion for individuals with Down syndrome and set her career and personal life on a mission to find a way to stay connected to that community. Kelsie spent most of her career providing inpatient and outpatient care at Children's Hospital Colorado and eventually started transitioning to leadership roles. Kelsie completed her Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and has since spent her career at health-tech startups focused on providing care to vulnerable populations in their homes.
Since becoming a mom to two young girls, Kelsie has found a renewed passion for ensuring her family remains connected to this community and for her family to stay fierce advocates for inclusion for all. Kelsie learned about GiGi's Playhouse through a classmate at her daughter's preschool whose son has Down syndrome. Kelsie quickly saw how the Playhouse's work to provide services to individuals with Down syndrome inspires and infuses joy at every level. Kelsie is excited to bring her strategic and operational mindset and her perspective as a pediatric nurse to the Denver Playhouse community.
Kelsie and her family live in Denver and enjoy camping, hiking, and watching the Denver Nuggets (which has been way more fun recently!).
AJ Atherton – Program Community Board Member
AJ is a Colorado native, born and raised in the city of Denver. She and her husband, Ryan, are high school sweethearts and now have two sons, Theo and Cyrus, and a fur baby named Rocky. Cyrus, their youngest son, was diagnosed with Down syndrome at seven weeks old. Immediately following his diagnosis, they went to Gigi's Playhouse to learn more. It instantly became their happy place!
Considering the support and love they received from the Playhouse, AJ wanted to be a part of this wonderful organization and help more families feel empowered.
AJ has a Master of Education from Regis University and earned her undergraduate degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Colorado State University. She has been teaching in early childhood education for 12 years, and looks forward to continuing her passion for working with children by serving the Playhouse and its community with the board.
Anna Cooper, Community Board Member
Anna was born in Southern California but lived in many different areas of the country before settling down in Colorado in 2008. She now lives in Arvada with her husband, four children, two dogs, one rabbit, and a very chatty lovebird. In 2014, Anna was pregnant with her fourth child when she received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Blake's diagnosis sparked a passion in her for helping all children with special needs thrive and live up to their full potential.
Anna works full-time as a special education para in a K-8 charter school. She is a first-call volunteer with the Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association, encouraging other parents who have recently received a prenatal diagnosis. She also volunteers with her son Blake at GiGi's Playhouse. The Denver Playhouse has been a great source of community connection and an opportunity to be around other families with a child with Down syndrome. She is looking forward to contributing more to this amazing organization now as a member of the Board of Directors.
You will find Anna outside in her free time, hopefully by some water, with her family. She enjoys spending time in her garden and driving to the mountains to hike or camp in the summer. Anna also loves to bake, and chocolate chip cookies are her favorite food!