Our Team


Karen Falk, President

Karen lives in San Diego with her husband and three young children. Her youngest daughter, Lindsey, has Down syndrome. Karen has worked as a civil engineer in the water resources industry for over 15 years and has past experience volunteering on a non-profit Board. She is very excited about all of the wonderful programs and opportunities that GiGi’s Playhouse San Diego will offer her daughter and all individuals with Down syndrome in Southern California.

Vice President - Vacant

Secretary - Vacant

Beth McPherson, Treasurer

Beth lives in San Diego with her husband and son with Down Syndrome. She has worked in the financial services industry for 15 years and joined the team at GiGi’s during the start-up phase, passionate about bringing California’s first GiGi’s into existence! Now serving as Treasurer, Beth is working alongside the team to responsibly finance significant expansion to GiGi’s programs and reach in the community. She is excited to see new families, friends and community partners join the team at GiGi’s!

Stephanie Rais Ortiz, Marketing and Outreach Committee Lead

Stephanie resides in San Diego along with her husband Chris and daughter Annette. She worked in the advertising industry for numerous years and currently works as a business consultant for a diverse group of clients. She is very excited to be a part of Gigi’s Playhouse San Diego and she strongly believes it's a great environment for her daughter and others with Down syndrome to be in. It’s a place where confidence is built, skills are gained and friends are made.

Denise Montero, Office Administrator

Denise was born and raised in Mexico. She’s been living in California for over 15 years. She has a BA in Marketing and has also done vast volunteer work at the Make-A-Wish-Foundation San Diego and Casa de Las Madres in San Francisco. She enjoys spending time with her son and going out for walks with their dog, hiking and swimming – pretty much any outdoor activity!

Mary King, Events Committee Lead

Mary was motivated to come to GiGi’s Playhouse by the idea of offering support to families new to a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Her son Nate was diagnosed at birth and she wanted to share her experience so that they might understand what an incredible blessing Down syndrome is! In total, Mary has 3 young sons and is married to a Marine stationed in San Diego, where they live. She brings over 17 years of event planning experience to the board and enjoys lending those talents to contribute to the success of our young playhouse!

Petra Howe, Site Manager

Petra resides in San Diego with her son, Kaeden and her two dogs. She has 15 years of experience in the corporate world in management of customer support. In 2018 she decided to pursue a career in the Nonprofit industry and use her experience to provide services to the people in the community. In her free time she enjoys traveling, spending time with family, playing with her dogs and being active with her son!

Kelci Wilner, Fundraising Chair

Kelci lives in San Diego and as a financial advisor, she is passionate about helping people. Although not a parent yet, she has been an active volunteer in the special needs community with school-age kids for several years. Kelci is very excited to be a part of Gigi’s Playhouse San Diego and is looking forward to growing our playhouse and community!

April Villafana, Outreach Committee Lead & North County Committee Lead

April lives in North County, San Diego, with her husband Luis, and two daughters Isabella and Emma. Her oldest daughter, Isabella, has Down syndrome. April works full-time as an advocate for children with special needs and disabilities. She is an active member of various special need and disability organizations, non-profits, boards, and special education groups. She has a passion for the Down syndrome community, inclusion, and assisting families in obtaining the services, supports, and benefits their child is entitled to.