Well Wilderness Kids Therapeutic Nature Center offers inclusive NaturePlay programs & therapies for children of all ages & abilities with the mission of supporting child development through Social Emotional experiences through all of the senses in a nature-based setting. We are committed to serving as guardians of play with the use of Mindfulness tools for all children.
The program is offered by a highly experienced team of pediatric professionals including Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, Music Therapists, & Early Childhood Special Educators. A Licensed Pediatrician, Mindfulness Facilitator, & Social Worker also support our team & families.
Programs include therapeutic Playgroups for All Ages & Abilities, Private & Semi Private Therapies, Mindfulness Programs, Field Trips, Birthday Parties, After-School NaturePlay, Parent/Child Workshops, Professional Seminars & Open NaturePlay Hour.
A Wellness Market in partnership with local farmers & makers that offers high quality foods & products that nourish the body for optimal health is also offered seasonally.
PEDIATRIC PHYSICAL THERAPIST
DIRECTOR OF NATUREPLAY
Nature Element: Feathers
Stephanie graduated from Creighton University Physical Therapy Program in May 2001 with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Her experience in pediatrics has ranged from many pediatric settings including Early Intervention, schools, & outpatient hospital services. In 2015, she shifted to private therapy practice to focus on incorporation of holistic wellness care for women & children. The opening of Well Wilderness Kids Therapeutic Nature Center shortly followed as her vision to create a space for children of all ages & abilities in a nature-based setting came to light. She has studied the science behind the benefits of nature on the sensory system, immune system & overall brain development in children which has fueled her passion to create an inclusive nature center for families & her community.
She & her husband, Farmer Jon, with their 4 children lead a busy farm life full of caring for animals, outdoor projects, gardening & enjoy hosting outdoor gatherings for family & friends.
“Birds of a feather flock together. Feathers come in all shapes, sizes & colors. They identify each bird as part of a group yet also differentiate them as individuals. When feathers are found on the ground, they are often approached with a sense of wonder & kept as a treasure to its finder. There is a story that comes along with each feather…a journey that takes them to the place where the feather landed. And most importantly, feathers serve a vital purpose in providing insulation, protection & flight. Like feathers, each child has an identity that provides them a sense of belonging to a group yet makes them each unique. Every child has a story, a journey that they can be guided on by Learning Allies who support & nurture them along the way. Children provide us with warmth, strength & navigation throughout life. If only we approach them with a sense of wonder, we will come to see their value like that of a treasured feather."
"'Today or Never' That's my motto." ~ Mary Poppins
assistant director of natureplay
lead toddlerplay learning ally
Nature Element: AIR
Lori graduated from the University of Kansas in May 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She comes with over 25 years of experience working with children & adults having developmental disabilities. Prior to joining Well Wilderness, Lori spent 20 years with a non-profit organization supporting adults having IDD to achieve their fullest potential through a program that focused on body, mind, & spirit to build strength and foster independence. Lori directed a successful employment division and helped many individuals within the program seek meaningful employment uniquely suited to their interests, abilities, & goals. As part of her role, Lori led the organization through arduous accreditations, receiving high honors for compliance & person centered services. In her new position with Well Wilderness, Lori is excited to incorporate her skills & experience in a nature-based setting while helping the program successfully grow.
Lori & her husband, Dave, have 3 girls who keep them busy with school activities & outdoor sports. Together, they enjoy spending time with friends and family, hiking, & the great outdoors.
“I chose the nature element of air because it is constantly in motion, even when you can’t see it. This is similar to the human mind. Air can be concentrated on human thought seeing all the beautiful things life has to offer. Children often see the world very differently & help us notice the little things that make life meaningful, that we often overlook, or take for granted. Beauty is everywhere, in everything, and it's up to us to open our eyes and look around to see it.”
“Happiness is a state of mind. It’s just according to the way you look at things.” - Walt Disney
pediatric occupational therapist
toddlerplay assistant learning ally
Nature Element: rivers
Vikki graduated from the University of Missouri Columbia in May 1987 with a BS degree in Occupational Therapy. She began her career working in inpatient psychiatric hospitals with children to adults. After a few years, she began working in pediatric practice with over 25 years in the school system as well as First Steps Early Intervention, outpatient pediatrics & some guest teaching with OT students.
Vikki & her husband Paul, who is a Physical Therapist by training & now in Health Administration, live in Olathe, KS. They raised two boys, Seth (26) and Sam (24), in Springfield, MO. They recently added two daughter-in-laws to the family. They enjoy traveling to National Parks, camping, hiking & playing board/card games together.
"A river is always moving yet able to nurture life within it. Sometimes there is too much water & sometimes too little but it always moves forward. As my life has moved & flowed on I hope to nurture children's lives regardless of the water level. In nature I see the Creator & feel close to Him when surrounded by it."
PEDIATRIC OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST
toddlerplay assistant learning ally
Nature Element: space
Shelly is a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where she obtained a Bachelors degree in Family Social Science & a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy in 2007. She began her career as a traveling OT which took her from the East to West coast. Shelly quickly began to find her passion with adult & geriatric patients in a Neurological setting including John Hopkins University. She has multiple certifications with multiple neurological disorders. Shelly eventually settled in Scottsdale, Arizona & continued to work as a contract OT. She enjoyed the complexity of working in multiple settings that had the potential to change on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Shelly married her husband, Lucas in 2010. Lucas was in naturopathic medical school when they met. So it was then that Shelly began to have a passion for a more natural lifestyle. Shelly has two daughters, Livi (8) and Emmy (4). Throughout the course of Emmy's life, she has needed pediatric private services in areas of OT, PT, SLP & most recently a neuro-developmental vision setting. Through this personal experience, Shelly felt a nudge to switch course to work in private pediatric care.
Shelly & her family moved to Kansas City in 2018. As she & her husband continued to explore other options to support her daughter's development in the Kansas City area, they discovered Well Wilderness Kids. Shelly was in alignment with the mission & vision of Well Wilderness Kids & became a part of the program in Fall 2020.
"Children need the wild things and places that nature offers them. They need to experience the surprise, creativity, & spontaneity of nature. When given time to explore— to take in the space of their surroundings— it fosters emotional connections with natural elements. Through the emotional connection, they develop a sense of respect for the environment and empathy for all living things & beings.
I see the nature element of space as being wherever other nature elements (sky, water, trees, etc.), are not. Space in nature, is explored through what we see, hear, smell, taste, & feel. The element of space helps us relate to something greater and allows us to feel connected to all that is. During NaturePlay, space can be intriguing & deeply fulfilling to children because it is constantly changing, always surprising, & continually awakening the senses.
I love to guide children to look for traits and characteristics of other nature elements & objects, that have piqued their interest: sizes, shapes, textures, colors, patterns, rhythms, and so on. And, of course, encourage children to notice change. As children use space to observe, reflect, record, & share nature's patterns, changes, & rhythms, they are participating in a process that promotes mindfulness, problem solving, & creativity. The natural world invites, sustains, and maintains their innate sense of wonder. When we, as adults, are able to reawaken and share our own sense of wonder, we are better able to recognize the value of children's ideas & perceptions and build on their lead in meaningful ways."
therapy program coordinator (olathe location)
PEDIATRIC OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY ASSISTANT
LEAD PRESCHOOLPLAY (3s) learning ally
lead AFTERNOON ENRICHMENT LEARNING ALLY
Nature Element: WATER
Taylor graduated from State College of Florida’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program in 2017. Since that time, she has worked at an outpatient/school-based setting in addition to the opportunity to teach Special Education while in Florida. Taylor moved back to the Kansas City area in 2019 where she has served as a paraprofessional at a center for children diagnosed with Autism. Her therapy background as an Occupational Therapy Assistant allows her to integrate sensory-based play experiences in a child's natural environment. Her passion for connecting children with nature has her beyond excited to share her blended role as a therapist, teacher, and caregiver with the children & families at Well Wilderness Kids.
“I have always been drawn to water since I was a little girl. I grew up going to the beach and will always be the first one to jump into the waves! One of my husband and I’s hobbies is to find creeks in the area to go explore with our dog. Being near water is my happy place. It came to fruition while I was in the pool with a young boy with Cerebral Palsy that I nanny, that someone with such limited movement could feel so weightless, free to move in the water, independent and exhibiting pure joy. That is why I believe water to be the most powerful element in nature.”
“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time."
― Leonardo da Vinci
PEDIATRIC OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY ASSISTANT
PRESCHOOLPLAY (3s) assistant learning ally
Nature Element: Leaves
Emily graduated from Central Methodist University’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program in 2020. She has had multiple experiences working with the Special Needs Community including being a paraprofessional in a medically fragile classroom. Emily started her OTA career in the Lawrence School District, working with kids with all abilities. Her experiences & passion for early childhood development along with her love of nature, have her enthusiastic & thrilled for the opportunity to implement nature as a therapy tool.
Emily & her fiance, Luke, are preparing for new life adventures, starting with their wedding in October of 2023.
“Each leaf has its own design & colors that make every single one unique from the others.
As seasons change, leaves learn to grow & adapt. Even when life turns cold with barriers, they fall down only to eventually & always grow back stronger. Our lives blend with those of leaves as we all face challenges & each have our own unique characteristics to contribute to every course of life. Every soul is unique as it grows & faces adversity to then bloom back to where they are planted.”
“In every change, in every falling leaf there is some pain, some beauty. And that’s the way new leaves grow.”
– Amit Ray
pediatric occupational therapist
PRESCHOOLPLAY (4s) Lead learning ally
Nature Element: fire
Tonya graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy in 2001. She fell in love with pediatric OT during one of her fieldwork experiences providing OT to birth to 3 year olds and their families in their homes throughout southeast Kansas. Her first position at Mi-Child Enrichment Center, provided the opportunity to work with a team of over 15 therapists in a preschool setting for kids with special needs and their peers in Russellville, AR. Tonya returned to the KC area to provide home visits as a member of the Infant/Toddler team at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired. Although she took a break from OT as an active therapist to raise her children, she always kept her OT hat in her back pocket and stayed connected to the OT community through part-time OT work & memberships in the Kansas Occupational Therapy Association and the Kansas City Pediatric Alliance.
Tonya & her husband, Dave, started their family in 2005 and now have 5 kids keeping their calendar full of sports, music & theater events. Tonya & her family enjoy hiking, off-road biking, camping, fishing, and playing on Grandma’s farm. Tonya & her husband are passionate about raising kids with great character in community with other families. They have dedicated countless hours to the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, & American Heritage Girls (AHG) communities. Tonya has been a leader in AHG for over 8 years in a variety of roles, serves as the committee chair and as a den leader for Cub Scouts, and also serves as Vice Chair on the Archdiocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting.
Tonya has experience implementing sensory integration and vision strategies, aquatic therapy, feeding for young children. She is trained in the Sing.Play.Love program & is passionate about sharing this program to teach self-regulation and social emotional skills to children. She is beyond excited to combine two of her passions, pediatric OT and exploring nature, within her adventures at Well Wilderness Kids.
"Whether it's a single candle lit on a chilly morning while enjoying coffee snuggled in a blanket, or a campfire on a weekend evening telling stories & laughing with family and friends, a fire can bring comfort & joy to many situations. Fire is essential to cooking our food, warming our homes, & providing light. Sometimes we talk about the fire inside of us. In some days and some seasons our fire may be a little dim, and in other times, the fire within us burns brightly. My hope is that I can provide your children with a little spark of encouragement to help them develop and learn in Nature Play. So, gather around the fire with me. Let's sing a song, enjoy a warm cup of tea, or share a warm meal together as we grow in friendship as partners on the journey helping your children grow. Let's see their light shine!"
"Good friends are like the stars, you don't always see them, but you know they are always there."
KINDERPLAY ASSISTANT LEARNING ALLY
Nature Element: wildflowers
Lindsey is a mom of three and has spent the last 7 years at home caring for them. On top of caring for her own children, she has also cared for friends' children, volunteered in her kids' classrooms, coached sports teams, led Girl Scouts & worked in the infant room at church. Before she decided to take on her role as a tull time stay-at-home mom, she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Strategic Communication & Marketing at the University of Kansas and worked at a local ad agency. She grew up in Olathe & now lives here with her family.
Through the camps that her own children attended at Well Wilderness Kids, she instantly fell in love with the mission & vibe of the farm. Lindsey's favorite part about serving as a Learning Ally is getting to pass on the joy she feels exploring the outdoors as well as getting to facilitate play & appreciation of nature with the children in the program.
"I love art & the vibrant colors and smells that come from wildflowers embody that colorful & wild spirit of nature. You never know what you're going to discover if you stop & take in your surroundings."
""Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."
- Ferris Bueller
transitional kinderplay lead learning ally
preschoolplay (4s) assistant learning ally
therapEUTIC ART ally
Nature Element: STONES
Madeline graduated from Harding University in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology & a minor in Fine Art. She has experience working in therapeutic learning environments, as well as volunteering with organizations such as Special Olympics, Ronald McDonald houses, & Relay for Life. It is very important to Madeline to be involved with her community & she loves the opportunity to incorporate her interests in nature, mental health, and art in ways that foster healing & peace. Madeline also has experience using "art as therapy” to encourage others to realize the potential for problem solving, safe emotional expression & exploration within the creative process. There is so much research that supports art as an effective stress reducer. As an avid reader, Madeline loves to discover new ways that art can benefit our emotional well-being.
Madeline lives in the Northland & loves spending time with her family and friends hiking, camping, & reading any novels she can get her hands on. As an artist herself, Madeline has a never-ending list of projects to try & is always collecting art supplies. One of her favorite things to do is incorporate dried and pressed plants, rocks, or twigs into her creations & has so much fun collecting these items during her time exploring the outdoors.
"I have always been a collector & am often teased by my family for always having full pockets after a walk. The stability & weight to be found in stones is one that has kept me grounded my whole life. The intricate beauty of each stone is also a humbling reminder for me that beauty can be found in a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, & weights. The preservation of time periods within certain types of stone or rock is also an exciting portal into the history of the earth that gives me a sense of purpose & belonging in the ways I choose to interact with nature. Art making & curating pieces of nature that bring me joy is an important daily practice that provides me peace & healing as I move through life. I hope to pass some of this onto others in ways that fits them & the life they hope to live."
"At the root of all art & all science there exists a gap – a gap between what the world is like & what the human creator wishes & hopes for it to be like. Our unique way of bridging the gap in each of our lives seems to me to be the essence of the reason for human creativity.” -Mr. Rogers
EARLY CHILDHOOD/ELEMENTARY EDUCATOR
LEAD KINDERPLAY LEARNING ALLY
Nature Element: Rocks
Courtney has over 12 years of experience working with young children. She is a graduate of
Emporia State University with a degree in Elementary Education as well as a Masters Degree as a Reading Specialist. Courtney taught 1st grade for 9 years and 2nd grade for 3 years in the Olathe School District. She left the classroom to stay home with her two children. While staying at home she found Well Wilderness Kids for her toddler. She & her family fell in love with Well Wilderness' mindful approach to Social Emotional development. After spending a year as a parent, she knew she wanted to be a part of the Learning Ally Team. Courtney is looking forward to connecting with Well Wilderness families as well as sharing her love for nature, team work, & learning.
“Rocks represent stability, strength, and solidity. All of these qualities help build a solid foundation for whatever we choose to build. As a Learning Ally, I want to support children to form their own foundation through nature exploration, creativity, mindfulness, and compassion.”
KINDERPLAY & seasonal program ASSISTANT LEARNING ALLY
Nature Element: wind
Theresa Hernandez graduated from UMKC with a degree in Psychology in 2016. Since graduating she has earned certifications in Trauma Informed Care while working in child welfare in Kansas & Missouri. She also has experience as a nanny for young children. She is passionate about helping children reach their developmental goals through play, social interaction, & creativity.
“I sometimes need a physical reminder to slow down & be present. Going on walks, visiting the beach, or even just the walk between my apartment to my car, the wind always has a way to blow through me and remind me to take a deep breath and be present to the moment I am living. Children remind me of the wind. They do not need the reminder to be present, like most adults do. They are the wind that blows around us and gently reminds us to be present and enjoy the beautiful world around us.”
physical therapy assistant
assistant learning ally
Nature Element: ROOTS
Marisa has been a Physical Therapist Assistant for 6 years & has leaned more towards a holistic approach over the past few years. She has most recently delved into the world of breath, airway, oral tethered issues/mouth breathing, & the connection of the diaphragm & pelvic floor to posture & stability. She loves seeing kids' creativity which inspires her to slow down & pay attention to the simple joys of life. Some of her favorite memories as a kid were exploring around the pond on her property, climbing a special willow tree, identifying birds, & using her imagination in the midst of nature to keep her busy for hours. She is excited to be a contributing Nature Team member towards the growth, emotional regulation, relational skills, & developmentally appropriate inclusive play that happens here.
"The nourishment & strength of a tree is bolstered under the surface--more than what we can see. I have benefited greatly from looking for the "root" of an emotion, an attitude, an idea, instead of being driven by an emotion itself. Our beliefs about the world & ourselves tint the lens we look through. Knowing this helps me dig deeper & listen for the root of what a child is thinking or needing & help guide them towards a productive response to challenges."
BOARD-CERTIFIED MUSIC THERAPIST
LEAD AFTERNOON ENRICHMENT PROGRAM LEARNING ALLY
Nature Element: TREE TRUNKS
Kristi is a Board-Certified Music Therapist and creator of Stepping Stones KC. Kristi graduated from The University of Kansas with a degree in Music Therapy, and an emphasis in early childhood development. While at KU, she worked as a preschool teacher and also received a minor in Psychology, and Certifications in Research and Service Learning! Kristi has worked with young children in home, classroom, and community settings and has over 10 years of experience working with children of all ages with a wide variety of different needs! She has experience working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Developmental Delays, Down Syndrome, Emotional/ Behavioral Disorders, Attachment Disorders, and more.
"I am passionate about helping children reach their goals and supporting families, without boundaries! I feel at-home in nature and love to share that passion for adventure and exploration! I love climbing trees to gain a different perspective and listening to the music that the wind and the trees create. Tree trunks represent stability, adventure, and, most importantly, growth. This is a perspective that I carry into my music sessions, allowing children to experiment, grow, and explore music naturally!"
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATOR
LEAD LEARNING ALLY (EUDORA)
Nature Element: TREES
Danielle graduated from the University of Central Missouri in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in Family & Consumer Sciences Education. She has experience teaching in multiple childcare settings & at the middle school level. She has always had a deep passion for Early Childhood Development. Danielle has served as a Parent Educator & Coordinator for Parents as Teachers since 2015. It was during this time that she strengthened her knowledge & skills for Social-Emotional Learning & Mindfulness. Her career in parent education trickled down to a desire to work with, not just the parents, but the children too to help foster the importance of Social Emotional development.
She has training & experience in Conscious Discipline, and teaching children’s yoga & mindfulness. Danielle’s goal is to better understand the brain and the reason behind the behaviors of children. She is passionate about play & believes that play is truly the most important work in childhood! Danielle is grateful for the opportunity to see children learn & explore through nature, while fostering their natural development.
Danielle has 3 children of her own & strives to raise kind humans who are compassionate to others & to nature. She strives to slow down & get outside everyday to see the simple things & take in their beauty.
"Trees have deep roots that symbolize what I strive to plant as I work with children & parents. Those roots grow strong & mighty much like I hope the children do too."
"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
Amy Zoe Schonhoff
MINDFULNESS ALLY FOR PARENTS & PROFESSIONALS
Nature Element: earth
Amy Zoe Schonhoff is the founder of Mindfulness in the Heartland, a venture dedicated to providing training and education in the practices and principles of mindfulness. She has been a mindfulness practitioner for over 25 years, is a qualified teacher of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) through UMass Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness. She is also a trained Mindfulness Educator for grades K-12 through Mindful Schools. She holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Iowa & has worked for many years as a nonprofit professional. It is her intention to inspire others to live as if every moment matters.
"Earth is mother; the life-giver and sustainer. When we attend to her wisdom, life grows and flourishes. Much like the element of earth, mindfulness can provide us with fertile ground to anchor our roots—a perpetual source of strength, stability, and peace that resides within each of us."
EARLY CHILDHOOD/ELEMENTARY EDUCATOR
MINDFULNESS ALLY for early childhood/elementary
Nature Element: Roots
Kate has been working with children for 15 years in many diverse settings. She received a certification in Early Years Practices from Northampton College, England, in 2008. While working at a Pre-Preparatory School, she earned a degree in Early Years and Education, as well as a certification as a Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator. Since moving to the United States, Kate has extended her knowledge in Children’s Mindfulness Yoga practices. Kate teaches Yoga and Meditation to children with Emotional Behavior Disorders to alleviate stress and help with anxiety.
“I have a fascination with old tree roots because to me they signify life. From the moment a child is born, they are growing and developing, anchoring their roots and laying down the foundations for their future. I feel passionate about a child’s happiness and emotional well being. Just like a tree, if we help nurture the roots the tree will grow and succeed.”
“Trust the magic of new beginnings” – Meister Eckhart
Dr. Carissa Stanton
Nature Element: SOIL
Carissa Stanton, MD is a holistic pediatrician that opened her own virtual and home-visit based direct pediatric care practice called Mindful Pediatrics in 2020. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from Kansas State University, Medical Degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine, completed her pediatrics residency at University of Kansas Medical Center, and online Pediatric Integrative Medicine training from the University of Arizona.
She is passionate about the holistic care of children. Nature is an important part of caring for a child’s mind, body, & spirit. Her collaboration with Well Wilderness Kids is in full support of using nature to expand the wellbeing of children.
"The definition of soil is “a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life”. Soil is what creates and supports life. Just like a placenta provides the elements to create a human, soil provides the elements to create plants and other life on earth. My job is to help parents cultivate the “soil” that supports and creates their child’s mind, body, spirit and environment: nutrition, microbiome, water, air, rest, relationships, etc. Plus exposure to dirt is important to a child’s health as it helps build the immune system, sensory development, and boosts mood. It’s also fun, so take your child to play in the dirt at Well Wilderness, it’s pediatrician recommended!"