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 sensory & social emotional experiences in a nature-based setting. We are committed to serving as guardians of play for all children.
The program is staffed 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 Therapies, Mindfulness Programs, Field Trips, Birthday Parties, After-School NaturePlay, Parent/Child Workshops, Professional Seminars & Open Nature Play 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 year round.
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
licensed social worker
assistant director of natureplay
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
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF NATUREPLAY
Nature Element: FIRE
Christina has over 10 years working experience in several areas of leadership & support, project management, customer service & people relations. She spent 3 years at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired as a Teaching Assistant, working closely with children with various diagnoses & their families. She then worked as Production Director at Lifestyle Publications, and was in charge of overseeing production of multiple monthly magazines across the country as well as managing staff & providing publisher support. Throughout the years she has also ran her own photography & design business, providing images for numerous families & couples throughout the Kansas City area.
Christina lives in South KC with her husband & two young children. She enjoys photography and making home movies of her kids as well as being outdoors & working in her garden.
“One of my favorite pastimes is sitting around a campfire or fire pit, preferably with friends. It brings a simplicity to life. Fire brings us together. Light a fire and watch people gather. We are mesmerized by the flames, comforted by its warmth and in awe of its danger. Fire is a symbol of passion and life, wonder and brilliance.
No two flames are alike. They each grow, dance and flicker… each shining with their own degree of light and heat. Just like people… Just like our children. Each one of us shines with our own unique flame. Life is about celebrating our differences, encouraging one another and sharing our inner flame. Our flame can inspire others, guide them through dark times and shine a light on how amazing they are. So, no matter how big or small your fire may be… keep it burning!”
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATOR
LEAD TODDLERPLAY LEARNING ALLY
Nature Element: WILDFLOWERS
Maddy is a native of Pratt, KS where she grew up out in the country on 10 acres of farm land with her 3 siblings. She was amazed by the similarities of Well Wilderness to her own childhood home and immediately fell in love with the nature aspect of it all and how she instantly felt like family. She has a degree in Elementary Education from Kansas State University and has taught various ages from newborn to 6th grade for over 15 years. She was also a private nanny for a professional baseball player for several years where she traveled throughout the country with the family.
She is a huge Kansas City sports fan and music concert lover. Her hobbies include playing ukulele, gardening, running, yoga, baking and hula hooping. She is also very passionate about beekeeping and owns a small business with her husband, Andrew, called Bee Nice Gardens where they specialize in naturally-infused honeys. They have numerous hives throughout the KC area and also at their home in Stilwell. They also take care of 2 horses, 6 sheep, a cat, and a dog on their little farmstead which is surrounded by various fruit, vegetable and flower gardens.
"I connect with wildflowers the most because they can grow pretty much anywhere and provide such natural beauty! They will spring up with little to no human interaction and will help sustain life around them for years to come. Honeybees also rely on various wildflowers as an important food source. In turn, the honeybee will help pollinate these flowers and other vital plants in our ecosystem. This is why I plant many different species of wildflowers and herbs around our hives each year. Some of my favorite wildflowers include sunflowers, daisies, verbena, lavender, and coneflowers."
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
PEDIATRIC OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST
toddlerplay assistant learning ally
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."
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
PRESCHOOLPLAY (3s) assistant learning ally
AFTERNOON ENRICHMENT assistant LEARNING ALLY
Nature Element: RAIN
Ellen was first introduced to Early Childhood at a local preschool where her mom worked while she was in Elementary school. As Ellen grew she had many additional exposures growing up through volunteer work & being part of a large family. While Ellen has always loved working with children, it wasn’t until she had kids of her own that she became passionate about Early Childhood development & education. Over the last ten years, Ellen gained experience through volunteer organizations such as Girl Scouts, Girls on the Run, Heartland Therapeutic Riding Center & many events at her children’s schools. As this passion & interest has grown, Ellen made the decision to return to school to pursue her second Bachelors degree, this time studying Applied Behavioral Science with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. This is an exciting transition for Ellen & she is excited to use this new opportunity to apply her skills gained in her studies at Well Wilderness Kids.
Ellen lives in Stilwell, KS with her husband & three children, Marley, Eisley and London. The pandemic brought Ellen & her family to Well Wilderness for the 2020-2021 program year. She was instantly inspired by the vision & mission of Well Wilderness and after seeing the growth & development in her youngest child, she was ready to join the team & support the growth of this amazing program.
“I try to spend as much time outside with my own children as possible, even if the weather isn’t perfect. Some of our favorite days are outside playing in the rain. Whether that is digging for worms, jumping in puddles or just getting down right messy! When a child first realizes the joy of nature and getting dirty, there really aren't many things that can beat the joy on their faces.”
“The World is Mud-Luscious and Puddle-Wonderful.”- E.E. Cummings
pediatric occupational therapist
PRESCHOOLPLAY (3s) 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."
early childhood/elementary educator
lead preschoolplay (4s) learning ally
afternoon enrichment program assistant learning ally
Nature Element: clouds
Katy graduated from Avila University with an Elementary Education degree in 2009 with additional training in Early Childhood Special Education at Wichita State University. Additionally, Katy has continued her education through many classes, conferences, and training for kids of all abilities. She has worked in many different settings with children over the last 20 years. Outside of the classroom, Katy has nannied, taught preschool, worked as a para in an elementary school, worked in an emotional disturbance classroom, as well as many years coaching volleyball. Katy’s passion lies in helping children be heard & feel they belong in any setting or classroom.
Katy & her husband Ryan live in Olathe with their three kids Kaia, Hayden, & Owen. Owen was born with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome & has received group and individual therapies which Katy has been very involved in. Having a child with special needs & seeing firsthand all of the amazing ways to provide learning & assistance to grow and flourish has really helped Katy grow personally & professionally.
"Clouds are the element of nature I feel a strong connection to. Every cloud is so very different in shape, form, and function yet they all fit perfectly in the sky together! This relates closely to children in that every child looks differently & has different strengths and weaknesses yet they all belong & are perfect just the way they are!"
“Colors are the smiles of nature.” -Leigh Hunt
pediatric occupational therapist
preschoolplay (4s) assistant learning ally
Nature Element: TREES
Elease earned her Masters in Occupational Therapy from Rockhurst University. Since then she has worked in the pediatric outpatient setting gaining experience working with a diverse client population in both age & ability. Elease has experience evaluating and treating children in the areas of gross motor, fine motor, visual motor skills, executive function, praxis & social-emotional skills to progress engagement in meaningful childhood occupations. She has continued educational experience in regulation, handwriting, & feeding skills. Elease is moved by Well Wilderness’ vision & is eager to bring her experiences to the outdoor setting!
“I have always felt at peace with trees. They offer opportunities for play through climbing, opportunities for rest through shade. They grow & change with the seasons, are strong & resilient. I grew up in the country climbing as high as I could in the trees, making elaborate pretend meals to serve my family with leaves & berries I picked. My upbringing instilled a love of the outdoors & the change of seasons the Midwest provides. Even now I look for every opportunity to be outside, I especially enjoy camping & finding new hiking trails to explore with my 12 year old dog.”
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 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
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.”
pediatric speech language pathologist
LEAD AFTERNOON ENRICHMENT PROGRAM LEARNING ALLY
Nature Element: BIRDS
Megan grew up in Illinois & moved to Kansas City for graduate school at Rockhurst University. She graduated in 2010 with her Masters in Communication Sciences & Disorders and has been a certified
Speech-Language Pathologist ever since. During her career, Megan has worked in clinical settings, as well as a school settings with children of a variety of ages & abilities. She has over 10 years experience with Missouri First Steps, and is passionate about Early Intervention & the importance of working with the whole family to reach a child's full potential. Mindfulness, nature connection, animal connection, trauma informed therapy, & a holistic approach are important to Megan and she is so excited to be at Well Wilderness where she can use her skills in a nature-based environment. Megan believes every child is a communicator & she feels honored to help children find their voice.
Megan & her husband live in downtown KC where they are building their own little urban homestead complete with backyard chickens & a vegetable garden. They have two biological daughters & have just begun their foster care journey as they recently welcomed a little girl into their home. As a family, they love camping, hiking, gardening, art projects & DIY home improvements.
"Birds are often a symbol of freedom, wisdom, & peace. They are free to soar in the sky and roam the earth. It is so calming to watch a flock of birds as they fly above the clouds and wonder where they are going & where they came from. One of my favorite things to do in nature is close my eyes & listen to the beautiful songs of the birds around me. Like the birds around us, I believe the children we work with are full of infinite possibilities & innate wisdom."
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can each on life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
- Emily Dickinson
PEDIATRIC OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST
Nature Element: TREES
Molly earned her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Rockhurst University. After receiving her BFA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, she moved to Chicago to dance professionally. Molly has over 12 years of experience working with children; including teaching dance in different settings, working as a paraprofessional at the Shawnee Mission Early Childhood Education Center, and now working as a licensed OT in the state of Kansas. Molly’s clinical experience includes adult outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation settings both locally and abroad in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She developed a greater interest in child-led play, sensory dysfunction, trauma-informed care, and emotional regulation during her pediatric rotation at Ability KC’s Mary Shaw Branton’s Therapeutic Preschool. She has experience working with children with developmental delay, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and low vision. Molly is excited to incorporate movement and music with OT in a nature-based setting!
"I developed an appreciation for trees at a young age. I relished the times my family visited my grandparents in the country. I always felt a sense of peace and wonder when playing with my sisters and cousins amongst the trees. When my sisters and I were younger, my dad planted trees for us in our backyard, and by doing so, taught us the importance of respecting nature. Just like every individual, trees are beautifully unique and resilient. The shape of the branches, the texture of the bark, and the color of the leaves tell a story. The intertwining of tree branches reminds me that we are never alone and that we can always return to our roots to seek refuge."
PEDIATRIC SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST
LEAD AFTERNOON ENRICHMENT PROGRAM LEARNING ALLY
Nature Element: SKY
Kati received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Communication Disorders from Truman State University and is a Speech-Language Pathologist certified by the American Speech Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). During her career, Kati has worked in school-based Early Childhood
Special Education programs in both Missouri and Kansas, & she has worked with families and children from birth-age 5 by providing in-home & community-based therapy services. Kati is a 200 hour-RYT yoga instructor & has also completed her children’s yoga teacher certification training. She is a certified provider of Talk Yoga™; a multisensory approach infusing movement with learning & communication skills. Mindfulness and yoga practice are an important part of Kati’s life, and she is excited to share this passion & her experience with families to help their children become compassionate and confident communicators. Nature-based settings provide a unique opportunity to inspire creativity, build relationships, & foster a wide variety of important developmental and communication skills for children.
Kati is a yoga enthusiast, a baseball fan, an aspiring gardener, & avid reader. Kati, her husband, Jeff, & their two sons enjoy traveling and lake life.
"The sky is an open and infinite expanse of possibilities. The night sky brings us the phases of the moon & the changing constellations of the seasons. A bright sunny calm of a blue sky day can transform to the unpredictable energy of an impending spring storm. From rainbows to snowstorms, sunrises to sunsets – what we see in each sky is unique and constantly changing. I look forward to joining children & families on their journey and to support them in appreciation & celebration for each moment along the way."
"Only from the heart can you touch the sky” ~ Rumi
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!"
PEDIATRIC BOARD-CERTIFIED MUSIC THERAPIST
afternoon enrichment program assistant learning ally
Nature Element: sun
Austin is a Board-Certified Music Therapist with Stepping Stones KC & a recent graduate of UMKC's Music Therapy Bachelor's program. Originally from St. Louis, Austin moved to KC in 2017 to pursue his degree. He has been committed to bringing the benefits of music to all ages & abilities. From providing instrumental lessons to bedside comfort at Children's Mercy, Austin has brought compassionate energy to all those he interacts with. Austin was board-certified in music therapy and received his NICU Music Therapy certification in the spring of 2021.
Austin connects with the idea the Well Wilderness Kids is founded on building solid roots. Music absolutely fosters a child's development, especially in the Social Emotional domain. By incorporating music into nature programming, children are being set up to lead more successful, balanced lives.
Austin loves to watch, write, and perform music. He also enjoys spending time cooking while listening to music or comedy.
"The Sun is where rhythm comes from! There is rhythm in everything, from the rising or setting of the Sun, to the growth of the plants all around us. The Sun provides the energy to sustain life & is the means by which we can connect with ourselves, each other, & our environment."
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” - Confucius
seasonal program assistant learning ally
certified therapeutic recreation SPecialist
Nature Element: Rivers
McKenzie is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) & currently an Occupational Therapy student at the University of Kansas Medical Center. McKenzie found a passion for working with individuals with different abilities while attending High School. As a growing professional, she gained experience working with individuals with different abilities across the lifespan through a variety of community based programs in California, Colorado, Oregon & the Kansas City Metro. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Northwest Missouri State University, McKenzie has practiced as a CTRS at an acute psychiatric hospital serving children ages 4-17 for three years. Currently pursuing her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy, she looks forward to continuing to support children & their families for years to come!
During her free time, McKenzie loves attending Chiefs games, hiking, camping, paddleboarding, as well as spending time with her family, friends & two dogs.
"I have always admired the peacefulness & persistence of rivers. A river, always moving, forges its own path in nature. When facing obstacles, it persists, offering peace & guidance to those who come across it."
“A river cuts through rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence” - James N Watkins
SEASONAL PROGRAM ASSISTANT LEARNING ALLY
Nature Element: mountains
Hannah has three years of experience in Early Childhood Education, ranging from serving as a nanny to working in a daycare setting. She is currently finishing her degree in Criminal Justice at Park University. She moved to Kansas a few years ago from Southern California with her family. Hannah loves to be outside, and is excited to be able to combine her love of nature with her passion for teaching. Hannah enjoys creating art, going on hikes, and playing with her dog Elvis. Hannah's goal in her services at Well Wilderness is to help facilitate play and an appreciation for nature with the children in the program. She is also a proud aunt to a niece and nephew who live nearby.
"My nature element is mountains, as I have always admired their sheer enormity and boldness. I love that when you look at mountains from afar you have no idea of the trails, rivers or animals that they hide. I love to explore and hike on mountains as well."
“Success is a journey not a destination” -Ralph Emerson
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
LICENSED CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER
MINDFULNESS ALLY FOR PRE-TEENS/TEENS & PARENTS
NATURE ELEMENT: sun
Moe Edmonds is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, having served in many capacities, including within the foster care system, an early childhood education and social services center, a pediatric hospital and currently as a high school social worker. She is passionate about holistic mental wellness, advocacy and the empowerment of children and families.
Alongside her work as a social worker, Moe is a 200-HR Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Instructor. Over ten years ago, she was drawn to this ancient practice for its ability to guide her in grounding and providing space for connecting to her mind, body and spirit. Moe is a dedicated yogi, committed to self-inquiry, study, meditation, pranayama (breathwork), karmic action and asana (yogic postures and movement).
By combining these modalities, Moe offers an inviting, trauma-informed, healing approach to getting to know oneself and connecting with the world around you.
"Every day the sun rises and sets. One constant in a sea of change. It provides reassurance on days that might not go as planned, that we can close the chapter on one day and rise with the sun, a new day and new opportunities the next. Some days, the sun is covered in clouds, but yet still there, still persisting through. Some days, the sun shines bright, vibrant and powerful, a symbol of light and strength. The sunshine resonates with the light that we each carry within ourselves."
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!"