Our Staff


Image

Kait Whiteside

Executive Director


After graduating with a BA from University of Nevada, Kait traveled around South America to slowly learn, but quickly forget, the Spanish language. One of her most memorable and rewarding experiences abroad was living in the small village of Urubamba, Peru where she volunteered as an assistant teacher and community outreach coordinator at an orphanage and school for children with disabilities. The children and teachers of Urubamba shaped Kait’s commitment to building inclusion in communities.

Kait started working at Max Higbee Center in 2013 as the Program Manager where she enjoyed sharing her love for outdoor recreation. Kait enthusiastically developed and managed the Higbee Hikers Program that explored the incredible Bellingham trail network. In 2014, Kait took on a new leadership role as the Executive Director that she describes as a joyful experience of working with MHC's passionate staff and dedicated Board to grow programs, create new partnerships, and envision a caring and inclusive community where everyone belongs.

Image

Alyssa Jones

Program Director


After joining Max Higbee Center as a Recreation Leader in July 2017, Alyssa knew she had found the opportunity to strengthen community resilience for which she had been searching. She has been a community supporter of Max Higbee Center for many years, primarily through volunteering with April Brew's Day, and is excited to support MHC through her role as Program Director. Alyssa holds an MS degree in Resilient & Sustainable Communities and an Assistive Technology Applications Certificate from California State University Northridge, both of which she pursued after her fantastic interdisciplinary Bachelor's degree experience in Bellingham's very own Fairhaven College. Alyssa is passionate about working with people to facilitate access, success, and an equitable, joyful, and sustainable community. She enjoys spending down time on her mini farm, slow hiking with her rescue dog, and staying up too late reading good books.

Image

Doug Sacrison

Program Manager


Doug has been working at the Max Higbee Center since June of 2015, but this isn't his first rodeo. Years ago Doug was told that he could go to the zoo if he came and volunteered at a camp for children with special needs. Although he thought he'd be volunteering for one day, he instead spent seven summers there, eventually even working as the camp director. After getting an English degree from WWU, he continued working with people with disabilities, this time in the Bellingham School District. After working as a substitute, he found a job for a few years as a paraeducator in the Life Skills classrooms at Sehome High School, where he also volunteered as a JV baseball coach. In his spare time, Doug enjoys running when he finally talks himself into it, reading, and paying way too much attention to the Mariners for how bad they usually are. His favorite part about the Max Higbee Center is getting into conversations with members, especially conversations that make him or the members laugh.

Image

Ana Prussia

Program Manager


Ana is thrilled to be joining the Max Higbee Center in moving Whatcom County towards a more inclusive, just, and thriving community. She’s called Bellingham home for the past four years, working in jobs that have all revolved around connecting people to outdoor spaces. She believes that play is the best way to learn; about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Ana is excited about connecting members of the MHC to the many opportunities of play our community has to offer! Through this work she hopes to become a better advocate for people with disabilities and other folks in marginalized communities. Outside of work, Ana enjoys hiking, cooking, biking, gardening, and spending time with her people. 

Image

Kari McArdle

Administrative Assistant


Kari started at Max Higbee Center in 2017. Before moving to Bellingham, she served 8 years in the Navy and began volunteering as a trip leader for Military Outdoor Recreation, which soon led to a job as a guide. It was quickly apparent that her passion was in building community through helping others and providing experiences in the field of recreation. After completing her service, she was introduced to the Therapeutic Recreation program through WWU. She graduated in March of 2017 and became a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. She first worked with MHC through the recreation program at Western, which inspired her to seek an internship in a community setting. After 14 weeks at the National Ability Center it was clear that her heart was in Community Recreation and her home would remain in Bellingham, WA!

Image

Kelsea Combs

Program Coordinator


This is Kelsea! She began working with the Max Higbee Center in 2017 as a Recreation Mentor. Her interest in the MHC vision began when she started volunteering there through Western Washington University’s Therapeutic Recreation program. During the Rec program, Kelsea also worked as a Therapeutic Recreation intern at the Utah State Hospital’s forensics unit in the Summer of 2016. There, she developed and implemented recreation programs for those with various mental illnesses and criminal charges. Her passion for recreation spawned from her participation in an outdoor leadership organization for four years in high school and early college. During those and subsequent years, she discovered what an important role recreation served in creating meaningful human connection while also allowing individuals to lead an independent, self-directed lifestyle. To Kelsea, recreation means a space where curiosity and creativity are manifested, where everyone can be their genuine and unique selves, where cultural and physical barriers are broken down, where individual potentials are tapped, and where people come together out of a desire for enjoyment of the richness of life! These are spaces Kelsea loves creating and strengthening with the folks at the Max Higbee Center!

Image

Art Maas

Virtual Program Coordinator


Art began working at the Max Higbee Center in March of 2017! He has been active in experiencing all programs at the center! He is pursuing a degree in Recreation from WWU, and has an Associate's Degree from Whatcom Community College. Art moved to Washington in 2006, he spent 2 years living in Seattle and working for the Parks Department at Garfield Community Center before moving to Bellingham to pursue education. He originally is from Anchorage, Alaska, where he has 13 years of experience with Parks and Recreation eventually becoming the Recreation Supervisor for Citywide Youth Programs. His sister Sarah was involved in Special Olympics in Anchorage and that inspired Art to volunteer with the organization. His sister is also a new member at the center.

Art is inspired to help build new communities, strengthen existing communities, to help build connections between people by creating shared experiences and the challenge of trying new things, and creating opportunities to give back!

Image

Zach Bann

Recreation Leader


Zach first discovered Max Higbee through the Recreation program during his first year at Western Washington University. Throughout his college years, he volunteered for a variety of the center's programs and events. After graduating in March of 2018, the chance to take on the role of Recreation Leader was possible, so he leaped on the opportunity. With his passion for inclusive play and an energetic spirit, he works hard to create a fun and welcoming environment. He says that his daily goal is to bridge the gaps between any and all demographics who participate in recreation programs. He spends his free time enjoying the outdoors, playing Magic the Gathering, and "hanging" out in his hammock.

Image

Marie Ytell

Recreation Leader


Marie is currently attending Western Washington University as a student at Fairhaven College where she is pursuing an Interdisciplinary Concentration with a focus on Community Building in Education. Along with her major, she is also working on double minoring in Education & Social Justice and Environmental Justice. In her hometown, Fort Collins, Colorado, Marie graduated from an expeditionary learning school where she discovered her love for the outdoors and her passion for community. Marie has volunteered as a counselor for an outdoor recreation camp in Colorado as well as a one on one support staff for teenagers at a science based camp in Oregon. One of her favorite community experiences was the time she spent in Isla Mujeres, Mexico in January and December of 2017. Here, she worked in collaboration with a local NGO as a dental assistant to provide dental services to children, teenagers, and young adults. Through these experiences Marie discovered the joy and excitement of working with others to foster community and teach applicable life skills that allow people of all demographics to pursue their interests. She is excited to be working at Max Higbee where she can do exactly that! In her spare time, you can find Marie outside, either rock climbing, hiking, or working on her latest art project.

Image

Kristina Hatch

Recreation Leader


Kristina is currently attending Western Washington University, soon to graduate with a degree in human services and communication along with a minor in gender studies. She was first introduced to Max Higbee Center on her hunt to find an internship. She started interning in April 2018, but ended up falling in love with everything that makes Max Higbee Center such an empowering community, so she has been an official staff member since June 2018. Her goal is to create a welcoming environment where members can thrive through the intersections of community, self-agency, friendships, recreational activities, and laughter. Kristina’s interest in working with people with disabilities stems from her close relationship with her nephew who has a disability. This also led her to work in a classroom environment for a year, aiding with providing an education for young adults with disabilities in 2012. Her love for recreation sparked after moving to Bellingham from Seattle for university. Her favorite activities to do outside of Max Higbee Center include kayaking, skiing, yoga, skateboarding, plant-based cooking, reading comic books, and playing various games with her partner and friends.

Image

Sam Konieczka

Recreation Leader


Sam first started at the Max Higbee Center as an intern during the winter of 2019, although she has volunteered for April Brew's Day in the past. During her internship, she helped coordinate volunteers for the Hearty Party 5k before switching over to programs for the remainder of the quarter. She graduated from WWU in June 2019 with a degree in Human Services. Sam became a Recreation Leader in September 2019. She is thrilled to be a part of such a fun and inclusive part of this Bellingham community and looks forward to learning from and sharing creative ideas with members and staff! When she is not working she can be found roller blading around town (as long as it's not raining) and exploring the many trails that Bellingham has to offer, but most of all she enjoys staying in with her cats and reading a good book.​

Image

Neco Pacheaco

Recreation Leader


Neco is originally from Minneapolis, MN and from a young age has participated in theatre and various performing arts. Neco has worked in theatre and arts education since 2012 and is currently pursuing degrees in Theatre Performance, and Exceptionality & Disability, as well as a minor in Education and Social Justice from WWU. Neco's hobbies include traveling, improv, painting, and searching for the best mac and cheese. Neco's career goals include teaching theatre in all-ability inclusive settings and increasing access to theatre and performing arts in the disability community. Neco also works to foster actor and student-driven art in their teaching because everyone has important stories to share and deserves a platform to share them from. Starting as an intern at Max Higbee in the Spring of 2019, Neco officially joined the team in September 2019 working with the after-school program.

Image

Ronnie Delgado

Recreation Leader


Ronnie moved to Bellingham in 2016 to attend Western Washington University. She had a couple majors in mind but knew she wanted to work in a setting with folks with disabilities. She found out about the Therapeutic Recreation major and never looked back! Being able to combine her love for recreation along with her passion for inclusivity has been a dream come true. Now as a graduate she has fallen in love with Bellingham and is always looking for ways to get more involved in the community. Ronnie loves to spend time outside, read, and watch Disney movies.

Image

Jaiya Peaks

Recreation Leader


Jaiya is originally from Raleigh, North Carolina and took on an interest in rehabilitative therapy from a young age. Jaiya has been shadowing and studying therapy ever since 2009 and is completing her therapeutic recreation course at WWU, where she first participated at Max Higbee as a volunteer. Jaiya officially joined the Max Higbee staff in September 2021, working as a recreation leader. Her career goals are to work in adaptive sports and recreation, and eventually become an occupational therapist. Jaiya’s hobbies include drawing, creative writing, video games, and walking wherever see can.


Want to get involved?

Whether you are looking to become a member, get involved with programs and/or events, or support us with your contribution.

Donate

Contribute to our program.
LEARN MORE