John R. Dietrick, Board Chair, is CEO and General Counsel for HR Partners, LLC. John received his Bachelor of Arts from Washburn University and Juris Doctorate from Washburn University School of Law. He also received his Master of Public Administration from the University of Kansas. John has extensive corporate, insurance, employment law and labor relations experience spanning over 35 years, and offers legal services through John R. Dietrick, P.A. John is admitted to practice law in Kansas and Louisiana and is a member of the American Bar Association, the Kansas Bar Association, and the Louisiana State Bar Association. John is also a veteran who served two tours in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot.
"The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center provides a very important and unique service to the Topeka community and surrounding areas by offering a modern, safe, accessible, child-friendly museum where children can explore, create and learn through play… something that all children should have the opportunity to engage in. The Center is truly one-of-a-kind and the Topeka community and surrounding areas are extremely fortunate to have this inspiring and positive learning environment available to our children and future leaders."
Melody Devlin, Board Vice Chair, was born and raised in Colorado and found her way to Kansas State University. She moved to Topeka in 2002 and earned bachelor's and master’s in nursing. She currently works at Oasis Family Medicine. Melody has a 5 year old son and 3 year old daughter who fill her life with love and joy. She also enjoys running, crafting, camping and boating.
"KCDC is a vital part of the community of Topeka. From the moment you walk into the doors of KCDC you feel the energy and spirit of childhood. Parents, grandparents and kids of all ages can be seen playing together. The environment provides the structure for families to learn in the best possible way, play. This passion for fun and learning is not limited to the brick and mortar of the center, it extends its arms into the community. Specifically parts of the community that may not have the opportunity to pay for admission. Through its outreach programs it provides priceless opportunities to those underserved populations. KCDC also adds another reason for families to move to or visit Topeka. It enriches the community in many ways, and makes Topeka a fun place to play and grow."
Janelle Brazington, Board Treasurer is the Vice President of Administration and CFO of Kansas Action for Children. She provides leadership in finances, human resources, grant management, planning, and advocacy evaluation. Janelle also leads KAC’s work around decreasing infant mortality with a focus on dismantling systemic racism. Janelle grew up in Leonidas, Mich., and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Union College. Janelle is a certified professional in human resources and a member of the local and national Society of Human Resources Management. Janelle volunteers for the Brown v. Board National Historic Site, is an alumnus of the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s Art of Leadership, and is a member of the Leadership Greater Topeka Class of 2008.
"Our community needs KCDC because we need high-quality STEAM learning activities not just for the kids whose families can afford museum admission or access the museum, but for the kids who cannot. For the kids who aren’t living in a home right now. For the kids who are stranded in a hospital. For the kids who aren’t able to play with their peers because of the risk of infection. For the kids who can’t get to the museum, so the museum comes to them. KCDC will expose these children to possibility, help them explore their potential, introduce new ideas, and allow them to just be kids—no matter their present circumstances. We all benefit when kids can be kids."
Stephanie Valley, Board Secretary has a passion for design that led her to a Fine Arts degree in Textile Design from the University of Kansas. For twelve years she worked as an interior designer at Linda Lee Interiors in Topeka, Kansas and also as the production director of The Sewing Workshop Pattern Collection. She is the author of two sewing books by Taunton Press and is currently a realtor with Valley Inc. Realtors. Stephanie and her husband John have two sons and own Valley Self Storage.
"The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center embodies my belief that creative play is an essential element to forming a healthy and fully developed child and community."
Dr. Ximena Garcia, Past Board Chair, Community Volunteer
Barbara Boudreaux made The Discovery Center one of the first places she and her family visited when they decided to make Topeka their home in 2016. An upstate New York native, Barbara is an attorney and graduate of Tulane Law School in New Orleans. She practiced corporate finance at a large Dallas law firm before moving in-house to handle real property and corporate acquisitions for an international corporation. Today Barbara and her husband, Ben, keep very busy with two elementary-age daughters and toddler identical twin boys. You can find her leading her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, teaching financial literacy with Junior Achievement, penning articles for the Junior League of Topeka’s magazine, and seeking to give back to the Topeka community that has welcomed her with open arms.
"The Discovery Center is a jewel of Topeka. It is a place where creativity is sparked and one’s imagination is encouraged to roam free. Parents often wonder how they can instill a love of learning in their children in an era of screen-time and overbooked schedules. At KCDC, my family and I explore, discover, play, and learn together—with a revolving slate of activities, no two trips are ever the same! Additionally, KCDC is a safe place with open doors to children in our community facing challenges. Programs such as Medical Warriors, Puzzle Pieces, Museums for All, and Play Free, together with Community Free Nights sponsored by generous donors, remove barriers that prevent children from accessing museum experiences. Through these programs and KCDC outreach and community partnerships, the museum ensures that all children in the Topeka community have the opportunity to play."
Kathy Damron has spent more than 30 years working in public policy. Her initial civic interests were shaped by politically engaged parents who built a successful farm and livestock operation in Western Kansas. Following staff work for numerous elected officials, she began a governmental relations consulting career in Topeka focused primarily on health, education and economic development projects. Most recently, her professional focus has shifted away from advocacy but remains one aligned with health and wellness. She is a National Yoga Alliance certified yoga instructor, teaching private and group yoga in Topeka and Lawrence. She is also a certified children’s yoga instructor and is currently studying for her advanced teaching certification through Yoga Medicine. Service to her community continues to be a priority and Kathy has served on the boards of Topeka Collegiate Independent School, Topeka Performing Arts Center, Kappa Alpha Theta alumni, Community National Bank, Friends of Cedar Crest, Topeka Public Schools Foundation and numerous public school parent organizations where her children, Kyle and Erica Peterson attended. She and her husband, Whitney Damron, reside in Topeka, Kansas.
"Children love learning and there is no better way than for them to learn than to do it through play. As a yoga instructor, It’s been an amazing experience to teach kids yoga at the museum, watching the joy that comes from kids learning various poses and then proudly showing them to their parents or other caregivers. As a board member for the Discovery Center, I have witnessed their extensive work addressing inequities and working toward ensuring all children have access to high quality play experiences."
Kevin Dobski is the owner and operator of McDonald’s of Lawrence and Topeka. Kevin moved back to Lawrence, Kansas recently from Los Angeles, where he had spent nearly a decade working in the entertainment industry as a music and talent manager. Kevin managed the careers of several bands, actors, stand-up comedians and musicians before returning to McDonald’s system. Kevin lives in Lawrence with his wife Mary Kate and their children, Kendall Mae and Hadley and Easton. They enjoy spending time together outdoors, playing and watching sports (especially cheering on the Jayhawks and Horned Frogs), school and church activities.
Mary Etzel, Community Volunteer
Kristina Figuerres joins the KCDC Board with over ten years of experience working in education. She worked in the Chicago area as an Elementary School Assistant Principal, Middle School Dean of Students and an Orchestra Teacher at the elementary and middle school levels. She earned her Bachelor of Music Education from Northwestern University and her Masters Degree in School Administration from Loyola University. She is a graduate of Topeka West High School. She is currently a stay-at-home mom who enjoys being involved in the community. When she is not busy running after her two young children, Kristina works as a member of the Topeka Symphony Board and she volunteers her time on the committee for the American Cancer Society’s Couture for Cancer. In addition, Kristina is Treasurer for the Prince of Peace Preschool Board and spends various days helping the teachers at her son’s elementary school.
"KCDC has been a wonderful learning space for the Figuerres family. With two young children, we have spent many hours of play at KCDC! It is a place to go as a family or to meet other friends for playdates. The kids love the interactive activities and the chance to explore, build and experiment in a safe environment. Our community is lucky to have a facility of this caliber where kids get excited about learning. As part of the KCDC Board, I hope to continue to explore new opportunities while building on the great KCDC foundation the has already been established for Topeka."
Jane P. Gannaway is currently the Principle for JPG Consulting, LLC, based in Kansas and working with clients in food service and retail worldwide with a focus on the Americas and Asia. Jane has recently moved to Kansas from Shanghai, China to be closer to family and to enjoy the United States once again. Jane has always been engaged with community service in the communities she has lived in around the world. She is the mother of two adult sons, and is the the Nai Nai (paternal grandmother) of four grandchildren.
“I believe that play is a learned behavior through interaction and experimentation. KCDC provides a fantastic indoor and outdoor experience for children to play, interact, explore and learn. Children can move at their own pace and with their interests. But beyond that, the creative and talented KCDC staff reach out into the community, with science and math programs in community centers and parks, through kindergarten preparedness classes, and with the Medical Warriors program that provides opportunities for children with health issues to play with their families. My grandchildren think KCDC 'is the best children’s museum in the world.' I have to agree!”
Jake Huyett is the executive vice president and founder of jhP and a three decade veteran of the advertising industry. Jake primarily serves as an account supervisor for jhP, using a rigorous analysis of brands, audiences and position in the marketplace to discover unique opportunities to create messaging that is distinctive and relevant. He has managed brands on both the client and agency side of the business. Since 1987, jones huyett Partners has provided clients highly creative work that is strategically sound, founded in research and results focused.
"I am a grandparent. Helping our grandsons develop a lifelong love of learning is one of my highest priorities. I selfishly agreed to serve on the KCDC Board of Trustees to support all the center does that benefits our grandsons. That focus has changed as I have come to understand to the breadth of services KCDC provides our community. Programs like Medical Warriors, Puzzle Pieces and the Mobile Museum offer opportunities to children who otherwise might not receive them. I believe KCDC helps make our community a better place, and a better place for my grandchildren."
Dr. Jackie Hyland, The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus
Marta Marina Morales-Kennedy is a nurse and advocate for equality and justice. Marta was born in Guatemala and moved to Topeka in 1981. She attended Washburn University and later graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing degree. She has worked at Stormont-Vail Health for 29 years, serving families and babies where she says there is an immense opportunity to "grow and give." Marta has been married to Brandan Paul Kennedy for thirty years and is the mother of four children.
"A community is defined by the commitment it shows to each and every one of its members. KCDC is a clear example of this commitment. In its mission KCDC reflects the importance of providing tools for discovery and healthy learning for all children and their families. The vision is to contribute in the formation of great minds with the belief that the future will bring greatness. Every family can find a safe and encouraging environment at KCDC. It is important for the community to grow and KCDC is where many of the seeds are kept. KCDC provides the opportunity for our community to show pride, joy, and love of who we are."
Kevin Kongs is the Assistant Controller and Executive Director Accounting Services of Evergy. During his 29-year tenure, Kevin has served in various positions in the finance organization including Vice President, Controller of Westar Energy, Inc. prior to its merger with Great Plains Energy. Kevin holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in Accounting from Washburn University and a Master of Business Administration from Washburn University. In addition, Kevin is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Management Accountant. Kevin also serves on the board of the LifeHouse Child Advocacy Center. In his spare time, Kevin enjoys spending time with his family and friends and watching football, basketball and golf.
"KCDC is a unique asset to the Topeka community. It provides outreach to all children in Topeka and surrounding communities allowing them to learn core educational values in a safe, fun environment. KCDC also helps children and families with special needs allowing them access to the museum and all the various programs it offers. KCDC’s staff are dedicated to making sure children of all backgrounds are provided the opportunity to learn in a fun environment."
Dr. Kent Palmberg enjoyed two careers in the medical field. Returning to his hometown of Topeka in 1978, he joined a group of physicians that grew to become Cotton O'Neil Clinic and practiced Internal Medicine until 1995. With the merger of Cotton O'Neil and Stormont Vail, Dr. Palmberg had the opportunity to become part of the administrative team and served as Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer from 1995 to 2016. He continues to enjoy supporting local health care providers and serves in volunteer capacities with Stormont-Vail Health and Midland Care.
In my role of recruiting new physicians and other healthcare providers to our community, the KCDC proved to be a tremendous asset that helped convince new providers that Topeka would not only be a great place to practice but also a great place to raise a family. The positive impact on recruiting was immediate and showing off the Discovery Center was an integral part of our strategies.
Debra Ricks, Community Volunteer
Founding Board Leadership
B. Kent Garlinghouse, Board Chair
Bill Anderson, D.M.A., Vice-Chair
Michael Orozco, Treasurer
Stewart Entz, Secretary
Lambert Wu, M.D.
Craig Yorke, M.D.