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Superheroes for Washington families 2008

It sort of snuck up on us.

We always knew there were heroes here, working tirelessly and selflessly in the trenches, teasing out solutions for kids in need, building foundations for better lives, creating inspiration in those without hope, motivation in those who are sick or tired or just need one small break. Heroes who give – from a seemingly bottomless well of generosity – of their time, their talent, their money, their passion, with one goal in common: building a better world for our children.

We knew they were here, these superheroes, quietly doing amazing things, and then it suddenly occurred to us: You might like to meet them.

So here they are, 14 of our region’s best and brightest. We’re honored to have them in these pages. We hope you’ll be inspired by their stories, maybe even get involved, write a letter, make a donation – or just say a silent word of thanks. Superheroes, we salute you!

– Kristen Dobson

Michelle Terry The HEALER
Dr. Michelle Terry

Her dream was simple: “I wanted to become a pediatrician, have a Nurse Betty and a saltwater fish tank.” Dr. Michelle Terry got that, and a whole lot more. After a short time in practice, Terry found that for her, caring for patients didn’t stop at the clinic door.

“I was calling the light company because a parent had mentioned their power was cut off. I’d say, ‘Their child has asthma – he needs a nebulizer! You just can’t cut them off!’

“I started to realize there are a lot of social determinants of health,” Terry says.

From there, it was a short jump to full-bore advocacy. Terry now sits on the board of Child Care Resources and works with Treehouse to support foster kids. She is active with the Children’s Alliance, and consults with the state’s Department of Social and Health Services. And she continues to mentor medical students at the UW, while working at her practice at Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center.

“She’s a wonderful advocate for children and families,” says Nina Auerbach, CEO of Child Care Resources. “We admire her positive spirit and absolute dedication to making lives better for families in our communities.”

How does this dynamo keep it all together? “I’m intentional about what I do,” says Terry. “I try to pick things where I can make the most difference.”

– Kristen Dobson

Best recent read
The NPR collection of personal essays, This I Believe. It helps me clarify and organize my thoughts for my own personal journey through the day, and through life.

Pet peeve
I just don’t like to listen to (unacknowledged) whining.

Personal hero
Dr. Ralph Feigin, physician in chief at Texas Children’s Hospital . . . a gifted teacher, who with encouragement and patience helped develop impressionable medical students into talented young physicians.


Jo Montgomery

Armed with a unique vision, Jo Montgomery set out to do battle against childhood obesity and the low self-esteem that often accompanies it. Her weapons included an unusual arsenal of items: trampolines, unicycles, juggling balls, peacock feathers and endless energy and dedication.

Montgomery, a nurse practitioner at the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, a satellite of Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center, founded the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) after realizing that her patients, often from low-income families, cannot afford to join most popular sports. SANCA provides scholarships, and no one is turned away for financial reasons.

The circus arts give ample opportunity for everyone to succeed.

“In circus, there are so many different skills, that everyone finds something they are good at,” says Montgomery. “There is nothing like it when someone does something they didn’t think they could do.”

“It’s about a child in command of her own body,” says Laura Glass, whose 8-year-old daughter has taken classes at SANCA since it opened in 2004. “If the kids are competing with anyone, it is with themselves.”

Most medical specialists remind their young patients to get moving and eat healthier, but Montgomery has taken that a step farther: She’s built a place to nurture and empower kids.

– Jolene Gensheimer

Best recent read
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Pet peeve
People who don’t take responsibility for their actions.

Personal hero
My dad. A WWII veteran and lifelong physician who has had a very remarkable life, yet still lives in the present and is interested in other people’s lives.


Scott Weide

Teacher Scott Weide wondered, “Why bring prepackaged science lessons into a classroom, when the real laboratory is right outside the classroom door?”

Weide, a sixth-grade science and math teacher at Auburn’s Cascade Middle, has led his students in a salmon habitat restoration project along 200 feet of nearby Olson Creek. His students have watched and learned as salmon swam upstream. They have learned about native versus invasive plant species, and even grown native species in the school nursery for planting along the creek.

Principal Dennis Grad calls Weide’s work “inspirational” and points out that he is more than a modern-day Thoreau. “It is not just his passion for preservation. Technology-wise, he is very progressive.” Weide has even landed grant money to purchase high-tech measuring devices for class projects.

Weide is home-grown himself, educated in Auburn schools before earning his biology degree from Pacific Lutheran University. The 29-year-old spent several years in marketing before discovering his true passion: teaching. “My work now is beyond rejuvenating.”

His project list continues to grow, each new effort cultivating young stewards of the environment. But Weide’s ultimate goal is broader still. “What I really want is to inspire questions in the kids, to see their world with a critical eye. I want them to affect their world and be affected by it.”

– Hilary Benson

Best recent read
The Bancroft Strategy by Robert Ludlum.

Pet peeve
Chewing gum.

Personal hero
My mom. She was a teacher for 35 years and she still volunteers in my classroom!


 Daniel KranzlerTHE VISIONARY
Daniel Kranzler

Spend just five minutes with him and you’ll see it: Daniel Kranzler is all about action. When this venture philanthropist takes on a project, he forcefully propels it forward into reality, “turning feel-good into real good,” as Kranzler says.

 “Dan blends the pragmatic approach and tangible needs of a businessman with the passion and vision of a social change activist,” says Ron Rabin, the executive director of Kranzler’s Kirlin Charitable Foundation, a relentless proponent of programs that support children in our area. “He has the ability to hold an idea deeply and confidently, visualize the ways in which it can and should develop, and maintain the openness and flexibility that allows the idea to grow in organic and creative ways.”

The former high-tech exec is passionate about compassion. “The state of Washington could become a global leader in what we call compassion science,” says Kranzler, “which is caring for our kids, which is caring for our world.” To that end, Kranzler has applied his considerable financial and organizational muscle to create Seeds of Compassion, a groundbreaking event in April that will bring the Dalai Lama to Seattle for five days of lectures and seminars – free and open to the public – to create a public dialogue about compassion and early learning.

“We’re expecting to build this huge tree of life – to create a human being,” says Kranzler, “but as a society, we’ve stopped focusing on building strong roots in good earth. You have to get down on the ground and look at the world through a child’s eyes.”

– K.D.

Best recent read
The Power of Compassion by the Dalai Lama.

Pet peeve
When people are complacent and don’t help each other.

Personal hero
The Dalai Lama.


Yaffa Maritz and John Sabol THE PEACEMAKERS
Yaffa Maritz and John Sabol

Yaffa Maritz
“The best word to describe Yaffa is ‘catalyst,’” says former state first lady Mona Locke. “She is a catalyst for compassion, for change and for making a difference in her community, her state and the world.” Locke should know - she’s worked side by side with Yaffa Maritz on the state’s Foundation for Early Learning board, one of the many ways this passionate psychotherapist and educator is working for peace.

Born in Israel, Maritz is a founding member of Find Common Ground, a local interfaith group that promotes peace in the Middle East. She also created Listening Mothers and Reflective Parenting, programs that promote emotional bonding between parents and their babies. And Maritz serves on the steering committee of the Seeds of Compassion project.

“We wondered: How can we raise kids differently to have a more compassionate society?” says Maritz. “[Seeds] is very action oriented: We don’t just want to know about it and spread love around — we want compassion in action.”

Those who know Maritz know how she can inspire. “She has an infectious way of drawing you in to care for her causes,” says Locke. “She is an effective and passionate advocate for any cause that is near and dear to her heart.”

– K.D.

Best recent read
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

Personal heroes
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Greg Mortenson and Paul Farmer – people who dedicate their lives to make a difference.


John Sabol
“When John Sabol introduces himself at meetings, he sometimes identifies himself as a grandfather and sometimes as a businessman,” says Wendie Bramwell, key point person for the Roots of Empathy program in Seattle. “John is grounded in the relationships of family and seasoned by his success in business.”

Sabol is also passionate about creating solutions for social needs in our area. His organization, the John and Nancy Sabol Foundation, focuses on finding programs that support teachers, helping them grow and excel. And he is the visionary philanthropist responsible for bringing the international Roots of Empathy program to Seattle-area schools.

“I love [Roots founder] Mary Gordon’s observation that ‘Empathy cannot be taught — it must be caught,’” says Sabol. “The miracle of Roots of Empathy is how a baby visiting a classroom over the course of a year can bring neuroscience to life for the students.”

“John has played a critical role in the success of the program in this region,” says Bramwell. “He has earned the love and respect of this community because of his generosity, his humor, his humility and his warmth.”

– K.D.

Best recent read
Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.

Pet peeve
Bicyclists who think they own the road.

Personal hero
Any teacher.


Lisa Macfarlane

 Lisa Mcfarlane Her work has helped bring much-needed money into Washington classrooms. But Seattle’s Lisa Macfarlane, cofounder and president of the League of Education Voters (LEV), says that’s not enough. “It is not just the funding formula, but the whole system that is broken,” she says.

LEV was born after Macfarlane and other grassroots activists won passage of Initiative 728, the class-size initiative, in 2000. “It is one of our biggest successes,” says Macfarlane. “It’s $458 million more to our public schools.”

Macfarlane and LEV most recently led the charge on Resolution 4204, the constitutional amendment passed last November allowing schools to pass levies with a simple majority vote.

Her initial activism was born of anger. With two young children at home, she watched as levies for a new Ballard high school repeatedly failed. Working on the fifth and ultimately successful levy campaign got her hooked.

Paola Maranan, executive director of the Children’s Alliance, credits Macfarlane with bringing together education and human service advocates in a way no one has done before.

“We need to build public demand for changes,” says Macfarlane. “Where is the outrage that the generation of kids coming into the workforce is less prepared than those who are retiring? People won’t buy into the solution until they realize there is a problem.”

– H.B.

Best recent read
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.

Pet peeve
Lights left on.

Personal hero
Susan B. Anthony.


Ted Rutt

Why is Tukwila Police Officer Ted Rutt spending three days on the roof of a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop? Anyone who knows him – which is just about everyone in Tukwila – will recognize this as another one of the highly regarded officer’s legendary stunts to raise money and awareness for the Special Olympics in Washington. His tireless – and often unconventional – efforts to support the Special Olympics include bowling 60 hours straight – on three occasions – at the Acme Bowl and organizing the “World’s Largest Truck Convoy,” 130 semi trucks driven from the Tacoma Dome to Chehalis. For more than 21 years, Officer Rutt also has been involved in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics.

"Officer Rutt is like the energizer bunny – he just keeps on going and going,” says Suzi Sacha, Administrative Sergeant with the Tukwila Police Department. “Needless to say Officer Rutt does stay busy, but always has a smile on his face and time for kids."

“My mom ran a day care out of our home for many years,” says Rutt. “Every year, she would take in a special-needs child. As I grew, these children became my brothers and sisters. So, you see, Special Olympics is a lifelong event for me.”

Officer Rutt’s work includes 16 years as a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer and almost two decades with the Tukwila Police Explorers, a leadership and community service program for young people interested in law enforcement.

“Sometimes young people don’t have that role model or person to push them in the right direction,” says Rutt. “Helping kids is just who I am.”

– Deborah Ashin

Best recent read
I like the author John Grisham; I also enjoy reading Sports Illustrated.

Pet peeve
Those who won’t go the extra step to help someone.

Personal hero
Assistant Chief Darrel Baskin. He has shown me that it is OK to let others see your emotions and to share them with others.


Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner

A single, infuriating phone call was the final straw. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner had just had her first child. The self-avowed “numbers geek” called the U.S. Census Bureau to find out how many moms were staying home with children. “I found out they don’t track those numbers, because they don’t track people who aren’t earning money,” Rowe-Finkbeiner says. “It was the starting point of my awareness of the extreme invisibility of mothers in America.”

That awareness led Rowe-Finkbeiner, a Kirkland mother of two, to more research and eventually co-authorship of The Motherhood Manifesto, written with Joan Blades, one of the founders of From this, the persistently visible and outspoken was born, a grassroots movement that now claims nearly 150,000 members nationwide.

“Kristin is the ultimate supermom,” says Blades. “I can’t believe how much she does - she is a fabulous speaker, a brilliant organizer, and I can’t imagine a better executive director of All this, and her kids will tell you she is the best mother in the world.

“I believe she does sleep, but it is not clear when!”

So what keeps this political dynamo going? “Just seeing that we can make a difference,” Rowe-Finkbeiner says. “It’s depressing how far behind the U.S. is in family-friendly policies. What’s exciting is the potential for changing that and helping so many families.”

– K.D.

Best recent read
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

Pet peeve
Well, my pet is an 18-month-old dog named Lightning. Since he goes to work with me, he can sometimes just plain be a peeve, but most of the time he’s just plain adorable.

Personal hero
The members of MomsRising who take action each and every day to make our country more truly family-friendly.


Doug Johnson

Doug Johnson’s students know they can truly make a difference in the world. Today, thanks to their hard work and his leadership, 75 Mayan kids are getting an education at the Guatemala Friendship School.

Now a vice principal at Sammamish’s Margaret Mead Elementary School, Johnson’s dream of building a school in Guatemala began in 1998. That was the year he traveled to the Mayan village of Momostenango and met Abraham Ajiataz Calel, a veteran teacher in a community in which many could not afford to attend school. Calel shared his big dream of building a schoolhouse where the Mayan people of his village could learn — free of charge.

When Doug returned to his teaching job at Redmond’s Explorer Community School, he gave an evening presentation about his trip. Afterward, a group of students and parents from Explorer and Emily Dickinson elementary schools asked him how they could help raise money for the new school.

“That year we raised about $4,000 through a coin drive,” says Johnson. By 2001, they had raised more than $15,000, and the village school opened. Now, the school serves 75 students in grades 1–9 in three classrooms, and next year, another school will open nearby. Calel is now the school’s co-director and teaches full time. Johnson says, “I feel honored to have helped him make this dream a reality.”

– Kathleen F. Miller

Best recent read
An Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins.

Pet peeve
People that complain about problems but never seem to find solutions.

Personal hero
Rosa Parks. Her dignity, graciousness, and quiet strength are a model for me.


Ruth Kagi

Some call her the “mother of early-learning policy” in our state. Renowned infant brain researcher Andrew Meltzoff, Ph.D., calls her a “Washington treasure” and “a tireless advocate of early learning.”

Ruth Kagi But if you ask her, state Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park, will tell you that we still have a long way to go.

Until two years ago, public policy in our state did not do well by preschoolers. But Kagi helped change that, using solid science to win over legislators across the aisle who might not have otherwise been supportive of early-learning initiatives.

Kagi has helped launch efforts such as the cabinet-level Department of Early Learning, as well as the private-public partnership Thrive by Five. The common thread: All aim to improve opportunities for very young children.

Elected to the state House in 1998, Kagi says her passion for early learning comes from previous work in the trenches. “I have seen the tremendous loss when there is a situation of abuse or neglect, and the tremendous gain where there is that interplay between adult and child.”

Best of all, Kagi’s enthusiasm seems to be contagious. “Early learning is a super-high priority for us in the House of Representatives,” she says. “People are just excited.”

– H.B.

Best recent read
The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch.

Pet peeve
Being late.

Personal hero
Dr. Pat Kuhl (of the UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Science).


Dr. John Neff

A tireless advocate for children with chronic illnesses and complex medical conditions, Dr. Neff has helped thousands of families whose children have special health needs. “His focus is purely and simply making sure the neediest children get the best possible care,” says Dr. Ben Danielson, medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic. “His commitment to this goal is amazing, his patience with cumbersome systems is inspiring, his energy seems endless, and his sense of hope is positively infectious.”

The former medical director at Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center, Dr. Neff was familiar with the unique challenges faced by children who deal with chronic illnesses, birth defeats or life-changing accidents. Recognizing that parents need both emotional and financial support to help these kids, he helped establish the Center for Children with Special Health Needs at Children’s Hospital in 1998 and continues as its director. He is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.

Throughout his career, Dr. Neff has worked diligently to ensure that all children receive the same level of medical care, regardless of ability to pay. As chair of the Health Coalition for Children and Youth in our state, he continues his efforts to ensure health-care coverage for all children.

“He is a true hero in my book,” says Danielson, “and a bona fide guardian angel to the kids in this state.”

– D.A.

Best recent read
The Good Rain by Timothy Egan.

Pet peeve

Personal hero
Martin Luther King.

John Neff and Bea Kelleigh 

Bea Kelleigh

Bea Kelleigh’s generous spirit and mission-focused persistence have touched the lives of thousands of children and families in Washington. “When I think about the big challenges Bea has tackled and the success she has helped this county and state achieve, I am amazed,” says Garrison Kurz of Thrive by Five Washington, our state’s unique early-learning partnership, which Kelleigh helped to establish.

Now the executive director of Seattle’s Early Learning Network, Kelleigh works with the City of Seattle, Seattle Public Schools and other agencies to ensure that children develop the skills they need for kindergarten. Pointing to Mayor Nichols’ commitment to school readiness, Kelleigh believes that if everyone works together, the community can give children the skills and opportunities to “start strong, get ahead and stay ahead.”

Kelleigh has spent three decades making Washington a better place for children and their families, founding the Country Doctor Clinic, serving as executive director of the Northwest AIDS Foundation, and working as an advocate through the Hanford Information Network. Her tenacity and ability to bring people and organizations together are legendary. As Kurz says, “Her vision and dedication inspires me to always do more for our community.”

– D.A.

Best recent read
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

Pet peeve
Not enough hours in a day.

Personal hero
Maria Montessori, the Italian physician and educator who founded the Montessori method of education and opened our eyes to children as natural learners.


Nina Auerbach

A small ad in The Seattle Times opened the door to Nina Auerbach’s life work.

Her goal was to become the executive director of a nonprofit organization. The ad was for a nonprofit that didn’t yet exist; it would be Auerbach’s job to create it.

“I never worked so hard in my life,” she recalls. It was 14 hours a day, every day.

That was in 1991, and Auerbach has never looked back. The agency started with 15 staff members and a $500,000 budget. It now has a $7.5 million budget and a staff of 45, many of whom have been there from the start.

Child Care Resources (CCR), the agency she helped create, guides parents in making choices for child care. The agency’s support is particularly valuable for families with special problems that don’t know where to turn for help: Those that are low income, homeless, have children with special needs, or for whom English is a second language. Last year, CCR helped 6,613 families find quality child care.

“Nina’s passion and dedication to the children of Washington are apparent the minute you talk to her,” says Jeanne Anderson, executive director of the Foundation for Early Learning. “When you get to know her and see how talented and smart she is, you know that children in this state have a wonderful advocate.”

– Elaine Bowers

Best recent read
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

Pet peeve
When someone commits to something and doesn’t follow through.

Personal hero
Right now, I have many heroes on my staff and board. They are amazing, dedicated people!

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