Office Staff

Executive Director, Zachary Whelan | Bio
Program Director, Kellene VanBrackle | Bio
Family Advocate, William Guillen | Bio
Family Advocate, Alex Escalante Bio
Director of Community Resources, Amy DeLeon  | Bio

Director of Program Development, David Siegel  | Bio     

SF School Coordinator, Eric Erhart | Bio                                              Office Manager, Ambrosia Phoummnathep | Bio
Fund Development, Beth Baldwin | Bio  

Support Staff and Volunteers

Our community encompasses a committed team of teachers, artists, therapists, and youth workers who return to summer camp year after year, and also participate in the year-round program.

Avary is dedicated to building leadership from within. 40% of our staff are Avary graduates, having gone through the Junior Counselor training program as teens.  Senior counselors, who have been with Avary for over 5 years, mentor new staff in the Avary Way -- our approach for creating an inclusive community of belonging.


Project Avary was founded in 1999 by Danny Rifkin, co-manager of the Grateful Dead and San Quentin Chaplain, Earl Smith.

They initially met on a tour of the prison, but a conversation and longer-term collaboration developed when members of the Grateful Dead began regular visits to work with and record the San Quentin Choir. They envisioned, funded and bootstrapped with their friends and community, Project Avary Summer Camp to give children of incarcerated parents a carefree and immersive childhood experience.

Project Avary was one of the first nonprofit organizations in the nation dedicated to improving life outcomes among children with parents in prison. Since our founding, over 1,000 Bay Area children have participated in a long-term continuum of support that includes enrichment, outdoor education and psycho-social support for children, leadership and life skills training for teens, and valuable support for caregivers.

Advisory Board

Brenda Barnette
Larry Brilliant
Mirabai Bush
Cynthia Colvin
Wavy Gravy
Joel Gilbert, LCSW
Tom Huntington
Barbara Kalmanson, LCSW
Danny Rifkin
Jahanara Romney
Barry Rosenstein
Dylan Sears
Elizabeth Simpson
Jasper Thelin
Arthur Wachtel
Tom Zito



Board of Directors

Chairman, Cliff Palefsky
Secretary, Michelle Pepitone
Treasurer, Genoveva La Placa
John E. Atkinson
Mary Burke, M.D.
Miles Ehrlich
Jack T. Friedman
John Rosenberg, M.D.
Barbara Saunders
William Terrell
Emi Uyehara