Meet the Staff


Executive Director

Val Madsen, M.S., CTRS

Contact Val at or 608-833-4467 ext. 2

Val is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and has a Master’s in Therapeutic Recreation from UW – La Crosse, along with a Bachelor’s in Athletic Training/ Sports Medicine. She was hired as the first staff in 2012 to get Gio’s Garden off the ground. Gio’s Garden has since grown to have over 15 staff and more then 100 volunteers in 2014. She has also grown the respite program from providing 225 hours of care in 2012 and 2,500 hours of care in 2013, to over 5,300 hours of care in 2014 and working with over 60 families.

Prior to Gio’s Garden, Val had spent 11 years at Easter Seals Wisconsin working with the Respite Camp program in Wisconsin Dells. Under her leadership, the camp grew to serve over 880 campers each year, all having a variety of special needs. Val has been responsible for recruiting, hiring and training over a 100 volunteers and staff members each year, and has most recently created an online training program for in-home respite providers through the Wisconsin Lifespan Respite Grant. She has presented at numerous conferences and has lead many workshops over the years.

Val was married during the summer of 2014 and spends her free time with her husband and two step-daughters.

Program Director

Kristin Schmidt, MS, ATR, LPC-IT

Contact Kristin at or 608-833-4467 ext. 4

Kristin graduated with her Master’s degree in Art Therapy with a concentration in Counseling from Mount Mary University in December 2012. In January 2013, Kristin was hired at Gio’s Garden part-time and in October 2013 she was offered a full-time position as the Program Coordinator. As Program Coordinator, Kristin coordinates schedules for the staff, volunteers and families, provides support for each of the families, supervises the part-time staff, volunteers and interns as well as works to develop & implement appropriate therapeutic respite care for every child.
During undergraduate and graduate school, Kristin gained experience working with individuals in a variety of areas. She has worked in a behavioral health hospital doing art therapy with children, adolescents and adults with mental health issues. As well as a day treatment program for adolescents where she encouraged pre-teens and teens to use art therapy techniques to express themselves creatively.
In her free time, Kristin spends time with her husband training for half-ironman triathlons, volunteering with various organizations, going to sporting events, cuddling their puppies and visiting their large family.


Program Coordinator – Sun Prairie

Maggie Bayerl, CTRS

Contact Maggie at or 608-833-4467 ext. 3

Maggie started at Gio’s Garden in 2015 as a Respite Care Specialist. In January 2017, she joined the team again as the Sun Prairie Program Coordinator.

Maggie has a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation from Grand Valley State University, and is currently working on her master’s in family education from the University of Minnesota. She is nationally certified as a Recreation Therapist. Her work experience includes school-based Recreation Therapy, inclusion programs, and partnering with families of children with special needs to manage community resources.

Maggie lives in Madison with her husband and all of their animals. In her free time she loves to work outside in the garden and try new restaurants.


Therapeutic Care Coordinator

Becky King, MS-AT, LPC-IT

Contact Becky at or 608-833-4467 ext. 4

Becky joined the Gio’s Garden team as an activity specialist in November 2013, planning and preparing activities each month and working directly with the children in our care. In September 2014 she became a full-time program manager. She continues planning activities and working directly with kids, but also works closer with their families to develop activities and therapeutic opportunities tailored to their special needs.

She holds a master’s degree in art therapy and counseling from Mount Mary University, and has work experience with children, the elderly and military veterans. She is currently working towards licenses in both counseling and art therapy.

Originally from Milwaukee, she lives in Madison with her husband and son. In her free time she enjoys playing tennis, running, traveling, spending time with friends and family, painting and other creative activities.

 Activity Specialists

Natasha Lindquist

bio-pic-3Natasha started out as a Therapeutic Recreation intern at Gio’s Garden in May 2016 and hired on as staff in September 2016. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse in May 2016 with an undergraduate degree in Therapeutic Recreation. Natasha gained a variety of experience working with a range of populations while volunteering on a hospital pediatric floor, Easter Seals Wisconsin respite camp, and private tutoring a child with special needs back in high school. She believes it is important to use teachable moments to help unlock a child’s full potential. She also looks forward to learning something new each and every day. When not at work, Natasha enjoys helping out on her fiancé’s family farm, reading, spending time with friends and family, traveling, and working on a variety of crafts!



Respite Care Specialists

Amber Bechtel


Amber has been a Respite Care Specialist at Gio’s Garden since January 2016 and is often at Gio’s on the weekends. She has been in the Early Childhood Education field for over 13 years. Amber is currently a senior at Edgewood College majoring in Early Childhood: Special and Regular Education. She will begin her student teaching this summer and graduate in the Fall. When she is not teaching, she hangs out with her Little Brother as Amber and her fiancé are a big couple for Big Brothers & Sisters. For fun they like to play board games and trivia.

Suzannah Dagnon

IMG_1824Suzannah graduated from UW- Madison in December 2014 receiving a BA in Psychology. She plans on going back to school to become a child life specialist. She started out at Gio`s Garden as a volunteer during the fall of 2014 and become part of the staff in January 2015. She has always enjoyed working with children and she gained experience with special needs children through a steady babysitting job during high school. When she is not at Gio`s she enjoys spending time with family, friends and discovering new places while traveling.


Sarah Dietrich

Sarah started out as a volunteer at Gio’s Garden in September 2013 and was hired on as staff in November 2013. She graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies in May 2015. Sarah has always had an interest in working with children and was a swim lesson instructor for over 5 years. She has worked as a nanny and babysitter for a variety of families and was also a nursery coordinator at a local church. Sarah is a current volunteer at Unity Point Heath Meriter hospital in the pediatric therapy unit. She has also volunteered at St. Mary’s Hospital in the Steady Stride knee replacement and hip replacement program. Sarah is an aspiring occupational therapist with an emphasis in pediatrics. Outside of work Sarah enjoys spending time with family and friends, swimming, knitting, and traveling.

Rachel Eggers

Rachel completed her degree in Therapeutic Recreation from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in August 2013.  She joined the Gio’s Garden team in November 2013 as an Activity Specialist. Rachel has had the opportunity to work with people with disabilities in many settings including adult day service programs, Special Olympics Teams, Easter Seals Wisconsin Respite camp and an internship with the city of Boulder, Colorado in their program for people with disabilities. Rachel enjoys working with each of the kids at Gio’s to help them grow and celebrate all accomplishments.  In her spare time, Rachel enjoys doing anything outdoors, making crafts and visiting friends and family.

Lindsay Krueger

12919843_10208925904610071_6335434021279882209_nLindsay started working with Gio’s Garden in the summer of 2016. She is currently pursuing a degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will be graduating in the spring of 2017. Lindsay became a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in high school and gained experience working with adults with cognitive, developmental, and physical disabilities in multiple settings. During that time she also worked at a daycare in her hometown and worked with both typically and atypically developing children. She has completed an internship at Neighborhood House Community Center and is a current behavioral treatment technician through Family Path Autism Services. She also volunteers at Unity Point Meriter hospital in Madison and is a member of numerous student organizations on campus. She hopes to continue working with children and eventually migrate to a healthcare setting to further enhance the lives of others. In her free time Lindsay enjoys spending time with her family and friends, trying new things, camping, fishing, listening to the radio, eating sushi, and playing any sport with a ball.

Alexandra Reynolds

IMG_2952Allie started out as an intern at Gio’s Garden before getting hired on as staff in May of 2016. She will graduate from UW-Madison with a degree in Rehabilitation Psychology and a Certificate in Global Health in May of 2017. She has always enjoyed working with many different populations, especially young children and the elderly because of how much she can learn from them! She has been a Certified Nursing Assistant since 2011 and is also currently employed at Capitol Lakes Nursing facility as a CNA and the Waisman Center as a Research Assistant.  In the future Allie hopes to attend graduate school to pursue her degree in Occupational Therapy. In her free time she likes to read, practice yoga, spend time with her friends and family, and eat delicious food!

Cora Sheldon

IMG_5167Cora started out as an intern at Gio’s Garden in January 2016 and was hired on as staff in June. She is currently studying rehabilitation psychology at UW-Madison and will be graduating in December 2016. After graduation, she is hoping to attend graduate school for Occupational Therapy. Cora loves working with all different populations and also works as a CNA in an assisted living facility, volunteers at Capitol Lakes and Communication Innovations, and helps with research involving visual learning and chemistry. Outside of work, volunteering, and school, Cora enjoys being outside and spending time with friends and family.

Kaetlyn Taylor

Kaetlyn has lived in the Madison/Middleton area since 2010. She has experience providing respite care to a child with physical disabilities and seizures through Fiscal Assistance of Dane County and Catalyst Home Health. She volunteered with Gio’s Garden for a number of hours since April 2013 and was brought on as staff in November 2013. She has completed her clinical at Ingleside Manor in Mount Horeb to get her CNA certifications and passed the state testing in December 2013. Outside of work Kaetlyn enjoys spending time with her family and spending time outdoors when it’s warm.

Ericka Wild

Ericka copy

Ericka completed her undergrad degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May 2014, receiving a BS in Rehabilitation Psychology. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Social Work at UW-Madison.  Ericka hopes to become a Licensed Clinical Social Work upon completion of her graduate degree so she can provide counseling services to children and families.  During her undergraduate years, she participated in a variety of internships that helped her develop her knowledge of kids with and without disabilities: she was an inclusion staff through MSCR at Glendale Elementary School, a teacher aide in the Nido Room (18-30 month old toddlers) at Eagle’s Wing, a day care associated with UW Housing, and as a volunteer at Gio’s Garden during the summer of 2014. During her first year as an MSW candidate she has been an intern at Bridges for Families: Birth to Three program.  Ericka loves helping people reach their goals, especially children.  When not at work, Ericka enjoys doing anything involving the outdoors, sports, family, traveling and food, especially cheese. She also loves smiling, learning and trying new things!

 Anna Wilson

IMG_2279Anna started as a volunteer at Gio’s Garden in the Fall of 2015. She excitedly joined the staff in May of 2016 immediately following her graduation from Edgewood College where she received a Studies in Education Degree. Anna has been working as an in-home respite care provider for over 6 years. She also teaches dance to children of all ages and abilities. In addition, she helped initiate a program to incorporate children with special needs into Sunday School at her local church. Anna is currently a volunteer at Communication Innovations where she assists with occupational and speech therapy sessions. Anna is planning to get her Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy to work with children and young adults with special needs. When she is not working Anna likes to spend time outside with family and friends, watch movies, running, and traveling.



There are a number of volunteers that might assist throughout the year. Many are PT/OT students (or other related fields) that are looking for hands on experience for classes, some volunteers are retired special education teachers or nurses; and other volunteers are parents or other people who want to give back to the community. All volunteers must go through a training session before they start working with any children.