Meet Our Team

Our Executive Director

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Sometimes you choose your job, other times your job chooses you.

Laura Whitaker began volunteering with ESP as a special ed college student in 2003. She was named Camp Director at just 19-years-old after the sudden passing of our founder, Martha. Over the last 15+ years, Laura has led ESP to growth and the expansion of our mission. She is passionate about leadership and uses her management strengths to manage staff, oversee multiple year-round programs, and raise funds to run programs. Her favorite part of the job is getting to hug the many children who walk through the ESP doors.
Laura’s most important roles include wife to husband Joseph and mother to Owen Patrick (11), Finley Gray (7) and newest addition Tate Alan (2).

For more about Laura, visit her site:

Programs Team

Our programs team is responsible for planning and executing all of ESP’s programs and events that directly serve our participants of all abilities and their families!

Jake Sapp
Director of Programs

Jake Sapp made his way back to ESP after spending his first year following graduation in South Carolina. Jake is excited to be home while continuing to grow with the organization that was so pivotal in shaping the person he is. Jake works closely with staff, families, volunteers, and the community to ensure programs run smoothly! In his free time, Jake enjoys spending time with his family; his wife, Annie Kate; his friends; and his dog Goose. Contact Jake at jake@espyouandme.org.

Kalon Carpenter
Programs Coordinator

Kalon Carpenter is a graduate of Georgia Southern University. She is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and a Certified Child Life Specialist. Kalon has previously worked at Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge Georgia and was an intern at the National Ability Center in Utah. Kalon is responsible for overseeing activities and programs at ESP including 360 year-round programs, family camps, summer camp, and special event programs. In her spare time, Kalon loves spending time outdoors, reading, baking, and working on DIY projects or anything crafty. Contact Kalon at kalon@espyouandme.org.

Hunter Pugh
Family Support Coordinator

Hunter Pugh currently lives in Athens with her fur baby, Luna. She holds a BS in Psychology with Honors from the University of Alabama and she’s currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work. Hunter began her relationship with ESP as a camp counselor in 2017, before taking on a leadership role, then the role of full-time Volunteer Coordinator. Hunter was thrilled to shift her role and begin putting her social work knowledge to use as our new Family Support Coordinator. As Family Support Coordinator, Hunter is our parents' number one resource and advocate. She works with our AmeriCorps team to provide transportation, needs based services, and knowledge to families. Contact Hunter at hunter@espyouandme.org.

Operations Team

Our operations team keeps ESP running – safely and effectively!

Gina Elliot
Director of Operations

Gina is excited to join the ESP team as the Director of Operations. She previously served as bookkeeper for ESP and has more than a decade of experience in accounting and management with a degree in Business Management & Accounting from Gwinnett Tech. Gina knows firsthand the effect that ESP has on the children and families we serve. She is the proud mother of an ESP participant Clete and camp counselor Tyler. Her family fully supports ESP and the valuable services it provides. Gina and her family are also the caretakers of Camp Hooray. Contact Gina at gina@espyouandme.org.

Shellie Sullivan
Administrative Coordinator

Shellie brings over 25 years of administrative experience from the Corporate and Retail World. Looking for a more serving direction in this next phase of her life as an empty-nester, she is so excited to be a part of the ESP Family. Shellie and her husband Greg live in downtown Athens and are huge supporters of several UGA Sports including football, basketball, and baseball. Contact Shellie at admin@espyouandme.org.

Peter Cates
Facilities & Recreation Coordinator

Peter Cates is a native of the rural town of Waynesboro, Georgia. He became involved with ESP during his time at UGA while earning a Bachelor of Science in History. Peter has now spent the last four summers as varying staff positions at ESP, and now assists programs year-round as well as managing ESP’s facilities. When he is not at ESP, he enjoys spending time traveling, hunting, and spending time with his close friends and family. Contact Peter at peter@espyouandme.org.

Karen Lee
Bookkeeper

Karen comes to ESP with 30 years of experience in operations in the corporate world, small businesses, and volunteer organizations. She earned a business degree from the University of Michigan back way before everyone carried a computer in their pocket. Karen was introduced to ESP through her daughter, Amy, who had phenomenal love for the organization but continued to come back to volunteer weekly because of the incredibly positive magic that ESP brings to everyone it touches. She is super excited to support ESP by assisting Gina with bookkeeping and operational initiatives. In her free time, Karen enjoys fitness, spending time with friends, and traveling. Contact karen@espyouandme.org.

Development Team

Our development team is focused on finding ways for our community to connect with the mission of ESP!

Ashley Stewart
Director of Development

Ashley is an Orlando, Florida native who graduated from Florida State University and made her way to Athens to complete her Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Georgia. Ashley began as the Development Intern for ESP and fell in love with all this community had to offer and the joy it brought her each day. Ashley oversees various philanthropic and continues to help strengthen the support our community provides to our families. Ashley loves corny jokes; traveling; quality time with friends; her dog, Riley; her husband, Alan; and putting a positive spin on everything she can! Contact Ashley at ashley@espyouandme.org.

Katarina Christmann
Marketing Manager

Katarina studied Advertising and Art History at the University of Georgia graduating in May 2015. Katarina began as a Public Relations and Special Events Intern at ESP. The fast pace and variety of the work at ESP are what drew her to the position, but the kids are what kept her here. She now works on ESP’s design, marketing, email, and social media. Katarina is from St. Simons Island. When she’s not spending time at ESP, Katarina loves baking, reading, hiking, and cuddling with her cats Clementine & Gus. Katarina loves being a part of the ESP family and putting her own touch on things! Contact Katarina at katarina@espyouandme.org.

Cathy Kesterson
Coordinator of Special Events

Cathy is from Pocataligo, Georgia. She was blessed with a beautiful daughter, Kyla, who had Cerebral Palsy and she has been an ESP mom for twelve years. She also has a son, Ben, who has volunteered for ESP since he was just eleven years old. Her goal is to continue Kyla’s love for all things ESP. Cathy was honored to take the Special Events Coordinator position and join the ESP staff family. In her free time, Cathy loves spending time golfing and watching football between the hedges with her husband Ross and son Ben. Contact Cathy at cathy@espyouandme.org.

Marcella Genut
Content Coordinator

Marcella graduated from UGA with a bachelor’s in Public Relations, a minor in Communication Studies, and a disability certificate. She was a public relations intern for ESP in 2016. After internships with the Georgia Aquarium and the CDC, she is excited to be back home! Marcella grew up being a spokesperson for many nonprofits such as Fragile Kids, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Bert’s Big Adventure. She is thrilled to be an advocate for ESP and its families. When she is not at ESP, she enjoys spending time with her dog, Reed, going to the Athens Farmers Market and craft fairs, and being outdoors. Contact Marcella at marcella@espyouandme.org.

Tyler King
Development Coordinator

Tyler began his time with ESP as a volunteer during his freshman year at UGA and has spent the past two years serving as an office intern and summer leadership staff member. Tyler recently graduated from UGA with bachelor degrees in Advertising and Finance and will work to enhance the relationships ESP has with our generous supporters. Outside of ESP, Tyler loves playing basketball, spending time with friends, and watching sports. Contact Tyler at tyler@espyouandme.org.

Executive Team

Java Joy

Nicole Andrews
Executive Coordinator

Nicole is a recent graduate of the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) with a BA in Communications Studies. After working for the Whitaker family and also having her two older sisters previously work at ESP, Nicole was thrilled to accept her job as Executive Coordinator, where it already felt like home. In her free time, Nicole enjoys spending time with her close friends and family, reading, playing frisbee, or exploring the amazing Athens, GA. Nicole is so honored to spread ESP magic by supporting her team and serving the incredible ESP community. Contact Nicole at nicole@espyouandme.org.

Erica Andrews
Athens City Lead & Expansion Manager

Erica worked as a counselor at ESP Summer Camp in 2015, then went on to open retail boutiques with Dress Up across the Southeast, and recently worked at Booster in HR. She brings leadership and entrepreneurial skills to the Java Joy team. Erica graduated from the University of North Georgia with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Business Administration. In her free time, Erica enjoys running, cooking, photography, and coffee! Contact Erica at erica@javajoy.org.

Communications and Marketing

katarina@espyouandme.org

Corporate Partnerships and ESP Fan Club

tyler@espyouandme.org