The Hazel Foundation Approach

The Hazel Foundation for Athletics aims to help children and adults build strength and confidence in a stimulating environment. Sports are a great way for athletes to increase coordination, utilize gross and fine motor movements, and connect with their community. Our program includes multiple ways to get involved with sports including our most well known adaptive climbing program that was created with the intention of providing long term, frequent access for those looking to pursue climbing.

Meet Our Dedicated Team

The Hazel Foundation for Athletics is the product of five people who saw the transformative nature sports play for their community. The foundation was named after Hazel Frasco, grandmother to founder Jillian Yatsko. Hazel emphasized the importance of family, connectedness, and supporting one another. When Jillian thought of a name to embody what a community means to her she came back to the first principles she was taught by Hazel.

Although from different backgrounds, the founding board of HFA agrees on one main point, access to sport and recreation should be a right for all. We believe that through engaging with one’s body and mind that you not only become a better person, but you encourage those around you to grow and achieve as well.

Board of Directors

The Hazel Foundation - Jillian

Jillian Yatsko - President & Founder

Jillian grew up as an athlete in the northeast pursuing everything from classical dance to downhill skiing to her ongoing passion of rock climbing. Jillian has used athletics and outdoor recreation as a means to navigate the human condition in both herself and her community. Jillian founded the first west coast adaptive climbing program in San Diego and began traveling the world promoting the importance of inclusion in sports. She has received multiple awards for her work in the global community including a Recognition of Service award from Rotary International. As the Founder and President of The Hazel Foundation for Athletics, you can often find her over-caffeinated in the climbing gym looking for ways to improve her world through sport and recreation.

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Kristina Ericson - Director of Funding

Kristina holds a B.A. in Global Studies and Sustainable Development from Long Island University’s Global College. She has lived and worked in 15 countries around the globe – most notably in Uganda and Australia where her field research on human rights and environmental sustainability earned her high honors at the 2016 National Conference of Undergraduate Research, and within her academic community. She is an AmeriCorps alumna, a neurological guide for the USA ParaClimbing team, and outdoor enthusiast.​

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Helen Hazel Foundation

Helen Crenshaw - Treasurer

Helen Crenshaw holds a Master’s degree in International Relations with an emphasis in Non-Governmental Organization Management from WU in Vienna, Austria. She and her husband have twin daughters with various special needs related to their prematurity, cerebral palsy and autism spectrum challenges. Helen works within the financial service industry but dedicates a great deal of her time to volunteer work. She supports California’s Ninth District PTA and has served in numerous positions, including District Treasurer and Director of Community Concerns, focusing on adolescent suicide awareness, child-trafficking and accessible youth sports as well as financial compliance and training for all PTA units and councils throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties. At Rady Children’s Hospital, she served for 4 years as Chair of the Family Advisory Council and sits on the Bio-Ethics, NICU and Patient-Experience committees, as well as participating with the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative Patient-Family Advisory Council and the Transgender Patient and Family Advisory Council.

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Joan Hazel Foundation

Joan Yatsko - Secretary

Joan Yatsko, namesake of the Joan Elizabeth Grant, spent summers in the Adirondacks which fueled her passion for hiking and water skiing and a love of the outdoors.  She spent 17 years helping patients as the Assistant Director of a regional radiology center. After having two children she watched the positive impact sports had on her daughter and fostered her love for everything active. As a hands-on parent, she spent countless hours at ballet rehearsals, track meets, and early mornings in the climbing gym. Joan believes all people should have access to sports and recreation because of the empowerment and passion for living that they can provide.

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Eric Franks - Director of Marketing

A true adventurer at heart and native to Florida, Eric Franks has always sought of the most thrilling and rewarding experiences opportunities available to him. His introduction to alternative sports came when he was just 8 years old when his father introduced him to SCUBA diving. After relocating and to San Diego several years ago, Eric began bouldering at a local gym and knew that it was going to become a lifelong love and passion. Fueled by the desire to help change and improve upon the world, he has recently become involved with adaptive athletics programs at local climbing facilities as well as being involved in involved in more ocean conservation and humanitarian work.

Eric is not only the Creative Coordinator for the National Marine Mammal Foundation but is also helping to inspire positive impacts with his own business. He is the founder of Burning Love Media, a creative agency that has been working with nonprofits to make big impact around the world for more than ten years. Doing good and having fun, those are his missions in life, and he carries them out every single day to the best of his ability.

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Scholarships, Funds and Grants

The Joan Elizabeth Grant creates recreational opportunities for the parents or family members of children with chronic medical conditions. Through recreation we seek to cultivate a self-care routine that allows families to use recreation as a means to cope with the challenges that come along with raising a child with special needs.

The John Blaise Grant works with community organizations that provide care and resources to individuals dealing with mental health conditions. Many of these organizations do not have the funds to provide athletic programs to their recipients and we seek to mitigate that challenge by providing funding and/or direct programming for their organization.

The Trent Smith Grant works to create sporting opportunities for adaptive athletes. Whether it be a physical, cognitive, or developmental condition, we want to make sure all adaptive athletes can access their sport. We aim to do this through individual and group grants, adaptive training to already existing sports programs, and direct community programs in partnership with Mesa Rim Climbing Center.

The Hazel Foundation for Athletics recognizes the very unique challenges faced by our country’s veterans and their families. The Taylor Wallace Grant is aimed to provide relief for veterans in all stages of their service whether it be post-deployment, civilian reintegration, and wounded veterans. In collaboration with Wounded Warrior Foundation and The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs we will create a healthier space for veterans through sport.

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