Renata Simril is President of the Play Equity Fund. A 501(c)3 public charity, the Play Equity Fund was established by the LA84 Foundation in 2014 and is dedicated to supporting programs and actions to ensure all kids have equal access to sport and structured play. The Play Equity Fund achieves this by raising awareness of inequities, supporting the sports-based youth development ecosystem for greater impact, and developing partnerships to advocate for funding and sustainable solutions to ensure kids of color have access and opportunity to pathways for lifelong wellbeing. It is the only nonprofit committed to making Play Equity a social justice issue.
Ms. Simril is an accomplished civic and private sector trailblazer with more than 25 years of diversified experience with a commitment to leadership and service. She most recently served as Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff to the Publisher of the Los Angeles Times, where she oversaw staff operations and special projects. Her earlier career included three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where she served as Senior Vice President of External Affairs overseeing the restoration of the Dodgers brand and the Dodgers Foundation; and over a decade in real estate development with Jones Lang LaSalle, Forest City Development and LCOR, Inc.
Her public service included stints as Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Housing in the Hahn Administration, where she worked to expand rental and affordable housing in Los Angeles, and as a Development Deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, where she worked to help rebuild communities in South Los Angeles after the 1992 civil unrest. Ms. Simril began her career in the U.S. Army as a Military Police Officer in the U.S. and Germany.
Ms. Simril is active in the community outside of the Play Equity Movement, currently serving on the Boards of United Way of Greater Los Angeles; LA 2028 Olympic Bid Committee; Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.
She formerly served as a Governor’s Appointee on the California Science Center Board, where she led successful negotiations of long-term lease agreements for USC to manage and operate the Coliseum and Sports Arena properties; as Chair of the Board of Regents for LMU, and as a member of the Lusk Center for Real Estate at USC. She was named to the Orange County Register’s 50 Most Powerful in Southern California Sports list in 2017 and to the Los Angeles Business Journal’s list of The 500 Most Influential People from 2016-2020. CSQ magazine named her a Visionary in Sports and Entertainment, 2017, and Simril received the WISE LA (Women in Sports and Entertainment) Women of Inspiration award in 2016.
Ms. Simril is a third-generation Angeleno. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Loyola Marymount University and a Master’s in Real Estate Development from USC. Ms. Simril resides in Studio City with her husband and two sons.
Program Director, Social Impact
A passion for sport and social work has brought this Southern California native to a leadership position with the Play Equity Fund, where James Lopez serves as Program Director, Social Impact. James has a vital role working with leaders, partners and youth organizations as he helps amplify their collective work to raise awareness, build stronger connections and move audiences to action.
James manages strategic sports-based youth development projects that will create meaningful social change for communities and yield data and stories that inform advocacy strategies for the Play Equity Movement. By using a social work lens and his skill set, James brings a unique perspective to the Play Equity Movement and is passionate about propelling the organization forward to close the Play Equity gap.
James served as Manager of Strategy and Impact at the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF), the official charity of the Los Angeles Dodgers, from 2015-2021.
At LADF, James worked to develop a robust program measurement and evaluation strategy for all programs and fundraising efforts, as well as contributing to research and fund development of the organization.
James’ professional journey began in 2009 after earning his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Education from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). After serving as a Recreation Supervisor for UCSB’s intramural and club sports department for two years, James spent all of 2011 living in Shaoxing, China.
While in China, James served as an English teacher for one year before returning to Southern California in 2012. Before beginning his graduate studies in 2014, James worked as a recreation/sports coordinator for a residential treatment facility for young men in the foster care system. In that role, he implemented new recreational programming which included inter-facility sports leagues, music lessons, and fitness programs. During this time, he developed a passion for social work, and sports-based youth development.
James earned his Master of Social Work in spring of 2016 at the University of Southern California with a concentration on Community Organizing, Planning & Administration. James’ first full time season at LADF came in June 2016, after serving at the organization as a graduate intern.
James currently resides in Diamond Bar with his wife, a fellow social worker. When not working, James enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants, and recreational sports like golf, running, softball, and basketball.
Director of Development
Alexia Valencia is the Director of Development for the Play Equity Fund. Alexia provides strategic leadership in helping transform the organization’s development efforts and creating new partnerships to support the Play Equity Fund’s wide-ranging work. Alexia joined the Play Equity Fund as an advisor and the organization was delighted to announce her full-time appointment in October of 2021.
She is an experienced leader and has assumed this new role advocating for equitable access to sports and play opportunities for youth among stakeholders, as well as helping others recognize and support the benefits of these programs for kids in advancing community health and childhood well-being. Alexia is focused on supporting the Play Equity Fund in progressing its mission – by building connections and seeking philanthropic support for the Play Equity Fund’s priorities on behalf of young people and local communities.
A proud native of Los Angeles, Alexia brings a collaborative, engaging approach to her evolving work at the Play Equity Fund, and has already instituted several new programs and initiatives by blending her experience, diverse business background and creativity.
Previously, Alexia worked in a consulting capacity in business development and brand marketing, with experience in various industries and roles. Her professional background includes working with leaders in entertainment, education, philanthropy, business, nonprofits and local politics. Her clients ranged from the Cesar Chavez Foundation to Paul Quinn College, an HBCU in Dallas, leveraging their work with funding and supporting advocates.
Recently, she worked with KIPP SoCal Public Schools as Leadership Giving Officer, External Relations, where she oversaw strategic initiatives and was responsible for implementing fundraising and marketing initiatives as well as community advocacy efforts. During her time at KIPP Alexia was responsible for facilitating a more diverse board to include more women and people of color, which reflected the communities that KIPP SoCal serves. She also established organizational events to encourage support and leveraged the involvement of the young professionals board.
Prior to KIPP, Alexia served as Associate Director of Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for four years. In this role, she created external and internal giving campaigns as well as built new funding pipelines for the hospital. Alexia launched a giving circle comprised of Latino philanthropists, entrepreneurs and patients with a background in business, finance, and entertainment that raised $1 million in its initial year.
Alexia attributes her work ethic and ability to strive in diverse settings to her tenure in the entertainment industry, working with many Grammy award-winning musicians as well as management. This background includes marketing, media, sponsorship creation and event production in both English mainstream and Spanish international musicians.
She is a graduate of San Diego State University.