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.
Otha Cole’s responsibilities as Program Director of the Player Equity Fund are to envision and facilitate the mission and programs of The ALLIANCE: Los Angeles. Cole is a primary contact with the advisory group of the 11 professional sports organizations in greater Los Angeles that form The Alliance.
The 11 professional sports teams that make up The ALLIANCE: Los Angeles include the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Chargers, LA Clippers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), LA Galaxy, LA Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Sparks.
These 11 teams have united and partnered with the Play Equity Fund to respond to the challenges that face communities of color with a comprehensive five-year commitment to drive investment and impact for social justice through sport.
Cole has a key role in directing new programs with input and guidance from the professional teams. The ALLIANCE: Los Angeles is dedicated to this work in addition to the efforts of the teams’ community affairs departments and foundations, which continue their charitable activities across the region.
The Alliance is launching leadership opportunities and educational initiatives within local schools that uphold social justice, address disparities and introduce career opportunities in the sports industry. The goals of The Alliance are to produce work in communities of color to affect structural changes on levels that have a lasting impact.
Cole joined the Play Equity Fund after serving as a Program Manager at Community Partners, which manages philanthropic initiatives. At Community Partners, he was responsible for technical assistance and learning opportunities for 180 fiscally sponsored projects.
Cole serves on the steering committee of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy Los Angeles and is an adjunct instructor at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, where he teaches community planning and nonprofit management.
Before joining Community Partners in 2016, Cole worked for Shelter Partnership, a technical assistance and capacity builder for Homeless Service Providers in LA County. He was on the board of directors of the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara.
Cole earned a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from San Jose State University, specializing in community development, and a B.A. in Political Science from University of California, Santa Barbara. He began his college career as a football player at Howard University, before suffering a career-ending injury, transferring to UCSB and dedicating his future to philanthropic pursuits.
When not working, Cole enjoys writing, playing guitar, traveling, and sports.
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.
Joe Mata is Development Associate of the Play Equity Fund, and has handled a variety of responsibilities since joining the organization in mid-2021. Joe is a collaborative worker, a responsive and effective strategic thinker, and in his position among his duties is managing the CRM system for reporting and donor development. With a focus on planning and logistics, he also assists in finalizing the details of the frequent events held by the Play Equity Fund to improve the lives of youth through sport and play.
Joe builds new relationships across communities, and advances all functions of the Play Equity Movement by supporting the creation of new development strategies and effective partnerships. He joined the Play Equity Fund after serving as the External Impact Associate for KIPP SoCal Public Schools.
In that role, Joe supported the KIPP Advocacy & Community Engagement, Marketing & Communications, and Development departments with operations, logistics and management responsibilities. Previously, he was a district representative for Congressman Mark DeSaulnier in California’s 11th Congressional District. Joe’s duties included overseeing the office’s grant program, Medicare and Social Security casework, as well as staffing events.
Joe is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and proud to be the first college graduate in his family. When not working, he enjoys tracking financial markets and practicing his culinary skills.