Heartwood Haven

Our Team

The Board of Directors works hard behind the scenes without a lot of public credit to make sure the sanctuary runs smoothly. It takes countless hours of work, late nights, blistered hands and muddied clothes to be where we are now.

Kate Tsyrklevich

Executive Director, Co-Founder

Katya grew up in what is now the defunct USSR. Her earliest memories are visiting her great grandmother in the village and getting chased by geese through poison ivy. She probably deserved that. She saved her school lunches to feed pregnant and nursing stray dogs and tried to adopt stray kittens.

Katya’s family moved to San Diego, CA in 1996. She grew up with dogs, many of them were rescued. Some of the beginning motivations to be vegan were seeing a display on vivisection in middle school. Some students were showcasing their project on what happens to beagles, rabbits, rats and monkeys to test beauty and cleaning products as well as laboratory research.

In high school, she got involved with an animal rights club; eventually watching Peta’s undercover video “Meet Your Meat” she went vegan overnight. She worked in the veterinary field for six years. Currently, Katya spends all her free time working on activism including building up the sanctuary and doing vegan outreach.

Hope Hilman

Director of Operations, Co-Founder

Hope went vegan in March of 2015 a few shorts months after meeting Katya. At first, Hope’s reasons were mostly health and environment related but after about a year of eating a vegan diet her compassionate side started to show through. The idea to start the Sanctuary was initiated by Katya by after a month Hope found a funky looking rooster on Seattle Animal Shelters website and she urged Katya to let them adopt him. That funky looking rooster would eventually become affectionately known as Jon Snow. Jon has taught Hope a lot and Hope gives Jon a lot of credit for turning her into the animals rights advocate that she is today.

Jamie Savino

Jamie is a new transplant to Washington, having moved from New York in August of ‘16. Growing up, Jamie always had a houseful of animals which quickly developed her love for all living creatures. She became a vegetarian in middle school and would attend local PETA protests.

Her passion for protecting and fighting for the voiceless was reignited this summer after holding a chick that was only a few hours old. Jamie and her fiancé both went fully vegan in August after watching the documentary ‘What the Heath’. Being new to the Vegan world, Jamie was hoping to make connections with like-minded, compassionate individuals and crossed paths with Hope, Katya and the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary.

Shauny L. Jaine

“Born animal lover.”  My parents frequently introduced me that way, then elaborated on how as a toddler I wandered away from a churchyard babysitter and nearly drowned after following three dogs into the ocean.  Or how when I was five and was supposed to be home napping, they instead often found me in a nearby pasture with several carnival-ride ponies.  Or how as young teens, two boys and I spent hours towing Spinner dolphins back into deep water after a pod of roughly 60 beached themselves near my house.  Predictably, I asked for a pony every birthday and Christmas.  I wanted “to be a vet when I grow up.”  And a jockey.  Instead, I went to music school in Los Angeles in the 80s, then college and law school in Seattle in the 90s.  Before then, every summer as a teen, I lived and worked on a Black Angus and Quarter Horse ranch in upcountry Maui.  I was the primary trail-ride guide, I roped cattle, I rode in rodeos.  My favorite childhood experiences include quiet, moonlit rides alone in the mountains on a mare named Candy, and, most thrilling – loping or galloping bareback in the sun on a spunky mare named Pepe, everything around us a blur.  It would take me several decades to realize the extent to which experiences as those involved exploitation and sometimes even abuse of my beloved ranch animals.

I became vegetarian in 2004 after reading Howard Lyman’s “Mad Cowboy,” then vegan in 2011 after watching “Forks Over Knives.”  To this day I marvel over why it took me so long to go vegan because, although my childhood home of Hawaii is paradise in many ways, it is also the land of ubiquitous cockfighting; spearfishing, line fishing and “hukilau” net fishing; and routine backyard slaughter of farm animals to celebrate every conceivable special occasion.  Callousness for animals then was and still is the norm throughout the islands.  Animals are food, nothing more.  Despite my lifelong rejection of that mindset and those practices, I did not make the connection and go vegan until I was 46.

Now that my actions align with my innate compassion, life is a joy.  My spouse is vegan.  Our three kids all chose to become vegan six years ago.  And, after 20 years of using my law and writing degrees conventionally – principally as a civil trial attorney – I resolved at the start of 2019 to use both to benefit animals here forward.  Soon after, I was invited to join Heartwood Haven’s Board of Directors.  Ah, serendipity.  I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with so many compassionate people who are committed to such important work.

Ellen Watson

As a child I imagined rescuing homeless animals and providing a home for them on a large farm.  I didn’t know if this kind of sanctuary existed, but didn’t think it was possible to do this since I couldn’t imagine how to pay for the land, food, and upkeep of the animals.  

We lived in Spain when I was six years old and I fell in love with donkeys, and collected all sorts of carved and pottery donkeys.  Last year on a visit to Spain I was able to visit a donkey sanctuary. It was gratifying to learn that these often abused animals were being rescued.

The home I live in with my wife, Ellie, has become a mini-sanctuary.  We currently have one dog and five cats – all rescues. I rescued two of the cats as tiny kittens from a feral cat colony while working as a volunteer for the now-defunct Trap, Neuter, and Release feral cat program of the Tacoma Pierce County Humane Society.

I met Hope and Kate about two years ago and have spent some time at Heartwood Haven getting to know many of the temporary and long-term residents, and bringing carloads of pumpkins and apples for them to eat.

I am a strong believer in Heartwood Haven and the effort to rescue animals in need, house them and, where possible, find new permanent homes for them.  While I miss Red, Kany, Sansone, Sunny, Moon, and others, I know they can now live out their lives in a stable and peaceful environment, and Heartwood Haven will have room to rescue more animals in need.

Kimberly Sandie

Kimberly Sandie became a vegetarian at age sixteen after spending time in Germany, where the connection between the animals and the plate had far less subterfuge. She became a vegan ten years later, after discovering she had been lactose intolerant all her life. As a former professional cook, she began researching vegetarian recipes “sans dairy,” which led her further down the rabbit hole of the industry’s cruelty, and its fellow factory farming constituents. 
Kimberly is a freelance commercial photographer, author, and digital publisher. She is the founder of Seattle Vegan Life, which provides social media coverage on the Seattle vegan scene. She is deeply passionate about food justice. When the impacts of COVID became apparent, she accidentally co-founded another Seattle nonprofit: Plant-Based Food Share, which provides judgement-free healthy plant-based groceries, vegetable starts, recipes, and education to families and individuals in need, in South Seattle.
As someone who is vegan “for all the reasons,” she is honored to be a part of Heartwood Haven’s Board and mission.

Mike Halekakis

Mike has 30 years of business experience as an engineer, writer, product developer, operations strategist, marketing strategist, and CEO. More important than any of  that, he just loves animals with every bit of his soul. He’s working to leverage his combined professional experience to help Heartwood Haven help as many animals as possible. The sky’s the limit!

Mike has been vegetarian and vegan off on since the early 1990s, and went full-time vegan (with no looking back) in late 2018.

When not working to bring the eyes of the world to Heartwood Haven, Mike is running multi-million dollar businesses, playing games (video and board), playing guitar, playing bass, playing drums, singing like the ears of the world aren’t listening, exercising to stay sane, and dreaming of travel to far off places (just not in the year 2020).


If you’re interested in becoming a Board Member, please contact us for more information.