Christina’s role on Upopolis has evolved over the years since she co-created the concept, mission and purpose of the program with her father in 2005. Christina is an important part of relationship management with Upopolis partners, funders and donors – those who generously give to support so that youth can continue to have access to its amazing and impactful benefits.
Over the years, Christina has been part of the development, delivery, rollout, operation, processes, marketing, management and funding of Upopolis. She feels blessed to have been able to see the program from conception, to where it is today; impacting youth at over 30 hospitals and healthcare organizations.
Christina is co-founder of Kids’ Health Link’s Foundation (KHLF), the organization that developed Upopolis with the help of partners like TELUS. KHLF is a non-profit and charity she started with her father Basile after her diagnosis of, and recovery from, an acute illness in her teens. She was inspired to help other youth and enhance their hospital experience through peer-to-peer connection, knowledge and empowerment – using technology.


Upopolis Program Manager

Krista Naugler is a Certified Child Life Specialist and joined the KHLF team as Upopolis Program Coordinator in October 2015. In June 2016, she took on the additional responsibilities of Upopolis Program Manager.
For over 20 years, Krista worked in the child life department at IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, serving in units including emergency, cardiology, orthopaedics, NICU, surgery, the paediatric medical unit and neurology. Over the course of her career, Krista has taken several opportunities to extend her expertise beyond the traditional child life specialist role. She spent three years developing the framework for and coordinating a Microsoft initiative at the IWK Health Centre called the Child Life Interactive Computers for Kids program (CLICK). Krista has also worked with a team of researchers and augmentative reality developers to create an application allowing medical professionals to determine if a patient would be a candidate to undergo a procedure without sedation.
She is an advocate for youth grief peer support opportunities and co- facilitates grief support groups for youth 10-17 years of age. In 2014, Krista founded Camp Kedooopse at Brigadoon Village, a grief support camp for children and youth ages 8-17 years.
When asked why she is passionate about her work for KHLF, Krista shares that she recognizes the need to meet teens where they are at. Today, that means accepting their use of technology as of means of connection and expression. She is also aware of the importance of independence and peer relationships during adolescence. It is these things that fuel her passion for her work with KHLF.


Upopolis Program Coordinator

Jessica Miller (Poesch) joined the KHLF team in October of 2015, currently she is in the role of the Upopolis Program Coordinator. In July 2016, Jessica also took on a contract with KHLF’s initiative Upedia, and has expanded role with that program, as Upedia Coordinator.
Jessica joined the KHLF team with over 15 years’ experience as a Certified Child Life Specialist. Her experience in clinical settings includes; outpatient oncology, nephrology and multi-organ transplant, general surgery, emergency and 7 years on the inpatient oncology unit at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).
Jessica’s education and experience goes beyond the scope of clinical child life practice. This includes her role as Program Manager for the Child and Teen Program at Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, and Adjunct Instructor for the Child Life Program at McMaster University. In 2009, Jessica received her Masters of Arts from Ryerson University where her thesis examined children’s perceived understanding of death through the experiences of Child Life Specialists. Jessica has also furthered her education with specialized courses in pediatric palliative care and cultural competence.
When asked why she is passionate about her work for KHLF, Jessica expresses that it’s her firm belief and experience that knowledge can empower youth to overcome and deal with fear. This coupled with her desire to connect with teens using their modality; technology, made Upopolis and KHLF an ideal avenue to pursue her passions. Jessica is extremely proud to be involved with KHLF, and contribute to Upopolis, and Upedia.


Tija Praulins is a Certified Child Life Specialist who joined KHLF in February 2019 as the Sibling Group and Social Lead for Upopolis. She expressed that she was drawn to Upopolis because it recognizes and supports technology to educate and connect youth; she shares this same belief with her KHLF team.

Tija’s current role at Upopolis is complemented by an almost decade-long career at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH), where she coordinated programming, entertainment, and in-kind donations for hospitalized patients and their siblings, and provided child life services in the emergency department and inpatient wards. Most recently, Tija moved to the administration side of healthcare and is now supporting Hamilton Health Science’s strategy team. She feels so grateful to be helping patients in this new, challenging and exciting capacity, while still using her clinical knowledge and experience.

Tija developed her passion for working with youth who have had hospital experiences while she was a facilitator of the MCH Youth Advisory Council. She says that being able to learn about youths’ interests, understand how they perceive healthcare and illness, support their relationships with each other, and empower them to make a change in their community, has helped make her a better clinician. Tija is thankful that she learned so much, and more, from them as they did from her.

Tija is very grateful to have the opportunity to extend her passions into her work with Upopolis and KHLF and is committed to helping youth use technology as an outlet for expression.



Melissa Dodaro is a Certified Child Life Specialist who joined the KHLF team in February 2022 as the Upopolis Grief Group Program Facilitator. Melissa has a Masters of Science in Child Life and Pediatric Psychosocial Care from McMaster University and has expert knowledge in child development, with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Studies.

Melissa has always known that she wanted to support children and families as a child life specialist. She has a deep passion for working with children, advocating for their psychosocial needs, and facilitating safe environments where children feel confident to explore and express themselves.

Melissa’s current role at Upopolis is complemented by her work at Ronald McDonald House and The Hospital for Sick Children, where she works in diverse clinical and therapeutic settings, providing psychosocial support and interventions, therapeutic programming, and normative play opportunities for children and their families, including siblings.

After completing a child life internship at Upopolis, Melissa enjoyed connecting with youth on the Grief Island and was excited for the opportunity to come back and work with the Upopolis team and community again! Melissa is committed to helping youth navigate their grief and is excited to use creative mediums, such as play, dance, and art to help youth explore and process their grief and the associated changes in their lives. Melissa believes in a strengths-based approach to supporting youth and works collaboratively to meet the needs of every youth.



Becki Steel joined the Upopolis team in May of 2022 as a program facilitator. Becki has a bachelor’s degree in child and youth care from the University of Victoria. In her early clinical work, Becki supported immigrant and refugee children and youth, worked in a pediatric inpatient mental health facility and was an adaptive programmer at an oncology camp. These experiences showed Becki the importance of trauma-informed care and the power of meeting children and youth where they are at.

Through this work, Becki discovered a passion for child life and pursued a graduate certificate in child life and community health from the University of the Fraser Valley and completed her internship in the oncology unit of Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton Alberta. Becki has been a certified child life specialist for just over two years and has clinical experience working in a variety of different settings including the emergency department, medical imaging, PICU, mental health, and Med-Surg units. Her most recent clinical experience is at Sunny Hill Health Centre, a hospital that provides specialized developmental assessments and rehabilitation services and treatment, where she operates as a one-person child life program. She has grown and developed the program from the ground up, establishing child life as a key part of the multidisciplinary team. In addition to her clinical responsibilities, she is a consultant on BC Children’s Hospital’s Child Kind Certification project, working to influence hospital policy and practice to reflect a commitment to children’s comfort as well as participating in several research projects. Becki is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Child Life and Pediatric Psychosocial care from McMaster University in order to further her professional development.

Becki is passionate about working creatively to influence children’s healthcare experiences and empower them to take ownership of their coping. Becki is grateful to work for an organization like KHLF which recognizes the importance of peer connection as a protective factor for youth during stressful experiences and is proud to be able to use a platform like Upopolis to empower youth.