Kids Help Phone is a national charity that operates three counselling centres and offers community engagement initiatives through staff and volunteers across Canada. We have an incredible team who is dedicated to supporting youth mental heath in Canada.
Katherine Hay, President and CEO
I have the privilege of leading Kids Help Phone, Canada’s only national bilingual 24/7 e-mental health service in the country, supporting youth as young as five and as old as 28 who reached out to us more than 1.9 million times in 2019. I worry about young people in Canada, however they identify themselves, and know that steady state is no longer an option. Kids are changing faster than ever, and technology even faster. We know that if we fall behind or waste time, lives are lost. We know that young people in Canada are increasingly discussing suicide or suicide-related issues, and Indigenous youth are six times more likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous youth. Canada’s young people are in crisis in every province and territory.
I am driven to reduce barriers and find new solutions, partnerships and innovations to save lives. I strive to deliver better experiences, better outcomes and more cost-effective e-mental health solutions to Canada. When Crisis Text Line (U.S.) and Kids Help Phone embarked on a partnership in 2018 and launched Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone, together we changed the landscape of mental health in Canada. This remains a point of pride for our team — through innovation and partnership, we are reaching more youth and saving more lives than ever before in our 30-year history. That makes me smile. But, there is more work to be done.
I am humbled to have been awarded the prestigious Top 10 Women Leaders in Digital Health in Canada (2019) for the game-changing work of Kids Help Phone.
I am a member of the Board of Directors of multiple organizations, including a seat at the table for the Ontario Premier’s Office on mental health and addiction; a member of the Children First Canada Council of Champions; the National Youth Serving Agencies; and the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty and Homelessness in Mississauga. I am a former member of the National Council of Foundation Executives for the Conference Board of Canada; a former member of the Board of Directors for Imagine Canada; and former chair of the Toronto Academic Health Science Network Foundation CEO Roundtable.
I have had the privilege of advancing the health of women and girls across Canada as President & CEO of Women’s College Hospital Foundation, where I was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence.
I have worked in academia, founded the Canadian Foundation in São Paulo, Brazil and began my career as an executive in the financial services sector.
I am most proud of my two courageous adult children who are catalysts and change-makers — and am most in awe of my beautiful grandson!
Aaron Sanderson, Senior Vice President, Advancement and Chief Development Officer
Aaron Sanderson leads Kids Help Phone’s fundraising efforts, and, in partnership with the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Community Officer, is the senior liaison to the organization’s community of generous supporters. Aaron joined Kids Help Phone in 2020.
Aaron is an international award-winning fundraiser with over 13 years of experience at leading non-profit organizations, including BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, Plan International Canada, SickKids Foundation and War Child. In addition, he has over a decade of senior volunteer experience with non-profit boards and committees, including the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Athletics Ontario, The Arthritis Society, Habitat for Humanity GTA, Heritage Toronto and the University of British Columbia.
Aaron also holds a Master of Arts in Philanthropy and Development, an Associates Certificate in Non-Profit Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Relations. He is the 11th Canadian to be awarded the Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE) designation, the top credential of the fundraising profession, and was inducted as a Fellow of the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy (FAHP). He was named a Top 40 Under 40 in North America by AHP in 2018, and was named “Difference Maker” by the Rick Hansen Foundation.
Alisa Simon, Senior Vice President, Innovation and Chief Youth Officer
Alisa Simon brings more than 20 years of leadership experience in health-care access and support services to her role as Senior Vice President, Innovation and Chief Youth Officer at Kids Help Phone. As a champion of innovation, Alisa is integral to the organization’s development of virtual health solutions for youth. Using comprehensive data and research to provide knowledge management strategies, Alisa drives improvements in service and support that respond to evolving technologies and the changing needs of young people. These include Kids Help Phone’s Live Chat service, the Always There app, the organization’s community resource database of 30,000 local programs and services nationwide serving young people — Resources Around Me — and most recently, a texting service — Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone — which launched across Canada in 2018.
Alisa also oversees the organization’s national counselling program, providing leadership and guidance to more than 100 professional counselling staff working across three national counselling centres. In addition, Alisa leads Kids Help Phone’s government relationships activities, working closely with provincial and federal government officials and stakeholders to advance the organization’s thought leadership initiatives.
Prior to joining Kids Help Phone, Alisa had experience serving as Health Policy Director at Public Citizens for Children and Youth where she managed two helplines assisting children and families. She was also the Health Care Director at Citizens for Consumer Justice and Acting Director of Policy and Communications with the Association of Ontario Midwives.
Alisa holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina.
Susan Morris, Senior Vice President, Operations and CFO
Susan Morris joined Kids Help Phone as head of Finance & Administration in July 1997. Prior to this, she ran her own accounting practice specializing in non-audit reviews, special projects and individual tax returns. She has a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in December 1987. While at Deloitte & Touche, she specialized in small business and not-for-profit.
An active volunteer, Susan served on the Board of Directors of the Jean Tweed Treatment Centre for nine years, participated in volunteer tax clinics, served as an active school volunteer throughout her children’s elementary and secondary school years, and remains a committed Kids Help Phone volunteer. She enjoys gardening, long walks and, travelling. Susan lives in Toronto with her husband and two children. In her spare time, she studies piano.
Jenny Yuen, Vice President, National Partnerships and Chief Community Officer
Jenny Yuen is the Vice President, National Partnerships and Chief Community Officer at Kids Help Phone. She’s responsible for strategic development of advancement that connects communities across Canada. She joined Kids Help Phone in 2005.
For more than 15 years, Jenny has specialized in signature event fundraising strategies and execution, influencing the height of the most successful campaigns for two industry leading organizations — the Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation and Kids Help Phone.
Jenny brings a multidisciplinary approach that includes, but is not limited to, the following portfolios: philanthropy, corporate and community engagement, sponsorship, volunteer leadership development and establishing systems to implement cross-functional programs. She has played key roles in bringing an inside-out approach to community and national events and teams that are focused on both enhanced efficiency and increased fund development by leveraging online and community-based strategies. Holding leadership positions that have both regional and national oversight, Jenny has developed experience in planning centrally and executing locally — developing a team-centred approach and bringing synergies to event strategies (requiring leadership from staff and community-based volunteers).
Jenny is a proud mom of two little humans in elementary school — they fuel her commitment to evolving the “village” in which we raise our kids and continue to adapt with them.
Alison Staples, Vice President, Human Resources and Chief People Officer
As Vice President, Human Resources and Chief People Officer at Kids Help Phone, Alison Staples oversees the strategic development of the organization’s human resources policies including recruitment, corporate culture and learning and development. She is a passionate relationship builder who has maintained the supportive and wonderful culture at Kids Help Phone.
Alison has over 20 years of experience in both the corporate and charity sectors, developing sustainable and strategic human resources programs and solutions designed to unleash leadership potential, drive performance, increase organizational effectiveness and steer business results.
Prior to her role at Kids Help Phone, Alison held executive human resources positions in organizations such as the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society and Deloitte & Touche. She is a Certified Human Resources Executive (CHRE) and holds a Master of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University.
A determined individual with a growth mindset, Alison also completed the High Potentials Leadership Program at Harvard University in 2013. She enjoys volunteering, having served on the Board of Directors of the Human Resources Professionals Association in York Region and the Sub-Board Committee at North York General Hospital. Alison is also a Peer Reviewer on the Accreditation Committee at Imagine Canada.
Kristen Buckley, Associate Vice President, Government Partnerships and Service Programs
Kristen Buckley is Kids Help Phone’s Associate Vice President, Government Partnerships and Service Programs. She leads a multidisciplinary portfolio that plays a key role in developing partnerships — particularly with government partners across Canada — bringing new programs and projects to life that support young people coast to coast to coast.
Kristen has been with Kids Help Phone for over 10 years, in roles from Coordinator to Executive team member. With a Master in Information and Library Science, she believes in the power of information and that there is no better way to support young people than through the work Kids Help Phone does each day through access to non-judgmental and empowering information and support.
Outside of Kids Help Phone, Kristen is raising three little girls with her husband, doing all the things busy, working moms do.
Darren Mastropaolo, Associate Vice President, Innovation and Data
Darren Mastropaolo joined Kids Help Phone in 2020 as our Associate Vice President, Innovation and Data. Darren’s portfolio includes both innovating within Kids Help Phone’s existing services, as well as strategy and implementation of new services. He works with our advancement team to raise funds for our innovation pipeline and also manages our data team to help us continuously enhance our service offerings for young people across Canada.
Darren holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Bucknell University. Over the past 10+ years, Darren’s career focused on innovations that support young people. He began his professional journey in New York City, working on digital products in entertainment, publishing and education. He left the corporate world to feed his soul and joined DoSomething.org, and later, Crisis Text Line.
As the former Director of International at Crisis Text Line, Darren worked in partnership with Kids Help Phone for three years. At Crisis Text Line, Darren found his passion for mental health and helped bring Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone to fruition in Canada in 2018.
Outside of work, Darren stays active with tennis, golf, skiing and surfing. He practices self-care by being outside in his garden, travelling, writing music, fly-fishing and spending time with his partner and their dog.
Lindsey Coulter, Associate Vice President, Strategic Communications
Lindsey Coulter is the Associate Vice President, Strategic Communications at Kids Help Phone. She joined the organization in 2018.
For over 15 years, Lindsey has been employed in the field of communications in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, working on global brands in youth engagement and international development. Lindsey was responsible for creating and implementing strategic communication plans, telling brand narratives through appropriate channels reaching targeted audiences.
Over the course of her career, Lindsey has developed a track record of success in both traditional and digital media. She specialized in media strategy and holds deep relationships with Tier-A media across Canada. As the communications landscape has evolved, so has she. Throughout her career, she has worked in multistakeholder environments and held leadership roles.
At Kids Help Phone, Lindsey leads communications both internally and externally through earned and owned channels. Lindsey has led earned campaigns for the one-year anniversary of Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone and managed all external earned communications during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lindsey holds a master’s degree in communications, but her biggest accomplishments are her twin daughters. They’re the reason she’s working at Kids Help Phone — to help end the stigma attached to mental health and encourage anyone in need to reach out for help!
Rebecca Stutley, Associate Vice President, Brand and Marketing
Rebecca Stutley is the Associate Vice President, Brand and Marketing at Kids Help Phone. She joined the organization in 2018.
For over 20 years, Rebecca has honed her craft in agencies and as a client across a range of categories and brands from homegrown to global. She has a proven track record of building emotionally relevant and resonant creative platforms that people connect with and respond to. Her contributions have led to award-winning work for brands like TD and IKEA.
At Kids Help Phone, Rebecca leads an in-house marketing team across direct, digital, content and traditional advertising channels. Externally, she collaborates with dedicated partners to develop and execute integrated programs that build the brand, support fundraising goals and ensure young people are aware of and can access support whenever they need it. She spearheaded the 30th anniversary campaign and pan-organizational program for Kids Help Phone and most recently drove the pivot in our communication platform to support youth and mobilize adults through the shared experience of social isolation during COVID-19.
Rebecca is leading our brand transformation, building upon 30 years of pioneering virtual care and e-mental health services for young people in Canada. As a mother to two sons, she’s personally driven to improve the lives of all youth in Canada by normalizing conversations about mental health and destigmatizing seeking support. As a marketer, she’s humbled by the opportunity to make meaningful social impact through such a beloved and important brand.
Jennifer Murdoch, Associate Vice President, Youth Experience and Program Operations (On leave)
Jennifer Murdoch, PhD is the Associate Vice President of Youth Experience and Program Operations at Kids Help Phone. She joined the organization in January 2016.
For more than 20 years, she has brought her commitment and dedication to the health care system through clinical work, strategic planning and operational insights.
From the outset of her career as a registered nurse, Jennifer has worked in a number of leadership roles in hospital, government and community-based centres. As an expert and PhD in interprofessional collaboration, Jennifer has provided direction for health human resources strategies and integrated plans and has participated and led a number of provincial and national initiatives aimed at building capacity within health care systems and service delivery.
As an Associate Vice President at Kids Help Phone, Jennifer oversees the full counselling operations and programs including training and evaluation of services across three centres in Canada. With over 100 professional counsellors and staff, Jennifer’s team ensures that Kids Help Phone meets and exceeds expectations in the delivery of quality phone and Live Chat services to young people in Canada every day.
Global Head, Employee Experience & Workplace Transformation (retired)
BMO Financial Group
Carolyn P. Everson
The Everson Company Inc.
Precima – A Nielsen Company
Chief People and Legal Affairs Officer
Avante Logixx Inc.
Board of Directors:
Global Director & Head of Public Policy, Canada
Facebook and Instagram
Cisco Systems Canada
Dr. Lori Egger
President & CEO
Canada Health Infoway
Over The Edge
Katherine Hay – Ex-officio
President & CEO
Kids Help Phone
Head, North American Customer Contact Centers (CCC)
BMO Financial Group
President & Co-founder
Jules Koostachin, PhD
PhD Candidate at UBC – GRSJ
Kids Help Phone’s National Youth Council
President, Ice Cream Division
Chief Digital Officer
BMO Financial Group
Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Dr. Valerie Taylor
Department Head, Psychiatry
University of Calgary & Alberta Health Services and Head of Mental Health, Calgary Zone
Sharon Wyse Hrdlitschka
General Manager Foodservice, Ingredients and Export
Bianca Fusco Zanatta
M. Zanatta Homes & Designs
These courageous young people are championing youth mental health and well-being across Canada as members of Kids Help Phone’s 2019-2020 National Youth Council (NYC). Get to know this year’s members below and learn more about our NYC!
Matthew McLaughlin, New Brunswick
I am a student at McGill University, double majoring in Economics and Urban Studies. A mental health advocate since high school, I am Co-Chair of Kids Help Phone’s National Youth Council, and I also sit on the organization’s Board of Directors. Additionally, I am a member of the national youth committee that advises the ACCESS Open Minds initiative. Another passion of mine is public policy; I am the Executive Director of the McGill Policy Association and a member of the Board of Directors for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. I was also recognized by Future of Good on their 2019 list of 21 Youth Reshaping Governance. I care deeply about sustainability and am an avid fan of public transportation!
David Fan, Ontario
I’m a Grade 12 student at Newmarket High School who is always looking for ways to spread awareness about mental health and well-being in my community. My journey with Kids Help Phone began when I started volunteering for the Walk so Kids Can Talk presented by BMO seven years ago and I have continued ever since. This year I hope to speak with more high school students about breaking the stigma around mental illness and fostering safe spaces. This will be my fourth year with the National Youth Council and I’m looking forward to another impactful year full of new experiences and memories! In my spare time, you can find me playing baseball, watching TV and shamelessly coming up with bad puns with friends.
Hailey Noseworthy, Newfoundland and Labrador
I’m from Silverdale and I’m a Bachelor of Nursing student under the Centre for Nursing Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland. I’m an active member of my school’s Nursing Society and a student representative with the College of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador. I’m also involved with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board as a student advocate for inclusive and alternative learning in K-12 education. My work at the Dr. Jon Lien Museum of the world’s largest humpback whale skeleton on display, in addition to my work with King’s Point Theatre Company, created my passion for tourism in my province. I’ve participated in programs such as SHAD, MedQuest, Miss Achievement Newfoundland and Labrador, Encounters with Canada, World Vision’s Youth Advocacy Program and Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Parliament. I’m also involved in numerous youth organizations such as the Premier’s Youth Council and Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame Constituency Youth Council. My proudest achievements include being the recipient of many awards, including SHAD’s Trevor Nason Memorial Award and the Governor General’s Academic Medal.
Nazanin Soghrati, Ontario
I’m a Grade 12 student from Bayview Secondary School in Richmond Hill, Ontario. I’m always looking for ways to spread awareness about mental health and well-being in my community. In my spare time, I enjoy swimming, running, listening to music, reading and writing. This is my fourth year with the NYC and I’m looking forward to another impactful year!
Mehul Gupta, Alberta
Growing up in Calgary, Alberta, I have always been passionate about creating opportunities for young people to find their voice and participate meaningfully in their communities. As a third-year student at the University of Calgary, I am involved in a number of initiatives aimed at accomplishing these goals, working with organizations like Youreka Canada, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Kids Help Phone to give young people the platforms they need to succeed. As a part of the NYC, I hope to create programs and resources that take meaningful steps toward destigmatizing youth mental health while simultaneously empowering young leaders across Canada. Aside from advocacy, I love to read fiction, write and play basketball!
Maxine Joly-Chevrier, Quebec
Adopted from China by Quebecers, I have been raised in Montreal where I currently am completing my first year of CEGEP in Health Sciences. Mental health and well-being have always been close to my heart since I constantly strive for a healthy balance of community involvement, academics, extracurriculars and sports. I consider my Canadian life to be a blessing, thus, I am truly passionate about giving back to others by providing free extracurricular activities to kids of a public elementary school in my local town. I have also launched a fundraiser to finance educational tools for the kids of Siddhi Ganesh Public Elementary School in Kathmandu. I believe education is definitely a way to increase happiness as it unlocks one’s doors and broadens one’s opportunities to find purpose and meaning.
Liam Armstrong, British Columbia
Born in Toronto, I’m currently a third-year student at the University of British Columbia studying Computer Science and Commerce. Over the last few years I’ve interned at Kids Help Phone’s office in Toronto and assisted with event planning, fundraising and accounting. Through this time, I’ve learned about the impact Kids Help Phone has had on the mental health challenges faced by youth in Canada. I’m looking forward to bringing years of event planning experience and my insider Kids Help Phone knowledge to the National Youth Council!
Sophie Krokhine, Ontario
I am a Grade 12 student from Toronto, and I’ve always been interested in neuroscience and mental health. I’ve explored my passion by doing research in several institutes and labs and leading clubs and stress-reduction initiatives at my school. I also volunteer at a martial arts club, helping students learn techniques, mindfulness skills and focus. As a member of the National Youth Council, I hope to share my knowledge and contribute as best I can to Kids Help Phone initiatives.
Harjot Kular, British Columbia
I am from Surrey, B.C. and I am a first-year student at the University of British Columbia. My Kids Help Phone journey started when I first volunteered for one of their events, the Walk so Kids Can Talk presented by BMO in 2017 in Surrey. When I started to realize the importance of youth mental health, I wanted to help make a difference in my school and in my community. My passion to bring change around the stigma of mental health brought me to Kids Help Phone’s NYC, where I have the opportunity of working with a very motivated team of young leaders. In my spare time, you can find me reading, writing, volunteering and travelling.
Fatima Saleem, Alberta
I am a Health Sciences student at the University of Calgary who believes in the power of youth to address the challenges faced by socially marginalized groups, particularly regarding mental health. As a multidisciplinary artist, I use poetry and visual art to bring stories to life. My art is autobiographical — growing up with loved ones with complicated mental health challenges has motivated me to relentlessly advocate for youth mental wellness. Through my involvement with Kids Help Phone (as an NYC member, Site and Logistics Lead at my local Walk so Kids Can Talk presented by BMO and volunteer Crisis Responder), I am dedicated to fostering a culture of acceptance of people with mental illness, reducing mental health stigma among youth and improving access to mental health resources for underserved communities.
Rick Aiyer, Quebec
I grew up in Amsterdam, Beijing and Dubai and I now call Montreal home. I am a second year honors Social Science student in CEGEP. Through my upbringing and community engagement, I developed an evolving awareness of the struggles youth face and the importance of having systems and resources that support youth. I am passionate about Kids Help Phone’s work toward providing youth with equitable and accessible mental health support, and I am excited to serve on the NYC and work with individuals from across Canada to support the mission of Kids Help Phone while advocating for youth well-being. Outside of school, I am involved with a federal and provincial political party (where part of my work is around improving civic engagement among youth), I tutor English and I serve on the RCMP’s National Youth Advisory Committee. In my free time, I enjoy skiing, reading and Netflix!
Monica Taing, Quebec
My name is Monica T., and I am fascinated by cognitive neuroscience and psychiatry. I am from Ottawa, Ontario, and I am an undergraduate student at McGill University. As a National Youth Council member, I strive to integrate my academics and co-curricular experiences to create initiatives that enhance mental health resources for youth. Outside of this position, I enjoy swimming and drawing — these are great, relaxing activities for your mind that I encourage you to explore if you can!
Laetitia Rajput, British Columbia
I am a Grade 10 student in Burnaby, B.C., although I have lived all over the country. I believe it is time for society to broaden their knowledge and acceptance toward mental health. With these beliefs in mind, it is my pleasure to be serving my second year on the NYC. Being involved with Kids Help Phone since I was 12, being on the council is a goal I’m proud to have accomplished. Alongside mental health, I am invested in humanitarian work, even opening the first “chapter” in Saskatchewan for a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a better education for students in Niger. Taking an initiative in my community has always been a priority for me. To unwind I love travelling, playing volleyball and hanging out with friends!
Kate Lau, Ontario
Like all students, there are many responsibilities to upkeep, many thoughts running through my mind, and many different things I want to learn and experience as I complete my second year of university studying Business Administration. Having lived in my neighbourhood my whole life, I love when I can meet others who have different perspectives and listen to their stories. I applied to the NYC a couple of years ago and since then I have had unforgettable opportunities to voice my opinions at an international helpline conference, and learn more about mental health and support systems across Canada. I am so excited for another year of learning and advocating for mental wellness through the NYC! I consider reading a good book, watching funny YouTube videos and drawing while listening to music to be some of the self-care activities that I do to relax.
Emily Chaytor, Nova Scotia
Hi there! My name is Emily Chaytor and I’m originally from the west coast of Newfoundland. I’m currently living in Halifax, Nova Scotia in my fourth year at Dalhousie University. Kids Help Phone is an amazing resource and I am so thankful to be a part of its success. Mental health issues have touched many of my loved ones and I’ve seen first-hand the impact just talking can have. It is because of that I wish to see the access to mental health support reached on a national level.
Kids Help Phone recognizes the importance of Indigenous leadership in all of our work. Under the direction of the Manager of Indigenous Initiatives, and with the collaboration of our internal Indigenous Initiatives Committee, our Indigenous programs are also led by an external, Indigenous Advisory Council.
Our Indigenous Advisory Council is composed of Inuit, Métis and First Nations experts, half of whom are youth, who’ve demonstrated a strong commitment to the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of Indigenous young people. We invite you to learn more about Finding Hope: Kids Help Phone’s Action Plan for Supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis young people and how you can support this important work.
Indigenous Advisory Council (2019-2020)
Andre Bear graduated with his Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Saskatchewan and is now pursuing both a Juris Doctor of Law and Master of Business Administration. He is the former youth representative of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and Co-Chair of the Assembly of First Nations National Youth Council as well as Executive Member. In 2016, Andre was appointed as a Special Advisor to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations where he co-founded the Indigenous Youth Voices Network for the full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action 66. Andre believes in advocating for Indigenous children and youth and treaty and inherent rights.
Michael Redhead Champagne
Michael Redhead Champagne, born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End, is an award-winning community organizer, public speaker and a proud member of Shamattawa First Nation. Michael believes we all have a gift and shows youth the path to discover their own. He is solution-oriented and passionate about building system literacy, encouraging volunteerism and engaging communities to be involved in the design, delivery and evaluation of any initiative that affects them. Michael is known for his honest and heartfelt style that will leave you moved, inspired and ready for action.
Michael’s first opportunity to speak to an engaged audience was in a room filled with community leaders who were speaking about homelessness. Michael was in the audience as someone with lived experience. He didn’t agree with what was being said from the stage, so he raised his hand and spoke his truth for the first time publicly — effectively altering the course of the conversation. He was 10 years old at the time.
Growing up in and around the child and family services system, Michael lived through the suicides of many people he cared about, gang violence directed at himself and his peers and the lack of opportunity for youth growing up in similar circumstances. This led to the founding of AYO! (Aboriginal Youth Opportunities) in 2010. This volunteer youth movement exists to uplift urban Indigenous youth, and provide them with a platform to share their gifts with the world.
Michael believes in leading by example and now travels across Canada sharing his gift with others. Whether he’s speaking to educators, youth, the business community or the not-for-profit sector, his goal is the same — to help heal, shape and create a call to action for everyone.
Randall Crowe has supported youth in his community of Deer Lake First Nation as a mental health worker for seven years. He’s also a crisis volunteer worker for Sioux Lookout First Nation Health Authority’s Nodin Crisis Response Program — a service that provides crisis intervention and support to immediate families impacted by tragic incidents.
Randall is a fierce advocate for meaningful involvement from First Nations youth in the development of policies and programs that affect them. In 2016, Randall was part of a delegation of Indigenous young people from northern Ontario who met with Prime Minister Trudeau to discuss issues affecting First Nations youth in the North. His voice continues to affect positive change across northern Ontario and beyond. This includes Randall’s work as an active member of Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s Oshkaatisak Youth Council.
Ashley Rose Cummings, Co-Chair
Ashley Cummings is a proud Inuk youth from Pangnirtung, Nunavut. As a member of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, Ashley advises the Prime Minister on issues that have included (but are not limited to) rural and northern health/well-being, supporting ethical and Indigenous-led tourism, mental health and other issues affecting youth across Canada. Ashley has personal experience with leaving her community for medical treatment as a young child and is a fierce advocate for life promotion.
Ashley participated in Students on Ice (SOI), an organization that educates youth from across the world about the polar regions through immersive expeditions. Ashley has previously worked for North in Focus, which specializes in providing avenues of self-expression to youth, combining art, physical recreation and meditation with mental health promotion and anti-stigma education in arctic and sub-arctic communities. Ashley now sits on the board for Apathy is Boring, a national organization that promotes democratic participation in young people. Her colourful background living in Nunavut, Yukon, Nova Scotia, Quebec and New Brunswick has given her a comprehensive perspective on life for Indigenous young people from coast to coast to coast. Ashley works her hardest to advocate for “nothing about us, without us” to ensure all Indigenous youth are honoured.
Kieran B. Drachenberg, Kids Help Phone National Youth Council (NYC) Member
At the age of 18, Kieran has already established himself as a passionate, dedicated and influential mental health and LGBTQ2+ advocate. Originally from Dauphin, Manitoba, Kieran now lives in Iqaluit and studies Social Work at Nunavut Arctic College.
Kieran was instrumental in the passing of Bill 31 in Nunavut — a bill that ensures protection for transgender individuals under the territory’s Human Rights Act. He generously shares his own experiences with mental health struggles and has been featured in two documentaries: Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things and Bell Let’s Talk: In Their Own Words. In 2017, Kieran was recognized as a Difference Maker by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
As a Métis young person raised in an Inuit community, Kieran brings a unique perspective to Kids Help Phone’s Indigenous Advisory Council. He has also volunteered his time for seven years as a Kids Help Phone National Youth Council member, ambassador and fundraiser. He’s also a member of the Frayme Advisory on Youth Matters (AYM) and works as a research assistant at Ryerson University.
Reina is passionate about her culture, loved ones and igniting change. She has a diverse youth leadership background that stems from being the former Lac Seul Youth Chief. In 2016, Reina spent a day shadowing the honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of the former Northern and Indigenous Affairs Canada. This opportunity was a dream come true for Reina and served as a stepping stone for her extensive global advocacy work, which includes being on Plan International Canada’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC).
Reina is passionate about First Nations child welfare and advocating for children and youth in care. She has both negative and positive experiences with the child welfare system and uses that as a fire-burner to ignite change within the system. Reina has many publications and articles on the topic of child welfare and is the female Youth Representative for the Tikinagan Child and Family Services: Board of Directors.
Reina contributes to many councils, panels and committees including Feathers of Hope, a First Nations youth initiative within the Ontario Child Advocate’s Office. After working a part-time job at a homeless shelter in Sioux Lookout, Reina was inspired to continue her work there after she resigned. She was appointed to the Out of the Cold Shelter: Board Committee to be a voice for the people who seek shelter there.
With dreams of being a worker for justice and law, she’s currently employed at a law firm. She hopes to obtain her undergrad and attend law school in the near future. She is proud and in disbelief that she accomplished everything she set her mind to before the age of 18. She hopes to inspire many other Indigenous youth to accomplish their dreams, too.
Robert Henry, PhD
Robert Henry, PhD, is Métis from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary in the Department of Sociology. Robert’s research areas include Indigenous street gangs and gang theories, Indigenous masculinities, Indigenous and critical research methodologies, youth mental health and visual research methods. Working closely with community partners, Robert works to create knowledge mobilization outcomes that reflect community needs and wants. He’s published a photovoice narrative collection with Indigenous male gang members titled Brighter Days Ahead (2013) and has recently submitted another collection in partnership with Indigenous females and their involvement in street gangs titled Through the Looking Glass. Robert was the lead editor of Global Indigenous Health: Reconciling the Past, Engaging the Present, Animating the Future (2018) and is a Co-Editor on two other collections focusing on settler colonialism and urban Prairie cities, and Indigenous health and art. Robert has also published in the areas of Indigenous masculinity, Indigenous health, youth subcultures and criminal justice.
His current research focuses on the concept of survivance and its applicability within Indigenous research more broadly. Borrowing from Gerald Vizenor’s concept of survivance in literacy, Robert and partners from Canada, New Zealand and Australia are contextualizing its usage within street spaces, and how Indigenous peoples continue to survive, resist and resurge their presence, challenging settler colonialism. In Canada, Robert is using survivance as a way to comprehend pragmatic agency of Indigenous peoples engaged in street lifestyles, specifically street gangs.
Jules Koostachin, Co-Chair, Kids Help Phone Board of Directors Representative
Jules Arita Koostachin, owner of VisJuelles Productions Inc., is MoshKeKo Cree and a band member of Attawapiskat First Nation, located in what is now called northern Ontario. Jules is a PhD candidate with the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia — her research focus is on Indigenous documentary. She carries extensive experience working in Indigenous communities in varying capacities. Jules is also known as a digital storyteller and media artist who works to honour cultural protocols and build relationships within Indigenous communities through her arts practice. Her artistic endeavours are informed by her experience living with her Cree grandparents, as well as her mother, a residential school warrior.
Evan Sault is an elected councillor from Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation (MNCFN) where he carries the health and wellness portfolio. Before joining council in 2015, Evan was a Child and Youth Worker and Family Support Worker on MNCFN and Six Nations of the Grand River for 12 years. In this role, and with his diploma in Indigenous Social Work, Evan supported First Nations young people as they navigated the justice and child welfare systems.
A strong advocate for the mental health benefits of sports and recreation, Evan was actively involved in the planning of the 2017 North American Indigenous Games and 2017 Invictus Games. On his own First Nation, he has coached, coordinated many tournaments and lead the community’s sports and recreation committee.
Evan maintains strong ties with the City of Toronto and its Indigenous community. He participates in Toronto’s Indigenous Advisory Council meetings and is responsible for leading MNCFN’s involvement in major events throughout the city including the Canadian National Exhibition.
Evan is actively involved in the health and well-being of his community through participation in a number of boards including Brant Family and Children’s Services, Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services and Youth Lodge and the Hagersville Food Bank. As a father and as a youth advocate, he believes youth and elders must be treasured and honoured.
Brittany Whynot is Mi’kmaq from Acadia First Nation and was raised off reserve in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. She graduated from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology, and has almost completed her Indigenous Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Victoria. Brittany has five years of experience working in an Indigenous non-profit organization, and was on the National Association of Friendship Centre’s Aboriginal Youth Council (AYC) for three years. She has a passion for working with and assisting Indigenous people, bringing education and awareness to the barriers and issues they face. Brittany is currently working at Healing Our Nations, supporting Indigenous people in the areas of sexual health, HIV/AIDS, STBBIs, healthy relationships and by spreading Indigenous cultural awareness.
Roda Grey has been keen to learn new skills and has always been curious about life and the way she can help her people — the Inuit — to achieve a state of wellness. Born in 1949 in the remote community of Aupaluk, Quebec on the shore of Ungava Bay, she went to the federal day school. Roda moved to the Ottawa Valley region of Ontario where she undertook a course at Algonquin College, graduating in 1992 as a Social Services Worker. This helped her understand more clearly how social services among her people affect small communities, as well as how important it is to provide such services to address the needs of the Inuit.
Roda worked for several national Inuit organizations over 10 years to advocate for the Inuit on policies that address the four Inuit regions (Nunavik, Nunavut, Labrador as well as the Inuit of the Western Arctic). In 2007, after several years of living in southern parts of Canada, Roda went back north to live in Kuujjuaq, Quebec, work for the Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre and take community addiction training by the Nechi Institute. Later, she became certified by the Canadian Council of Professional Certification as an Addiction Counsellor.
In 2011, Roda became a Regional Addiction Officer with the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services. Here, she was part of the team developing an addiction training program for frontline workers specific to the Nunavik region. Later, she delivered addiction training in Inuktitut for the Inuit frontline workers. In addition to her work, Roda undertook various courses to develop more training skills, including:
- Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)
- Best Practice in Suicide Intervention Trainer
- Mental Health First Aid Inuk Instructor
Roda sees Kid Help Phone as another resource that would help youth in Nunavik. She would like to contribute to the enhancement of services for more young people.