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Our Team

 


 

Sue has shoulder-length, light brown hair with bangs. She wears a sparkly and black sleeveless top.

Sue Simpson

Executive Director

[email protected]  

Sue has been part of the WRFN story since the beginning, watching us grow from a small group of volunteer families into a thriving organization that’s now equipped to support thousands of people touched by special needs. As executive director, she oversees all operations and represents our organization on many community collaboratives.

 

Sue has also been an active advocate for disability-related issues in our community for over 32 years. In that time, she’s volunteered as a committee or board member for several organizations, such as KidsAbility, KW Habilitation, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board Special Education Advisory Committee and KW Counselling Services. Sue currently sits on the Lutherwood Parent/Community Advisory Committee.

 

A Wilfrid Laurier University graduate, Sue enjoys spending time with her family, including her husband, two adult sons and her daughter-in-law. She is the proud recipient of the 2018 Empowered Kids Ontario (EKO) Tribute Award for Leadership.

 

 

Carmen has light brown hair is pulled back, and she wears glasses and a red lanyard around her neck.

Carmen Sutherland

Coffee Club Facilitator 

[email protected]

Carmen has lived in Kitchener-Waterloo since 2010, and has run Coffee Club since October of 2011. She has a Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois in Rehabilitation. Carmen is passionate about helping everyone build community, especially those with disabilities. Her other passions include food and TV. She loves to meet new people and help in every way she can, so do not hesitate to reach out!

 

 

Cristina has light brown, shoulder length, curly hair and wears glasses. She is wearing a bright pink sleeveless top.

Cristina Stanger

Self-Advocacy Liaison

[email protected]

Cristina has always been drawn to work with populations with exceptionalities, and as an adult she discovered that she has exceptionalities of her own. She has since grown into a community self-advocate by co-founding a peer support group, sitting on committees, volunteering as a mentor, and through public speaking engagements.

 

Cristina is passionate about sharing her lived experience, and she worked with WRFN to create the Ask A Self-Advocate Program in 2017. Through self-exploration, person-centred problem solving, and with a little finesse, she believes everyone can discover what they need to be at their best and successfully advocate for themselves.

 

After completing her two degrees with UW’s Faculty of Science, Cristina and her husband decided to stay in Waterloo. Now she has a young family, and they enjoy spending time in their backyard playscape/garden and cooking together.

 

 

Erin has long, dark brown hair. She is wearing it in a low, side-swept style with curls.

Erin Sutherland

Family Resource Coach

[email protected]

226-808-5460

Now in her 19th year in the field, Erin has worked with children, youth and families of Waterloo region in a variety of capacities including children’s mental health, developmental services, intensive family support and resource consultation. She has extensive knowledge of support services and community resources and enjoys facilitating community connections for individuals.

 

Erin holds her diploma in Child and Youth Counseling and is working toward completion of her degree in Psychology and Sociology. She is also a parent of three young girls.

 

In her role with WRFN, Erin supports families who have children under the age of 16. She is eager to meet and discuss your child and/or family’s unique needs! 

 

 

Marla has a light brown, short cropped hairstyle. She wears a black tank top and stands in a brightly lit space with flowering trees behind her.

 

 

Marla Pender

Family Resource Coach

Marla.Pender@wrfn.info

226-338-7274

Marla has been working for non-profit and government organizations for over 25 years in the areas of youth engagement, accessibility and volunteer engagement. She is passionate about community engagement and enjoys making connections and supporting the unique needs of individuals and families.

 

Marla holds a degree in Community Psychology and is working toward completing a Master of Counselling Psychology. In her role, Marla supports families who have children 16 years of age and older as well as self-advocates. She is looking forward to collaborating with you and discussing your interests and goals.

 

In her free time, Marla enjoys baking and hiking with her partner and dog.

 

 

 Leah has shoulder length, straight silver hair and wears purple framed glasses.

Leah Bowman

Family Resource Coach

[email protected]

226-898-9301

Leah brings 23 years experience working in non-profit organizations in various social service settings, the majority of which have been in the Developmental Services sector. Through her various roles within these organizations, she has had the opportunity to walk alongside many children, youth & adults as they find their sense of belonging in the communities where they live.

 

Leah finds great joy in supporting individuals and families to find the supports they need to create lives they find meaningful and fulfilling. She understands that each individual and family has unique needs & strengths and uses that as a guide to find community connections that are a good fit.

 

In her role as Family Resource Coach at WRFN, Leah will be supporting families who have loved ones age 16 and older. She is excited to support and facilitate community connections for you and/or your family!

 

 

Rachel has dark red, curled hair. She wears a black and white striped turtle neck.

 

 

Rachel Cave

Communications and Marketing Coordinator

[email protected]

Born and raised in KW, Rachel has over 10 years of experience working with families and children with exceptionalities in the region and abroad. She brings forth a varied perspective from working and volunteering in classrooms and from being an in-home caretaker. Although she loves working directly with children, Rachel’s passion for writing and storytelling led her into a career in communications.

 

Rachel brings a post-grad degree in Public Relations and two + years of communications and marketing experience from the travel and tourism industry to WRFN. She looks forward to increasing WRFN’s community presence through social media and other communications opportunities. On her time off, you can find Rachel hunting down the best local cup of coffee, biking through the city, or on a hike with her black lab. 

 

 

Photo of Susan Stark. She has short, light blonde hair. She wears hoop earing and a floral blouse.

Susan Stark

Development Manager

[email protected]

Susan discovered her passion for fundraising at 10 years old, when she held a carnival to support the Jerry Lewis MS telethon. Now, she has over 21 years of raising funds in a professional capacity. Susan is motivated by her goals in helping others live their best lives.

 

Susan lives in Kitchener with her husband and Sadie, her big fur baby. She has four grown children, a step-son and eight grandchildren. Sadly, one son and two of those teen grandies live in Georgia, but absence makes the time they are together that much more special.

 

Susan has both a Business Administration/Marketing Diploma and a Fundraising Practitioner diploma from Conestoga College and a B.A. from the University of Waterloo. As a lifelong learner, she is always open to new experiences and points of view. 

 

 

 

Photo of Stephanie Prysnuk. She has chin-length, light brown hair with bangs. She wears glasses and a bright pink t-shirt.

 

 

 

In Loving Memory

 

In May 2022, our dear friend and colleague, Stephanie Prysnuk, passed away. Steph started out as a volunteer for WRFN in 2009 and became a part-time employee. She was always a light in the office, right from the very beginning. Steph will be deeply missed.  

 

Read Our Tribute to Steph Here 

 

 

 

 

Board of Directors

 

Photo of Karen Klink. Karen has dark blonde, curly hair. She wears glasses and a white sweater.

 

 

Karen Klink

Board Chair

Karen is the current Chair of the Board for WRFN.  She has spent the last 20 years working in the tech industry and currently spends her days working as Director, Relationship Management at Communitech. 

Karen holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Memorial University of Newfoundland.  In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and maintaining a regular fitness regime of running, cycling and yoga.

Karen also resides on an Advisory Board for the Laurier Centre for Women in Science and has previously volunteered on the board for the Business and Education Partnerships for Waterloo Region. 

 

 

Photo of Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn. Carolyn has long brown hair and wears glasses.

 

Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn

Vice Chair

Carolyn joined our board in 2017 and is the current Vice Chair. She is married and a mother to three boys, including twins, who were all born preterm.

 

The first several years of the twins' lives involved intensive therapies and regular medical appointments to help them with their development. During this time, Carolyn was introduced to the maze of developmental services and supports for people with exceptionalities. 

 

She quickly became an advocate for families with children born preterm and began a local parent support group for parents of "preemies.”

 

Carolyn has worked throughout the Region of Waterloo in social services for 17 years, sits on numerous committees, and holds the role of President of KW Parents of Multiple Births Association. When not working, Carolyn enjoys trips to Algonquin Park, hanging out in the backyard with family, and watching the Blue Jays play.

 

 

Photo of Samantha Brewer. Samantha has long, straight blonde hair. She wears a black blazer over a white blouse.

 

Samantha Brewer

Treasurer

Samantha is a Certified Professional Accountant with a passion for being involved within her community and offering support through her professional expertise and education.  In the past she has volunteered with many different foundation and community events, before joining the Board of WRFN as treasurer on a more permanent basis.  Samantha is currently a new parent and loves to spend her days out exploring with her husband, baby boy and their dog!

 

 

Photo of Jen Arseneault. Jen has short blonde hair. She wears a bright pink sleeveless top.

 

Jen Arseneault

Director

Jen has worked and volunteered in the non-profit community for over 10 years. As a professional fundraiser, she brings expertise to help create authentic donor-centric strategies within WRFN. 


Jen is a passionate strategic relationship manager who believes that philanthropy plays a critical role in the future for our youth. She is the Senior Development Officer with the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo. 

 

As a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), Jen upholds strong ethical values as a fundraiser. Previously graduating from Brock University (BA) and Humber College (Fundraising Management) she now lives in Fergus, Ontario with her husband, newborn baby girl and golden retriever. You can find them strolling downtown Elora and the surrounding trails throughout the year. 

 

 

Photo of Jennifer Lasenby-Lessard. Jennifer has light brown hair. She wears a floral blouse under a black blazer.

 

Jennifer Lasenby-Lessard 

Director

Jennifer has a PhD in Applied Developmental Psychology and is currently an adjunct faculty member in the Psychology Department at the University of Guelph. She teaches university courses in children’s mental health and educational psychology and is involved in a number of research projects related to families and children with exceptionalities.

 

Jennifer also works at a private psychology office and has extensive experience conducting psychological assessments for a wide range of difficulties. She sits on the Parent Advisory and Quality Improvement committees at KidsAbility, the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Collaborative, and is a parent mentor with WRFN.  

 

Jennifer has two sons, one of which has exceptionalities. She believes that families and children thrive when they are given the time and space to be heard, and when they are offered individualized support that helps them meet their own personal goals. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys volunteering in the community and exploring the outdoors with her family.

 

 

Photo of Lorie Cochrane. Lorie has long blonde hair and wears glasses.

 

Lorie Cochrane

Director

Lorie has been on the Board of Directors of WRFN since 2020. She also volunteers for Parents for Community Living and is the Treasurer for the SJK School Parents Association.
 
Lorie enjoys spending time with her family, including her husband, Chris, and their three children, Ainsley, Cole and James.

She is a dedicated competitive cyclist who has been a member of the Waterloo Cycling Club and Faction Racing team for many years. Lorie also enjoys spending time outdoors hiking with her dogs, kayaking and swimming with her kids.

 

 

Photo of Debbie Hoekstra. Debbie has shoulder length blonde hair. She wears a bright blue blazer over a white dress shirt.

 

Debbie Hoekstra

Director

Elected to the WRFN Board in early 2021, Debbie is a retired Senior Strategic Leader with the YMCA.  Over her 30+ years of work life she focused on programs, services and strategies to support children, youth and families across Waterloo region. Debbie has been actively engaged in Outcomes Measurement and Collective Impact work within the National and International YMCAs and Waterloo region.

She was the initial chair of the WRFN Partnership Group, is a member of the Friends of WRFN and is now serving on the Board’s Governance Committee.

 

A University of Waterloo graduate, Debbie values continuous learning through reading, courses and experiences.  She is married with two adult children and three dogs.  Debbie enjoys photography, travel and anything that engages her creative side. 

 

 

Photo of Lina Caputo. Lina has short black hair. She wears hoop earrings and a bright scarf over a black shirt.

 

Lina Caputo

Director

Lina is an educator with a background in Languages and a Specialist Qualification in working with children with special needs. She has been a member of Social Venture Partners Waterloo Region since its inception in 2010 and has been involved in many SVP Committees, most recently as lead partner for Carizon, the 2018 Investee. Lina believes that knowledge and engagement are the keys to making a positive impact and looks forward to supporting WRFN and its families.

 

Lina enjoys cycling and believes yoga keeps her balanced both physically and spiritually.

 

 

Photo of Kirk Irving. Kirk has shortly cropped hair. He wears a black suit jacket over a blue collared shirt and dark blue tie.

 

Kirk Irving

Director

Kirk has spent his entire 25-plus-year career in commercial lending including the last 12 years with the Business Development Bank of Canada where he manages a team of local bankers dedicated to supporting Canadian entrepreneurs.  He is also currently serving as the Treasurer of the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin.

Kirk and his family have been living in Waterloo since 2013 and he has been actively involved as a volunteer or coach with several Waterloo minor sports leagues.  He was drawn to the opportunity to serve on the Board as the parent of a child with exceptionalities.

 

 

Photo of Janet Greener. Janet has shoulder length brown hair. She wears glasses and a colourful cardigan over a white shirt.

 

Janet Greener

Director

Janet has lived her entire life in Waterloo region and has dedicated over 25 of those years to volunteering with various organizations supporting those with exceptionalities.  Growing up with the values of inclusion, she has dedicated her career to “filling in the gaps” for our community’s children and youth. 

 

Janet’s passion is education that is flexible and progressive for students of all learning styles.  She values community connection and participates on various committees and boards such as Waterloo Region Track 3 Ski School and the Kitchener Sports Association. 

 

Janet’s favourite place to be is participating alongside peers and creating an inclusive environment.  She uses her experience and education to be an ally and an advocate for all.

 

 

 
Photo of Sue Simpson

 

Sue Simpson

Ex Officio 

Secretary