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Our Team

 


 

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 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 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 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! 

 

 

Sue Furey

Family Resource Coach

[email protected]

226-898-9301 

Sue has 28 years of experience parenting someone with multiple exceptionalities and has volunteered on many community committees and advisory councils including at KidsAbility, Lutherwood, Waterloo Region District School Board Special Education Advisory Committee, and Waterloo Region Family Network.  She has enjoyed connecting with families at CNIB’s Lake Joseph family camp, and in the stands at many para-athletic track meets.

 

Sue is married with two adult children.  In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors, and getting her puppy fix as a volunteer puppy sitter for National Service Dogs.

 

In her part-time role with WRFN, Sue supports families who have children 16 years of age and over and Self-Advocates who are 16 plus. She looks forward to helping WRFN families and Self-Advocates find connections and supports in Waterloo region.

 

 

Leah Bowman

Administrative Support

[email protected]

Leah has worked within the social service sector for over 20 years in various roles such as Direct Support Professional, Family Supervisor and Program Supervisor for three different non-profit organizations. Through these roles, she has had the opportunity to walk alongside many children, adults & families as they find their sense of belonging in the communities where they live. Her previous supervisory roles had many administrative components to them, which has helped her hone her organizational skills and love for seeing things run smoothly. She enjoys using her skills and unique experiences to impact and become involved in the important work that WRFN does.

 

 

 
 

 

 

Steph Prysnuk

Administrative Support

[email protected]

Steph is a woman with exceptionalities who is an active member of her community. Steph volunteers at Knox Waterloo church, enjoys music, sings in the WRDSB Crescendo Choir, and likes to keep in shape through boxing, bowling, and yoga.


Steph helps out with many different kinds of administrative projects in the WRFN office and helps to keep her coworkers on track. Steph started out as a volunteer in 2009 and is now a part-time employee.

 

 


 

Board of Directors

 

 
 

 

 

 
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. 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
Samantha Ouellette

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!

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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. 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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. 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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.

 

 

 
 
 
 
Sue Simpson

Ex Officio 

Secretary

Waterloo Region Family Network Logo

Staff & Board Members

 


 

 

Our Team

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 affected by special needs.

 

As executive director of the WRFN, Sue oversees all operations and represents our organization on many community collaborative councils, boards and committees.

 

A Wilfrid Laurier University graduate, Sue enjoys spending time with her family, including her husband, Mike, and her two adult sons, Greg and Kevin – both of whom have exceptionalities.

 

She has also been an active advocate for disability-related issues in our community for over 28 years. In that time, she’s volunteered for several organizations, such as KidsAbility, KW Habilitation, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board Special Education Advisory Committee and KW Counselling Services. She currently sits on the Lutherwood Parent/Community Advisory Committee.

 

 

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. She 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 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.

 

 

Sue Furey

Family Resource Coach

[email protected]

 

Sue  is filling in as Family Resource Coach while Erin is on maternity leave.  Sue has 27 years experience parenting someone with multiple exceptionalities, and has volunteered on many community committees and advisory councils, including at KidsAbility, Lutherwood, Waterloo Region District School Board Special Education Advisory Committee, and Waterloo Region Family Network.  She has enjoyed connecting with families at CNIB’s Lake Joseph family camp, and in the stands at many para-athletic track meets, and looks forward to helping WRFN families find connections and supports in Waterloo Region.

 

Sue is married with two adult children.  In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors, and getting her puppy fix as a volunteer puppy sitter for National Service Dogs.

 

 

Leah Bowman

Administrative Support

[email protected]

 

Leah has worked within the social service sector for over 17 years in various roles such as Direct Support Professional, Family Supervisor and Program Supervisor for 3 different non-profit organizations. Through these roles, she has had the opportunity to walk alongside many children, adults & families as they find their sense of belonging in the communities where they live. Her previous supervisory roles have had many administrative components to them, which has helped her hone her organizational skills and love for seeing things run smoothly. She hopes to use her skills and unique experiences to impact and become involved in the important work that WRFN does.

 

 

 
 
Steph Prysnuk

Administrative Support

[email protected]

Steph is a woman with exceptionalities who is an active member of her community. Steph volunteers at Knox Waterloo church, enjoys music, sings in the WRDSB Crescendo Choir, and likes to keep in shape through boxing, bowling, and yoga.
Steph helps out with many different kinds of administrative projects in the WRFN office and helps to keep her coworkers on track. Steph started out as a volunteer in 2009 and is now a part-time employee.

 


 

Our Board

 

Gary Pooley

Board Chair

Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn

Vice-Chair

Samantha Ouellette

Treasurer

Steve Currie 

Director

Jen Arseneault

Director

Karen Klink

Director

Rachel Villemaire

Rachel Villemaire

Director

Debbie Hoekstra

Director

Lorie Cochrane

Director

 

Jennifer Lasenby-Lessard

Director

Sue Simpson

Ex Officio;

Secretary