Heartache2Hope is a volunteer organization serving the Halton/Peel area. All of our peer support groups are facilitated by professionals from various backgrounds. Our group facilitators all have experience in grief/ bereavement support and in group facilitation. All facilitators are trained in SAFEtalk and have completed traumatic bereavement support group training.
Our Team Members
Flavia Ceschin, PhD, RP, Founder and Executive Director
Flavia is a Registered Psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Concordia University in Montreal. Her clinical training and work have focused on children, youth, and their families. Flavia has a certificate in Grief and Bereavement Education and specific training on the unique aspects of Suicide Loss, Complicated Grief, and Traumatic Loss.
Flavia brings clinical training, focus and direction to H2H. Currently she works as a psychotherapist, grief counselor and educator in private practice in the Oakville area since 2012, providing counselling and therapy to children, teens and adults coping with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and loss due to the serious illness or death of someone important to them. Flavia is very involved in the Halton community in a volunteer capacity. She is on the Professional Advisory Council of Bereaved Families of Ontario (Halton/Peel) and on the Bereavement Program Advisory Committee of Acclaim Health. She has facilitated Spousal Loss support groups for Acclaim Health and Widowed Friends of Halton. She is currently a member of the Halton Suicide Prevention Coalition.
In addition, Flavia served as the Program Director at The Lighthouse Program for Grieving Children from 2008-2012. She worked with hundreds of grieving children, teens and adults through grief support groups, family consultations, educational workshops, and support group facilitator recruitment and training. It is during her time at The Lighthouse that she became aware of the need for a service that offered suicide loss support in the Halton region.
Laura Gatensby, Director of Development
Laura joins Heartache2Hope with almost three decades of leadership experience in the non-profit sector. As a professional fundraiser and non-profit manager, she worked with Women’s College Hospital Foundation and Harbourfront Centre, and as a campaign consultant for Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation, the United Church of Canada and the Toronto Humane Society. Her volunteer experience spans both Board and Committee roles (Hydrocephalus Canada, Association of Fundraising Professionals GTA Chapter, AFP Foundation for Philanthropy Canada) and leadership in grass roots fundraising initiatives (Heart & Stroke Foundation, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Arthritis Society).
Rebecca Johnson, Program Coordinator
Rebecca is the Program Coordinator at Heartache2Hope, providing administrative support in the coordination and implementation of our Groups, Wellness Activities, and Events. Having utilized various grief supports after personal experience with suicide loss, Rebecca is eager to provide support and empathy to those whose lives have been touched by suicide.
Daniella Silvestri, BA, MA Candidate, Program Assistant
Daniella has been with Heartache2Hope since 2019. She started as a placement student, and is currently the Volunteer Coordinator, a support group facilitator, and on the planning committee for International Survivors of Suicide Day. She assists with Fundraising and is a Volunteer Extraordinaire. Daniella has an Honors Bachelor of Applied Science in Psychology and is currently working on her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology at Yorkville University.
Cassidy Tyler, BA, MSc Candidate, Social Media and Email Marketing
Cassidy has been the Program Assistant for Heartache2Hope since April 2020, providing administrative support in the day-to-day operations and coordinating our social media. Cassidy has her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from McGill University and is currently working on her Master of Science in Public Health (Mental Health stream).
Amanda Marco, BA, CYW, BSW Candidate, Bereavement Care Coordinator-- Children and Youth
Amanda has worked in child and youth mental health services since 2016. She has worked in inpatient and outpatient treatment settings and in crisis services, including Reach Out Center for Kids for 6 years. Her experience includes providing individual counselling for individuals and facilitating therapeutic groups. She is currently completing a Bachelor of Social Work degree at McMaster University with the end goal of obtaining a Master's degree in Social Work.
Our Board of Directors
Laura Machan – Chair
Laura is a Partner in LHH Knightsbridge’s Recruitment Solutions Practice. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto and holds certificates in Human Resources Management from the Rotman School of Business and Adult Education. She has more than 15 years of Human Resource Management and Recruiting experience in different industries. With a passion for advocacy, she has led initiatives with the Canadian Federation of University Women. She was a member of the Board of Directors of Women in Nuclear and Co-Chair for the Sponsorship Committee for the WIN Global Conference in 2020.
Michael David Marco, MBA, CPA, CMA, CRMA, ICD.D – Secretary, Finance
Michael is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA/CMA) and completed the Institute of Corporate Directors designation (ICD.D) in 2016. Michael has over 40 years of experience, including executive positions at Royal Bank, Aviva Canada, Intact, The Co-operators, and Allianz Global Assistance. He is currently VP Finance & Technology at Fred Victor Centre. Michael completed his Master of Business Administration at Concordia University and holds a Certificate in Risk Management Assurance designation. Michael has been involved with Heartache2Hope from the beginning serving as Treasurer and, more recently, as Secretary. In addition to Heartache2Hope, Michael is past Chair on the Board at Acclaim Health.
Caitlin Pratt, CPA, CA, Treasurer, Chair Finance
Caitlin is a Senior Manager of Assurance at Ernst & Young Canada in Toronto and has worked in the accounting and finance industry for 9 years in Toronto and Los Angeles. Caitlin is a Chartered Professional Accountant and holds an honours degree in Business Administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. She enjoys running in her spare time and is a member of a racing team focused on mental health fundraising for The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
Anil Bhalla, DDS – Member, Chair Outreach
Anil has been practicing dentistry for more than 20 years with a career span of 4 years in India and then in Canada after graduating from University of Toronto faculty of dentistry. He’s the past president of Halton Peel Dental Association and is actively involved with seniors’ oral care and education core committees. He is in his 11th year as a counsellor with Halton Peel Region for provincial dental organization council and is continuously striving to deal with issues like access to care, government relations and advocacy for the profession. He is currently serving on the Component Society Committee of Ontario Dental Association representing Halton, Peel, Hamilton, Burlington & Niagara Peninsula. He has also been inducted into the International College of Dentists & The Pierre Fauchard Academy. Anil initiated “Loonie a Patient Program” in partnership with United Way. This program donated a loonie for every patient appointment. He also initiated “Free Dentistry Days with Dr. Bhalla” in 2008 where he provided free cleanings and one issue resolution (e.g., filling, extraction, emergency care) for patients.
Rev. Michael Clarke, MDiv – Member, Government Relations
Michael Clarke joined Peel Regional Police in 1980, serving for 7 years as a decorated diver and fraud detective. Workplace injuries and a higher calling brought him to his second career, serving, ministering, and advocating for children living on the street in Canada and abroad. He has served as a board member and Executive Director of several charities and not for profit agencies, raising millions of dollars for those most in need. For his dedication to marginalized youth, he was awarded the Order of Canada in 1995. Michael holds a BA in Psychology and a Master of Divinity. An author, educator, inspirational speaker and specialist in moral injury, Michael currently serves as the rector at St. Stephens Anglican Church in Hornby, Ontario. Having lost his son to suicide in 2018, Michael found tremendous help in the programs of Heartache2Hope, which inspired him to join the Board of Directors.
Ms. M. Janet Kasperski RN, MHSc, CHE
Jan has both professional and personal understandings of the acute suffering endured by loved ones of people of all ages who die by suicide – and, the lack of services to meet their overwhelming needs. Jan is a clinician, an administrator, an educator, a researcher, and a consultant. She is a sought-after board member and serves as a Patient/Family Advisor at the local, provincial, and national level. Jan has driven two healthcare professional associations from obscurity to the limelight; namely, the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the Ontario Psychological Association. Jan is highly skilled in government, media and physician/healthcare professional relations and is known as a “connector” with an extensive provincial, national and international professional network. Jan currently is the driving force behind the development of Resilient Kids Canada, a Registered Charity, whose focus on ensuring that young children have the best start in life possible – and, thereby, a pathway forward armed with the coping skills to face challenges in life.
Jessica Miki, MSA – Member, Chair Fundraising
Jessica holds a Masters in Spatial Analysis from Ryerson University. Her graduate research focused on identifying areas and factors of vehicle collisions with pedestrians and cyclists to mitigate injury frequency and mortality. She has applied her research in projects for Toronto Public Health and St. Michael’s Hospital. She adapts her GIS, technical, and collaborative skills to build models and insights to reinvest in the community. During her term as President of the Rotaract Club of Oakville (Rotary Club Partner, Youth Program) she became connected with Heartache2Hope. Inspired by Heartache2Hope’s vision and mission, Jessica promotes optimism, courage, and hope to adapt to life after loss. She believes building mental resilience and opening discussions about mental health to reduce stigmas is the future. She tries to practice gratitude, mindfulness, and physical fitness daily.
Shannon McShane-Reed – Member, Chair Marketing
Shannon is a Health Insurance Executive Consultant and is currently working for Penmore Financial Group Inc. She is the Founder and CEO of wolfpackES Consulting Inc. Shannon has three decades of experience in the health and dental industry with some of Canada’s largest public and private companies leading national blocks of business. She has held executive growth-focused roles at Express Scripts Canada/Cigna and Symbility Health, where she was elevated to President after a successful tenure as VP, Sales, Marketing and Client Service. She is also a Certified Agile Leader and Scrum Product Owner.
After the loss of her youngest son to suicide in 2019, she utilized Hearatache2Hope’s group and individual support programs. Her participation inspired her to join the Board of Directors. Shannon is passionate about advocacy and breaking the stigmas around mental health.
Farhan Mohammed, B.Eng. – Member
Farhan is an IT professional who is currently an AEM Architect at Hoodoo Digital. He has worked in a number of fields including Healtcare, Education, Financial Services, and Media and Entertainment.
Michelle Nurwandi, Mfin – Member
Michelle is a Bigt Data Application Development Expert with RBC. Her expertise lies in Risk Initiatives and Infrastructure, and providing QRM & data infrastructure solutions for liquidity risk management. Michelle was introduced to Heartache2Hope in 2015 when her brother died by suicide.
Keri Petruzza, B.Com – Member, Marketing
Keri is an experienced Leader with a passion for people and development. She has a demonstrated history of successful team building and process improvements in the health care and hospitality industry. Keri is currently the Director of Customer Success at Mister Safety Shoes Inc. She brings to Heartache2Hope her passion and skills in Coaching, customer experience, Team Building, Employee development and sales strategy.
Andrew Oakden, BSc, CFA - Member
Andrew has more than 15 years of progressive experience with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), holding leadership roles in Market Risk and Operational Risk, supporting RBC’s Capital Markets business globally. He holds an Honours Bachelor of Science in Math and Physics from the University of Toronto and has been designated a Chartered Financial Analyst. Seeing the impact that Heartache2Hope was able to offer friends experiencing suicide loss, Andrew was inspired to support the organization and volunteer on the board. He lives in Oakville with his wife and two young daughters.
Belinda Beer, Labyrinth Facilitator
Belinda is our Labyrinth Walk Facilitator since our first Closed Group in 2014. She also facilitates our Closed Group Mindfulness Workshop and has led Open Groups on Spirituality and Grief. Belinda is a certified Labyrinth Facilitator with Veriditas. She received her Spiritual Direction Certificate from the Haden Institute in 2013. “My passion is to create an opportunity for others to experience the Labyrinth as a walking meditation tool that can be used to compliment bereaved individuals’ journeys towards healing and wholeness. Facilitating the healing Labyrinth Walks for Heartache2Hope has been a very humbling experience. I have witnessed groups walk together on their grief journeys, finding the courage to be open and vulnerable and supportive of one another. With the Mindfulness Workshops, it is my intention to give each person tools to ride the waves of grief they meet and begin to be able to sit and explore difficult emotions.”
Karen Cater, Yoga Teacher
Karen is a certified Hatha and Yin Yoga teacher E-RYT 200. Karen started her own yoga journey in 2002 as a way of managing stress through breath work. Through her practice, she has been able to cultivate stillness, strength, and clarity. She enjoys sharing her love of yoga with others. As a Yoga Teacher, Karen has seen first-hand the power of yoga and the good it can do. “I first learned about Heartache2Hope after a young family friend died by suicide. Over the course of the pandemic, I lost two more friends to suicide. I decided to offer my yoga teachings to help suicide loss grievers heal from the impacts of trauma.”
Jessica Bagiamis, Group Peer Facilitator
I am currently completing an MA in Counselling Psychology. In addition to my support work with Heartache2Hope, I also volunteer for the Kids Help Phone. After losing a family member to suicide and witnessing the impact it had on so many lives, I wanted to volunteer my time to help others who have also experienced a suicide loss. After seeing the difference that Heartache2Hope’s support groups have made in so many people’s lives, I knew I wanted to volunteer with Heartache2Hope and provide survivors of suicide loss a safe space to share their experiences.
Monica Catto, Individual Peer Supporter and Group Facilitator
I first became a client of Heartache2Hope soon after my daughter died by suicide. Becoming a volunteer was an easy decision to make; giving back to others, that which was so generously given to me when I needed it the most, is an honour. In my role as peer support and group co-facilitator, I’m blessed to hear others say that I’ve helped them navigate them through their grief and it confirms for me, that I too, am moving forward on my own path. H2H fills a unique niche; the grief from suicide loss is like none other. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve such an impactful organization.
Dennis Chronowic, Individual Peer Supporter and Group Facilitator
I lost my wife to suicide in 2017. Heartache2Hope, along with fellow survivors of suicide loss, helped me get through this very challenging time. Speaking out and listening to others brought me great comfort and hope for my life ahead. When presented with the opportunity to volunteer, I warmly accepted so as to offer assistance to those in their time of need.
Lauren Desmarais, Individual Peer Supporter and Group Facilitator
I reached out to Heartache2Hope after losing my life partner to suicide in 2019. I participated in the 12-week suicide loss support group and volunteered for the Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. Heartache2Hope has helped me grow as a person and taught me ways to move forward with my grief in healthy, manageable ways. In 2021, I wanted to help others through a difficult time in their lives as a Peer Supporter. In addition to supporting individuals who reach out to Heartache2Hope, I also volunteer with SAVIS of Halton.
Derek Donnan, Peer Supporter & Group Facilitator
I know firsthand the feelings experienced from losing family members to suicide and the immense value that Heartache2hope services provide on all levels to the survivors of suicide loss. Since joining Heartache2Hope as a volunteer in 2018, I provide individual peer support, co-facilitate closed groups, and lead special interest open groups. I am trained as a spiritual guide (inter-spiritual disciplines), and as both a dreamworker and shamanic practitioner. Derek brings elements from these approaches into his work with grieving individuals and groups.
Monica Hansmann, Individual Peer Supporter
I have been a peer supporter since Spring of 2020. I first learned of Heartache2Hope after the loss of my father to suicide. Heartache2Hope Closed Groups provided me with valuable support during a challenging time. Since then, I have wanted to give back to this important and incredible organization and help others. I am grateful for the opportunity to support individuals in need.
Sanya Loborec-Tasic, Indivdual Peer Supporter
I have been an individual peer support volunteer since March 2017. I first learned about Heartache2Hope when I lost my son to suicide. I learned a lot about the grieving process and discovered that it never ends, just changes over time. After a few years, I decided that it is was my time to give back and help others by becoming a volunteer.
Eléna Major, Group Facilitator
In 1999, I attended a grief support group as a participant. Recognizing the immense benefit I received from this group, I became a group facilitator with the Burlington Bereavement Resource Council (BBRC). I have co-facilitated grief support groups since 2002, including Homicide Loss and Suicide Loss Support Groups with Friends in Grief. I joined Heartache2Hope in 2015, co-facilitating Open and Closed Support Groups.
Eléna brings experience, empathy, focus and humour to her work with suicide bereaved individuals. Her passion and commitment to Heartache2Hope is evident in her willingness to help with all aspects of our organization over the years, including as a Member of our Board of Directors and Chair of Our International Survivor of Suicide Loss Day Event Committee.
Caroline Meek, Individual Peer Supporter
I first learned about Heartache2Hope at a charity event with the Walton Memorial United Church in Oakville. I lost my sister to suicide when she was younger and always wanted to volunteer with an organization who supported families as I know how difficult the journey can be. I was very excited when I learned about Heartache2Hope. I have met some amazing people who I am grateful to be around.
Sharon Santing, Individual Peer Supporter
I found Heartache2Hope in 2014 after the loss of my son to suicide. I have participated in both Open and Closed Group programs at Heartache2Hope. I have been a volunteer since 2017 and feel it is an important element of my life. I sought a way to help loved ones who felt left behind. Supporting clients on their grief journey has been a rewarding experience, one that has increased my own personal growth and healing.
Mary Lou Sheridan, Individual Peer Supporter
I first learned about Heartache2Hope when I lost my husband to suicide. My daughters and I received individual support and understanding of this traumatic grief. With support of staff and volunteers I found the validation, strength and hope needed to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I feel it is now an honour to be a volunteer with the program and strive to have an impact and help others on their journey to healing.
Elizabeth Sheridan, BMath, Digital Communications
I began volunteering with Heartache2Hope in 2018, focusing on data management strategy & execution, and the enablement of digital communications. After losing a parent to suicide, I experienced firsthand the comfort and connection that Heartache2Hope provides to grieving families. When the opportunity came up to apply my career background in digital marketing & analytics in support of Heartache2Hope, it was an easy decision for to become involved.
Founder & Executive Director
Director of Bereavement Services
Director of Development