Our team is growing along with the growing demand for our services. We have a committed, passionate, and compassionate team of Volunteers, Staff and Board Members that works together to provide quality, evidence-based services within a values-based practice. Together, we strive towards our vision that no one touched by suicide grieves alone.
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.
Alicja Podgorski, SSW, MSc Candidate, Director of Bereavement Services
Alicja is completing her MSc in Clinical Psychology at Leiden University. Her clinical training is focused on stress and anxiety disorders experienced in adolescence and adulthood, including, grief and bereavement, traumatic loss and PTSD.
Before returning to school in 2019, Alicja was professionally committed to Canada’s cancer care community, working in positions that aided in the delivery of research, treatment, policy and information for all Canadians affected by cancer. Alicja brings a breadth of personal and professional experience in the areas of bereavement, chronic disease, terminal illness, and hospice care.
In addition to her work as Director of Bereavement Services at Heartache2Hope, Alicja works in private practice, and volunteers as a community counsellor at A Better Tent City in Kitchener.
Tavneet Sandhu, MA, RP (Qualifying), Care Coordinator - Youth and Multicultural Outreach Services
Tavneet is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) and completed her Masters of Arts, Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University. Her clinical work has focused on young adults and ethnically diverse populations.
Tavneet has always been passionate about working in mental health after recognizing the stigma within her own ethnic community. The approach she takes toward mental health is rooted in collaboration and cultural competence. She has worked as a Peer Facilitator for South Asian girls and women, has created and facilitated mental wellness groups and has provided one-on-one support to racialized individuals experiencing mental health and addiction concerns.
In addition to her work as Care Coordinator at Heartache2Hope, Tavneet works in private practice supporting young adults and multicultural communities through grief, life transitions and relational concerns.
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).
Daniella Silvestri, BA, MA Candidate, Volunteer Coordinator
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, Program Assistant
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).
Meet the 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.
M. Janet Kasperski, RN, MHSc, CHE – Member, Chair Government Relations
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 an Executive Health Insurance Consultant. She is the Founder and CEO of wolfpackES Consulting Inc and is currently working as Senior Benefits Consultant for Penmore Group of Companies. She lost her son to suicide in 2019 and is familiar with Hearatache2Hope’s group and individual support programs. Her participation inspired her to join the Board of Directors.
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 – Chair (interim)
Andrew has more than 15 years of progressive experience with the bank, holding leadership roles in Market Risk and Operational Risk, supporting RBC’s Capital Markets business globally. He holds an Honours BSc 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.
Annie Sheikh, Treasurer
Mergers & Acquisitions Consultant
Annie is a Chartered Accountant by trade and is currently pursuing a career as a Mergers & Acquisitions consultant. She holds a graduate degree in accounting from the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto. Annie has always been a big proponent of giving back to the community and supporting Non Profit Organizations has been one of the ways Annie has attempted to give back. Annie’s involvement with NPOs includes work with TRIEC, Junior Achievement and fundraising for the Heart & Stroke foundation. The mission of Heartache to Hope inspired Annie to join the Board to make a meaningful difference to a really worthy effort. Annie is a sport watching enthusiast and avidly follows the NBA, the NHL and Cricket.
Communications Support for Town of Halton Hills
Nancy is a seasoned professional with decades of experience providing marketing and communications consultation and project management to industry innovators, tourism luminaries, sports icons and corporate leaders in the private and public sectors. Currently she provides communications support and strategy for the Town of Halton Hills.
Nancy turned to Heartache2Hope for support following the suicide death of a life-long friend and business partner. The loss deepened her understanding of the unique grief and road to recovery following a suicide and she would like to share her personal experience and professional expertise to help other survivors.
Nancy lives in Bronte and often can be found cycling, walking by the waterfront or spending time with her two grown daughters in Toronto.
Meet the Volunteers
Derek Donnan – Peer Supporter & Group Facilitator
Derek knows 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, Derek provides individual peer support, co-facilitation for the closed groups and facilitation of special interest open groups. Derek is trained as a spiritual guide (interspiritual disciplines), and as both a dreamworker and shamanic practitioner. Derek brings elements from these approaches into his work with grieving individuals and groups.
Dennis Chronowic – Peer Supporter
Dennis lost his wife to suicide in 2017. The H2H organization along with fellow survivors of suicide loss helped Dennis get through this challenging time. Speaking out and listening to others brought him great comfort and hope for his life ahead of him. When asked to volunteer, Dennis warmly accepted so as to offer assistance to those in their time of need.
Eléna Major, Group Facilitator
In 1999, Eléna attended a grief support group as a participant. Recognizing the immense benefit from the education and help she received, Eléna completed facilitator training and began running grief groups in 2002 with the Burlington Bereavement Resource Council. Eléna continued to hone her skills, joining Friends In Grief where she co-facilitated grief support programs focused on Homicide Loss and Suicide Loss. In 2013, she participated in Advanced Facilitator Training for Suicide Bereavement at the COPING Centre and completed her SafeTALK certification. Eléna joined Heartache2Hope in 2015 and continues to provide both open and closed support group facilitation. Her passion and commitment to the group process is evident, and she brings experience, empathy, focus and humour to her work with grieving individuals.
Belinda Beer, Labyrinth Facilitator
Belinda Beer has been our labyrinth facilitator since our first closed group in 2014. She has also been a contributor to our mindfulness teachings since 2018.
“Facilitating the healing labyrinth walks for Heartache2Hope is a very humbling experience for me. I have witnessed groups walk together on their grief journey finding the courage to be open and vulnerable and supportive of one another. Each evening we share in experiencing subtle steps through the grief journey. With the mindfulness program my intention is to give each person tools to ride the waves of grief that they meet and begin to be able to sit and explore difficult emotions.”
Karen Cater, Certified Hatha & Yin Yoga Teacher E-RYT 200
Belinda Beer has been our labyrinth facilitator since our first closed group in 2014. She has also been a contributor to our mindfulness teachings since 2018.
“I first discovered Heartache2Hope when a young friend of our family died by suicide. His family requested donations to this worthwhile charity. Over the course of the pandemic I know two others who have suicided and thought there must be more I can do to help others. As a Yoga Teacher I have seen personally the power of yoga and the good it can do. I decided to offer my teachings to those who seek support from Heartache2Hope. Yoga has been a gift to me, and I am honoured to pass on the gift of yoga to those who are in need.”
Elizabeth 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 to become involved. The organization truly is full of heart and compassionate people who make a difference in the lives of people who have lost loved ones to suicide and provide hope during a difficult time.”
Monica Hansmann – Peer Supporter
Monica Hansmann has been a peer mentor since Spring of 2020. She first learned of Heartache2Hope after the loss of her father to suicide. Flavia and the wonderful team of volunteers provided support through closed group sessions during a challenging time. Since then she has wanted to give back to this important and incredible organization and help others. She is grateful for the opportunity to support individuals in need.
Mary Lou Sheridan – Peer Supporter
Mary Lou first learned about Heartache2Hope when she lost her husband to suicide. She and her daughters spoke to Flavia for support and understanding of this traumatic grief. With Flavia and the support staff of volunteers she found the validation, strength and hope needed to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. She feels 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.
Sanya Loborec-Tasic – Peer Supporter
Sanya Loborec-Tasic has been an individual peer support volunteer since March 2017.
“I first learned about Heartache2Hope when I lost my son to suicide. Flavia and the other support staff at Heartache2Hope offered me great support and showed me that there is a way to go through this sorrow, showed me that I am not alone. I learned a lot about the grieving process and discovered that it actually never ends, just changes over time. I decided that it is my time to give back and help others by becoming a volunteer. This is such a rewarding experience that provides me with a sense of peace and purpose while helping to create a meaningful connection to a person who has experienced a similar loss and understands the pain.
Sharon Santing – Peer Supporter
Sanya Loborec-Tasic has been an individual peer support volunteer since March 2017.
Sharon found Heartache2Hope in 2014 after the loss of her son. She has participated in both open and closed programs at Heartache2Hope. Sharon started volunteering in 2017 and feels it is an important element of her life. She 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 her own personal growth and healing.
Caroline Meek – Peer Supporter
“I first learned about Heartache2Hope at a charity event at Walton Memorial United Church in Oakville. I lost my sister to suicide when I was younger and always wanted to volunteer with an organization who supported families as I knew how difficult the journey could be. I was very excited when I learned about Heartache2Hope. Once I called Flavia and understood what Heatache2Hope could offer others I was in. I have met some pretty amazing people who I am grateful to be around. Helping others with something you understand is very rewarding. I feel very grateful to have an opportunity to work with Heatache2Hope giving me the opportunity to give to others making an impact in their life."
Monica Catto – 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.”
Lauren Desmarais – Peer Supporter and Group
"I was referred to Heartache2Hope by my therapist after losing my life partner to suicide in 2019. I participated in the 12-week suicide loss support group and found it very beneficial to my healing. I began volunteering with H2H that same year for the AFSP Suicide Loss Survivors Day. I began to struggle in my grief in early 2020 and sought further support in the way of one-on-one grief counseling with Flavia. She has helped me grow as a person and taught me ways to move forward with my grief in healthy, manageable ways. In 2021 I continued my volunteering with H2H, training as a Peer Bereavement Supporter, as well as a Group Facilitator. I’m grateful to have grown within the organization and I enjoy helping others through this very difficult time in their lives. I have felt very supported by H2H and it feels great to give back.”
Jessica Bagiamis – Group Facilitator
“After losing a family member to suicide and witnessing the impact it had on so many lives, I wanted to volunteer my time helping those who have also experienced a suicide loss. That is when I found Heartache2Hope. After seeing the difference the 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.”