2017-2018 Board of Directors
Tracey Vrecko, President
Tracey was born and raised in Winnipeg where she attended University of Manitoba Commerce program. She discovered her passion for sales and customer service while working in the retail industry when she pursued and completed the Entrepreneurship Business program with Red River College in 1999.
Her education and sales experience opened new doors for her in real estate and brought her to Calgary where she lived for 12 years and met her husband Quincy. They moved to the Okanagan in 2009 after the birth of their 2 sons.
Tracey and her husband have established a successful real estate career in the Okanagan and they continue to grow in the business community. Tracey got involved in the autism community when her second son was diagnosed with non-verbal autism at the age of 2. She is an advocate and the voice for her son, and is driven to help other famlies who have a need for resources and connections in the community.
Vicki Cairns, Past President
Vicki was born and raised in North Vancouver. She attended Simon Fraser University to get a teaching degree and then obtained a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from San Diego State University. She was a teacher for more than 25 years, mostly special education, and was a consultant with the Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders (POPARD). She also taught courses for educational assistants (CEAs) through Okanagan College and was an adjunct professor at UBCO teaching courses in Special Education to practising teachers and teachers-in-training.
Vicki now has a private consulting and counselling practice in Kelowna where she specializes in working with children and youth with diagnosed disabilities, anxiety, and behavioural difficulties.
As well as being the founding president of Autism Okanagan she also sits as a board member for the Central Okanagan Charitable Gaming Association.
Riki-Lynn Boettcher, Treasurer
Riki-Lynn was born and raised in Kamloops British Columbia. She competed for Canada in the sport of Ice Dancing and traveled extensively for most of her teenage years. She settled in the Okanagan in her early twenties and retired from the sport. She instantly fell in love with the Okanagan wine industry and began her journey which soon after became her passion. Riki-Lynn is a certified Sommelier completed with Distinction, Awarded to her by the prestigious Fine Vintage Ltd. She holds a Level 3 Certification by WSET an internationally recognized wine and spirits certification authority and is a Canadian Wine Scholar.
Riki-Lynn and her husband Ed now own Urban Liquor Store in Kelowna where Riki can share her passion for the wine industry with others.
Riki-Lynn became involved in the autism community when her youngest child was diagnosed at the age of 3 years old with PDDNOS, Non verbal autism and a severe cognitive disability. She has worked hard to advocate for her daughter and to be her voice. Riki-Lynn is committed to helping other families in the community navigate their way through the diagnosis process and to direct them towards various autism programs that will support them in their daily lives.
Sytel Ironside, Secretary
Sytel has been volunteering as Autism Okanagan’s Secretary for all board meetings since 2014. We are happy she has decided to join our Board as our official Secretary. Sytel’s attention to detail has been very valuable to our organization and appreciated.
Sytel also volunteers for other local community groups in Kelowna.
Tammy Gilmour, Director
Tammy was born and raised on Vancouver Island, and moved to Kelowna during her teen years. She attended the University of Victoria for both her Undergraduate degree in Child and Youth Care and her Master’s of Education Degree in Counselling Psychology. Tammy’s 20 year career has always included working with vulnerable populations, including being employed as a child protection and special needs social worker, mental health clinician and team leader of an assessment team. Tammy is currently working in private practice in the Okanagan, providing therapeutic support to children, youth and their families. She believes strongly in interdisciplinary partnerships and feels very blessed to have many strong relationships with her colleagues.
Tammy’s contribution to community has included volunteering with many sports organizations as a coach and manager, and with our local school district. She leads a joyful and active life with her husband and teen son. Tammy is a former board member of the Elizabeth Fry Society, and for the past 8 years, has held various positions on a Microboard that supports an amazing woman who is significantly impacted by Autism. In the fall of 2014, she was thrilled to become a Director, and then the Secretary for Autism Okanagan until 2017.
Phil Von Unruh, Director
Phil is the owner of an automotive repair business and has lived in the Okanagan Valley for most of his life. Phil has two sons, Jad and Kalen. Kalen, his oldest son, was diagnosed with ASD at age 2 ½.
Phil has always been active in sports, particularly hockey and for the past 7 years has been a Special Olympics Coach for track and field, bowling and soccer. When Kalen was 6 years old, Phil discovered that special needs minor hockey teams were virtually non-existent. Phil and his wife Dianne, started the Wildcats Special Hockey Team with a handful of players. Ten years later, the Wildcats have more than 24 players! For people who want to play hockey after age 16, an adult team ,called the Wild, has been created.
Through tremendous hard work and successes, there are currently 5 teams in the Okanagan Super Hockey League including the Central Okanagan Wildcats, Central Okanagan Wild adult team, the Vernon Scorehawks, the Kamloops Junior Blazers and the Penticton Upper Deck V’s! All teams are open to girls and boys, women and men with special needs, who enjoy and want to play hockey. Each team has a dedicated group of coaches and assistants and every year there is a wrap up tournament.
Phil’s dedication and hard work has been tremendous motivating factor for the community and Autism Okanagan is happy to have him as a member of the board.
Dana Patterson, Director
Originally from Prince George, BC, Dana attended the University of Victoria, where she obtained her Bachelor of Education. After teaching in the Central Okanagan school district for ten years, she decided to study evenings and weekends and obtain her Masters of Counselling through Gonzaga University. Juggling work, school and toddlers as a single mom was a challenge, but it equipped her with the skills to navigate the road ahead.
Dana’s oldest son was diagnosed with autism at age six and her youngest son was diagnosed with autism at age eight. In her role as a counsellor and behavior intervention teacher, Dana has helped many families through the process of seeking initial assessments, diagnosis and accessing support and services. She is passionate about supporting families living with autism and joining the board of Autism Okanagan.
Allison Goreas, Director
Allison was born and raised in Kelowna. Her education includes a Bachelor of Science in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology from Brigham Young University, a degree in Education from the University of Alberta and a Masters in Special Education focusing on Autism from Flinders University. Allison started teaching in Edmonton and had the opportunity to teach students with diverse-abilities. In 2003, Allison and her family moved back to Kelowna. She has worked with the Central Okanagan School District for the past 13 years, first as a Special Education teacher and now as the District Consultant for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Allison also teaches courses for Education Assistants at OUC, has taught courses in autism to teachers in training at UBCO, and provided autism awareness workshops for community groups.
Allison’s passion for supporting individuals with autism began when her nephew was diagnosed with autism 20+ years ago. She regards collaboration and bridging the programs between school and community as an important aspect of supporting individuals with autism and their families and she feels privileged to be a part of Autism Okanagan.
Erin Cooper, Director
Erin was raised in the community of Sicamous and has called Kelowna home for the past 12 years. She was fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom while her 3 boys were younger as it allowed her to work closely with and advocate for her boys, 2 who are on the autism spectrum. Erin and her husband have raised their boys to never be held back by their disabilities or let others hold them back. From travelling to new places, playing community sports or learning to ride a bike there are few things that bring Erin more joy than seeing her boys learn and grow.
Recently Erin went back to school to complete her studies as a Certified Education Assistant. She is excited to be able to use her education as well as her personal experience and knowledge to help other familiesliving with autism and other disabilities. Erin is honored to be on the board for Autism Okanagan and she looks forward to meeting new families throughout the year.
Sheila Tansey, Staff – Administrative Director
Sheila grew up on a farm in West Central Saskatchewan and after high school obtained a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. The mountains called after graduation and she began her career in Calgary and eventually settled in the Lower Mainland of BC. Sheila had a very successful computing career consulting and supporting clients from all over Canada and the US in the field of Geographic Information Systems and computer graphics.
Sheila is a mom to two wonderful young men on the autism spectrum, her oldest now attending UBCO and the youngest in high school. Sheila has been a huge advocate for supporting her boys learning styles and special abilities through homeschooling, part-time school during 3 years in Austin, Texas and in public school after moving to Lake Country in 2009.
Sheila is also a practicing artist with a studio in Lake Country where she paints and teaches art workshops. Sheila is happy to be part of Autism Okanagan and enjoys keeping the website up to date, posting on social media and performing the administrative duties for AOK.
Young Ambassadors Participant (YAP)