2016-2017 Board of Directors
Vicki Cairns, 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.
Ursula Viney, Treasurer
Ursula immigrated to Canada from Germany in 1968. She spent most of her younger years in Toronto, obtaining her CGA designation in 1998. Soon thereafter she transferred with the YMCA to become the Manager of Finance in Chilliwack, BC. Ursula joined the BC Public Service in 2000, working initially with the Ministry of Children & Family Development, then the Ministry of Finance and now as Manager, Business Operations with the Ministry of Agriculture.
Ursula has volunteered with the CGA-BC Association since 2003, most recently serving on the Board of Directors from 2012-2014. She was Chair of the Finance Committee for two of these years, as well as an active member of the Audit Committee. Ursula received the Harold Clarke Award in 2014 in recognition of her outstanding service to CGA-BC.
Ursula and her husband recently moved to Kelowna. Ursula is looking forward to becoming more actively involved in the Kelowna community and has recently joined the Autism Okanagan Board of Directors as Treasurer.
Tammy Gilmour, Secretary
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 be offered a Director position, and then the Secretary role for Autism Okanagan.
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.
Joanne Brennan, Director
Joanne Brennan is a mom, advocate, community member and business owner. Joanne relocated to Kelowna from North Vancouver. She chose Kelowna because she saw in it a community where her 18-year-old autistic son could thrive.
Joanne is currently self-employed providing business expertise and knowledge to clients in marketing and print management services. She owned and operated a successful print management company in Vancouver for 15 years prior to moving to Kelowna. She spent the early years of her career working in the Vancouver advertising agency industry in the capacity of new business development, account executive and production management with a focus on social issue marketing. She left the large agencies and successfully developed a boutique agency.
Throughout her career she has served on various boards, organized events and volunteered in the community.
Tracey Vrecko, Director
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.
Paul M. Johnson, Director
Paul was born and raised in Kelowna. He received his Bachelor of Arts with a major in psychology from the University in Victoria in 2006. After his time in Victoria, he spent a year as an early childhood Behavior Interventionist with a local development center, working with children with autism. At that time, he was the only male interventionist which provided him with a valuable and unique experience with the families he worked so closely with. Paul moved to the UK in 2007 and received his Bachelor of Laws with an Honors Distinction in 2010 from Cardiff University. Paul is now back in Kelowna working as an associate at FH&P Lawyers LLP. He has two young children and a lovely supportive wife who keep him very busy outside of work.
Paul gained a wealth of knowledge and interest working within the autism community and wants to stay connected and continue helping families who have a need for the resources and connections in the community.
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.
Sytel Ironside, Volunteer Secretary