Sara L. Austin

Founder & CEO of Children First Canada

Sara is a world class champion for children, with more than 20 years of global and Canadian experience. As the Founder and CEO of Children First Canada, she leads a national movement to make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up.

You’ll find her name on several “most powerful” lists, and for good reason. She has led highly successful advocacy, public awareness and philanthropic campaigns and shaped major public policy efforts. She has learned multiple languages and is fluent in the parlance of diplomacy. Her work has taken her into the top circles of power in the UN, national governments, and boardrooms around the world. In recognition of her efforts, she has twice been awarded the Top 25 Women of Influence, and in 2017 she was the youngest person to be inducted into the Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame.

Sara has a proven track record of leading high achieving teams with local and global impact. Most recently she served as the CEO of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre, where she led Canada’s most advanced frontline agency responding to child abuse. Previously she served as Director of the President’s Office of World Vision Canada, supporting the CEO and Board of Directors and leading strategic initiatives for children and workplace diversity and inclusion.

Her leadership has impacted the lives of millions of children. Most notably, she led a global campaign that resulted in the adoption of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child for a Communications Procedure (OP3). This ground-breaking law allows kids or their advocates to hold governments accountable for violations of children’s rights.

She is an expert in governance best practices and has served on the UN's Global Advisory Council on Violence Against Children, the WXN Diversity Council and the Boards of Dalhousie University, the Canadian Coalition on the Rights of the Child, York Region Children’s Aid Society and the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre.

Sara holds an MSt/LLM with Distinction in International Human Rights Law from Oxford and an Honours BA in International Development and Women’s Studies from Dalhousie University. She has completed the Governance Essentials Program for Non-Profits with the Institute of Corporate Directors, the Maytree Foundation’s Public Policy Program and the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Partnerships Program.

On a personal level, Sara is married and has a son, and she is a cancer survivor. She is an avid downhill skier, water sports enthusiast and international traveler.


Mary Jo Haddad

Mary Jo Haddad is recognized for her innovative leadership and commitment to children’s health through a distinguished career in healthcare in Canada and the U.S.  Mary Jo retired in 2013 as President and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, a position she held since 2004. Prior to that, she held several leadership positions at SickKids, including Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Nurse Executive.

Mary Jo is an Honours graduate of the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Windsor, holds a Master’s in Health Science from the University of Toronto and an Honorary Doctorates from the University of Windsor, Ryerson University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.  She is a Member of the Order of Canada. Mary Jo is currently Chancellor Designate of the Windsor University and member of the board of directors of TELUS and TD Bank Group. 


Desiree Bombenon

Desiree Bombenon is an agent of change with a proven track record of leading businesses to success. Recently appointed as a Harvard Fellow for 2017, Desiree is a member of the Advanced Leadership Initiative cohort working on critical global humanitarian issues.

Desiree is a certified Strategic Leader and a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt.  She is the current President & CEO for SureCall Contact Centers, a global outsourced business solutions company. She is also the CEO of Desiree Imports, an award winning boutique wine, craft beer, and special spirits importer, the CEO of Mentor in a Miniskirt an organization leading the way for young females to reach their greatest potential, and a published fictional author for her books “the Offering” and “the Congregation.” 

Desiree is an active community leader involved in several philanthropic endeavors - volunteering, sponsoring and advocating support for many important community organizations. She has launched a corporate responsibility program called ‘Good Call’ that creates a strategic partnership with SureCall, NPOs, and Canadian Charities. She has launched “Hero Girls” around her Harvard Project, educating females in underserved and disparate communities. 

Desiree is an active member of Young Presidents Organization, serving as the Alberta Chapter Chair 2007-2008 and the first and still only female Regional Chair for Canada 2011-2013. She served on various committees at the International level, and has won International awards for her work globally for YPO. She was presented the Lang memorial award for her commitment and accomplishments to the Alberta Chapter, the Best of the Best Education globally, and Best Region under her Chairmanship.

Desiree is a member of International Women’s Forum, Women’s Executive Network, and has chaired several industry boards and focus groups. During her board tenor, Desiree contributed to the genesis and launch of the National Music Center – Bell Studio, opening 2016. Desiree serves as a current director of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce board. Desiree has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women2016, and one of the Top 50 Most Empowering Women in Business by Insights Success Magazine 2017. The Center for Economic and Leadership Development, an organization in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, recognized Desiree as a transformational leader naming her as a “Global Female Business Leader- Champions of Sustainable Development” for 2017.


Gail O'Brien

Gail O’Brien is a founding member of the Advisory Board of Children First Canada.  Born in Montreal, and with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Fine Arts from McGill University, Gail moved to Calgary with her husband David and three children in 1978. Her career in fashion spanned the next 25 years including 10 years as General Manager of Holt Renfrew Calgary. During that time Gail began her deep commitment to community involvement serving on the boards of both the YWCA of Calgary and as Vice-Chair of the Glenbow Museum. Since her retirement, she has devoted herself fulltime to the Not-for-Profit sector focusing largely on women, medicine and the arts in organizations across Canada.

Gail’s current board commitments include: The Hospital for Sick Children Board of Trustees and Foundation Board of Directors; the National Arts Centre Board of Trustees; Co-Chair, Council for Canadian American Relations; Director of Business for the Arts; as well as involvement at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary as Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board and member of other Institute Advisory Boards. Past Board commitments include the National Arts Centre Foundation as Chair and the Ontario Science Centre.

Gail received the Women of Distinction Award for Business and Entrepreneurs in 2000.  In 2010, Gail received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Calgary as well as the Eric Harvey Award from the Glenbow Museum. In September 2011, Gail received the Alberta Medical Association Award of Honor (for a non-medical person) for her contribution to Health Quality in Alberta. Gail is married to David O’Brien; they have 3 children and 10 grandchildren all residing in Toronto.


Angela Simo Brown

Throughout her 19 year tenure at LoyaltyOne, owner of the AIR MILES Reward Program, Angela has held a range of leadership roles focusing on strategic initiatives and partnerships, most notably co-founding and running the organization’s first social change venture, AIR MILES for Social Change. Angela has spearheaded numerous cross-sector partnerships and consumer programs that use the unparalleled reach and popularity of the AIR MILES Reward Program to inspire and reward Canadians for making healthier and more environmentally responsible choices. These innovative partnerships have established the AIR MILES Reward Program as a powerful social change agent in Canada.

As a recipient of the Women's Executive Network’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada award in 2014, Angela has been widely recognized for her vision and leadership around driving economic value to business while also creating positive social change.   An engaging speaker, Angela has spoken at many conferences throughout North America including Professor Michael Porter’s Shared Value Summit and the Clinton Foundation Initiative.  Her innovative ideas have been featured widely in news outlets across Canada, including her regular contributions to the Huffington Post.  In 2015 Angela was trained and certified by former US Vice President Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project to be a climate change ambassador and she speaks regularly on the subject . 

Angela is an advisor for Evergreen Brickworks CityWorks Leaders Council and for Companies and Causes Canada. Angela has two teenage children with life threatening food allergies and also acts as a spokesperson and a volunteer emergency reaction educator for Food Allergy Canada.


Sarah Laughton

After 10 years as a geologist and an environmental specialist in Oil and Gas, Sarah Laughton started her own management consultancy focused on creating high performance teams and executive coaching.  This stemmed from a personal transformation she had while working at Shell Canada after recovering from postpartum depression as an anxious new mother.  She took on developing her Health, Safety and Environment team’s culture to stepping beyond a victim mindset to owning their roles in the business as a service. Successes at Shell had her curious to expand to other industries.

Sarah joined the global management consultancy Insigniam in 2016 where she works with Fortune 500 companies around the world to develop cultures of innovation and breakthroughs. Her heart still goes out to supporting parents and children. She is honored to serve Children First Canada as her first board appointment. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences from Simon Fraser University


Lindsay Patrick

Lindsay Patrick is the Global ETF Strategist for RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.  Her career has spanned trading floors across North America, Europe, Australia and Asia both in corporate and investment advisory roles.

Lindsay received her MBA with Honours in Finance from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, her BBA with Honours in International Business from Bishop’s University and is a CFA Charterholder.  She is the incoming Co-Chair for R-Women Canada, RBC Capital Market’s employee led-resource group dedicated to fostering women’s career development within the bank and is actively involved with the Women in Capital Markets Return to Bay Street program.

Lindsay has been a strong voice for children’s advocacy throughout her 20 year career, supporting local Children’s Aid Societies, advising regional School Boards and teaching financial and computer skills to under-privileged youth.  She can also be found running after her four young boys on the soccer field, around the baseball diamond or at the hockey rink.


Julia Shin Doi

As an Executive Group member of Ryerson University, Julia provides legal and governance advice and has operational responsibility for access to information, privacy, and records management.  Julia is a member of the Board of Directors of Ryerson Futures Inc. and the national Board of Canadian Universities Reciprocal Insurance Exchange.

Julia advises Ryerson’s Law Practice Program and is an ambassador for Ryerson’s Law School initiative. She is an Executive in Residence for the Certified In-House Counsel - Canada designation offered by the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association and University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Julia is an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, where she has taught since 2001. 

An active member of her community and the legal profession, Julia is past chair and member of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association Ontario Chapter (Ontario Bar Association) which represents thousands of corporate counsel nationally.  She is past president of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers and a founding member of the Korean Canadian Lawyers Association.  She co-founded the Roundtable of Diversity Associations which brings together diverse professional associations and founded the Women’s General Counsel chapter of the Women’s Law Association of Ontario to support senior women in law.  She is also a founding member and executive of Women General Counsel Canada which unites senior women leaders nationally.  In 2016, she founded the Council of Ontario Universities Legal Counsel Group to create a forum for university lawyers and served as the inaugural chair.  Julia then started a grassroots initiative, Diverse Champions for Diversity to promote diverse lawyers and diversity in the legal profession. She also served on the Board of Directors of the Korean Canadian Arirang Age Friendly Community Centre as Vice-Chair and Fundraising Chair, and is currently assisting with the development of the Korean Community Legal Clinic.

Julia is a proud supporter of the United Way and serves on the United Way Law Cabinet.  Julia’s charitable initiatives also include the establishment of the Office of the General Counsel and Secretary of the Board of Governors Award in Law and Business for students at Ted Rogers School of Management, and the Shin Doi and Benda Legal Drafting Prize for students at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Julia was recognized by The Law Society of Upper Canada’s Diversifying the Bar: Lawyers Make History project as an early and exceptional lawyer from a diverse community, and also by the Korean Canadian Lawyers Association and the Korean Canadian Leadership Development committee for her community leadership.  In 2014, Julia was named one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN), in recognition of her vision and leadership, management role, contribution to corporate performance, and community service.  In 2015, Julia was awarded the Ontario Bar Association’s Linda Adlam Manning Award for Volunteerism in recognition of her outstanding volunteer commitment, advancement of the interests of the Ontario Bar Association’s membership, and promotion of the role of the legal profession in Ontario. In 2016, the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association awarded Julia their highest national honour, the R.V.A. Jones Award, as her career exemplifies the highest standards of service, conduct, and professionalism. In 2017, Julia received the Award of Excellence from the Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, and Osgoode Hall Law School Dean’s Alumni Gold Key Award for achievement in the public sector.

Julia obtained her BA with distinction (English major) from the University of Toronto, her JD and LLM from Osgoode Hall Law School, was admitted to the Bar in Ontario in 1994, and is a registered trademark agent. Julia obtained the Institute of Corporate Directors designation (ICD.D) and completed the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management Directors Education Program in 2016.  She is currently pursuing the Civil Litigation Skills Certificate offered by The Advocates’ Society.


Ilona Doughtery

Ilona is the Managing Director of the Youth & Innovation Research Project at the University of Waterloo. She is a regular commentator in the national media, and speaks to audiences internationally about tapping into the innovation potential of Millennials and Gen Z. In 2004, she co-founded Apathy is Boring, a Canadian non-partisan charitable organization that educates youth about democracy and encourages them to vote. She was named an Ashoka Fellow in 2009, and one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network in 2015.


Christian Whalen

Christian Whalen is a graduate of Carleton University (B.A. 1987), UNB (LLB 1989) and Université de Strasbourg III (DEA 1993) where he studied as a New Brunswick Law Foundation Scholar, French Government Scholar and Fellow of the European Human Rights Commission.

After working in private practice and with the Attorney General's Office in New Brunswick, he served as Legal Counsel to the Human Rights Commission and then as Legal Counsel with the Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate. He was appointed Acting Child and Youth Advocate for the Province of New Brunswick on April 1, 2011.

He has served as Vice Chairperson of the New Brunswick Arts Board and Chairperson of the New Brunswick Foundation for the Arts. He was the Founding Chairperson of the Canadian Bar Association NB Branch's Children's Law Section and of the CBA's National Children's Law Committee and founding Secretary-General of the Working Group on Children's Rights in the Francophonie.


Georgina Black

Georgina has 20 years of experience advising organizations in the areas of executive governance and leadership, strategic planning, performance improvement and complex organizational change. Until recently, Georgina was the President of Blackstone Partners which was acquired by KPMG to deepen the firm’s commitment to the healthcare and broader public sectors in Canada.

Georgina’s area of focus is working closely with boards, executive teams and diverse stakeholder groups to develop strategies to improve performance. She is an accomplished strategist and facilitator who has a reputation for getting results. Clients appreciate her attention to the realities of implementation, political acuity and the discipline she brings from 10 years focused on the private sector.

Throughout her career, Georgina has led several transformational projects (mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, governance and program reviews, shared services and organizational design) in the public sector to improve effectiveness and efficiency within complex stakeholder environments. Through her work with provincial, local government, not for profits and healthcare organizations, Georgina brings a systems perspective to identifying and addressing cross function, organization and sector opportunities.


Clayton Rowe

W. Clayton Rowe (MBA) is Managing Director of Children’s First Canada.  His life's mission is to use his gifts as innovator, collaborator, facilitator, educator, and coach, within his circle of influence, to cultivate well-being of organizations, leaders, and communities.

Since 2000 he has resolved to enact this mission through dedicated leadership to non-profit organizations, including work in both domestic and international contexts.

Most of his childhood was spent in financial poverty. Being blind to this fact was only possible because his parents addressed the world with resiliency and courage. Though his family straddled both sides of poverty’s line, the gifts and graces of his parents allowed him to understand how to thrive in the midst of adversity. Because of this heritage, he changed the direction of his life and dedicated himself to the betterment of people both in Canada and around the globe. His contribution is to nurture the sustainable, healthy growth of organizations and leaders committed to social justice especially in the lives of children.


Becca Sawyer

Becca Swayer is the Coordinator of Children’s First Canada.  She  is a graduate of Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, with a Masters Degree which combines both theology and international and urban development. She has years of experience working in the non -profit sector with children and youth in various administrative, leadership, and practitioner capacities, both in Canada and abroad. Havingtravelled extensively and lived in Ghana, West Africa for schooling, she has a demonstrated knowledge and passion for working with people across cultural, language, and economic difference towards human flourishing. 

When she is not planning her next trip around the world, you can usually find her playing her ukuleles or taking her dog, Presley, for a walk.


Darrell Gregersen

Darrell Louise Gregersen is a seasoned fundraising professional who has earned an outstanding reputation in Canada leading major organizations to transformational fundraising results over the last 30+ years. She retired from her role as an organizational leader early in 2018, and is now a strategic advisor in fund development to a variety of organizations in the arts, mental health and international development.

Darrell was most recently President and CEO of the CAMH Foundation in Toronto. During her more than eight years at CAMH, she and her team raised more than $400M to support profoundly meaningful care, research and education for people living with mental illness in Canada and around the world. She led the creation of a new and significant national dialogue aimed at eliminating stigma in mental health, built substantial public interest in giving to mental health and had the honour of working with many special donors whose support is transforming mental health care and research. Darrell was fortunate to cap her career at the time of her formal retirement in January 2018 with the announcement of a remarkable $100M gift for mental health research at CAMH.

Prior to her role at CAMH Foundation, Darrell was the CEO of the National Arts Centre (NAC) Foundation in Ottawa. During the eight years she spent at the NAC, Darrell created the NAC Foundation and recruited an exceptional Board of Directors from all across Canada.

Earlier in her career Darrell was head of Major Gifts at The Hospital for Sick Children Foundation in Toronto. She was also President of the “Friends of the Hospital for Sick Children”, the hospital’s independent US-based sister charity for more than ten years. Darrell is a Fellow of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy and a recent recipient of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Toronto Chapter Outstanding Fundraising Executive Award.

By training, Darrell is a classical musician and was the recipient of two prestigious Canada Council Grants during her music career. She is particularly proud of her architect husband of 37 years, their two accomplished children now living in Tokyo and California, and she boasts about their golden retriever, Madrigal. If there were such a thing, Darrell believes Maddie would win the Miss Congeniality Award for Dogs.

Bill Hutchings

Bill Hutchings is a partner at the accounting firm MDP.  Bill has over 35 years of experience in public accounting 

Bill specialises in owner-managed small and medium-sized corporate clients and personal tax clients who are self-employed and have significant investment portfolios.

Bill received his Bachelor of Commerce degree from Concordia University in Montreal.

He has served on the Boards of several charities including The Mary Centre for 6 years as the Treasurer. He also severed on the golf committee of the Community Foundation of Oakville. 

With his personal time, Bill enjoys playing golf and coached minor hockey in Oakville for 8 years.  

Bill is married to Brooke and they have 2 children.

Stephanie Mitton

Stephanie has built a successful career in the private, public and non-profit sectors and has more than 10 years’ experience as a versatile government relations specialist, project manager and leader. The majority of her career she has advocated on behalf of children and youth, ranging from international development to children’s health and education. She began her professional career at World Vision Canada; most recently Stephanie was the Assistant Director of Government Relations at Universities Canada.

Stephanie is a talented strategist who has led and participated in the development and execution of government relations strategies and campaigns with national and global impacts. She is known to tackle tasks and challenges with great drive, creativity and energy.

A talented public speaker and MC, Stephanie has delivered presentations in the Senate, and with a wide range of other stakeholders. Notably, Stephanie was the motivational speaker for the International Youth G8 in 2010, where she encouraged young people to be the change they want to see in the world.

Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management from Carleton University and a master’s degree in International Public Policy from Wilfrid Laurier University. During her studies, Stephanie was a delegate for the Junior Team Canada Trade Mission to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation international summit in South Korea. Upon graduation, she also led a team of youth on an international trade and development mission to Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia with Global Vision.

Stephanie and her husband Ralph have two young children. As a family they enjoy downhill skiing as well as water sports and fishing on the Rideau Lake.

Stephanie is driven to solve problems and help people. She is a passionate advocate for the underdog and enjoys supporting and mentoring women. Life has taught her that the most important thing you can do is invest in people.

Lisa de Wilde

Lisa de Wilde is the Chief Executive Officer at TVO. As a well-known Canadian media executive, Lisa de Wilde is a leader of innovation and transformative change. An advocate of leveraging digital technology to create moments of learning for people of all ages, as Chief Executive Officer since 2005 Lisa has steered TVO’s transformation into Ontario’s digital learning organization. 

Prior to leading TVO, Lisa was President and CEO of Astral Television, and  legal counsel for the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). She is a member of the Board of Directors of TELUS, having served on several public company boards since 2001. Lisa also serves the community in volunteer roles on the Board of Directors of Toronto Global and of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, the Strategic Advisory Group for the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). She also served on the board of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which she chaired from 2013-2016.

Lisa is a member of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, has received honourary degrees from Ryerson University and Brandon University, and was recognized with the WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award. She holds Bachelors of Arts and of Laws degrees from McGill University, and is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Alana Riley

Alana Riley is the Senior Vice-President, Financial Services, Western Canada at IG Wealth Management. She is a success driven people leader committed to delivering exceptional results by building and motivating top performing diverse teams. An expansive career in Financial Services, leading teams of 1000+ employees in Wealth, Retail Banking, Commercial Insurance, Health Care, Small and Medium sized business lines. Alana provides strategic insight as a member of the Gamma Steering Committee aligning the organization around the vision, scope, and delivery of transformational change leadership, digital platform launches and Client Experience model. Chair, Women of the Wealth, Diversity and Inclusion Committee Member and Chair, National Director Advisor Group.

Alana has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Windsor and a Master of Business Administration degree from Dalhousie University. Alana has founded, Invest in You; partnering business experts with executive coaching and mentoring.

Alana is active in the community currently serving as Board Member, Children First Canada, as well as Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Previous Chair, Lean Advisory at Mt. Royal University, Chair, Women in Leadership, Committee Member Global Accessibility Advisory Group, and spokesperson for Calgary Marathon. Avid skier, runner and yogi, Alana enjoys spending time with her husband and three teenaged children.

Kimberley Bozak

Kimberley Bozak is on the Foundation Board of National Arts Centre and was a member of the Board of Trustees as Chair of the Marketing and Communications Committee.

She was also the Co-Chair of the Canadian Art Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to the promotion of the visual arts in Canada.

In addition to her involvement with arts and culture, Kimberley Bozak is Chair of the Wellington Financial Charitable Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting various local and national charities in Canada.

Prior to her involvement with not-for-profit boards, Kimberley Bozak was a film producer, marketing director for a financial institution and communications advisor to two heads of government.

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Kimberley Bozak has lived and worked in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. She has an Honours BA degree in Political Science from Bishop’s University and is Co-Author of the book Glorious & Free; the Canadians which was released in July 2017 to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial.