Our Family Advisory Council

What is the Family Advisory Council (FAC)?

Stella’s Place FAC is a dynamic group of volunteers supporting Stella’s Place and our vision for young adult mental health. Our members share lived experiences with being caregivers and supports to young adults at many stages of their mental health journey.

George Ayer

George Ayer is a Professional Engineer and the father of three young men. In 2007 the diagnosis of his youngest with a brain tumour was the beginning of a long journey navigating the health system as a caregiver. As his elder twin brothers entered their teens a few years later, signs of mental health challenges began in earnest. It became apparent that the physical health systems and the mental health systems were vastly different in the level of universal access, compassion and support. Being introduced to Stella’s Place was a real breath of fresh air. As a caregiver who struggled with feeling helpless in accessing quality care for my sons, I am keen to support the Family Advisory Council and Stella’s place as an advocate and champion of Young Adult mental health. It is very exciting to participate in the growth of a better way to serve our Young Adult community and their Caregivers.

Victoria Birkett

Victoria is a mother of two young adult children and has experience effectively communicating with family members affected by anxiety and depression. She has firsthand knowledge of navigating the complexities of the mental health care system. Victoria is also the author of a children’s book series, Minnie is Worried, a collection of stories to help children and parents navigate anxiety. As a volunteer member of the Stella’s Place Family Advisory Committee, Victoria co-developed and facilitates the Stella’s Place Family to Family workshop designed to assist family caregivers in supporting young adults with mental health struggles. She is an entrepreneur and current partner with Innovation Grade Ventures, a venture fund that invests in early-stage businesses focusing on health and wellness.

Lori McBurney

Lori was a securities lawyer before deciding to end her practice to become a stay at home mom to her children. Lori has been involved in mental health and addiction issues for many years having multiple family members who have been afflicted with such issues, including Lori herself. Having confronted these issues, Lori knows the difficulties of gaining access to meaningful services applicable to the unique needs of young adults. It is her purpose to ensure barriers to such services are eliminated.

Martha McGroarty

Martha McGroarty is a mental health advocate and over the past several years has led successful fundraising and community outreach events for Stella’s Place. As a suicide loss survivor, Martha shares her daughters’ story, and her story as a mother, to spread awareness to others. She has experience assisting her daughter navigate the mental health care system and believes in Stella’s Place methods and mission. She is a committed volunteer member of the Stella’s Place Family Advisory Council and has also volunteered as a Crisis Responder for the Kids Help Text Line.  Professionally, Martha is a Manager at a public sensor technology company.

Dagmar Schroeder

Dagmar Schroeder is the Communications, Marketing and Stewardship Manager at Stella’s Place and the staff liaison for the Family Advisory Council. Dagmar has three young adult sons and joined Stella’s Place five years ago, when one of them was struggling with anxiety and depression. Stella’s Place had just opened its doors in downtown Toronto and Dagmar saw firsthand the impact of a community-based, young-adult centred, holistic and strength-based model of mental health care. It is what our young people desperately need. Dagmar is a committed advocate and fundraiser for Stella’s Place. Her work is guided by passion and compassion and the belief that positive change is possible one person at a time.

John Swain

After over 30 years as an executive management consultant, John is now semi-retired volunteering his expertise and lived caregiver experience as a member of Stella’s Place Family Advisory Council. In this capacity he has been a co-developer and facilitator of Stella’s Place’s successful Family to Family workshop focused on assisting adult family caregivers who support young adults with mental health conditions. Since their son was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, ADHD and anxiety over 25 years ago John and his wife have navigated a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional treatment approaches including psychiatry, counselling, clinical and alternative therapists, residential rehab programs and life coaching. His goal, along with his wife, is to enable his son to become fully functional in a world that still stigmatizes and challenges those with such conditions.

Nicole Waldron

Nicole Waldron became a volunteer with Stella’s Place Family Advisory Council after hearing about the work that Stella’s Place does for youth. Nicole’s loved one first experienced psychosis a couple months after a bike accident in 2015 and has since made a commitment to helping others in this area. She has become a mental health advocate for loved ones and caregivers after having to deal with the mental health system. 

Nicole has enjoyed a 30+ year career as an event specialist. She is an inspirational speaker, author and the host of The Victory Speaks Podcast and Online Show. Nicole also serves on various boards and committees working for the advancement of her community and advocating on several issues.

The uniqueness of Stella’s Place, being designed for youth by youth, is an approach to care that is needed in our system. In addition to developing innovative supports, Stella’s Place has created opportunities for education, training and employment for youth with lived experience. These opportunities are incredibly valuable to the recovery process.

Gillian Gray
Executive Director, Family Outreach and Response Program

Workshop Series:

Strategies to Support Young Adult Mental Health

This virtual workshop is for caregivers supporting young adults with mental health challenges. The program includes input from young adults connected to Stella’s Place, who have experienced mental health challenges at some point in their lives. Additionally, insights from Stella’s Place Family Advisory Council (FAC) members have been incorporated into the workshop. Their members have firsthand caregiver experience with the challenges of navigating the mental health experiences of young adults. It is designed so participants are in complete control of their anonymity and contribution.

Stay tuned for our next workshop delivery date!

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Read About FAC Projects on our Blog

We need to do better! World Mental Health Day at Stella’s Place

We need to do better! World Mental Health Day at Stella’s Place

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