Leah joined the Board of BFO-Toronto in June 2017, in loving memory of her mother, Margaret Anne Jeffrey. Leah experienced firsthand the power of peer support in her own grief journey through a number of traumatic losses. She joined BFO-Toronto having complete conviction in the organization’s ability to inspire hope and healing to members of the Toronto community and wanting to contribute. Leah served as Vice Chair of the Board, and Head of the Governance and Human Resources committees, from 2018-2020. She is currently serving as Chair of the Board. Leah strives to meaningfully support the BFO-Toronto board members, staff and volunteers to help the organization achieve its strategic goals and objectives and to meet the needs of the community that BFO-Toronto serves.
Leah is a lawyer and works in private equity. Outside of work, she enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends and experiencing new places and foods.
Karen HerseyVice Chair
Karen became aware of BFO-Toronto in 1988 after her husband died and she attended a closed group spousal loss program following a recommendation from the funeral director. Karen’s two eldest daughters (then 5 and 7) attended a children’s program which included expressing feelings through art. In 2018, Karen’s middle daughter, Brianna O’Connor Hersey, died at age 36. Karen found her way back to BFO-Toronto several months later and found significant peer support from both facilitators and other parents wading through the darkness the loss of a child creates.
In late fall of 2020, Karen joined the Board of Directors with a goal of supporting the various committees the Board encompasses. She has become interested in moving forward Diversity, Equity and Inclusion practices within BFO-Toronto and well as contributing to the Professional Advisory Committee which helps ensure that BFO-Toronto operates within its mission, mandate, strategic direction, goals and beliefs.
Professionally, Karen has utilized a nursing background to oversee a clinical research program at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre focusing predominately on prostate cancer. She also plays the piano, is an avid reader and consumer of theatre, and bakes for her colleagues as a stress reliever.
John joined the board in 2018, in memory of his wife, Mercedita, who he lost in 2016. After a quick few months, John assumed the role of Treasurer, a role in which he can use his professional accountancy skills to ensure the financial health of BFO-Toronto. When not working as an accountant, you can often find John spending time outdoors and fishing.
Allan was originally on the Board of BFO-Toronto in the 90’s when Marg McGovern was the Executive Director. Allan rejoined the Board in 2015 and has served as a Board Chair. He is the recipient of the BFO-Toronto Founders Award.
Allan has been a Funeral Director for over 40 years and operates MacKinnon & Bowes in Toronto. He and his company have been supportive of BFO and the assistance it provides families in need for over 30 years.
Catherine was introduced to BFO-Toronto in 2014. Her friend Lesley Parrott asked her to help with the Memorial Golf Tournament in memory of her daughter Alison Parrott. At the tournament, Catherine met a number of people who shared their stories and talked about how BFO has helped them through their grief journeys, giving them support and hope.
Catherine joined the board in 2014 and is passionate about fundraising to ensure that BFO can continue to provide its much-needed support. She leads the Golf Tournament Committee and Co-Chairs the Fundraising Committee.
Outside of BFO, Catherine works in data analytics.
Alyson RobertsonBoard Secretary
Alyson joined the BFO-Toronto Board in Fall of 2020, following the sudden loss of her younger brother Jeff. Alyson has participated in peer to peer grief support groups through other local organizations and has experienced first hand how instrumental these groups are at helping people cope with their grief.
Alyson runs her own international marketing business, with expertise focused on marketing, communications and event planning. She looks forward to becoming more involved with BFO and its outstanding events and initiatives.
Asma Tareen Board Member
Asma joined BFO-Toronto in September 2021 as a member of the Board of Directors. Asma will be responsible for assisting with providing IT solutions and volunteering with ongoing events. Outside of BFO-Toronto, Asma is a Technology Associate in the Data Technology sector.
Anjali AggarwalBoard Member
Anjali joined the BFO-Toronto Board in the fall of 2021 in memory of her father, Mohan Aggarwal. Anjali believes in the importance of discussing grief and in celebrating those we have lost. She is hoping to bring an EDI lens to the work done by BFO.
Anjali is an Obstetrician & Gynaecologist working at both Michael Garron Hospital and SickKids. She is a mother of two and enjoys yoga and reading.
Samantha Jennings WillanBoard Member
Samantha joined the board in 2022 in memory of her grandmother Erika and grandfather John. Samantha is currently working towards a Social Work Diploma. Outside of school you can find Samantha playing board games, hiking with her dog and husband, kayaking or painting.
Carlayne GilbertsonBoard Member
Carlayne joined the board in 2021 in memory of her late husband Mike, who passed away suddenly leaving her widowed with 4 children. This loss was followed by another significant loss of her beautiful stepdaughter Alyssa.
She and her family have used many bereavement supports in the community through the years to move forward with the knowing that a proactive approach to healing is what will create a healthy and fulfilling future. She believes that the supports they received changed the way they processed their grief and has given her and her children skills that help to understand their grief, process it, and connect with others who get it, which made them feel less alone.
She and her children run an annual charity golf tournament in her husbands name that has raised over $20,000 for bereavement support. She also has been invited to speak at multiple events to share her story as inspiration for others and fundraising opportunities to support the grieving community.
In her professional life, Carlayne is a Personal Performance Coach and founder of The Worthy Way, where she posts regular content on social media platforms to inspire and support those in grief. In her coaching practice one of her specialities is helping widows and widowers thrive after loss.
Aimee BrunerBoard Member
Aimee joined the BFO-Toronto Board in the fall of 2021, in honour of her firstborn daughter, Stella. Aimee’s life changed forever in 2012 when she lost her daughter to a fatal brain tumour. She understands the weight of unimaginable grief and jumped at the opportunity to join forces with BFO–Toronto to help support families like hers, who are trying to find a way forward in the face of the death of a loved one. Aimee is proud to play a role on this team and is committed to helping the organization continue to provide crucial peer to peer support and services to families. Aimee is currently the Director of Special Projects at Campfire Circle, and brings with her experience in project management, operations and strategic planning. She currently sits on the Fundraising Committee and looks forward to supporting BFO–Toronto wherever there’s a need.
With Stella in her heart, Aimee is happiest when she’s spending time with her kids – Sam, Hugo and Adele.
Peggy-Gail DeHal GunrajBoard Member
Peggy-Gail is a Psychotherapist and Adult Educator. She is the Clinic Director at Selah Psychotherapy and Education Centre which provides affordable counselling and education for those experiencing grief, loss or major life transitions. She brings an extensive history working in non-profit organizations as an advocate and educator with a focus on issues of disability, gender based violence, mental health awareness as well as grief and trauma education. She is currently working with individuals and their families of origin and/or families of choice who have been affected by a traumatic event or death.
Peggy-Gail values the long-term and life-changing importance of journeying with children and youth who have experienced a loss. She brings an anti-oppression and equity-seeking lens to her work in grief and bereavement. This includes addressing the impact of transgenerational grief and advocating for policies and legislation that promote and protect the rights of individuals affected by a traumatic event or loss. Peggy-Gail joined the Board to work alongside others who share the same commitment to working with bereaved families and communities.
Isabel McKechnieBoard Member
Isabel joined the BFO-Toronto Board in 2022 to help support and enhance the relationship between BFO-Toronto and Funeral Service providers. Isabel is a licensed funeral director and project coordinator with over a decade of experience in the Bereavement Sector. With her understanding of the care involved during the immediate time of loss, it is her goal to contribute to the ongoing care of the bereaved, and in turn help to build healthy, supported communities.
When Isabel is not at work she enjoys volunteering, spending time with her family and outdoor activities.
Rena ArshinoffBoard Member
Rena joined the BFO Board and Professional Advisory Committee in September of 2021. Rena became connected to BFO in 1988 following a pregnancy loss and facilitated some groups after completing her own. After a long hiatus, she developed an interest in bereaved children and joined BFO once again in 2009 with the Children’s Program and Infant Loss Program. She has been a group facilitator, professional advisor and an instructor in BFO facilitator training.
As a nurse, rabbi and hospital chaplain trained in grief therapy and with a PhD in Palliative Care, Rena brings extensive experience in counselling, grief theory and knowledge of both childhood and adult grief. She has experienced the loss of numerous family members including her sister and brings the understanding of sibling loss as well.
Rena loves spending time with her husband, children and two grandchildren. She loves golden retrievers, elephants and the Toronto Raptors.