Who We Are

For our 20th Anniversary, Executive Director Elyse Schipper sat down with Phyllis Grant-Parker, President, and one of Pleo’s founding mothers to hear the inspiring story of how our community built something incredible together. Click above for this uplifting five minute conversation.

Pleo was created by parents, for parents.

We know first hand that parents play a significant role in their child’s outcomes and research supports this. We recognize that parents can’t and need not do it alone. We understand the challenges and the stressors on families. And we believe that families facing mental health challenges can flourish.

Our Vision is that families facing mental health challenges can flourish, stigma-free, with the support and services they need.

Our Mission is to foster positive outcomes for families with children to age 25 facing mental health challenges by providing family peer support and by amplifying the family voice for system change.

Our Team

This is your Pleo Team. The people who will be there alongside you through your journey, and behind the scenes championing better mental health care for our kids and families.

Our Family Peer Supporters bring the wisdom and experience of supporting their own child, youth, or young adult with mental health or addiction challenges. They also complete extensive ongoing training – on the mental health system, diagnoses, promising and best practices, and specialized skills such as ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), Motivational Interviewing, Collaborative Problem Solving, and SMART Recovery. And they’re locals – they live where you live, in the communities we currently serve, because the experience is different in each community, and we need our services to reflect that.

Elyse Schipper, MPNL
Executive Director
Michelle Kay, MPNL, CPA, CMA
Finance Manager
Diane Oxborough
Program Manager
Lana Hann
Operations Manager
Christie Kopczyk
Program Manager
Hillary Di Menna
Communications Coordinator
Catherine Shea
Bilingual Family Peer Supporter
Bilingual Family Peer Supporter
Line Labrecque
Bilingual Family Peer Supporter
Thierry Makuza, MBA
Bilingual Family Peer Supporter
Sharyn Duffey
Family Peer Supporter
Barb Pierce
Family Peer Supporter
Bonnie Schryer
Family Peer Supporter
Linda Cole
Family Peer Supporter
Laura Lea McPherson, BA, CPF
Family Peer Supporter
Holly Watson
Family Peer Supporter
Kim Trimble
Family Peer Supporter
Shelagh Autumn
Family Peer Supporter
Mel March
Family Peer Supporter
Joe Holubowich
Family Peer Supporter
Kim MacLeod
Family Peer Supporter
Marci Joyce
Family Peer Supporter
Margaret-Anne Quinn
Family Peer Supporter
Faith Hall
Placement Student

Board of Directors

Phyllis Grant-Parker
Denise Gilby
David Millen
Vice Chair
Connor Shea, CPA, CMA
Purnima Sundar, Ph.D.
Dhaval Shah, P.Eng
Margaret DeCorte, Ph.D., C.Psych.
Michelle Neville, RN, B.Ed., M.Ed.
Maddy Toca
Noah Spector, M.S.W, Ph.D., RSW

Our Roots

In 2019, Pleo was honoured to receive the Royal’s Inspiration Award for Community Leader in Mental Health. In this short video filmed for the awards gala, founder Phyllis-Grant Parker speaks about our roots.

In 1999, three mothers who had children in the inpatient psychiatric program at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) began informally supporting each other in waiting rooms and hallways. In 2000, at the initiative of Cynthia Clark, Pleo received its incorporation with its charitable status. It provided a monthly support group for parents at CHEO. A great deal of effort was invested to connect with service providers to advocate for the needs of the families it was supporting. The approach to mental health care at this time included little involvement from families in the treatment planning for their children.

In 2010 Pleo was invited to be a member of the Community Suicide Prevention Network, a group of providers in Ottawa focused on addressing youth suicide. As part of that Committee (now Suicide Prevention Ottawa) Pleo made the case that better navigation and support services for parents and caregivers would help reduce the risks of suicide. These services would help youth get faster access to service. Armed with the results of a parent survey, Pleo secured the support of the committee to develop a plan for a Family Navigation and Support Service. Phyllis Grant-Parker, then the President of Pleo, along with Cherry Murray, Executive Director of Crossroads Children’s Centre, developed the plan and business case for the service. Supported by the Network, Pleo applied for funding from the United Way with Crossroads’ sponsorship. The United Way was able to grant 50% of the request and the Champlain LHIN stepped up with the balance of the needed funds. On Sept 10, 2012 Pleo formally launched the Parents’ Helpline.

In 2015 the Champlain LHIN asked Pleo to expand its services outside of Ottawa and into the counties, and provided base funding. Since 2012, Pleo has grown from the initial one monthly support group to 18 throughout the region (as of Jan 2019), a helpline answered Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, and one-on-one mobile support for families who benefit from more intensive, short-term, targeted support. In 2018, this one-on-one mobile support expanded outside of Ottawa and across the entire Champlain LHIN with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Throughout its history Pleo has been dedicated to systemic improvements to better serve the needs of families. Some notable involvement:

  • Presented to the Kirby Senate Committee on Mental Health regarding the needs for early intervention. This committee created the report Out of the Shadows which resulted in the development of the Mental Health Commission of Canada
  • Member of the Parent and Youth Advisory Group to the Ministry of Child and Youth Services (MCYS) on the plan for Moving on Mental Health
  • Member of the Community Suicide Prevention Network and its Steering Committee
  • Member of the Family Advisory Committee at CHEO
  • Member and Chair of the Family Advisory Committee at the Royal
  • Member of AMHNC (Addictions & Mental Health Network of Champlain)
  • Member of the Committee led by Parents for Children’s Mental Health (PCMH) that developed the first version of Family Engagement Training for Ontario
  • Partner in the development of Ontario Health Teams, and in an innovative child and youth-focused model of health care for Eastern Ontario

Our Funders

Just knowing you are not alone in your struggles is a big help and gives you courage to get through the next day.

Toronto Parent