Chrystal Dean, Executive Director
Chrystal believes in the power of community. When people gather with common purpose and experience, movements are created. Communities build organically, and are based on the idea of peer support: “I belong here; these people understand what it’s like to be me in this time.” We all seek this support every day, in all kinds of ways.
Chrystal dedicates her life to exploring the balance between radical social justice and advocacy, and self-care and support systems for individuals and communities. Having experience with the impact of burnout, anxiety, and personal upheaval, she is interested in holding safer spaces in our everyday lives, and how we can better identify our needs and listen to each other’s.
In her last role as WorldPride Manager for Pride Toronto she steered one of the largest international events ever hosted in Toronto, dubbed an historic and overwhelming success. In 2014, Chrystal was listed by Toronto Star as one of eight local heroes for her commitment to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans (LGBT) community, was officially recognized by the City of Toronto for her contribution to WorldPride, and received a “Rainbow Warrior 2014” award “for outstanding support for international LGBT solidarity and LGBT culture” as awarded by the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network.
As Vice President of TasPride in Tasmania, Australia, she saw the non-profit organization through a transition from a small community organization to a presenter of major events on the national LGBTIQ calendar, including a two-week arts and culture festival. She spent five years working for the Tasmanian Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts running signature recognition events and conferences for the sport and recreation, and screen (film, television and digital media) industries. Here she created a department-wide, 80-strong community-of-practice for event managers, to share knowledge, education opportunities and support.
Chrystal specializes in capacity building, strategic partnerships, brand, and marketing communications. She holds a BA in Communication Studies, with majors in Public Relations and Media Production. She is passionate about equity, education, self-determination, and social justice.
Melissa Corcoran, Program Manager
Melissa provides strength-based leadership and opportunities for personal growth through self-awareness and self-care practices. She strives to build inclusive and supportive communities and reduce stigma by creating innovative programs that make peer support values and practices more accessible in everyday life.
Melissa’s role as Program Manager involves supporting the growth of the organization through a strength-based, person-centered, and anti-oppressive lens. She also contributes towards the advancement of recovery and peer support practices with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Health Equity Work Group. Melissa volunteers as co-chair for the Consumer Survivor Information Resource Centre Board of Directors and as director for Sound Times Board of Directors.
She is in the process of completing a Masters degree in Counselling Psychotherapy and Community Development and has completed professional certificates in Mental Health and Addictions, as well as Concurrent Disorders. She is trained in Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Motivational Interviewing and is a certified facilitator in Youth & Family Wellness Recovery Action Plan workshops, Pathways to Recovery, Mindfulness Ambassador Council, and Peer Zone.
Her prior work at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, as lead Outreach Counsellor, involved the creation and provision of mental health educational and skill building programming, and the facilitation of client orientations and harm reduction treatment program. Melissa also operated her own private counselling practice and worked and volunteered as a Peer Counsellor for the Gerstein Crisis Centre.
Samantha Warford, ODSP Peer Navigator Program Coordinator
Sam is passionate about creating empowering, recovery-focused spaces that nurture meaningful connections with others and deepen our understanding of challenging experiences. She is a WRAP and PeerZone facilitator. She sits on the Health and Equity Committee at CMHA-Toronto and is on the Board of Directors at Working for Change. She graduated from York University with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and has a certificate from George Brown College in Fundraising and Volunteer Management.
As the ODSP Peer Navigator Program Coordinator she hopes to facilitate conversations around poverty and prosperity and the opportunities for self-discovery that they provide while acknowledging the social barriers of systemic discrimination, how they intersect with our health challenges, and the hope and tenacity we can use to continue forward.
Deandre Bonnelle, Program Assistant
Deandre is entering her final year at York University to complete a bachelor of social work. She is especially passionate about making small differences in her community to impact greater change for others. Deandre has a variety of experiences working with those that may face marginalization, aiming to help them find a better voice. She hopes that we as a community will be able to work hard every day to achieve more peace, equity and love among all.
Michael Friedman, Program Assistant
Michael Friedman is a 4th Year Social Work student at Ryerson University. As a Program Assistant, Michael strives to work with individuals, and to answer questions about the various services offered in and around Toronto. Michael has four years of experience supporting people with exceptional needs such as: people living with Autism, mental health challenges, and intellectual disabilities. Michael’s experience on the Board of Directors at Ryerson University, as well as his experience in working with people with exceptional needs, will help in his pursuit of advocacy and supporting others.