Our Alberta Hands & Voices Board of Directors is a dynamic group of individuals who are passionate about supporting families of children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH). Our directors include parents, professionals, and members of the Deaf/HoH community who are all focused on enabling Deaf/HoH children to reach their highest potential!
President - Colleen Ruhl
Colleen joined Hands and Voices this year after looking for a parent support group with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. She is the proud mother of a young deaf son; he was diagnosed at 1.5 years of age, with profound hearing loss due to auditory neuropathy. Her son has multiple diagnoses and understands there shouldn’t be a one solution fits all approach for children and their families. She is a big supporter of parents advocating for what is right for their child.
Vice President - Taylor Donelon
Taylor joined Hands & Voices in 2018 and became Vice President in early 2019. Taylor & her family sought out Hands & Voices upon the diagnosis of her daughters hearing loss diagnosis, at the age of 6 weeks, when looking for a supportive and inclusive community. Taylor leads the groups website and social media pages and is looking to engage the new families who have children identified through Alberta’s Newborn Early Hearing Detection & Intervention screening process.
Treasurer - Ernie Reumiller
Ernie joined the Alberta Hands & Voices board in early 2019 and is our Treasurer. He has a young grandson who has cochlear implants and is on the autistic spectrum. Both him and his wife are interested in learning about the experiences and lessons learned of others who have children with hearing loss.
Secretary - Jessi Sawatzky
Jessi has been involved with Alberta Hands & Voices for several years in the role of secretary. She is currently a student at the University of Alberta pursuing her Masters in Speech and Language Pathology. Jessi previously worked for 10 years as a developmental aide for children with disabilities. Through this, she developed an interest in advocacy and found a new appreciation for communication and language. Jessi has worked with Community and Social Services for the Government of Alberta for a few years before leaving her position there to return to school. Her passions are learning, playing music, languages, travelling, and sports.
Wendy is married and the mother of four children ranging in the age of 12 to 21. Her son, Tanner, was born with Down Syndrome and in January 2018. Wendy’s family was informed that he has sensorineural hearing loss, mild to moderate , high frequencies. Not only does he have hearing aids, he also uses a ‘Nova Chat’, some sign language and grunts and groans as he is also non-verbal. Through their journey, Wendy was invited to an Alberta Hands & Voices Coffee Talk in March 2018 and decided to get involved. Wendy has fundraising experience and has been working on Alberta Hands & Voices’ fundraising since joining.
Lauren has been involved with the Hands & Voices board since 2018 in the role of membership coordinator and serves as the Hands & Voices representative on the DHH advisory committee with the Calgary Board of Education. Lauren joined Hands & Voices after her son was diagnosed with bilateral moderate to severe hearing loss at the age of 2.5 and understands how confusing and emotional it can be to navigate through an unexpected diagnosis. After receiving much support herself, Lauren is passionate about providing a network of support for families as they go through their own journeys.
Julie has been involved as a founding member of Alberta Hands & Voices since 2012. After serving as President for several years, she took a break to spend more time with her family; Julie returned to the role in 2018. She lives in Calgary with her husband Michael and 20 year old daughter Samantha, who is Deaf Plus. Julie & Michael also have two other children, Jackie & Patrick. Julie is excited to return to the board & support families in Alberta. Her focus is currently working on implementing a Guide By Your Side (GBYS) program, a parent led support system for families in Alberta.
For more information on GBYS, please visit handsandvoices.org
Becky joined the Alberta Hands & Voices board in early 2019. As a grandparent, Becky is looking to develop supports and tools for family and grandkids in learning about best practices in hearing loss informed from the grandparent perspective. The role of the extended family is an important aspect for developing healthy and strong relationships and supports across the generations and familial bonds. Becky also brings her experience as a paramedic and educator to the team in relation to advocating for patient-centered care in the health system. She is passionate about building solid policy and process for agency success and sustainability and looks forward to contributing to the governance aspect of the Hands and Voices association.