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Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance

Board of Directors

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Krista Vriend - President

Krista is a CHD patient, with over 15 years of marketing experience in the financial industry. She is currently the Director of Global Marketing for Insurance at Scotiabank. She has also run her own event management company, and has served on the Board of Directors, Chaired the Special Events Fundraising Committee, and been a Ski School Director, for the Ontario Track 3 Ski Association. She lives in Toronto and is married with children.


Jennifer Graham - Vice President

Jennifer Graham is a CHD patient with congenitally corrected transposition of the great arteries (ccTGA). Jennifer has been a part of CCHA since 2006.  She graduated from Carleton University with a B.Sc Hon in Biology and Psychology.  During her career she has held various positions including Project Manager, Computer System designer and developer, Process Re-engineering Analyst and National Trainer in the Insurance and Pharmaceutical industry.

While part of the CCHA team, she has helped organize events fundraising and social events as well as, representing CCHA at CCS congress, the Sick Kids Family Education Days, Sick Kids Transition Nights and ISACHD symposium.

In 2010, Jennifer initiated the partnership between CCHA and the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada in their annual Walk of Life fundraiser, to raise funds for CCHA programs and cardiac rehabilitation programs across Canada, programs often used by CHD patients.  Since then Jennifer has organized CCHA’s team each May and to date they have raised almost $85,000.  In 2012 she was invited by the Cardiac Health Foundation to join their Walk of Life’s organizing committee.

Personally, Jennifer enjoys travelling around the world, cottaging and spending time with her family and friends.



Robbyn McLellan - Treasurer

Robbyn is a CHD patient with Tetralogy of Fallot and a Human Resources Professional. She is a graduate of Sheridan College and Lakehead University (BA). She has over 20 years’ experience in various roles within Human Resources but has spent much of her career as a Compensation Consultant. Currently, she is taking a break from the corporate world to spend time with her family and get more involved with organization’s that are making a difference.

Robbyn has been actively involved in the community by volunteering for the United Way, The Children’s Foundation, School Parent Council, and Treasurer of the girls’ softball rep team.

She lives in Guelph, enjoys reading, travel, weight training and bootcamp classes. Robbyn is married with two children.


Meaghan Sharp

Meaghan is a CHD patient, and has called Canada home for the last 18 years. Born in Sydney , Australia, Meaghan is extremely passionate about ensuring CHD patients receive quality care continue in the pursuit of excellence in patient and family centered care. Meaghan is a Registered Nurse, and is currently the Director of Cardiovascular and Stroke Programs, at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Meaghan has over 15 years of extensive management and leadership experience in health care. She has a clinical background in acute care, holds a Masters Degree in Nursing, and is currently enrolled in a Masters of Business Administration Program. Outside of  her career, Meaghan is  married and the mum of one child. She is passionate about fitness and has returned to competitive swimming in the Fall of 2017. Her inspiration for her return is her 13 year old daughter, who is an active competitive swimmer. Meaghan also adores gardening and fashion.


Jacqui Esler

Jacqui Esler

Jacqui Esler was born in Owen Sound, Ontario with a congenital heart defect. She had open heart surgery at the Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto in 1975 (at 6 years old) and a second surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in 2000 (at 30 years old).  

She is active member with a patient advisory working group for the Libin Cardiovascular Institute in Calgary, Alberta. She also sits on the Board of Heart Beats Children’s Society at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.  This is a grass-roots parent support group for parents with children with congenital heart defects.  Jacqui also champions small business as her and her husband owned a retail store from 1996 to 2015.  After selling the business, she continued her work with small business owners as the Executive Director for the Mainstreet Bowness BIA (Business Improvement Area).

She lives an active and fulfilling life, thanks to her amazing cardiac team of 2 cardiologists, a pharmacologist and an amazing GP.



Jennifer Michaud

Jennifer Michaud

Jennifer is a CHD patient, born with aortic stenosis and recent open-heart surgery survivor and recipient of a bioprosthetic aortic valve.

She is a graduate of the University of Alberta (BA) and currently works as the marketing coordinator for a health and wellness clinic in Calgary, previously working in marketing at Shaw Communications. Her experience in transitioning from paediatric to adult CHD care, and her surgery and subsequent recovery have driven her passion to work with others who are affected by CHD, including active involvement with her local Heart & Stroke Foundation chapter.

Jennifer enjoys participating in community theatre, running with her dog and travelling with her husband.


Julie Speares

Julie Speares

Julie is a CHD patient who had the honour of being Dr. William Mustard's patient as a child.

She graduated from York University with a B.A. Hon. in Anthropology.  Her career has taken her from the financial industry, to teaching English as a Second Language, to her current life in office administration in a top 10 defence law firm.  Julie has volunteered in the past with Culture Link and the Red Cross. 

She currently lives in downtown Toronto and enjoys travel, true crime and Tiki cocktails.


Sarah E. McMillan

Sarah E. McMillan

Sarah is a CHD patient and lives with Marfan syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disorder.

She earned her MA in Sociology: Families, health and well-being from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Toronto. 

Sarah resides in Toronto, Ontario and works as a registered social worker and research associate at the University Health Network.  She has her diagnoses to thank for directly shaping her desire to improve health systems and experiences of illness.



Christelle Roy

Christelle Roy

Christelle is a CHD patient with ALCAPA. She is an experienced communications professional with a background in administration and digital marketing. Previously she held positions in the nonprofit sector, namely with Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Humane Society.

Over the years she has volunteered with organizations like Canadian Blood Services, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the United Way. Prior to this she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and obtained a Graduate Certificate in Public Relations while working in her college’s Marketing department.

She is passionate about bringing people together, building community, and promoting wellness. In her spare time she enjoys reading, watching documentaries, managing Facebook groups, and travelling.


Laura Philippe

Karen LeComte - PAB Liaison


Bengy Mercier

Bengy Mercier - Honourary Board Member

Bengy is the mother of two kids, a little boy (January 2014) and a little girl (March 2018) born with Tetralogy of Fallot with absent pulmonary valve syndrome.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, and she is currently working as an IT Analyst.

Bengy lives in Montreal and loves spending time and enjoying all the little moments with her husband and children, she likes to travel, to sing and to support people in needs.

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