Ausome People

The Ausome Team

Liisa Vexler
Executive Director

Liisa is one of the founders of Ausome.
She brings her 15 years of experience in the health care field and a background in physical education and fitness to Ausome.

Liisa has been on numerous community boards and committees, and has experience in event planning and communications. When not watching her kids play one sport or another, Liisa enjoys practicing yoga, running, reading or planning her family’s next adventure.


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Anna Whyte
Director of Programs & Training

Anna is a caring, energetic, skilled, autism behaviour therapist with years of clinical intervention experience.

Since her youth, she has been involved with children, either babysitting, coaching, camp counselling, or volunteering around the world. Her passion to see children meet their full potential is the foundation for Anna’s involvement with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Recently, she saw a need to expand her role beyond the clinical environment, and is currently providing a service to support children in various community settings.


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Julia Albert
Director of Communications

Julia is a freelance graphic designer, former teacher, and mom of 3 kids and two feline fur-babies.

With first-hand experience dealing with autism and sport (her eldest is on the spectrum and loves most athletic endeavours – especially hockey), Julia embraced the opportunity to join the Ausome team in the spring of 2016. Between taking kids to squash, hockey, skiing, parkour, and more, Julia likes going to her Body Pump class, reading, meditating, cooking (to loud & cheesy dance tunes), being outside, and doing design jobs around the house. 


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Alix Milk
Camp & Program Director

Alix has been apart of our Ausome Ottawa Team from the beginning. She started out as an Ausome Volunteer, supporting the children and the volunteers during every event.

Her understanding and encouragement of our Ausome kids helped her advance to one of our Program Directors over the last year. She brings with her 9 years of experience working with children with Autism in clinics, at home and in schools. Her dedication to our programs along with her energy and enthusiasm for each child is demonstrated at all of our events. Alix is looking forward to meeting each child and watching them grow and succeed within our programs!


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Rebecca Kaell
Volunteer Manager and Program Lead

Rebecca is a passionate, caring, energetic educator who has been working with children for over 15 years in educational and recreational settings.

She first got involved with Ausome Ottawa as a volunteer in late 2016 and has enjoyed every moment of her experience. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to now be working with this organization. Rebecca is a certified teacher and divides her time between teaching at OCDSB schools and working as a program manager at a local charity. When she is not working she loves to spend her time travelling, reading, playing sports and staying active in the outdoors. Rebecca is looking forward to meeting each child and assisting them to reach their true Ausome potential!


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Cassandra Tonon
Program Director

Cassandra completed the Autism and Behavioural Science Program in 2015, following her undergraduate degree in Psychology.

Since then, she’s worked in the Autism field privately, in clinics and with the OCSB. She volunteered at some of the very first Ausome events and is looking forward to being back!


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Rachelle Jessome
Program Director

Rachelle first got involved with Ausome as a volunteer in 2016 while completing the post-graduate certificate in Autism and Behavioural Sciences at Algonquin College.

She has always worked with children in various settings and truly believes that every child can accomplish their full potential given the proper support and resources. Originally from Saskatchewan, Rachelle transferred to the University of Ottawa in 2011 to complete her B.A with specialization in psychology and linguistics. Rachelle currently works as an Instructor Therapist in a center that provides ABA/IBI services to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and tutors students with various learning difficulties during her evenings. When she is not working Rachelle loves staying active by playing various sports and discovering new hiking trails in the surrounding areas or she’s planning her next travelling adventure.


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Kayla Garvey
Program Support

Kayla is studying Biomedical Sciences at the University of Ottawa and is on a journey to becoming a pediatric surgeon.

She played and coached competitive basketball for many years and is a certified Level 1 basketball coach with the National Coaching Certification Program. Kayla is caring, full of energy and passionate about children. She believes that every child deserves the same opportunities; that is what has driven her commitment to Ausome Ottawa since we first opened our doors.


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Ben Madore
Program Support

Ben is a Georgian College grad working in the electrical utility industry. Ben joined the Ausome team as a volunteer in 2017and fell in love with the program.

Ben has 5 years experience with working with children in a variety of age groups. He believes sports are crucial in development in children’s character. He is passionate about sports and giving every child the opportunity to compete, have fun and improve on their skills!


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Want to join our Ausome Board?

Yay, we want to hear from you! Ausome Ottawa is always looking for energetic, committed members who believe in sport and recreation for all.

To learn more, send us a quick message.

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Our Ausome Board of Directors

Derek Firth

Derek, along with his wife Liisa Vexler, is the founder of Ausome. He is the father of two boys, one of whom has an autism spectrum disorder.

Derek spends most of his leisure time coaching his sons in basketball, playing basketball, or spending time with his family. Ausome has been a dream of Derek’s for awhile, as he believes passionately that everyone should have a chance to participate in sports.
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Suzanne Jacobson

Suzanne is the grandmother of two young boys, Alexander and Nathan, both of whom have been diagnosed with autism.

In early 2008, Suzanne founded QuickStart-Early Intervention for Autism which incorporated and became a registered Canadian Charity in 2010. Suzanne brings to Ausome a wealth of experience working with families living with autism, as well as experience building a registered charity from the ground up.
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Nicole Dauz

Nicole is a mother of two beautiful children, communications expert, entrepreneur, wife and advocate for special needs families.

Her daughter Summer has a rare disease SYNGAP1 and is on the autism spectrum.

Nicole has volunteered with the not-for-profit organizations Breast Cancer Action and Kanata Youth Basketball Association; and has been a member of the board of directors for the Katimavik Co-operative Nursery School and the Kanata Hockey Minor Association.

Part of her parenting philosophy is to focus on what Summer does well – Summer loves gymnastics, basketball and swimming and therefore Nicole is excited to be part of an organization that promotes growth through activities.

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Amy Bienkowski

Amy has been a Nurse since 2003. She knows the multiple benefits of being involved in sports.

She competed in multiple sports during her youth. Amy was a varsity athlete in cross country running and track & field at Dalhousie University. In her spare time she enjoys running, playing soccer, baking, reading and playing with her two children.

Amy believes all children, regardless of income or ability, should have access to high quality sports programming. She looks forward to making a positive contribution to the autism community through Ausome Ottawa.

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Anne Jovanovic

Anne, mom and step-mom to two beautiful boys, is a a federal public servant as well as a staunch advocate for special needs families.

Her son, Mica, has a diagnosis of severe autism, is functionally non-verbal, and successfully attends public school full-time in an integrated and supportive setting, plays piano and loves to play soccer and swim.

Her expertise in governance and political economy was honed through postgraduate studies at London School of Economics. Anne is excited to be part of an organization focused on enabling kids in accessing much-needed sports. She is committed to enabling access for others to the kinds of activities Ausome Ottawa designs so that others can experience the love of sport and the joy of socializing with peers in a supportive and sensory sensitive environment.

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Katherine Kacew

For over 15 years Katherine has worked as a Directress in various Montessori schools in the Ottawa area and abroad.

She graduated from Algonquin College with her diploma in Early Childhood Education (ECE) in 1998 and, in the following year, completed her international AMI Montessori Diploma in London, UK. Katherine then taught in England and the US before returning to Ottawa where she taught Montessori Casa while completing a B.A. in Sociology at Carleton University. The following year, in 2004, she co-founded and ran an AMI Montessori school in Barrhaven where she taught in the bilingual Casa Program. She closed the school in 2010 to focus on raising her own children. Currently, Katherine continues to enjoy her family time while teaching at OMS Montessori School and serving on the Board of the Montessori Society of Canada.
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Julie McIsaac

Julie McIsaac is a child development specialist with an interest in joining children and their parents to problem solve and connect through play.

She has a Masters degree from Tufts University and is completing her PhD in Infant and Child Development. Certified in the DIR/Floortime relationship-based framework, Julie has found that her most meaningful work is supporting parents to better connect with their children. Julie enjoys exploring Ottawa’s parks and playgrounds with her three active boys and values the power of sport and exercise for the whole family. Julie has watched her son’s confidence, skill and enjoyment of sport soar as he’s able to access sport, feel supported with social and to feel a sense that he belongs. Julie is very proud to support Ausome Ottawa.
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Emily Zeppa

Emily is a practicing lawyer. Prior to obtaining her law degree, Emily worked with persons with ASD for many years and became involved in disability awareness and advocacy initiatives.

She later balanced her civil litigation practice with ProBono work on youth, disability and education issues.

Emily holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree from the University of Toronto, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Ottawa.

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Tori Hammond

Tori is a professional actor and voice artist working in Canadian television, film, theatre and radio for over 25 years.
She is also a musician in Ottawa funk/r+b band “Nobody’s Fool.”

Being an actor, she’s also juggled a wide variety of jobs, including having worked at Bruce House in a fundraising/event planning position; on the Wakefield Steam Train tourist attraction as a banjo-playing entertainer; reception and administrative positions, and as a Standardized Patient for both the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Medical Council of Canada.

Tori has a wonderful, curious 10 year old son on the spectrum. As a community advocate, she often meets with newly-diagnosed families to offer support, as well as guidance on how to navigate the system.

She is thrilled to be a part of the Ausome board and looks forward to a year of amazing new initiatives and opportunities for the Ottawa autism community.

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David Baker

Stay tuned for David’s profile…