This International Women’s Day We Spotlight Six Eli’s Place Volunteers

Eli’s Place is rooted in the awareness of the need for an innovative therapeutic model to address the gap in care for adults with serious mental illness. This need is upheld by the collective belief of our volunteers, who graciously dedicate their time to bringing Eli’s Place to fruition.
Int Women's Day – Blog Banner Photo

Eli’s Place is fortunate to have a growing community of dedicated volunteers. This International Women’s Day, we celebrate some of the inspirational volunteers whose leadership, contributions, and passion are integral to driving the Eli’s Place mission forward.

We’re honoured to introduce you to six women, in a variety of roles within our organization. Cue the applause!

Olivia Ariss, Board Member

Olivia Ariss – International Women’s Day

Inspired by connection, I spend much of my life and career creating holistic human experiences. As a Senior Human Resources Partner, I work with leaders enhancing the employee experience by aligning organizational culture and strategy. This offers every individual the opportunity to feel connected to their work and the people they achieve it with.

In my personal life, I am a sister, a wife, and an avid hobbyist. I’ve never shied away from an opportunity to learn, play, or deepen my connection with myself and those around me. From snowboarding to financial planning, volunteering and yoga, I strive to make my ‘practice of living’ one that reflects my own personal values.

As a nation, we can do more to set an example of what it means to show compassion by creating human-centred systems, offering Canadians access to the individualized care they need.

Eli’s Place will be the first of its kind in Canada and is working to establish a space to deliver holistic, proven therapies that are being applied in other progressive first-world countries. This is something we desperately need, and I want to be part of the solution.

Carmen Li, Peer Advisor

Carmen Li – International Women’s Day

Hello, my name is Carmen Li. I am a Masters of Science candidate at the University of Toronto. Supervised by Dr. Thomas Eiwegger and Dr. Theo Moraes at SickKids Hospital, my current work investigates changes in immune markers in children undergoing oral immunotherapy for food allergy. I became interested in allergy research after some relatives developed seasonal allergies, and I repeatedly broke out into hives as a kid.

I enjoy trying new recipes. I recently learned how to make a savoury cheese babka recipe. On the side, I enjoy hiking, finding new coffee shops and picking out books. I recently finished “Eat a Peach,” a memoir by David Chang. And I suggest you visit Found Coffee Shop at 324 College Street.

My family has a history of mental illness and has previously struggled to navigate language barriers and the cultural-based stigma surrounding these experiences. By volunteering with Eli’s Place, I hope to learn about the development of mental health support services and find ways to advocate for improved access for marginalized communities.

Deb Kassoy, Fundraising Committee Member

Deb Kassoy – International Women’s Day

Hi, my name is Deb Kassoy; I have been a professional and volunteer fundraiser for over fifty years. I understand that when I ask for support and donations, I am asking for those who have no voice and are extremely vulnerable. Working with Eli’s Place allows me to use my experience to be a part of establishing such a much-needed service

For me, Eli’s Place will be a world-class example of an institution answering a desperate need for young adults suffering from extreme mental challenges. I believe in the vision and proudly join with others to dream and bring Eli’s Place into fruition as a world-class facility in Canada.

Erin Johnston, Board Member & Finance Committee Chair

Erin Johnston – International Women’s Day

Personally, I am a mom of two beautiful girls, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and travel lover. I enjoy nothing more than a great night in with my family, which COVID has provided many. 

Professionally I am a CA, CPA and currently the VP, Finance at Choice Properties REIT. Prior to joining Choice, I held various progressive corporate and operational finance positions across the Weston Group of Companies, including George Weston Limited, Loblaw Companies Limited and Loblaw Digital.

So many of us have been touched by mental health in one way or another. I believe Eli’s Place will fill a gap in our healthcare system when it comes to mental health in a way that no other program in Canada has been able to do. 

I love the mission of Eli’s Place and the unique residential program that is connected to nature and provides resident independence. I have had several conversations with the corresponding U.S. Gould Farm, and the outcomes of that model are remarkable when it comes to the lives and well-being of its residents

Lucksini Raveendran, Peer Advisor

Lucksini Raveendran – International Women’s Day

My name is Lucksini Raveendran; I’m a health policy professional focused on improving equitable and sustainable access to health services for underserved communities. This includes addressing knowledge gaps to better bridge scientific evidence and policy by identifying what works, what hasn’t, and what opportunities exist to improve Canada’s healthcare system.

I’m invested in volunteering for Eli’s Place to foster a safe environment where young people with diverse mental health needs can call their home and a place of hope where recovery is possible regardless of one’s life journey

Arla Hamer, Fundraising Committee Member

Arla Hamer – International Women’s Day

My name is Arla Hamer. I am a social worker by profession and worked for over thirty years in mental health in hospital and community-based settings. Although currently retired, I worked most recently as a mental health consultant. In that role, I helped develop the Understanding Stigma Program, a project funded and evaluated by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and implemented in sites across Canada. 

I am the proud mother of two accomplished daughters and grandmother of four active and growing grandchildren.

As a mental health professional, I know only too well the challenges faced by young adults with serious mental illness and the families who love them. My experience working in the field has clearly shown me the gap in long-term treatment options. Eli’s Place will both fill that gap and offer those young adults hope, confidence and the skills to move forward through an innovative and proven therapeutic model. 

I am excited about the vision of Eli’s Place, and through volunteering, I want to help make it happen. As a long-time friend of the founders, the Coopers, and someone who knew Eli, I am motivated to do everything I can to help turn the tragedy of his loss into hopeful futures for other young adults with serious mental illnesses.


Eli’s Place will be a rural, residential treatment program for young adults with serious mental illness. To learn more about our mission and our proven-effective model click here.

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This March, CanadaHelps will make an additional one-time donation of $20 for every new monthly gift of $20 or more in support of Eli’s Place!*