Team ISWO

Stephen Kwinter 

Executive Director

Crystal Gionette

Director of Operations, HR & Policy

Contact Crystal

    Crystal is an Anishinabe Kwe from the Lake Nipigon area. She is a member of Flying Post First Nation and a proud alumnus of Confederation College. Throughout her career she has worked alongside many knowledgeable leaders and directly with Indigenous communities. Her passion is advocacy for Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island and she has had the opportunity to support the Truth and Reconciliation, Calls to Action through education systems, Children’s Mental Health and currently through sports with youth and community.

    Christina Ruddy

    Director of Governmental Relations & National Strategy Coordinator

    Contact Christina

      As a proud Algonquin woman of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, Christina has spent her career working to empower Indigenous youth through education, language and capacity-building. She has worked in grass roots movements such as Friendship Centres, in post-secondary institutions such as Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario and with Lakehead University in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Education. Since returning to the Ottawa Valley, she has become a passionate advocate for reconciliation in the National Capital Region.

      Christina is a successful alumnus of the first graduating class of the Native Community and Social Development program from Georgian College and in 2012 received the Board of Governor’s award of Excellence – Distinguished Alumni for her work with Indigenous people.

      Christina’s dedication to the celebration of Indigenous culture has resulted in many successful events and projects. Through empowering Indigenous youth to celebrate their identity, language and culture made visible in their daily lives, she embodies the tradition of passing on culture and the skills needed to preserve it to the younger generations.

      Clay Melnike

      Senior Manager of Special Projects

      Contact Clay

        Clay completed his undergraduate and master’s early in his career and focused on sport and recreation development, marketing and business planning.  Clay is currently working in 3 areas he is very passionate about: sport, youth and Indigenous program development.  

        Clay is currently the Senior Manager responsible for programs development and special projects for Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario (ISWO).   

        Clay has worked in sport all his life, has also taught in the Sport & Recreation Department at Humber College, and was certified as an Ontario Trainer with Canadian Sport for Life with a focus on older adults and youth physical literacy.

        On a personal note, Clay loves to paddle, ski, hike, workout, boat, and bike in the outdoors. He is very active in many sports and played squash, tennis and pickleball at a completive level.  He was a coach and trainer for soccer and hockey for over 15 years. He is currently an Ontario certified soccer referee. 

        Abidah (Abby) Shirazi

        Lead, Marketing & Communications

        Contact Abidah

          Abidah Shirazi is an award-winning strategic communications, brand management and marketing leader, with over a decade of experience, specializing in strategic visioning, brand development and positioning, media and public relations, issues and crisis management, and media coaching.

          Abidah holds a Masters Degree in Communications from York University and served as the Director of Communications for the Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games and 2018 Masters Indigenous Games. Her journey in working alongside and supporting Indigenous youth and communities through sport, has gifted her the opportunity to learn, acknowledge, share and act as an ally.

          As a woman of colour, Abidah leads with the understanding of cultural, social and political contexts, and supports initiatives that have a strong community impact.

          Gary Lynch

          Manager of Sport and Athlete Development

          Contact Gary

            Gary Lynch is a teacher and guidance counselor with a wide range of experience both coaching and playing sports. A former CIS Academic All-Canadian with Lakehead University’s Men’s Varsity Wrestling team, Gary has transitioned to coaching wrestling at Beaver Brae Secondary School and was selected to coach Team Ontario at the 2020 North American Indigenous Games. Gary has explored many different sports including hockey, soccer, Muay Thai, mixed martial arts, and Olympic weightlifting among others. He loves introducing young people to new sports and realizes that it is in the exploration of different experiences whether through sport, art or culture that a young person has their identity revealed to themselves.

            Mekwan Tulpin

            High Performance Coordinator

            Contact Mekwan

              Having participated in three North American Indigenous Games as an athlete, coach and sport manager, Mekwan sought additional leadership opportunities and certifications outside of multiple workplace settings within Aboriginal organizations. Mekwan is a proud Ontarian of Mushkegowuk Cree and Belgian descent as a member of Fort Albany First Nation. She hails mainly from Simcoe in Norfolk County, but currently resides on Six Nations territory.

              Zach Fraleigh-Whiteye

              Sport, Events & Athletes Services Coordinator

              Contact Zach

                Zach is a proud member of Bkejwanong Territory. He currently attends the University of Windsor for his Master’s degree in Sport Management & Leadership. Previously, he earned his Bachelor’s degree at Brock University in Sport Management.Zach has been immersed in sport his entire life ranging from roles as an athlete, scout, coach, and manager. He is an avid golfer, former baseball player and has an extensive background in hockey.As an Anishinaabe-Irish man, Zach understands the connection between sport and Indigenous youth and aims to provide them with the tools to succeed. Upon joining ISWO in 2022 for the Ontario Summer Indigenous Games, he got to unite his two passions of sport and Indigenous prosperity and looks to continue making a positive impact within Indigenous communities.

                Belle Bailey

                Sport Program Development Assistant

                Contact Belle

                  Belle Bailey is a proud Algonquin women and member of the Pikwakanagan First Nation. She is currently attending Carleton University Bachelor of Arts program, majoring in Indigenous Studies. Belle is a Team Ontario alumnus who participated in the 2017 North American Indigenous Games as part of the 16U Badminton Team for Aboriginal Team Ontario. She has had a lifelong love of sports and fitness, competing in badminton, basketball, volleyball, baseball, dance, and track & field. Working for ISWO was a personal goal for Belle, one that she hopes to continue building on with the coaching modules they have to offer. Belle is a cultural ambassador who helps to educate others through speaking engagements, educational presentations, working with Indigenous Charities and non-profits, facilitating Kairos Blanket exercises, and through her social media platform as an athlete activist.

                  Daniel Smith

                  Manager, Events & Office Operations

                  Contact Daniel

                    Growing up in Toronto, Daniel became enamoured with Sport at a very young age and pursued his passion by studying Sport Management at Brock University. After working in Sport Administration roles for the University of Toronto and the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, Daniel was appointed to the Host Organizing Committees for the 2016 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships and the Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games. In September 2018, Daniel joined the ISWO family full time as the Manager, Events & Office Operations, a role which he believes will allow him to continue sharing his passion and love of Sport & Recreation with Indigenous Youth across Ontario and the rest of Turtle Island.

                    Carlyn Johnston

                    Manager of Standing Bear and Regional Development 

                    Contact Carlyn

                      Carlyn Johnston is a member of Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. Carlyn is very passionate about sport and recreation, having grown up playing hockey and soccer, and participating and competing in swimming, snowboarding, cross country skiing, canoeing and kayaking. She studied Kinesiology at Western University, has competed as a part of Team Canada, and competed at the World Championships for Marathon Kayaking. As a youth, she’s competed as a swimmer at NAIG in Winnipeg and Denver, and since then has become a coach for the Team Ontario Canoe/Kayak Team for NAIG Regina and Toronto.

                      She has been able to gain experience and build relationships through her previous role as Southwest Regional Coordinator. Carlyn has witnessed the positive impact that ISWO programs and events have on Indigenous communities, and is happy to be a part of continuing this work for the next seven generations.

                      Hilary Ostrom

                      Manager of Marketing & Communications

                      Contact Hilary

                        Hilary Ostrom joins Indigenous Sports and Wellness Ontario with ten years of experience in marketing and communications in the nonprofit sector. With experience at the local, national and international level, she is excited to apply her communications and marketing skills to promote ISWO. She has formerly worked at Community Food Centres Canada, Save the Children Canada and Hockey Helps the Homeless and is a graduate of Brock University. Hilary is interested in the intersections of sports and mental health and how sport can promote a sense of belonging and community.

                        Erin Collins

                        Digital Content & Social Media Coordinator

                        Contact Erin

                          Erin Collins is from Fort William First Nation. Growing up on her First Nation on the northwestern shore of Lake Superior, Erin developed a love for videography and graphic design. Erin graduated from the Film Production program at Confederation College in 2017. Since then she has worked collaboratively in a variety of roles to help promote Indigenous organizations and creatives.

                          Erin is driven to use her experiences as an Indigenous woman in Northwestern Ontario, combined with her skills in storytelling, videography and design, to help elevate Indigenous voices and empower people to find wellness in their life.

                          Regional Coordinators

                          Carmen Jones

                          South West Regional Coordinator

                          Contact Carmen

                            Carmen Jones is a member of Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation. Carmen is very passionate about sport and recreation, having grown up playing hockey, fastball, baseball, badminton, golf, and volleyball.  Carmen has competed in both the Junior and Masters divisions for the North American Indigenous games.   He has studied Police Foundations, Law and Security and Professional Golf Course Management.

                            Carmen has been able to gain experience and build relationships through his previous role as the Chippewas of Nawash Community Activator Program in Neyaashiinigmiing Ontario for the past 11 years. Carmen has witnessed the positive impact that recreation based programs like ISWO programs and events, have had on Indigenous communities.  He is happy to be a part of continuing this work to build healthy communities in the years to come.

                            Hannah Leaf

                            Southeast Regional Coordinator

                            Contact Hannah

                              Hannah is a proud Mohawk woman from Akwesasne, raising four daughters, and leading a healthy active life as a mom, coach and athlete. She is currently working towards completing her certification as a Competitive Box Lacrosse Coach, and coaches and plays lacrosse at many different levels. Hannah is also the Head Coach for the U19 Women’s Aboriginal Team Ontario for the upcoming NAIG. She looks forward to leading and promoting positive sport and recreation programs with Indigenous youth, families and communities within her region.

                              Hannah is a proud Mohawk woman from Akwesasne, raising four daughters, and leading a healthy active life as a mom, coach and athlete. She is currently working towards completing her certification as a Competitive Box Lacrosse Coach, and coaches and plays lacrosse at many different levels. Hannah is also the Head Coach for the U19 Women’s Aboriginal Team Ontario for the upcoming NAIG. She looks forward to leading and promoting positive sport and recreation programs with Indigenous youth, families and communities within her region.

                              Josh Carpenter

                              Central Regional Coordinator

                              Contact Josh

                                Joshua Carpenter was born in Peterborough, Ontario. His mother is a Seneca women from Six Nations of the Grand River and his father is an Anishinabe man from Curve Lake. Joshua currently lives about an hour east of Sudbury, Ontario. Joshua has been involved in sports and mental wellness programming his entire life.

                                Joshua was a member of five high school city basketball championships and four NOSSA basketball championships at Lasalle Secondary in Sudbury, Ontario; he also played basketball at Acadia University, located in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

                                Helping Indigenous youth improve their skills in basketball has been a passion of Joshua’s for the last 10 years.  He applies this same passion for sport and wellness in his position as the North East Regional Coordinator.

                                Justin Sackaney

                                Northeast Regional Coordinator

                                Contact Justin

                                  Justin’s lineage is mainly from 3 communities on the James Bay Coast, namely Attawapiskat, Kashechewan and Fort Albany.  He calls Fort Albany home.  Justin relocated to Fort Albany in 2006 after completing his first University degree in Psychology.  Upon experiencing a busy active life outside of school while growing up in Timmins, he noticed a gap in programming at Fort Albany’s gymnasium during the evenings. Justin developed a basketball program and spent numerous hours in the evenings playing sports with Fort Albany’s young people for 12 years. This experience helped him develop skills for fostering youth leadership, and saw first-hand the benefits of what sport can do for one’s development.

                                  Justin has participated in numerous ISWO sporting events, first as a youth and then as an adult, playing basketball.  Recently he has been involved in sharing the joys of participating in sport events as a coach/mentor, with the community of Fort Albany.

                                  Justin is excited to connect with other communities in the Northeast region who are looking for ways to engage youth.

                                  Cami Carpenter

                                  Northwest Regional Coordinator

                                  Contact Cami

                                    Cami Carpenter is a member of Wabaseemoong Independent Nations in Treaty 3 Territory. Cami strives to share passion, build community/relationships, and continue to learn and grow. Throughout her life and sport career, Cami noticed a lack of opportunities for youth in her community. Working for ISWO allows her to make sport and wellness programs accessible and share her passion with youth.

                                    Cami is a multi-sport athlete having grown up playing several sports, including soccer, basketball, wrestling, and hockey. Her passion for sport was mainly driven by her love for hockey. She played on Team Ontario for the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship. From there, Cami was offered a scholarship to play university hockey in the US. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she shifted her passion for sport from being an athlete to coaching. She hopes to further develop her skills and knowledge for coaching and encourage youth to fuel their passion. 

                                    Mitchell Sutherland

                                    North Central Regional Coordinator

                                    Contact Mitchell

                                      Standing Bear Team

                                      Danielle Johnson

                                      Standing Bear Youth Leadership Program Development Coordinator

                                      Contact Danielle

                                        Danielle Johnson is a proud Haudenosaunee woman, belonging to the Oneida Nation, Wolf Clan from Six Nations. Danielle is a graduate of Geographic Information Systems, with an Honour’s in Office Administration. Danielle has more than 15 years of experience working within the education system at the elementary and high school levels, both in the classroom and as an office administrator. She also spent years advocating for Indigenous clients with the Canadian Paraplegic Association, now Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, as the Peer Support Coordinator. 

                                        Danielle has dedicated over 40 years to the Six Nations Skating Club as a skating member, and as a coach for figure skating and power skating. As a mother of six children, Danielle found herself volunteering for a variety of minor sports over the years. Recently, she developed an interest in health and wellness, and became passionate about supporting peers with their healthy lifestyle changes. 

                                        Danielle combined her extensive skills, with her passion for Indigenous youth, and joined ISWO as the new Program Development Coordinator for the Standing Bear Indigenous Youth Leadership Program, where she will continue to devote her time to advocating for the health and wellness of our Indigenous youth.

                                        Blue Hill

                                        Community Engagement Coordinator, Standing Bear Youth Leadership Program

                                        Contact Blue

                                          Blue Hill is a proud Haudenosaunee man, belonging to the Tuscarora Nation, Beaver Clan, born in Lewiston New York. Blue was raised in both Niagara Falls and Fort Erie. Blue is a provider and family man to his wife and three children.

                                          Blue has been involved with sports and working with Indigenous youth for over 10 years. His passion for sports stems from his childhood, being raised and involved with sports, specifically hockey and lacrosse.

                                          As a youth, Blue competed at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in lacrosse, securing two gold medals. He continued to work toward a competitive lacrosse career and was part of the 2011 Men’s Iroquois National Team, earning a silver medal in Prague, Czech Republic.

                                          Blue is currently living a healthy active lifestyle, while also working toward establishing his competitive coaching credentials.  He wants to further develop and apply his knowledge and skills in support of growing the game of lacrosse and working with youth.

                                          Blue is thrilled to join the ISWO family and to apply his passion and commitment to empower youth through his position as the Standing Bear Engagement Coordinator.