TRO wants to celebrate and acknowledge Women’s History Month and International Women’s day by highlighting just a handful of our wonderful members. We chose one member from different categories such as LTC, Children and Youth, Private Practice, associate members, and more. We then asked these members to share a mini-bio about their experiences and what being an RT means to them/why they chose this profession. We hope that these stories inspire you to continue to advocate for the TR profession. Hear what some of our amazing members had to say.
Student Membership Highlight – Laura Wunderlich, Student Member: “Hello, my name is Laura Wunderlich! I have worked in the Therapeutic Recreation field for the last 8 years and I am currently working in LTC setting in London, ON. I am a graduate from Mohawk College’s Recreation Therapy Program (2015). Currently, I am in my second year of my Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation & Leisure Studies through Brock University. TR means so much to me because I have been able to connect with so many wonderful people! Through Therapeutic Recreation, we can learn about a person’s unique likes and interests, create a plan of action and watch them flourish! I knew this profession was for me through high school and college field placements – I was able to see first-hand the multitude of benefits TR has to offer. I enjoy being able to provide desired recreation and leisure pursuits – showcasing a person’s strengths and abilities. This field of work is so meaningful and I am thankful to be a part of the TR community.”
Children & Youth Highlight – Susie Santacroce, Registered Professional: “Susie Santacroce is a certified therapeutic recreation specialist who has been working in the field for over ten years. She completed her undergrad in recreation and leisure studies at Brock University and is currently in grad school, while working full-time at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Susie has worked with teens with chronic pain for six years and is constantly inspired by the clients and families she has the pleasure of supporting. She is passionate about the power of recreation and leisure in connecting individuals to their authentic selves. She chose this field to help individuals establish or re-establish a sense of meaning in their lives through engagement in the things that bring them joy.”
Education Institution Highlight – Tracy Wong, Registered Professional “Position: Behavioural Support Education Facilitator
Education: Bachelors in Kinesiology (Guelph-Humber University) and Post-Graduate in Recreation Therapy (Georgian College)
Bio: I love every moment of being an RT. I feel that I can inspire and touch people’s hearts through laughter, conversation, and simply by being me. Recreation Therapy means a lot to me because I used to be shy, quiet, have no friends, feel lonely and hopeless when I first immigrated to Canada. However, my only tool was badminton. This is where I met friends, was motivated to learn English, started achieving personal goals, and succeed as a Junior Youth Olympian, and competed in many international competitions! My journey has taught me resiliency, independence, holistic wellbeing, and the power of play! I am grateful to have the opportunity to use sports as a tool to make me feel alive, happy and overcome my mental health issues. Now, I work with individuals with serious mental health and teach healthcare professionals how to better effectively use recreation as a tool to overcome fears or life challenges using effective communication skills, exploring self-care activities, and cognitive behavioural therapy tools.”
Student Membership Highlight – Alyssa Mcintyre, Student Member: “I’m a lifeguard one for the city of Hamilton. I have a diploma in business management from Humber college and I’m finishing my diploma in recreation and leisure studies with honours at Canadore college. I love the world of recreation and recreation therapy because I have a passion for making people happy, feel better, exercise, and build connections in the community.”
Private Practice Highlight – Shelagh Keesmaat, Registered Professional: “As a proud graduate of the Therapeutic Recreation program at the University of Waterloo, I secured a job at Homewood Health Centre where I spent 28 years working alongside incredible teams to help people who struggled with various mental illnesses find a better life. Five years ago, I also became a Registered Psychotherapist. My skills have led me to open a private practice that blends TR and psychotherapy with an aim to help guide people with mental health concerns to live meaningful lives.
In my many years of working in mental health, I’ve witnessed hundreds of people moving from a place of fear, anxiety, shame, loneliness, and hopelessness to a place of confidence, security, belonging, hope, worthiness, and yes, even laughter and joy. Seeing people rediscover their capacity for happiness and optimal health is what inspires me to continue providing recreation therapy services. I consider it an honour to be able to walk alongside people on their journey of self-discovery. Now, more than ever, our world needs recreation therapists to help others reignite their spark.”
Mental Health Highlight – Lindsey Oretan, Registered Professional: “Hi, my name is Lindsey and I have my BA in Therapeutic Recreation (2005) from the University of Waterloo. I have been a Recreation Therapist for the past thirteen years and presently work at Grand River Hospital in the Specialized Mental Health Program. Recreation Therapy was a profession that chose me. I had no idea what I was going to do when I went to University, but I knew that I found meaning in helping people. I was lucky to find myself in the right place! Being an RT in the mental health field means that I get to support people who are choosing to enjoy the moment, even at times when they don’t feel like that’s possible.”
Associate Member Highlight – Heather Melo: “Heather has worked in municipal government for over 20 years with a focus on community services and programming. Heather currently works as a Recreation Coordinator for the City of Cambridge. In Heather’s work, her knowledge of Recreation Therapy has guided her ability to use recreation as a tool to engage community members in meaningful learning. Heather quotes a young community member who shared his understanding that, “recreation makes lives”. Heather agrees with this statement. Heather has had the opportunity to bring her passion for Recreation Therapy to the classroom at Conestoga College well teaching in the Recreation and Leisure Service program. Heather is currently completing her Master of Education, Women’s Leadership and Community Development with St. Francis Xavier University. Heather has her Bachelor of Recreation and Leisure Studies from Brock University. Heather also holds a graduate certificate in Applied Counselling from Conestoga College. She has furthered her knowledge through continuing education in Business Management, Intercultural Relations, and Harm Reduction. Heather’s passion for sharing stories is supported through her diploma in Photography from Fanshaw College.”