Karen Lee White is Northern Salish, Tuscarora, Chippewa and Scots. At 19, she was adopted into the Daklaweidi Wolf Clan of the Interior Tlingit/Tagish people and taken on a lifelong journey of traditional healing and medicine practice. Karen is a Traditional Practitioner, Singer/Songwriter, Writer, Silversmith, and most recently, Artist. Karen believes all sorrow and tribulation can be transmuted into one’s Medicine Power. Deep trauma is a sacred gateway to profound understanding and empathy for oneself and others.
Susi McMillan moved 21 years ago from Germany, leaving an extensive career in the corporate world, feeling there was more to life. After travelling the world, she followed her Canadian husband west. Raising her two daughters and trying out different dreams, Susi ended up in a world working with little children and connecting them to nature. She found her way as a full-hearted German-Canadian with self-doubt cracks, torn between two worlds of feeling. When the marriage ended, the mental pain finally broke her. On her quest to repair and find new beginnings, she found healing with the help of her community in both countries, nature, and an understanding of the power of motherhood. Susi wishes to open the conversation about mental health as an everyday conversation for all ages toward kind humanity instead of a shameful or hidden subject.
All that Grayson Lenner wants to do is write, record, and perform music. The Victoria, BC-based singer-songwriter’s original sound is a blend of indie-folk, pop, and contemporary rock – think John Mayer meets Ryan Adams. The young musician’s unique sound is a result of a lifetime in music. Recently landing top 15 in the Canadian Songwriter Challenge, Grayson is working towards his first solo studio album. Grayson has gained traction in his local music scene by combining meaningful lyrics with catchy melodies. Whether backed by a band or performing solo, Grayson’s authentic smooth voice and skillful guitar playing leave lasting impressions on audiences.
Caleigh Hunter (she, her) began dancing at 7. After living, travelling, and dancing abroad for nearly five years, she is thrilled to be living, creating, dancing, and teaching back on Vancouver Island. Caleigh founded the Heels In Harmony dance shoe project, has her Teaching Associates in Tap and Modern Dance faculties (ISTD), and since 2015 has danced for local Contemporary company “Broken Rhythms.” Caleigh is passionate about all things movement; she is a BCRPA fitness and weights instructor, a 200hr Yoga instructor, and a Bachelor of Sport and Fitness Leadership. Caleigh co-owns RNS dance and believes movement creates empowered communities. Caleigh has worked with the Connection Project for two years and is grateful to be able to share a lens of artistic expression at this year’s event.
Ash Klimas grew up in a small conservative town on the Metro Vancouver area’s outskirts. In high school, Ashley easily fit the “tomboy” stereotype; she played in the high school band and excelled in sports. Ashley turned 17 and joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as a Medical Assistant (Medic) and never looked back. The military gave Ashley a purpose, a sense of community, and something to be proud of. After two tours to Afghanistan, Ashley received her first diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder. In 2012, Ash was posted to the West Coast on Vancouver Island and began taking steps to transition from female to male. Ash was at a highlight in his career; he was a medic on a ship with a crew that felt like family and about to start hormone therapy; life appeared to be perfect, but underneath, he was silently struggling. Following the experience of a catastrophic fire aboard his ship in 2014, Ash asked for help. After a 2017 PTSD diagnosis, with 17 years of service, Ashley was medically released from the CAF. For the first time, Ash didn’t know who he was, and he felt shame to call himself a veteran, felt fear if outed as transgender and judged for having a mental health condition. Today Ash finds purpose in playing, teaching, and learning with their kid. Has become comfortable identifying outside the binary gender norm. They found a spark in interest in working with electricity and are now pursuing a career as an electrician.
Amanda Hoy is originally from Salt Spring Island and is professionally trained in architecture and design. Her career aims to positively impact mental health and well-being by designing spaces we live in every day. Amanda has been an artist since she could hold a paintbrush; she creates a solid connection to nature through landscape art with various mediums. The process of creating artwork has always supported her mental health at times when she has struggled with depression. The expression of creative design, combined with her connection to nature, is the core element in maintaining her mental health and well-being and is also the inspiration for her professional career.