Board of Directors

Meet Our Board of Directors

Marilyn Rushton

Marilyn Rushton has been on the Board since 2009 and is currently the President of Blind Beginnings. She is a vision teacher with the Vancouver School District, and has been blind since birth. Marilyn belongs to a North America-wide women’s group that provides educational opportunities for women around the world as well as DKG, Delta Kappa Gamma, a North America-wide organization for women teachers. She is married and has two sons and one grandson. Her hobbies are music, hiking and reading romance novels. She performs with the Mapleleaf Singers, the Vancouver City Soul Choir, and is the founder of the Tempos; a performance choir made up primarily of teens and young adults who are blind or partially sighted.

Peter Moroney

Peter Moroney currently serves on the Board of Blind Beginnings as Vice President.  He has been a founding Board member since 2008, having previously served as President, Past-President, and Treasurer.  He is a Program Director with Continuing Studies as at the University of British Columbia, currently serving as Interim Executive Director.. He holds an MBA from Western Governor’s University, an M.A. in Political Science from Western University, and a Bachelor of Political Science and Sociology also from Western University. Since 1990, Peter has held a number of management and leadership roles in university continuing education. His areas of interest include continuing education, program innovation, strategic partnerships, internet technologies, entrepreneurial models and organizational effectiveness. He has also been actively involved in the development and commercialization of web-based services.

Peter resides in Vancouver, British Columbia with his family and was introduced to the world of blindness with the birth of his daughter, Alethea. Peter was fortunate to meet Shawn Marsolais within the first week after Alethea’s birth, and it was Shawn’s positive and determined attitude that convinced him that there was no reason Alethea could not have a rich and fulfilling life. Meeting and discussing issues with other families became a priority for Peter and his wife, Winnie. They found that attitudes and expectations of others were largely based on early experiences – whether positive or negative. They became convinced that even with the support of existing health and social services, there needed to be more proactive support for families to help them develop the attitudes and competencies that would give them confidence in the future – not only for their blind or visually impaired child, but for themselves, siblings, extended families, and the broader community.

Peter and his wife support Shawn Marsolais in the founding of Blind Beginnings because of her vision, energy and demonstrated commitment to the support of blind and visually impaired children and their families.

Kim Zebehazy

Kim Zebehazy is currently a Member at Large of Blind Beginnings and has been on the Board since 2010.  She is an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia in the Blindness and Visual Impairment Concentration; the UBC program prepares teachers who want to become teachers of students with visual impairments. Kim is also the director of the Graduate Certificate in Orientation and Mobility. Kim has been working at UBC since 2009.

Prior to working in the university world, Kim was a teacher of students who were blind or visually impaired and an orientation and mobility specialist in Vermont. She worked with kids birth through high school age and their families. As part of her experience as a teacher, she was frustrated by situations where her students encountered lower expectations in the school systems because people didn’t understand blindness. Promoting student potential has always been Kim’s goal as an educator, and families play a key role in their child’s growth. She is thrilled to be a part of Blind Beginnings and the programs and opportunities they offer kids and their families.

Betty Nobel

Betty Nobel is a native British Columbian. She has been a Braille user since age five, and still loves to read and write Braille. After graduating from Killarney Secondary School in 1969, Betty attended UBC where she graduated first with a BA and later with a diploma in adult education and a MA in Higher education. Betty worked at Vancouver Community College for more than 30 years teaching adults who are blind and visually impaired. She taught Braille and computer courses and was the Department Head for much of that time. Her many volunteer activities include serving as the Past chair of the board of the CNIB Library for the blind and Past Chair of the board of the Canadian Braille Authority which is now called Braille Literacy Canada. Betty is the Vice Chair of the board of Accessible Media Inc, and serves on the executive of the International Council on English Braille.

Throughout her life, she has been committed to Braille as a primary literacy format for people who are blind. She believes that Unified English Braille will make Braille easier to learn and more available to those who need it.

During her career, Betty served as the Division Chair of Adult Basic Education. She also worked as Special Advisor on Disability Issues for the Ministry of Advanced Education. In the year 2000, Betty received the YWCA Woman of Distinction award in the category of Education Training and Development in recognition of her community work and innovative educational leadership.

COLETTE MITCHELL

Colette Mitchell is currently Treasurer of Blind Beginnings. She is an implementation specialist for Payworks Canada and has 30 years of payroll and accounting experience.  Colette is married to Jay (Big Daddy) Phillips who sang at several of the Blind Beginning Spring Galas.  She enjoys music, golfing, gardening, sewing, reading and her grandchildren.

The value of volunteering was instilled in Colette by her parents who contributed to their community through volunteering their whole lives. Her association with Blind Beginnings began by way of their Volunteer Committee where she was able to see firsthand Shawn’s positive attitude and effective leadership of their programs.  She’s excited to be part of such a worthwhile organization and share her expertise as a board member.

TOMMY LEUNG

Tommy Leung was born in Hong Kong and moved to Canada with his family upon completion of elementary school. He began participating in many new activities, developing friendships and learning about Canadian life throughout school and the early years of university. In the year 2000, Tommy was diagnosed with Glaucoma and lost all eyesight in the coming months. Because of this devastating loss, he went through a period of hopelessness and depression, withdrawing from school, church, and even from friends and family. Thankfully, Tommy’s family and friends did not give up on him, gently supporting and encouraging him during the difficult times. With their loving support, Tommy began his journey of recovery through rehabilitative and dog guide training, along with counseling to deal with his loss. As the result of these treatments, Tommy successfully completed his studies in university, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, and subsequently completed his studies for a Master’s degree in counselling psychology.

In addition to pursuing his education, Tommy also participated in many areas of community service. At first, Tommy resumed some of his leadership roles in his church with children and youth ministries, as well as college and career groups; Tommy even participated as an interpreter for different gatherings and functions at the church. Later on, Tommy was trained and became a crisis-line volunteer, helping distressed callers through listening and referrals. As Tommy became more confident, he started to reach out and help others in similar situations offering support as a peer counselor with CNIB, and visiting families both locally and overseas in China for technical and emotional support.

Currently, Tommy is working as a group facilitator for CNIB, continuing to apply his skills and experiences to help others struggling with blindness. Having gone through the pains of struggle and the joy of recovery, Tommy learned the importance of support from community, friends, and family. With that knowledge, Tommy desires to give back to his community in a greater way by serving on the board of Blind Beginnings starting in the year 2016.

MARIA ZELDIS

Maria graduated with a B.A. from UBC in 2006 and went on to complete her law degree at the University of Toronto in 2009. She specialized in commercial real estate at a national law firm, and currently acts as legal counsel for an international real estate company.

While at UBC, Maria was an active volunteer and fundraiser for the CNIB and Service for Sight. It was not until a decade later that Maria would have a personal experience with blindness.

Maria and her husband became involved with Blind Beginnings in 2014, when their eldest daughter became blind at just one year old. Since that time, the family has actively participated in the Pre-School and Junior Explorers programs with their blind daughter and her sighted little sister. The family has benefited immensely from the resources offered by Blind Beginnings, the network of other families they have met, and most of all from the positive outlook that Blind Beginnings has instilled in them about their blind daughter’s future potential.

HEATHER TOPLEY

Heather is an accomplished salesperson with 10 years experience in sales & marketing, representing a wide variety of products and services. With a high level of emotional intelligence, she specializes in building relationships.

Heather’s family have been active supporters of the blind community since 1997 when they became involved with the BC Guide Dog Association. They have provided several dogs with early education through ‘The Puppy Training Program’, as well as providing support to the organization through sponsorship of their ‘Puppy Naming’ gift program. They have also been actively involved in fund raising events with the CEO & Co-Founder, as well as the Director, Puppy Raising and Breeding & Co-Founder, husband and wife team, who also happen to be neighbours and friends.

Heather graduated with honours from the Sauder School of Business at UBC with a degree in Commerce, specializing in Marketing Co-op and International Business. She received a scholarship to study abroad at ESADE Business & Law School in Barcelona, Spain, where she spent six months focusing on her international business studies and practice of the Spanish language.

After graduation, Heather spent 2.5 years developing her skills in sales and relationship building with Danone yogurt. From there, she moved to London, England for four years, where she began her ten-year career in advertising agencies. As an Account Director, she became an expert in sales, relationships and marketing planning. She served to understand client business objectives, planning how to meet those demands, and generating sales for her companies as a result.

Heather first became interested in Blind Beginnings when her Uncle and mentor, introduced her to the organization. He spoke of Shawn’s resolve, power and influence, and the ground-breaking accomplishments of her work. Heather is passionate about equality, and Blind Beginnings’ ‘no limits’ philosophy aligns perfectly with her core values. She is eager to apply her passion and skills to the growth of Blind Beginnings.