MARIA ZELDIS, President
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.
Candice Mah, VICE PRESIDENT
Candice Mah has over fourteen years experience in experiential marketing, communications and event management in industries including the arts, organic food, cosmetology, government and not-for-profits. Currently as the Marketing Experiential Manager at Nature’s Path, she is responsible for managing events and leading the company’s experiential and sampling program throughout North America.
She and her husband have a wonderful young son who was born partially sighted. When they learned about his diagnosis, they would ensure their son will lead a fulling life not limited by his vision. When she learned about Blind Beginnings, she immediately knew her values aligned with the organization’s mandate and signed up to volunteer her help where needed. Now as a board member, she is excited to promote and support the organization’s mission to inspire limitless potential for children and youth in BC who are blind or partially sighted.
During her free time, you can find her running along a trail, producing and directing short films or testing a new recipe for her Candice’s Cusina food blog videos.
KIM ZEBEHAZY, SECRETARY
Kim is an Associate Professor in special education, blindness and visual impairment at the University of British Columbia. She is co-director of the Masters program to prepare teachers of students with visual impairments and director of the graduate certificate program in orientation and mobility (O&M). Kim’s research agenda includes investigating how to promote the critical thinking and problem-solving skills of students who are blind or partially sighted so that they can realize their potential. Prior to working in personnel preparation at the university level, Kim was an itinerant teacher of students with visual impairments and certified O&M specialist working with children and youth, birth through 21 years. In addition to her certification in O&M, she is also a certified low vision therapist. She is co-chair of the cross-Canada committee that updated the Canadian National Standards for the Education of Children and Youth who are Blind or Visually Impaired, Including those with Additional Disabilities. This document outlines the field’s vision for quality school programming.
Kim has a passion for art, in particular creative writing and photography. She loves nature, enjoys travel, and tries to be a yogi. She has been an avid supporter of Blind Beginnings, volunteering for youth leadership weekends, family camps, and Project Adventure whenever she is able. Kim was a board member of Blind Beginnings from 2010-2016 and is thrilled to be returning to the Board.
Tamara Kropp, Treasurer
Tamara graduated with a B.B.A. from Simon Fraser University in 2016 and went on to complete her Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation in 2020. She currently works as a Manager in the cost accounting department for an international real estate company.
Richard Marion, Member at Large
Richard has been blind since birth. As a blind adult, he brings a lifetime of experience of dealing with overcoming barriers presented to him because of attitudes of people towards the abilities of people who are blind. Currently, Richard is in his third year as a board member and works in the field of accessibility doing website accessibility reviews and as the Access Coordinator in Access Transit Planning at TransLink.
Grant Hardy, Member at Large
Grant was born totally blind and currently works as a Reporter for Accessible Media, where he hosts segments about events happening in the community and empowering portrayals of people with disabilities. He just missed Blind Beginnings when growing up as he was 18 or 19 when the organization commenced, so he knows how beneficial its services are as he didn’t have access to them while growing up.
Grant always enjoys covering Blind Beginnings on AMI, and participated in the Do the Grind Blind fundraiser in 2017. He is passionate about all things techie, and loves music. He looks forward to contributing to Blind Beginnings to the best of his ability.
Amit Gatenyo, Member at Large
Amit immigrated to Canada from Israel 5 years ago and is a proud new Canadian citizen. He brings more than 20 years of technology executive leadership experience to Blind Beginnings. Amit currently operates as a technology entrepreneur and seed-stage angel investor, he pipelines companies, advises them, and invests in their growth. Previously, Amit founded and led Dario IT Solutions, a leading System Center & Private\Public Cloud integrator from Israel which was acquired by in 2013. Amit is married to Julia and has three children, Tom, Mika, and Neil.
Fernando Merino, Member at Large
Fernando is a finance professional with more than 10 years of experience in the non-profit, municipal, professional services and natural resources spaces. He is excited to apply his knowledge with Blind Beginnings. In 2016, Fernando left Peru for Vancouver, where he obtained his Masters of Business Administration at the University of British Columbia and stayed in town ever since. In his spare time, Fernando enjoys playing the Beatles on his guitar or stargazing at the planetarium.
Ishita Bhatia, youth representative
Ishita is a 20 year old university student currently studying at Simon Fraser University. Her interest in education surrounding mental health had led her to pursue a Bachelor’s degree with a major in Psychology and wants to eventually settle into a career in Occupational Therapy.
Ishita has been partially sighted for a majority of her life. She started to rapidly lose her vision at the age of 7, which has resulted in her losing most of her central vision. Growing up, Ishita was a shy and reserved girl. This shy demeanor made it challenging for her to advocate for herself, and she often found herself wishing to be more confident in her abilities. As she grew, so did her interests, and she started to put herself out there for various volunteering opportunities. From child care centers to city-wide festivals, Ishita found herself loving the process of volunteering alongside like-minded individuals and has an immense love for giving back to her community in whatever way she could.
Today, Ishita is a devoted advocate for disability rights and has channeled her dedication in her internship with the Federal Ministry of Disability Inclusion as well as her position as Chair of the Delta Youth Council. She is a proud member of Blind Beginnings since joining in 2021 and is eternally grateful for the amazing opportunities and valuable relationships that she has acquired.