The Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games operates with a passionate full-time staff who work hand-in-hand with the board of Directors and volunteer chairs to ensure participants and spectators have an unforgettable Games experience.
Meet the Board
Board of Directors Chair
Melissa began her Arctic Winter Games experience while lobbying to host them in 2004 as a new regional councillor. Those Games were the most wonderful ones she ever experienced. Later that year, she was elected Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and served until the end of her 6th elected term in October 2017.
Since leaving politics, Melissa has served on the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, the Wood Buffalo Community Foundation, the Alberta Order of Excellence Council and recently joined the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation.
She was thrilled to serve on the bidding committee and again win the opportunity to host the Arctic Winter Games in 2023, especially after gaining so many wonderful new facilities and volunteers since 2004!
Director of Marketing, Communications, Promotions & Sponsorship
Michelle is currently the Executive Director of the Northeastern Aboriginal Business Association, where she works alongside some of Canada’s top business leaders and emerging entrepreneurs. Michelle applies her partnership building know-how to increase the competitiveness and participation of Indigenous businesses across all sectors and industries.
Prior to joining NAABA, Michelle held various executive leadership roles in her decade long tenure at Keyano College including, Manager of Advancement, and Manager of both Guest Services and Marketing and Events within the Sport & Wellness Department.
In 2016, Michelle was appointed to the role of General Manager of the 2018 Wood Buffalo Alberta Winter Games. Michelle and her team directed the strategic planning and execution of the event, which took place in ten different venues across four communities.
Michelle holds a Graduate Degree in Human Kinetics, Sport Management from the University of Windsor, Ontario and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is also a certified PROSI change management practitioner.
Michelle is currently a Program Director for the Fort McMurray, Wood Buffalo Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program, an affiliate of the Venture Mentoring Services program through MIT.
Michelle was a proud member of Team Alberta’s mission staff at the 2019 Western Canada Games in Swift Current Saskatchewan.
Ashley Nicole Ryan
Director of Administration
Ashley brings 14 years of experience in finance and operations management to the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games Board of Directors. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Finance from the University of Saskatchewan.
Sports are life for Ashley. She competed at the 2004 Western Canada Games but after three knee surgeries, she turned to coaching to keep that passion alive. She is the assistant coach of the Keyano Huskies women’s soccer team and coached the local boy’s Fury soccer team, which took her to Sweden and England in 2018.
Outside of sports, Ashley is busy volunteering for local events and jamming out at karaoke.
Director of Sport – Technical
Born and raised in Fort McMurray, Kelsey holds a Bachelor of Science in Geology and has worked in the field for the past seven years as a geologist with Shell, Canadian Natural Resources and Suncor Energy.
Kelsey brings many years of Games experience as an athlete and a volunteer. She was a member of the Zone 7 ringette team at the 2004 Alberta Winter Games in Peace River and volunteered at the 2004 Wood Buffalo Arctic Winter Games (AWG). She also competed and medaled at the 2006 AWG in Alaska and the 2008 AWG in Yellowknife in women’s hockey for Team Alberta North. Kelsey also played for Mount Royal College Cougars women’s hockey team from 2008-2010, placing 2nd in the Alberta College Athletic Conference (ACAC) in the 2008-2009 season and league champions in 2009-2010 season.
Kelsey remains active and involved in the local sports scene. She plays ice hockey in the gentlemen’s league, women’s ball hockey, co-ed slo-pitch and golfs at the Fort McMurray Golf Club where she learned to play and has been a member for 18 years.
Dr. Sandra Efu
Director at Large
Dr. Sandra Efu has over 13 years of experience in sustainable economic development, including managing projects with various International Financial Institutions such as the Inter-American Development Bank, and leading global mobility initiatives.
She has a Ph.D. in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation, and Enhancement and is a Project Management Professional (PMP).
Sandra has experience working in Africa and the Americas, and these experiences reinforce her commitment to advancing cultural exchanges and education as tools for global economic development.
Sandra is also passionate about sports. She is an avid soccer and badminton player and played both competitively. She continues to play both sports in her free time and enjoys volunteering and travelling with her family.
Director of Care and Comfort
Mike moved to Fort McMurray in 2005 and a couple of years later became involved in the hotel industry working as a general manager.
Mike’s name is synonymous with the hospitality industry in Fort McMurray. He is currently the Area Director of Atlific Hotel Group and Chair of Fort McMurray Hotel Association. He was also the Hotel Chair of the 2018 Alberta Winter Games, Hotel Chair for the 2016 Baseball Canada Cup, and has supported other various events throughout the last several years.
Mike has a wife and two kids, 13 and 9 years old, and a one-year-old Goldendoodle. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and computer games.
Director of Volunteer & Community
Jennifer was born and raised in Fort McMurray, where she lives with her husband, Dan, her two daughters, Annabelle and Emilie, and many, many pets.
With four generations of family in the region, she is so blessed to have roots in the community and call it her home.
Growing up, Jennifer witnessed her mom giving back regularly through volunteering and know that volunteerism would hold a significant place in her life.
Now, as a self-proclaimed “serial volunteer” and the Executive Director of BGC Fort McMurray, formerly the Fort McMurray Boys and Girls Club, she gets to see first-hand how much volunteering and giving back truly builds community.
As the Director of Volunteer and Community, Jennifer is looking forward to being a part of the Games’ excitement and bringing people together. She absolutely loves our region and can’t for it to have its time to shine!
Director of Venues
Bill moved to Fort McMurray in 1977 and has lived in the region for over 40 years. In the mid-’80s, Bill participated as an athlete in the Alberta Games. He kept current in the sporting community once out of high school, looking after the Gentlemen’s Floor Hockey League for several years and later assisting in the slo-pitch league.
Bill worked as an electrician before branching off into Facility Management overseeing everything from lodge settings to an operating plant, and now over 250 facilities for the RMWB. It is this experience that led him to the role of Director of Facilities for the 2018 Alberta Winter Games and currently the Director of Venues for the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games.
In his spare time, you can catch Bill out on his motorcycle and enjoying all the region has to offer.
Councillor Ball is originally from Whitehorse, Yukon, and grew up in Leduc, Alberta. He moved to Fort McMurray to begin his career with the City of Fort McMurray in 1991. Ken met his wife; Lisa in Fort McMurray and they have been married since 1995. Councillor Ball has made Fort McMurray his home for 30 years and for 27 of those years was employed with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and the City of Fort McMurray in a variety of roles within the Planning, Engineering and Parks Departments.
Councillor Ball has been involved in local sport for the duration of his time in Fort McMurray and has led the local Men’s Hockey league and been a member of the Executive for the Coed Slow Pitch League. Ken still plays both of these sports and it’s not uncommon to find him at the ballpark during the summer or at one of the rinks throughout the winter. Ken was co-chair for the Dog Mushing event for the 2004 Arctic Winter Games and was co-captain of a team of riders from Fort McMurray that rode in the Ride to Conquer Cancer 4 times and collectively raised over $300,000 for cancer research. Ken was recognized as a Ride Ambassador several times for this event.
Ana Maria Mendez
Director of Culture & Ceremonies
Ana Maria brings 20 years of experience working in the field of arts, culture, and recreation. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and a certificate in Arts and Cultural Management. Since moving from Lima, Peru, to Fort McMurray in 2009, Ana Maria has worked on numerous arts and cultural projects fostering creativity through inclusive programming and events.
One of Ana Maria’s career highlights as Recreation & Culture Manager for the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo was the development of the Aboriginal Interpretive Trail at MacDonald Island Park. This public art trail has been considered one of the first public art developments in the Wood Buffalo region.
Since 2010, Ana Maria has volunteered on numerous Boards and Committees. In the past few years, she has been recognized for her contributions to the development of arts and culture in the region and was awarded the “Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Award” by Arts Council Wood Buffalo, “Top 50 Under 50” by Your McMurray Magazine, and “Women of Inspiration” by Girls Incorporated of Northern Alberta.
Ana Maria has been part of the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games as Director of Culture and Ceremonies since 2020. She is excited to be part of this international sporting and cultural event that showcases the talents of participants from across the circumpolar North. Ana Maria looks forward to continuing her work with the Board, Staff, and Volunteers to deliver an exciting and memorable experience for participants, community members and visitors.
Director of Education
Hailing from Newfoundland, Frank is in his 16th year of teaching and holds three degrees – A bachelor of Recreation and a Bachelor of Physical Education from Memorial University and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Maine at Presque Island.
Frank has been actively involved in sports for almost two decades. He was an assistant coach for the Newfoundland Boys Basketball team at the 2005 Canada Games, the Athletic Director of Holy Trinity Athletics from 2013-2017, served on the Junior High and Varsity Fort McMurray Schools Athletics Association Executive from 2013-2016, and for the past four years, he’s run a multisport program for grade 5-6 students.
Basketball is a passion for Frank. He is a fully certified NCCP Basketball Coach and has run various basketball clinics and programs. He is also a course conductor for basketball and has presented at sports conferences on coaching.
In March 2023, Frank will start an inclusive basketball program providing opportunities for players with intellectual disabilities or physical limitations. This area is close to him as both his boys, ages 4 and 7, have autism. He even dyes his hair every April to support Autism Awareness.
Off the court, Frank has raised over $1,200 for Wood Buffalo You Can Ride 2 Adapted Bike Program.
RMWB CAO Paul Thorkelsson is an accomplished senior leader with operational, management, and planning expertise. He has a depth of public sector experience, including leadership, governance, fiscal responsibility, policy, among many other areas. Throughout his career, he has championed diversity and equity in government service delivery within organizations and the community. He understands the significance of strong relationships with Indigenous Communities and community partners and is proud to serve as a board member of the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games.
Director of Information Technology
Greg was born in Manitoba and raised in Eastern Ontario. He went on to spend 13 years in the military working and living all over Canada.
Immediately after leaving the military, Greg was hired by Tridon Communications in 1999. He is currently the VP of Operations for Tridon Communications in Fort McMurray and a partner in the company.
Greg is no stranger to multi-sport Games as he also sat on the 2018 Alberta Winter Games Board of Directors as the Director of Communication.
AWGIC, Alberta Gov’t Representative, Ex-Officio
Don is presently the Director, Multisport Games for Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation branch within the Ministry of Culture.
Previous positions included: Chief Executive Officer for Bobsleigh CANADA Skeleton. Director of Athletics at the University of Calgary, General Manager of Swim Alberta, Director of Sport, Recreation & Culture for Fort McMurray and a professional swim coach.
Over the past 40 years, he has been involved in sport at all levels, participating at the provincial level, coaching at the national level and an administrator at three Olympics. He has a Bachelor of Physical Education and a Master of Human Kinetics (Biomechanics). Don is married to Kim and has two adult children, Sarah and Connor.
SPAR Representative, Ex-Officio
Jerry George is a Sport Consultant with the Government of Alberta working in the Ministry of Culture for the Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Branch. He provides support to the 2023 Host Society Board and staff as an ex-officio member of the Board. Jerry brings a vast experience in multisport Games having been part of Team Alberta Mission Staff for all Arctic Winter Games, Western Canada Summer Games and Canada Games since 2007. Jerry served as Chef or Assistant Chef de Mission for Team Alberta North at each Arctic Winter Games from 2008 – 2018.
Councillor Cardinal is originally from Big Point and lives in Fort Chipewyan where he serves as Ward 2 councillor for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo covering Fort Fitzgerald, Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan.
Councillor Cardinal is also President of the Fort Chipewyan Métis Association. He has previously served two terms with the board, one as Vice President and one as a Director of the Board. During his term as President, Cardinal is committed to completing the Association’s credible assertion, through the Alberta Government’s Métis credible assertion process, to ensure the rights of the Fort Chipewyan Métis people are recognized and protected. He is also committed to completing the Association’s Elder care centre and cultural centre.
Councillor Cardinal believes in maintaining traditional Métis values, ceremonies and land-based ways of living.
As Director of the Indigenous and Rural Relations (IRR) Department with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Dennis Fraser brings with him a varied background in public Service. Having spent 28 years with the RCMP on a Provincial, National and International level, Dennis gained a deep understanding of the importance of developing and nurturing positive relationships to empower change. He was deployed for a year on a peacekeeping mission with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to Afghanistan. This deployment exposed Dennis to a much broader view of Reconciliation and collaboration. It is the goal of the IRR Department, under the leadership and guidance of Director, Dennis Fraser, to drive initiatives that lead to meaningful Indigenous engagement and support Reconciliation in the region.
AWGIC, Alberta’s Public Representative, Ex-Officio
Leigh has been involved in sports all his life. He has played, coached, officiated and organized several sports from the local to the national level. Recently retired after a forty-year teaching career at Grande Prairie Regional College in the Physical Education, Athletics and Kinesiology department, he is still active in many sport organizations. He currently serves as President of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association as well as President of Volleyball Alberta. Leigh is also a Master Coach Developer with the National Coaching Certification Program multi-sport modules. He began his association with the Arctic Winter Games as a mission staff member for Northern Alberta in the 1988 Games in Fairbanks and in subsequent Games served as a volleyball coach and again as a mission staff member. For the 2010 Arctic Winter Games, he served on the Host Committee as co-director of the Care and Comfort committee. In addition to the Arctic Winter Games, he has been involved in various capacities with the Alberta Summer and Winter Games and the Canada Winter Games.
Meet the Staff
Nicole Clow assumed the General Manager role in September 2021. She holds a Bachelor of Kinesiology from the University of Regina with a major in Recreation and Sport Administration and has been involved in the Saskatchewan Games program for the past seventeen years. Multi-sport Games are a passion of Clow’s. She’s previously served as the Games Manager for the 2020 Saskatchewan Summer Games – Lloydminster, 2018 Saskatchewan Winter Games – North Battleford and 2016 Saskatchewan Summer Games – Estevan.
Program Manager, Operations
Christina joined the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games team in December 2021. Born and raised in Wood Buffalo, Christina holds a Physical Education degree from the University of Alberta and brings over 15 years of experience in the sport and recreation field.
Her first Games was as an athlete at the 2002 Alberta Winter Games. Since then, she has been involved with many sporting events including Zone Chef for 2018 Alberta Winter Games and was on the mission staff for two previous Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse 2012 and Greenland 2016.
Christina is very active in the community volunteering for various events and recreation programs, she also sits on the Board of Directors for the Wood Buffalo Animal Rescue Committee. In 2015, she and her husband took part in Charity Challenge Canada raising $10,000 for the Northern Lights Health Foundation and went to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Christina stays busy raising her two young children, working out and enjoying any outdoor activity from hiking, kayaking, camping, hunting and fishing.
Senior Manager, Marketing, Communications and Culture
Eden’s journey with the Wood Buffalo Arctic Winter Games started in 2019 coordinating the bid announcement media conference within the region and has not looked back since. She joined the Host Society in spring 2020 and enjoys sharing her creativity with the team. Eden holds a Bachelor of Public Relations and brings 10 years of marketing, communications, special-events and community recreation experience to the Games team.
Since moving to Fort McMurray in 2013, Eden has been a staple in community events serving on close to a dozen operational event committees. She can often be found volunteering for or supporting local initiatives. From strategy to concept, she has a passion for creating memorable experiences every step of the way.
Eden’s motto is “everything is figure-out-able” and believes there is a solution to every problem. She believes in teamwork, inclusion and human advocacy being recognized with various friendship and leadership awards from an early age. As a former athlete with roots in basketball, soccer, rugby, cross-country, boxing and cheerleading, Games combine Eden’s passion for sport with her creative vision and written talents.
As former beauty-queen representing Canada internationally and background actress, Eden has personal passion for the arts, large scale events, production media and global cultural exchange. Now, on her free time Eden can be found working on her mental, physical and spiritual health. A big believer in the magic of energy, she is a skilled tarot card reader, energy healer and intuitive channeler.
Program Manager, Special Events
Erica joined the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games team in May 2022 as Program Manager of Special Events. Erica holds a Communications Degree and an Advanced Diploma in Advertising. She has nine years of experience in marketing, sponsorship, and account management with another seven years in event planning.
Erica has been actively planning events in Fort McMurray since 2016. These events have ranged from comedy shows to concerts and family events. She has also volunteered as a performer for several non for profits including Waypoints and Some Other Solutions and played rugby at both a provincial and national level.
Outside of work, she keeps busy with two young children and pursues her passion for public speaking and stand-up comedy.
Program Manager, Marketing and Communications
Elizabeth joined the Wood Buffalo Arctic Winter Games team in January 2022 as Program Manager, Marketing and Communications. She holds a journalism diploma and worked as a journalist for eight years at radio stations in British Columbia, Ontario, Winnipeg and Fort McMurray – before leaving the industry to move into communications in 2019.
Elizabeth was the Assistant Ambassador Chair for the 2018 Wood Buffalo Alberta Winter Games and is a major sports enthusiast, whether it’s playing or watching. She has coached ringette and basketball and was a competitive equestrian rider showing across western Canada and the United States earning numerous national titles and being selected as a member of Team Canada for the AQHA Youth World Cup in 2010.
When not volunteering, you can find Elizabeth on the badminton court, running, playing co-ed softball, on the golf course, snowboarding, canoeing, or out walking her dog on the Birchwood Trails.
Danielle Lo Bianco
Program Manager, Merchandise & Partnerships
Danielle joined the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games team in May 2022 as Program Manager of Merchandise & Partnerships.
In each community she has lived in, Danielle becomes involved in local sport or dance. Danielle has managed recreation facilities in California, Washington state and Fort McMurray. She has also coached gymnastics for 22 years in Canada and the USA, specializing in floor and beam choreography.
Danielle supported the Western Canada Summer Games and the 2018 Alberta Winter Games in her role as manager of sports, fitness, box office and guest services at the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo. Recently she worked with the RMWB as a communication strategist. She is excited to combine her communications degree and her sports experience in her role at the Arctic Winter Games.
Danielle and her family have lived in our region for over five years. Her eldest son was born during the 2016 wildfire and her youngest at the Northern Lights Regional Hospital. You can find them exploring Wood Buffalo with their hiking poles, bicycles, rollerblades, dirt bikes, kayaks, ice skates, snowshoes, snowboards and, when possible, airplanes.
Program Manager, Culture and Diversity
Kaylie joined the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games team in May 2022 as Program Manager of Culture and Diversity. Born and raised in Edmonton, Kaylie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Recreation, Sport and Tourism from the University of Alberta and is finishing an Event Management Extension Certificate from Mount Royal University.
She has four years of experience working in the sport/recreation field including Guest Experience with the Oilers Entertainment Group, Event Surveyor with Canada Sport Tourism Alliance (events including Red Bull Crashed Ice 2018, FISE World Series 2018, and ITU World Triathlon Edmonton 2019), and was a Recreation Program Assistant at the University of Alberta’s Campus & Community Recreation department executing wellness and recreation-based events for students on campus.
During the summer months, you can find Kaylie camping around Alberta or at music festivals. She also enjoys crafting, exploring the outdoors, hanging out with her cat, and like many of us, eating good food!
Program Manager, Volunteers & Education
Lana joined the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games team in July 2022 as Program Manager of Volunteers and Education. Lana holds a Masters of Educational Research from the University of Calgary and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta. Prior to joining the Games team, she taught junior high for ten years in Fort McMurray – more than preparing her for this new role!
Outside of the classroom and office, Lana is busy volunteering at various events around the region, including Ride for Dad, and at the Royal Canadian Legion. She also loves to write, bake, weightlift, and train her one-year-old chocolate lab, Judy!
Program Manager, Warehouse & Logistics
Charlene joined the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games team in July 2022 as Program Manager of Warehouse and Logistics.
Charlene brings over ten years of experience to the role previously managing logistics and traffic planning for companies in Prince George and Fort McMurray. She was also a warehouse and parts manager as an apprentice heavy-duty mechanic for a highway contractor in British Columbia.
Charlene is no stranger to multi-sport Games, competing at three consecutive BC Winter Games in female hockey in 1995, 1996, and 1997. For 14 years, she organized the Annual RCMP Charity Hockey Tournament and the Annual RCMP Bike Rodeo and Fun Run, she also volunteered at elementary and high school sports days for five years.
In her spare time, Charlene loves riding her motorcycle, traveling, cooking and rollerblading.
Program Manger, Sport & Venue
Bryan joined the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games team in April 2022 as Program Manager of Sport and Venue.
Bryan holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Manitoba and a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Recreation Management from the University of Minnesota and brings over 15 years of experience in the sport and recreation field.
Bryan is heavily involved in sports whether it’s through work or his spare time. He has been a part of seven Canadian Soccer Association Club Nationals in various roles, event coordinator for Manitoba Soccer Provincial Championships for three years, worked for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Valour FC, committee/board member for Canadian Soccer Association Competitions and Manitoba Runners’ Association, an event director for Manitoba Soccer referees’ Association, and a convenor for over a decade for the Winnipeg Women’s Soccer League. And if you need a soccer referee, Bryan is your guy. He refs’ soccer games locally and throughout the country at various levels.
If you don’t see Bryan on the soccer pitch, you can find him out on the trails hiking, running or mountain biking.
Senior Administrative Assistant
Janelle joined the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games team in December 2021. She holds a Paralegal Diploma from Seneca College in Toronto, ON and has spent the last ten years working in different areas of law and the administrative field.
Janelle moved to Fort McMurray a decade ago from Ontario where she grew up on a farm training and showing horses. In her spare time, you can find Janelle hiking in the Birchwood Trails, gardening, yoga, snowboarding/skiing and hanging out with her cats.
Arctic Winter Games Advisor, Sport, Volunteers, Education and Logistics
Charity Wiley joined the Host Society in June 2020 as Senior Manager, Sport & Venue Management before transitioning into an advisor role while she’s pursing a nursing degree at Keyano College. Charity currently holds a diploma in human exercise science and brings over ten years of high-performance sport development and multi-sport Games experience. Her first Games was as an athlete at the 2004 Arctic Winter Games in Wood Buffalo, participating and winning a golden Ulu in basketball. Since then, Charity has served as Zone 7 Chef de Mission for the 2012, 2014 and 2016 Alberta Summer and Winter Games, mission staff for Team Alberta North at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games and volunteered for the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games. Charity also has years of experience planning many national and provincial college championships.
In 2017, Charity ran the Edmonton full marathon finishing with a time of 4 hours and 59 minutes. Today, she’s the president of the local pet therapy program, PAWS, and is a member of the Clearwater Horse Club – where she keeps her horse and shows in western and english classes throughout Alberta. Charity also competes in agility with her two dogs she owns and trains – both carry Novice Trick Dog titles.