This eclectic group has been drawn together through their love for Zach and Kaya and is committed to sharing the message that Love and Hope underpin Resilience as the lasting legacy of Zach and Kaya’s lives.
Darlene Sutherland – Chair
Darlene is a certified professional life coach. Darlene’s previous professional experience includes being a registered dietitian in a healthcare facility and co- owner of a specialty baby bag business. Darlene has continued to evolve through the adversities she has had to endure, including the tragic and sudden loss of her eldest son Zach and his beloved girlfriend, Kaya. She finds purpose in supporting others toward making their lives meaningful despite their life circumstances.
Darlene loves spending time with Jeff, their sons, their light- hearted cockapoo, Lily, as well as her close friends and family. Darlene says, “These relationships give me joy and fill me with hope as I work through my lifelong journey with grief.”
Jeff is a retired family physician. He retired early from his calling as a physician as a result of being diagnosed with the devastating disease, ALS, at only 41 years of age. Currently, the only muscles Jeff can control are his eyes. It is through his eyes that Jeff is able to communicate with his loved ones and the world. Fortunately, due to the advances in technology, Jeff is able to control his surrounding environment and use it to foster and share his knowledge and growth with others. Jeff published his memoir, Still Life, in 2019. Jeff writes about his experience living with ALS and his grief following the loss of Zach and Kaya. In February 2021, Jeff gave a TEDx Talk entitled, Redefining Life With Meaning Following Profound Adversity.
Jeff brings a wealth of previous board member experience to this board, having previously served on The William Osler Health Center Board for 3 years and as senior staff support for The Halton Healthcare Board of Directors for 4 years.
Jeff has a special bond with his 3 sons. He continues to share with them his love for off the wall comedies and classic rock music. Jeff enjoys sharing his knowledge, compassion and resiliency with others and in so doing continues his calling as an empathetic caregiver.
Jennifer Firth – Vice Chair
Jennifer is Kaya, Jackson and Isaac’s mother and is immeasurably proud of the kind, intelligent, articulate and strong-minded people they have become.
Over her 25-year career as a Physiotherapist, Jennifer learned the importance of supporting hope in recovery and, equally importantly, in conditions that involve progressive loss of function – continuing to see the person and support their adaptation to the new levels of function and mobility that matter to them. She has witnessed firsthand the fact that the human body and the human spirit have an amazing capacity to heal. In her role as an acute care Physiotherapist, she was dedicated to helping patients hold onto hope for meaningful recovery and to stay in the moment when the eventual outcome is unknown. Never did she anticipate that these skills would become so necessary to her own and her family’s survival after the devastating loss of Kaya and Zach.
Jennifer is committed to helping other families and young people find hope and healing through the legacy of Zach and Kaya’s Resiliency Foundation.
Duncan Firth – Treasurer
Duncan is Kaya, Jackson and Isaac’s father and has always been, and remains, dedicated to his children. Having had them at a young age, Duncan has been a hands-on dad, enjoying shooting pucks with them on the backyard rink, wakeboarding or just hanging out; he always puts his family first.
As Operations Manager for 20+ years for one of Canada’s largest transportation equipment rental companies, Duncan brings extensive experience in the areas of information technology, logistics, finances and project management to his role on the Board of Directors.
Ryan is the son of Greg and Judy Biehn and one of Zach’s best friends. Their relationship started at a young age through various friendships with the Sutherlands. It grew through high school and university years and was fostered with their love of sports – golf, hockey and baseball. Ryan was born and raised in Georgetown and with Zach’s influence and encouragement to take risks, is now in medical school in Ireland, studying to become a doctor. Ryan is a proud friend and grateful to be on the Board of Directors for the Zach and Kaya Resiliency Foundation. He is looking forward to providing a youthful voice in recognizing the resiliency of young people living with loss and helping the foundation grow and evolve in memory of Zach and Kaya.
Kara is an elementary teacher. She and Kaya were fortunate enough to have an inseparable, unbreakable bond that began when they were 6 years old. They referred to each other as “non-romantic life partners” (a term coined by Kaya), and there is no better way to describe their relationship. Through Kaya, Kara was privileged to know Zach. To know them is to know true friendship, true connection, and true love. She is honoured to be on this Board of Directors to help others through sharing Kaya and Zach’s legacy and spreading their love.
Allison Brownlee – Secretary
Allison has been an Educational Assistant for 18 years at the Halton District School Board. The students that she works with every day show her the power of resilience as they face daily challenges in their lives.
Kaya would affectionately call Allison “Mama B”. Her contagious laughter that filled The Brownlee house regularly for 16 years, will always be a treasured memory for Allison. Kaya was a true gift to Allison’s daughter, Kara, and her family. Allison is humbled to be on this Board and honoured to be involved in carrying on Kaya and Zach’s legacy.
Judy Biehn is married to Greg and is mom to three beautiful children and one adored standard poodle. She has worked as a teacher with the Peel Board of Education for 30 years in various roles. Most recently she has supported students with Autism in the regular school setting. Her family has always thought of the Sutherlands as their chosen family. Zach was not only like a son to them but a shining star in so many ways. When he met Kaya, his star shone even brighter. She is honoured to be on the Board of Directors for the Zach and Kaya Resiliency Foundation. Recognizing youth living with loss is a loving and purposeful way to remember the impact Zach and Kaya had on our lives. Judy stands proudly with The Sutherlands and her new chosen family, The Firths in supporting and celebrating youth in their journey of healing.
Carol grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the eldest daughter on whom family members have relied for social assistance and managing day-to-day life. From an early age, Carol gravitated towards supportive friends and their families, and as a result was able to have many great childhood experiences because of the generosity and kindness of the parents of her friends. Because of these people, she learned to appreciate the value of education and was the first person in her family to attain a post secondary education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Windsor. As Family Manager, Carol volunteered extensively within the school system, minor sports and with charities that helped children and young adults confronted with the limitations of their upbringing. More like family than friends with the Sutherlands, Carol and her family enjoyed an extremely close relationship with this remarkable and inspiring family. When the Sutherlands lost their son Zach, and his girlfriend Kaya, it felt as though they had lost members of their own family. Carol is honoured to participate on the board of the Zach and Kaya Resiliency Fund, the brainchild of two such incredibly strong and resilient families.
Greg Biehn is married to Judy – they have three children Ryan, Callum and Hadley and have lived in Georgetown over 25 years. Greg has worked in various progressing roles of responsibility in marketing, sales and business development within the healthcare industry. This includes companies like Johnson & Johnson, EMD Canada (Merck KGaA) and McKesson Canada. They have known the Sutherlands for several years and have forged a very meaningful family relationship. The strength of their relationship has been centered around their children as Zach was a wonderful friend to the Biehn family – always welcome, always making them laugh and always being a positive and uplifting force. They were fortunate to have witnessed the impact that Kaya had on Zach’s life. Greg is privileged to be on the Board of Directors for the Zach and Kaya Resiliency Foundation and help contribute, provide support and recognize the resiliency of young people living with loss.