As most of you know, the lives of myself, my co-founder and wife Sandra Hanington, and our family changed forever in March of 2010. Having no idea he was even struggling, we lost our dear son Jack to suicide. Of course we were devastated, but as we picked ourselves up, we were also inspired to help other young people.
It's now almost 12 years since that tragic moment, and my time has been acutely focused on founding Jack.org and working hard at the development of the organization. We are now a national youth mental health charitable organization (with international partnerships) focused on supporting our vast network of young leaders on:
We've made a lot of progress and are so grateful for the support of our incredible community far and wide. Now with a staff of 74 and ~3,000 young leaders volunteering in the Jack.org network, we feel it is an appropriate time to add to the Senior Leadership at Jack.org as I transition to the next stage of my work with the organization. As you can likely appreciate, I've never been so passionate about anything in my life, and to state it bluntly: "I'm not going anywhere." But we do see an opportunity to supplement our leadership to help the organization maximize our reach and impact. The overall goal remains the same – to "do the most good" as we work to maximize our contribution in the field of youth mental health in Canada and beyond.
The approach to my transition has been carefully considered by me and our wonderful Board of Directors, and we are following best practices around leadership transitions for “Founder-led” non-profit organizations. The actions we have planned out are first and foremost focused on what’s best for Jack.org. They also happen to align with my personal aspirations for how I can continue to contribute to Jack.org and the youth mental health sector. I'm very grateful to have had the full support of our Board of Directors as we have worked through this process for the past several months.
The transition will start with the hiring of a new President & CEO for Jack.org and myself transitioning to a "Founder" role. The President & CEO will take over the organizational leadership and execution of our mission. To start, my Founder role will be focused on things like:
The hiring of the new President & CEO and my transition to the Founder role is planned for spring 2022. For the initial sixteen months after this transition, our amazing Board Chair, Dr. Paul Kurdyak, has agreed to stay on as Chair, and after that point the tentative plan is for myself to also join the Board of Directors, while continuing in the Founder role. Please see Paul's adjacent note to find out more about the process from his perspective.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founder & Executive Director, Jack.org
On behalf of the Board of Jack.org, I wanted to add my perspective on the transition of Eric Windeler from the role of Founder & Executive Director to the “Founder” role.
I am pleased to have served on the Board of Jack.org for over 7 years, of which the last 3 years have been as Board Chair. Speaking from my background as a senior psychiatrist at CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) and as someone who is very active in the mental health sector, I have a deep feeling of gratitude and admiration for the work of Eric and Jack.org. The critical role Jack.org plays in youth engagement and youth leadership in mental health has become an important public health initiative across Canada. As you likely know, mental health is the #1 health issue for our youth, and suicide remains the leading health-related cause of death among youth.
Jack.org's role in engaging youth in mental health and supporting their leadership in peer-to-peer education and advocacy work is critical as we collectively work to increase knowledge, reduce stigma and shame, and improve help-seeking among youth for mental health issues. I am proud of the progress we've made at Jack.org and continue to be awed by Eric and Sandra's decision to turn a tragic personal loss into a phenomenal national youth mental health movement.
With 12 years of tireless, enthusiastic, and careful effort under his belt leading Jack.org, Eric is ready for his transition to the Founder role. The Board is immensely grateful for his incredible leadership and is fully supportive of his decision. We also believe this next step will be a good one for the organization and its impact on youth mental health. We are so appreciative that Eric wants to stay involved, and we see a great deal of programmatic reach and impact ahead for Jack.org.
As Eric mentioned, our Board has taken a thoughtful approach to this transition process. We appointed a special committee of the Board back in June 2021, and since then, the committee has met regularly, bringing their significant experience to this process. This has taken us to the stage of the process where we find ourselves now—the final stretch. Our ambition is for the new President & CEO to join the organization this spring. We are in full agreement that this individual needs to be comfortable working closely with Eric and that together they can help the organization "do the most good." I am pleased to be staying on as Board Chair until September 2023 to ensure this transition is a smooth one and will continue to do all that I can to support the organization.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me via Emma Kerr at email@example.com.
With gratitude for all that Eric and Jack.org have accomplished and all that is to come,
Dr. Paul Kurdyak
Board Chair, Jack.org