Board of Directors and Staff
Tara Savoie – President, Central Representative
Tara Savoie has been involved with the sport of cheer for more than 20 years. She is an ICU Level 2 certified judge with experience provincially, nationally, and internationally. Most recently, Tara was selected as one of the judges for the 2019 Pan American Cheerleading Championship and 2020 ICU World School Cheerleading Championship. She also coaches Brock University’s Golf and Cheer team. With the latter, Tara has attended the ICU University World Cheerleading Championships and FISU World University Championships winning many accolades over her over 20-year tenure. Tara has been active in both the provincial and national sport organizations for both cheer and golf. She has served as a board member, and ultimately, President of OCF and is currently serving as the President of Cheer Canada where she also participates on the Judging, Scholastic and Long-Term Development Committees. In her spare time, Tara loves to golf and spend time with her husband and 2 young children.
Marie-Hélène Roussel – Director at Large
Marie-Hélène is among the board’s latest recruits. For this Quebec native, cheerleading was love at first sight. One aspect of the sport that especially resonated with her was how each individual athlete was needed for the team to be able to perform their routine, and how routines were built to play to everyone’s strengths. From that moment, she sought out ways to “spread the word” throughout her community, eventually joining a few Cheer Canada committees. When the call for directors came, Marie-Hélène jumped at the chance to have an even more meaningful impact on the sport that’s been part of her family for 6 years now.
A proud MBA alumnus of HEC Montréal, Marie-Hélène brings to the board over 15 years of coast-to-coast experience in communication and marketing, along with an undeniable flair for words in both English and French. She is very excited to draw on her background and previous board experience to help cheerleading thrive and get the recognition it deserves throughout Canada.
Patti McNeill – Secretary
Patti was a founding member of Cheer Canada and has been involved with the sport’s governance for more than 30 years in Manitoba. She was the Vice President of Cheer Manitoba and worked to merge the province’s two governing bodies. She has worked closely with the ICU and set up the bid process in Manitoba for teams to attend Worlds in Florida, as well as supported the development of scholastic cheer in her province. Patti has spent most of her life involved with Cheer. She looks forward to working with a new group to achieve more for the sport nationally.
Danielle Hilliard – Director at Large
Danielle is a true believer in quality sport programming and is passionate about keeping Cheerleading safe and inclusive for all participants. Danielle has just over 18 years of experience in the sport. She is a UWO Mustang Cheer alumni, where she earned a degree in sociology and criminology, followed by a diploma in HR Management. Danielle is a former Team Canada Coed Elite and Premier athlete. In her professional life, Danielle heads up the Education Department at a Provincial Sport Organization, managing the National Coaching Certification Program. She is well-versed in safe sport initiatives, risk management and coach education. Through her various roles as a high-performance athlete, coach, clinician and choreographer, Danielle has an in-depth understanding of the sport through numerous lenses. Danielle’s strong background in coach education, both as a coach and an administrator, brings a unique perspective to Cheer Canada’s Board of Directors. She is thrilled to be able to give back to the sport that means so much to her.
Genevieve Pelletier – Director at Large
Starting her cheerleading career in the 1990s, Genevieve was a scholastic athlete from middle school through to college. At an early age she would volunteer at local cheerleading competitions doing any role they would allow her to do. It did not matter if it was tabulating scores, directing the teams to the floor or line judging, she just wanted to be involved in the sport.
As a coach she has had the pleasure of coaching athletes from age five to the collegiate level. She currently holds the position of Director of Cheerleading for a football association and is a huge champion for grass roots and community cheer. She can often be found guest coaching with other football associations or educating on the importance of safety regulations within traditional recreational cheerleading.
Brittany Hawkins – Pacific Representative
Brittany Hawkins grew up in the gymnastics gym and made the switch to cheerleading in 2006 when she retired from national level gymnastics. She attended Douglas College where she graduated with a Sports Science Diploma and later became the General Manager and Program Director of a gymnastics club in Chilliwack. In 2012, Brittany joined Team Canada and has since competed for the All Girl Elite and Premier Divisions. In 2019 Brittany made a switch in her professional career however she still coaches cheerleading at Gems Athletics and is a facilitator for Gymnastics BC’s Foundations Coaching Courses. In the cheerleading off season Brittany is a medical trainer for the Ladner Pioneers, a Sr B Men’s lacrosse team.
Todd Knihnitski – West Representative
Todd is a co-owner of Prairie Fire Cheerleading and someone who loves everything about coaching. He has an Education degree and a Sports Science degree along with many years of coaching in several sports for the last 22 years. Todd is proud to help our sport grow locally, provincially and Nationally. When he isn’t coaching, Todd travels, hikes, and bikes with his family: Cristina, their two sons and two daughters (the four foot variety). He is an advocate for social justice, wellness and the health of our planet.
Morgan Salter – Atlantic Representative
Morgan has been involved in the sport of cheerleading for over 12 years and has held many positions including scholastic athlete, special abilities coach, All Star athlete, All Star coach and is currently Gym Director for Carleton All Stars in Saint John, NB. She strives to create an environment where athletes can feel at home while gaining the confidence that will carry them through life, long after they retire their cheer shoes. Morgan has spent most of her life involved in the cheerleading community and she is very excited for this opportunity to be more involved in helping our sport to grow and thrive!
Gary B Oswald – Executive Director
Gary joined Cheer Canada in June, 2022 and has enjoyed an extensive career in both the sports and non-profit industry. A native of Kingston, Ontario, Gary is a graduate of both Trent University (BA-History) and Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology (Sports Administration). He began his sports administration career as Assistant Director, Public/Media Relations for the Toronto Blue Jays and has also served in senior management capacities for the Ontario Sport Legends Hall of Fame, Skate Canada-Central Ontario and the Ontario Lawn Bowls Association. A member of the Society for American Baseball Research, he has spent the last 30-years exclusively in the non-profit sector with sports and non-sports related associations.
The father of two, Gary and his wife reside in Ajax, Ontario.
Stephanie Kennedy – Treasurer
Stephanie Kennedy (B.Sc,. B.Ed., MA) has been involved with cheerleading and gymnastics for over 40 years as an athlete, coach, gym owner, judge, board member, event producer, and speaker at conferences. She has been recognized with numerous awards for her contribution, dedication, and excellence within the sport and her community. She is passionate about coaching and helping athletes grow through sport into leaders both on and off the mat. Stephanie is a mom of four amazing
teenagers, a former high school math/science teacher, and the founder of the Lazy Parenting podcast, where she shares her knowledge of the growth and development of children and teens with parents.
Nick Verburg – Athlete Director
Currently on a Leave of Absence
Nick is the National Athlete Representative for Cheer Canada coming from Winnipeg, Manitoba. He has been involved in our sport for the past 7 years, and within that time has participated in almost every aspect of the sport. As an athlete, he has been a member of Team Canada Coed Premier for the past five seasons, as well as competing in All Star Worlds 4 times. As a coach, Nick coaches in the scholastic world with a middle school and a high school, as well as coaching All Star at multiple levels and ages. Nick is in the professional world of cheer as the head coach of the Blue Bombers Cheer and Dance team, and also works as a judge. As a passion project, Nick sits as the president and founder of The Lift Up Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing the accessibility of cheerleading across Canada. As a member of Cheer Canada, he sits as the Chair of the Scholastic and University Committee.