Meet the Team

The Connect Community Plus Kids vision is to put an end to the cycle of disadvantage within our communities.

Intergenerational disadvantage takes a huge social and economic toll on our daily lives and by addressing this issue we will all get a chance to live in a happier, healthier and more vibrant society.

We all strive to live in a society where basic freedoms are a given and our children can grow up in a safe environment with ample opportunities.

We all strive to live in a society where basic freedoms are a given and our children can grow up in a safe environment.  At Connect Community Plus Kids we believe that it is everyone’s responsibility within the community to work together to achieve this goal.



Before retiring to the Sunshine Coast in 2011 Elaine was a business partner & project manager in a promotional products and events company for over 25 years in Sydney.

Elaine joined Lifeline on her arrival to the coast and rose to Shift Adviser, a role that has seen her deployed 5 times to many regional areas to support victims of severe natural disasters.

In 2016 Elaine was invited to volunteer at SunnyKids to coordinate the pilot program, Village Buddies. Upon commencement just 3 mentors were engaged, due to her ambition and commitment 12 months later there were 87 mentors registered.

Elaine is set to drive the program at Connect Community + Kids and is eminently qualified to do so.



Growing up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, Steve spent 10 years in the NSW Police Force in various roles. Since moving to the Sunshine Coast, Steve has been a committed member of the community.

Steve currently holds multiple positions on local sporting committee Boards, is the Sponsorship Manager for the Sunshine Coast Falcons and is chairman / committee member of the Salvation Army Red Shield appeal locally. He has long had a passion for working with disadvantage in the community. On any given week Steve will be seen running numerous charity auctions across the Coast. Steve has hands on experience as an original mentor with the Connect Program.



Gordon has been involved with various Sunshine Coast community groups for many years. Through his involvement with the local disability charity The Board Meeting, Gordon was directly exposed to the damaging effects that disadvantage brings to communities.

It was this experience that drove him to develop this program over the past two years to specifically tackle disadvantage across the entire community. Gordon has himself been an active mentor of a number of children for years and knows first-hand the impact that mentoring has as a lasting solution to the issues that disadvantage causes.



Andrew has been a dedicated volunteer with several years’ experience working with at risk children directly with a national non-profit children’s charity and volunteering, most recently as a Mentor in the Village Buddies program.

He is passionate about helping communities thrive and breaking the cycle of disadvantage in Australia. Andrew has held numerous managerial and leadership positions with a national banking firm and brings a strong level of financial integrity to the Board.



Nicole is a passionate and committed advocate for disadvantaged children. Throughout her career she has managed large programs supporting at risk and disadvantaged children in North Carolina, USA and here locally on the Sunshine Coast.

In these roles, she has advocated for children’s needs on paediatric oncology and general surgical wards, supported children with a disability to connect with therapy and community supports and had the privilege of managing over 14 research projects to influence medical systems to support the psychosocial needs of very vulnerable hospitalised children.

She is the co-author of 2 parenting books and has published over 14 internationally peer reviewed research articles. Nicole studied Child Development and Family Relations and graduated with honours from Western Carolina University in the USA.

Nicole is a local and is enjoying raising her two teenage children on the beautiful Sunshine Coast.



Rachael is a passionate, driven, professional who easily builds rapport and lasting relationships with people from all walks of life. She has experience in the finance sector with a focus on
crisis management and has worked with a variety of charity groups in a business development role.

With an eye for detail, an open mind for creativity and a thorough, holistic planning bent Rachael creates strategic and sustainable progress within an organisation. Rachael has a love of delivering big sky projects and has worked on everything from the humble sausage sizzle, community engagement programs, micro philanthropy funding, grants, media & PR and black-tie gala events.

She believes there is enough blue sky for everyone to achieve beyond their imagined potential and overcome significant obstacles along the way. She walks her talk and is the proud Mum of 3.

Darren Clark


Growing up on the Gold Coast and constantly getting in trouble, Darren has been able to use his experience and passion for helping kids stay away from the thing that may have a negative impact to their lives.

He has also worked with various surf programs over the years that have a similar impact on the lives of these children helping them to grow through surfing as he has.

Valerie Ridley


Val is passionate about helping young Australians in most need and believes in the collective power communities hold in influencing social change.

Val’s career has foundations in science, education although for the past 13 years she has been a senior leader in a national non-for-profit organisation, the Beacon Foundation. Through her work at Beacon she had the privilege of working with and in many disadvantaged communities across Australia. Val has led various projects in remote and regional Australian communities utilising collaborative methodology to discover innovative solutions to improving educational and transitional outcomes for disadvantaged young people through industry-school partnerships.