About Us

Stefan de Villiers

Stefan De Villiers, photo credit Lulu ZylStefan is the co-founder of Tilted Windmills and a youth worker, working with vulnerable and street-entrenched youth in Vancouver, BC. He is passionate about advocating on behalf of those who society has tossed aside, especially those who, like him, fall somewhere along the LGBTQQIA rainbow. As a trans man Stefan has faced his fair share of obstacles to becoming the man he is today. He knows firsthand how difficult it can be to come out to family members and friends, and make your way in a world that so often puts barriers in your way. He knows the challenge of navigating an unfriendly social, health, and legal landscape, and how hard it is to find love that truly accepts you for all that that you are.

Stefan strongly believes that every young person deserves to be nurtured and supported as they sort out how they want to show up in the world. Having wrestled with depression and anxiety for much of his early life, Stefan is particularly passionate about empowering those who struggle with mental illnesses to see their own value and to recognize that they, too, deserve to be here, and that they have much to contribute to society.

Athena Cooper

athenaBy day Athena works as a digital marketer, but by night she unfurls her creative cap as an acrylic and digital painter. As a co-founder of Tilted Windmills, she uses her artistic skills to create the unique and powerful illustrations for the campaigns.

Athena was born with a rare genetic condition known as Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which causes weakened bones and muscles and a diminutive stature. As an adult, she stands 3’7″ tall, and uses a power wheelchair for speed and safety. Although she has had to deal with her fair share of medical issues, including fracturing over thirty bones to date, Athena believes that it is not her weakened bones or her wheelchair that disable her, but the attitudes of society itself.

For this reason, Athena strives to push into social and physical spaces that continue to prove challenging to people with disabilities. In this way she hopes to provide opportunities for other people with disabilities to demonstrate the strength and value of what they have to offer.

Between the two of them, Stefan and Athena have first hand experience facing down physical, mental, and social challenges. They have each in their own way learned to embrace the power of their unique gifts — and now they seek to share what they have learned with others who face barriers to living their potential fully.

Origins of the ‘Tilted Windmills’ name

Tilted Windmills is, of course, a reference to Miguel De Cervantes’ classic adventure book Don Quixote. The story follows its eponymous hero, drunk on chivalric romance books, as he travels the Spanish countryside aiming to re-awaken the chivalric code of behaviour and fight for social justice wherever he goes. During his travels with his skeptical sidekick Sancho Panza, Quixote arrives at a field, where he sees not windmills but an army of enemy giants and vows to slay them all.

Don Quixote is portrayed throughout as a delusional, comical madman, but what if we re-imagine this story from a different vantage point: What if those windmills really do represent oversized obstacles thrown in our hero’s knightly path to thwart his noble mission? What if his courageous fight against them is about fearlessly facing down the giants that try to block his way to building a more just world?

Some may say that striving for – and believing in – a just world is a fool’s errand. Maybe it is. But here at Tilted Windmills we believe it’s a fool’s errand worth pursuing – and one that could benefit from a bit of madness along the way. In our experience, we have found that the best things in life often demand a leap of imagination, Don Quixote-style. We invite you to take that leap with us.