Assistive Devices Program (ADP)

Barbara is a 73-year-old Kingston, ON resident who lives with osteoarthritis. Her condition results in poor balance and makes walking difficult. For over eighteen years, Barbara has been using a walker to help keep her mobile. Over time, the walker began to break down. However, she needed this equipment, so Barbara continued to use it, even without brakes. The condition of her walker was so poor that she could not even venture into the hall of her apartment building safely. Barbara said that “my old walker made me feel nervous when I was moving around.” Barbara’s occupational therapist began to worry about her safety and urged her to buy a new walker, but her limited income made this a difficult task. Barbara, in need of help, turned to March of Dimes’ Assistive Devices Program.

The Assistive Devices Program (ADP) provides financial assistance to people with disabilities across the province, assisting with the cost and maintenance of basic mobility devices as well as home and bath safety equipment. ADP is one of March of Dimes’ charitable programs supported 100% by donor dollars. Many of the people served live on an income of less than $15,000 per year, meaning that many assistive devices are financially out of reach. At ADP, the program is able to stretch every dollar to its fullest potential enabling staff to provide necessary, life-changing devices to people across the province that so desperately need them – and cannot afford the equipment on their own.

United Way donates a portion of its funds to the ADP program in Kingston and focuses on promoting Healthy People, Strong Communities. Without United Way, March of Dimes would be unable to continue helping people like Barbara. Without this partnership, the expense of a new walker, which exceeded $500, would have prevented Barbara from the peace of mind she now enjoys.


Barbara is happy to have her new, safe walker. Although she uses it primarily for indoor use, Barbara prefers using her walker over her wheelchair so that she can maintain and build strength in her legs. Without the funding she received from March of Dimes, Barbara said she “would have had to keep her old walker and she would have had to use her wheelchair more often.”  The new walker is large and comfortable enough to allow Barbara to sit on it when she needs to, which allows her to use it over her wheelchair. Barbara is very thankful for the help she received from March of Dimes.

L.I.F.E. Toronto Teams Up with Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund

The L.I.F.E. Toronto group at March of Dimes Canada has teamed up with Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund to add an exciting new component to L.I.F.E. program.  Jess explained that she has always LOVED music however she never had the opportunity to participate in music in school.  She was nervous for the first day of music therapy but that quickly changed to excitement and laughter.

The entire group agrees that Rebecca, the music therapist, is so much fun to be around and incredibly encouraging.  She is always telling us how well we played instruments and compliments us when we sing along with the song.  We play a variety of different instruments such as drums, tambourines and shakers along to some of our favourite songs. When we sang Firework by Katy Perry, Rebecca had us choose colours that we wanted to incorporate into the song. All of the colours were written on cards.  This made it really easy to point at which colour we wanted to sing about.  For other songs like Stompa by Serena Ryder, Rebecca had us take turns choosing a sound or movement to incorporate into the song.  Jess loves music therapy because she finds it helps relieve some of the stress she experiences in a day.  Evan enjoys the opportunity to practice using his hands and arms while playing the instruments and Sraddha finds that it helps with communication. This spring the L.I.F.E. group is extremely excited to make a song of their own in Music Therapy and to share it with all of you when it is complete!

L.I.F.E. Toronto program continues with the support of United Way TorontoTD Canada TrustToronto Community Foundation, and Royal Bank.

National Conductive Education Day

In celebration of National Conductive Education (CE) Day, we are shining the spotlight on our dedicated conductive education teachers, conductors. Our conductors change lives of children and adults with physical disabilities by inspiring courage, building new and positive habits, and encouraging active problem solving for movement.  Through participation in conductive education and working with our conductors, our past and current conductive education participants like Lilly, Nektarios, Usman, or Zachary, experienced greater independence, personal empowerment, and community participation. On this National Conductive Education Day our lead conductors from across Canada wanted to share with you what inspired them to become involved in conductive education and what propels them to become better in their field.

Abigail Payne , Lead Conductor in Alberta:  “When  I saw conductive education in action for the very first time, I knew right away that I wanted to become a conductor and teach conductive education for the rest of my life.   As a physically active individual, I understand and believe in the benefits of movement, how it develops our creativity, keeps us motivated and keeps our minds active.  My role as a March of Dimes’ Canada conductor in Alberta allows me to make this program available to children and adults with physical disabilities in Western Canada, and allows me to make sure that theories of movement and conductive education know no bounds.  We have received great response to our intensive camps in Edmonton, and we are working with organizations in Calgary to spread the information about CE and how it can help individuals living with physical disabilities, their families, and professional care workers.  Every day I am inspired by my conductive education program participants.  I learn from them and strive to become a better conductor.  I continue to help and advise them, at a level different from other professions, and I take time to learn about their life outside our classroom.  Any conductor will tell you, they have the cutest, the best, and the most inspiring participants in their program, and I echo their sentiments.  Never will I forget about individuals I have worked with, never will I be OK if we have to say goodbye and never will I forget that they have added to my repertoire of knowledge that I will continue to share, and help others.”

Alexandra Wheeler - Age 12 - 2013 (1)

Brittany Jennings, Lead Conductor in Nova Scotia:  “I first heard about Conductive Education when a student my mother taught attended the Movement Centre of Manitoba. I loved the positivity and enthusiasm and it was amazing to see each individual overcome challenges with such determination.  I decided then that this is what I was meant to do with my life. I am now working as a conductor in Halifax and each day I am inspired by the participants. What I love most about being a conductor is that learning is a two-way street. I learn from my participants each and every day, just as I hope to teach them to discover what independence means to them and how they can achieve it.”


Rachel Salsman, Senior Conductor in Toronto:  “I first learned about Conductive Education when a childhood friend (Beth Lynch) received the Transamerica award from March of Dimes Canada and started her conductor training in England.  I was just finishing a degree in neuroscience and psychology at Dalhousie University, and found the philosophy and basis of Conductive Education very interesting.  The fact that you could change the body by changing the brain wasn’t a new concept to me because of my neuroscience background but the way in which conductors put this theory into practice was producing life changing results.  This started me on my path to become a conductor.  I was fortunate enough to receive the Transamerica award and after my training I returned to work for March of Dimes Canada, where I have worked for the past 5.5 years, and I am now working as a senior conductor of all CE programs.  I have been fortunate enough to work with children and adults as well as seeing how other centers around the world run.  I have seen first-hand how Conductive Education has been able to change the lives of not only our participants but also their families.  From people learning to roll over in bed independently, walking over uneven ground, doing up their own coat, or transferring from their wheelchair to their bed independently; all of these achievements can have a huge impact on their lives.  I feel very lucky to get to see the hard work that my participants and their families put in each and every day.”


Thousands of Canadians are diagnosed with neurological motor disorders, each year. Conductive Education and March of Dimes Canada are here to offer help and support to these individuals and their families. For more information about Conductive Education please visit our website: and share with us how conductive education changed your, your child’s, or your family’s life.

L.I.F.E. Toronto: Money Matters Workshops with ABC Life Literacy Canada and TD Bank Volunteers

The L.I.F.E. Toronto program had the amazing opportunity to participate in two Money Matters workshops. Volunteers from TD Bank came into our classroom to teach us all about financial literacy.  The volunteers helped us learn how to take better care of our money and be more responsible with it. We learned how to write cheques and how to use ATMs.  We set up a mini store to practice buying items such as chips, chocolate, coffee, milk, apple, a case of pop, a hat and a package of gum with fake money and coins. We would like to thank the volunteers from TD Bank for their support,  encouragement and enthusiasm. It was great working with them.  We learned a lot and had fun doing so.

L.I.F.E. Toronto program continues with the support of United Way TorontoTD Canada TrustToronto Community Foundation, and Royal Bank.

Why is polio still important? Polio Still Exists in 2014 #polioawarnessmonth

I developed polio in London, Ontario when I was eight years old. Years later, I started volunteering with Ontario March of Dimes, now March of Dimes Canada and have been a volunteer for over 25 years.

I became involved with March of Dimes because I was desperately looking for answer to what was causing my new pain, weakness and fatigue. My life changed when I attended a conference called “Polio: A Second Challenge” held in Toronto, Ontario, and sponsored by March of Dimes, and I learned that I had post-polio syndrome.

This inspired me to chair the Sudbury Post-Polio Support Group for 11 years. Presently I Chair Polio Canada and sit on the board of March of Dimes Canada, and Polio Health International St Louis, Missouri. I have attended Post-Polio Conferences in St. Louis, Missouri, Toronto, Vancouver, Newark, New Jersey and Warm Springs, Georgia. I participate annually in the L.I.V.E. (Leadership in Volunteer Education) conference, sponsored by March of Dimes Canada I continually advocate for better awareness of polio and how devastating it is not only to those who have the virus, but also to their families.

I want to see every child inoculated. This is important even in the western world. Polio is only a flight away. I remind all parents about the devastation of polio – and that it lasts for the rest of your life. Post-polio syndrome robs adults of their freedom. They will live with pain, new muscle weakness and unbelievable fatigue. Many survivors like me have had to return to the assistive devices, i.e. wheelchairs and braces; that we had fought so hard to throw away as children. The best way to keep the memory alive is to join our campaign, if you are a survivor, a family member or a concerned citizen get the word out about polio and WHY it is still important today!

According to the WHO, polio immunization saves 3 million lives and prevents 750,000 disabilities worldwide each year, making it ‘the single greatest public health achievement of all time.’ (CPHA – online).

In 1951, March of Dimes Canada was founded to raise funds for a vaccine to end the scourge of polio – and our advocacy continues today.

October is Polio and Post-Polio Awareness Month. We are starting a social media campaign to remind people that polio survivors are still here and living with post-polio syndrome. As a polio advocate, we hope you can help us to spread the word and use the hashtag #polioawarenessmonth

To do this, we are encouraging people (in 25 words or less) to write our hashtag and the “Polio still exists in 2014” in black marker on a whiteboard or white bristol board. If you could send a picture to March of Dimes Canada (via email at of you holding this, we can post to our social media accounts; letting people know the lifelong consequences of polio and post -polio syndrome

Elizabeth Lounsbury, Polio Survivor and Post-Polio Syndrome awareness advocate

Follow, share and advocate with us our #polioawarnessmonth campaign on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and our YouTube channel.

Elizabeth Lounsbury.

L.I.F.E. Toronto: Meet Usman

The L.I.F.E .Toronto program is pleased to introduce you to Usman. Last year Usman finished high school and was excited to begin the next chapter of his life but was sad to be leaving friends behind and wondered what to do next. When he heard about the pilot program offered at March of Dimes, Usman was excited to give it a try and has been back every session since. When Usman is asked what keeps him coming back to L.I.F.E. Toronto he answers “Because it is so fun!  And the social outings give me the opportunity to get out of his house and meet up with new and old friends.”  Usman loves being active and thrives during the recreational outings, especially when we play baseball!

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Usman has seen his role in the program grow as he works towards being a mentor.  He always goes out of his way to make new participants feel welcome.  He gladly gives others tours of the sites he is familiar with and helps them find their way around. Usman is a whiz with computers and has helped others learn how to use applications like Wheel-Trans online.  During recreational outings Usman has let his leadership skills shine through as he leads a game of baseball and then shows off what an amazing team player he is as he cheers on his team mates.

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It is in Conductive Education® that Usman shows his determination and strength. When he first joined L.I.F.E. Toronto, Usman did not get out of his chair very often, not because he couldn’t, but because he did not realize how capable he was. Walking more independently was a goal Usman had and with help and guidance from the conductors in Conductive Education®, this goal has come to fruition and continues to grow as Usman now works towards taking steps up and down more independently. Conductive Education® showed Usman some skills he did not know he had and he practices these during other components of the program.  When Usman stands during baseball, he gets out of his chair and walks the bases.  Over the next week Usman will be working hard in Conductive Education® and he can hardly wait to go to the Rogers Centre to watch the baseball game.

LIFE Toronto program continues with the support of United Way TorontoTD Canada TrustToronto Community Foundation, and Royal Bank.

Jessie presents TD Bank Group with the Jonas Salk Circle of Friends Award at the Ability & Beyond Gala 2014

My name is Jessie. I’m 28 years old and I’m from Toronto.  I live at home but one day I hope to reach the milestone of eventually moving out.  I have cerebral palsy which affects my arms and legs, my hand coordination, my learning, and my speech.  I use many methods of communication, however my main method is my speech generating device, called a DynaVox.

The LIFE Toronto program teaches young adults independence needed to fulfill a meaningful and productive life. During my first session in March 2013, I was ecstatic that I was going to be involved with a program.  Since graduating from school, I’ve had a tough time transitioning from being a student and being involved in camps and programs to becoming an adult and seeing my active life shutting down before my eyes.  Since joining LIFE I’ve became happier, more active and I started to have meaning in my life again.  I was very fortunate that I was asked to be a mentor for the next two sessions I attended.  As a mentor, I set a positive role model to the other participants. I encourage them to try new things and be amazing individuals.

(L to R) Rosemarie Owens-Tunney, Associate Vice President of TD Bank Group receiving the Jonas Salk Circle of Friends Award; Jessie Weber, mentor & participant of MODC / LIFE Program; and Andria Spindel President & CEO of MODC

I recently had the honour to represent LIFE Toronto at the Ability and Beyond gala on June 12, 2014.  TD Bank is March of Dimes best financial supporter and they have given much of their own time and effort to give to March of Dimes.  I was given the privilege to present an award to TD Bank, as they very kindly donated just over $1 million to March of Dimes Canada.  These funds contributed to the LIFE Toronto program. When I learned this, I was very grateful as this magnificent donation will only help LIFE Toronto program improve and grow. Knowing TD is supporting March of Dimes Canada LIFE Toronto program.

LIFE Toronto is an amazing program which combines fun and learning experiences. My favourite parts of the programs would have to be the camp out days with Outward Bound Canada, the TD Money Matters workshops and the Conductive Education sessions.  Thinking back to these parts, all of them have contributed to my personal growth during LIFE.  The Outward Bound programming showed me that anything is possible if I put my mind to it.  During the day camp out I worked as a team to put up a tent without staff’s assistance for the first time and I also reached the milestone of swinging on a regular swing.  I always look forward to each session and I enjoy seeing what I accomplish next!

Jessie puts up a tent


Jessie swings on a regular swing
Jessie swinging on a regular swing

To learn more about LIFE Toronto Program please click here.

Volunteer Profiles: John Hurst

If it wasn’t for curiosity created by his neurologist John Hurst may not be a volunteer with March of Dimes of Canada (MODC) today.

After suffering a stroke in 1999, John’s neurologist said his speech could improve, but John was eager to find out more on how. He continued his journey on the internet, which led him to a speech-language pathologist. He learned from the pathologist about York-Durham Aphasia Centre (YDAC), and began volunteering there in 2002.  While most of the volunteers at YDAC are not stroke survivors, John’s stroke experience certainly adds to what he brings to the program.  He has also been serving on the Board of Stroke Recovery Canada’s Toronto Central Chapter since 2008.

John considers his aphasia diagnosis less severe than many. He overcame many weaknesses quickly and never required a wheelchair.  While feeling fortunate about his recovery, John takes more appreciation seeing his children and supporting fellow stroke survivors.

John Hurst

“Just giving back a little bit is something I can do and help people,” said John.

While John knows from experience it’s impossible to make a complete stroke recovery he is optimistic about the progress that survivors can make.

“It’s not the end of the world (and) there is life after a stroke for sure.”

He believes people need to be more educated about stroke survivors because some assume they can no longer speak.   “(Stroke survivors are) never going to be 100 per cent but (they) will improve (their speech) and the improvement is what I like to see in people.”

To learn more about the March of Dimes Canada programs visit:  York-Durham Aphasia Centre  and Stroke Recovery Canada

By:  Brendan Hair


ABC Money Matters Workshop

A large component of the LIFE Toronto program are workshops. They cover a variety of topics including healthy eating, stress management, healthy relationships, and goal setting, just to name a few. Another very important topic we cover is financial literacy and we were excited to have an opportunity to participate in Money Matters Workshop, which was made possible by ABC Life Literacy Canada and LIFE Toronto program sponsor TD Bank Group. The workshop was facilitated by amazing TD Bank volunteers; Shawn, Luz and Carissa.

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Our two Money Matters sessions were packed with important and practical information.  We had an opportunity to learn numeracy and financial skills; the difference between a chequing account and a saving account, how to make a budget and how to write a cheque.  We also received information on education savings opportunities available from the Government of Canada.  Ryan was thrilled to learn how to calculate how much money he spends every month. Evan learned how to set a goal to get better at managing his budget and during the workshop he also learned ways in which he could save money and not spend unnecessarily. Usman’s favourite part was using a calculator to do the math.  A favourite activity for all of us was the store activity.  Everyone took turns being the cashier at our imaginary store and had to tell other participants the total price of their goods and count out the change to be given after the purchase was made.

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Here at LIFE Toronto we know that improving our knowledge about financial responsibility and practicing the skills we learn leads to greater independence and we want to thank Carissa, Luz, and Shawn for their help! They were kind, respectful and most importantly friendly. Thank you for making financial learning fun.

Money Matters April 7, 2014 Group


LIFE Toronto program continues with the support of United Way TorontoTD Canada Trust, Toronto Community Foundationand Royal Bank.




L.I.F.E. Toronto Program Cheers on Canadian Paralympic Team

Today marks the start of the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi with the opening ceremony and we cannot wait to see Canadian athlete Sonja Gaudet carry out the Canadian flag.  We will be cheering on Gaudet and the rest of the wheelchair curling team as they fight for their third consecutive gold medal at the Games.

We are looking forward to all the Paralympic events, and we are especially excited to see the ice sledge hockey and alpine skiing!  Perhaps one of the most exciting events will be para-snowboarding since it is making its debut at the Games this year!  The format will combine both race and freestyle elements which will make it very exciting to watch. Go John Leslie!

A special shout out goes to our Toronto athletes, Erin Latimer and Chris Williamson, both alpine skiers.  Cheer on all of our Canadian athletes at the 2014 Paralympic Games!  Go Canada Go!


Take a moment to watch what we found to be an empowering, motivating and inspirational video that reminds us it is not about what’s missing, it’s about what’s there!

LIFE Toronto program continues with the support of United Way TorontoTD Canada TrustToronto Community Foundationand Royal Bank.