Meet Nektarios

Nektarios first came to March of DimesConductive Education® program in the summer of 2002 and started attending weekly classes soon after.  Twelve years on and Nek still attends CE classes whenever his schedule permits.  When asked why he still chooses to attend Nek says “To be perfectly honest, CE has been the best program for me.” Back in 2003 staff working with Nek introduced him to, and taught him how to walk first with two quad canes and then only one.  “It took me a year to get used to it and then every year after it became easier to me”.  Many services for children with cerebral palsy stop at the age of 19.  March of Dimes’ Canada Conductive Education® program is one of the few programs that extend the program to adults with CP and other neuro-motor disorders to learn the skills and techniques to overcome daily challenges.  Problem-solving skills are a key to gaining independence and Nek has made great gains in this.  Staff have enjoyed seeing how much Nek has progressed and grown over the years, always looking for news ways he can accomplish tasks more independently.  It has been wonderful to watch Nek grow into a young adult.  “He has learned the importance of maintaining his flexibility and strength and works hard each week to learn new skills that he can transfer into his everyday life.” says Mhairi Watson, Senior Conductor at March of Dimes Canada.  Nek has recently graduated from a three year degree program in Sports Management at Durham College and is currently looking for full time employment.

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Build New Skills & Meet New Friends! New Session of L.I.F.E. Toronto Program Starts February 2014!

In the LIFE Toronto program, participants are given many opportunities to build upon their skills, learn new ones and challenge themselves all while having fun! LIFE Toronto has so much to offer, but the greatest reward has to be making new friends. Program participants, instructors and volunteers enjoy meaningful time together and form strong bonds. In the last LIFE session we took the time to write a song about our experiences to the tune ‘It’s a Wonderful World.’ Take a look at our music video that commemorates our times together!

It is safe to say we are all excited for the next session to start and thrilled to be reunited soon. Our next ten week LIFE session will begin February 10, 2014 and the good news is there are still some spots available. We are looking for youths aged 18-30 with a physical disability who are making the transition into adulthood. You are invited to apply for the full five day/week program or sign up for the components that interest you. Components include: Life Skills Workshops, TTC Training, social outings, recreational activities and Conductive Education.

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If you or someone you know has any questions or is interested in joining the LIFE Toronto program please contact the program instructor, Kelsey Bell by e-mail (kbell@marchofdimes.ca) or call 647-529-1151. Here you can download the LIFE application and fill it out. March of Dimes Canada strives to serve all segments of the community, including those with limited financial means. If financial circumstances limit an applicant’s ability to participate, assistance may be provided.

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

When You Hear Someone Knocking At Your Door It Might Be A Volunteer From March of Dimes Canada

By: Mary Lynne Stewart, Director of Fund Development and Communications, March of Dimes Canada.

This winter has been a long one. We have all been affected by the ice and the temperature and it has made me admire the brave spirit of our Door-to-Door volunteers as they have gone out despite this cold weather and knocked on the neighbors’ doors. It has been my privilege to meet some of the folks that do this for March of Dimes, and again I am always reminded of why we work for March of Dimes. We have dozens of volunteers who have been doing this for over 20 years. We always try and say thank you but somehow it does not seem enough. Stories of what I call heroes are what we remember at the end of the day. People ask why do we do this in January?  The reason is that it goes back to our roots when the organization started, and the bigger story is of what the ‘Marching Mothers’ of the 1950’s did for their children to stop the epidemic of polio. They went door-to-door to collect dimes to stop this horrible disease and I think they were heroes, just as I think our door-to-door volunteers are heroes. It takes courage to knock on your neighbour’s door. I know how I feel when I am sitting down with my family at dinner and someone knocks at the door. You think “Who is at my door and bothering me?” but I always go to the door and give because I think of our volunteers going door to door. My thought is that if I am nice to whoever is at the door, people will be nice to our volunteers.

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Joan Hobbs

This is March of Dimes month and we want to celebrate our volunteers by letting them know how much we appreciate what they do.  One volunteer who truly embodies the spirit of our Door-to-Door campaign is Joan Hobbs, who has been involved with the Door-to-Door Campaign in Aylmer for an astonishing 57 years! Joan started her volunteer campaign with a group of women in her community. At one point about 20-25 years ago, as each of the ladies passed on, the job of knocking on doors became too much for Joan to handle.  Many people would have simply stopped volunteering at that point – but not Joan!  Instead, she converted her door-to-door campaign to a mail campaign – and continues to do so. Each year, she personally stuffs and labels more than 3,000 appeal letters!  As donations come in, Joan personally hand-delivers receipts to donors. She has raised more than $3,000 every year for the last three years. It’s a fair guess to say that over the last 55 years, Joan has helped to rise over $150,000 for March of Dimes!  Joan proves unequivocally that one person can truly make a difference.

So my closing thought is: remember when you look out at the snow and you hear someone knocking at your door, it might be a volunteer from March of Dimes that is there on behalf of Canadians with disabilities. So please open the door and thank them for doing what they do.

If you would like to become a March of Dimes Door-to-Door canvasser or online canvasser and would like more information please click here.

L.I.F.E. Toronto: Graduation

Here at March of Dimes Canada we just celebrated our 3rd LIFE graduation on Friday December 13. We invited our friends and family and instructors to celebrate another successful ten week session. We shared pictures and stories about all the things we have done like biking, T-ball, climbing the challenge tower, workshops, transit training, conductive education, visiting Windreach Farm, the Royal Winter Fair, Ripley’s Aquarium and so much more!

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Jenny shared a poem about friendship and then the LIFE participants received their certificates and Outward Bound stickers and badges. We were all thrilled as we watched Usman and Jess get out of their chairs and walk to the front of the room to receive their certificates. It was clear to see how close our group has become when everyone cheered Jess and Usman on as they walked. Many laughs were shared as Indira reminded us of stories about each participant and then Bernardo performed a song we worked on about the LIFE program.

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During the program we talked a lot about SMART Goals and one of Princess’ goals was to dance more. It is safe to say she has accomplished this goal and was the first to get the dance floor started. We spent the rest of graduation singing, dancing, telling stories and taking pictures. It was a wonderful day and we cannot wait to start the next LIFE session in the new year!

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To see more photos from our graduation please click here.

And thank you to  United Way TorontoTD Canada Trust, and Royal Bank for their continuous support.

L.I.F.E. Toronto: Ripley’s Aquarium

This L.I.F.E. Toronto session we were given the opportunity to plan our own social outing, so we obviously planned a trip to the new Ripley’s Aquarium. We selected the date, picked the meeting times and researched the aquarium.

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 Finally November 26th rolled around and we were on our merry way. It was not smooth sailing for all of us, Jessie’s Wheel Trans broke down on the way but that did not stop her from getting there. Once we had the whole group together we were ready to get the tickets and check out the underwater creatures. One thing we were surprised to see was Rick Mercer hanging out at the aquarium. Usman was brave enough to say ‘hey,’ and Jenny even got an autograph.

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Some of the highlights of the day were getting a close look at sharks, stingrays, and jellyfish, oh my. Some of us even climbed through a tunnel that went right through one of the tanks. We figured out what our weight was worth if we were tuna and we pet some horseshoe crabs! We stopped for a quick lunch at the cafe and caught the 1:15 p.m. show at the Rainbow Reef. The rest of the day was spent moseying along and taking in all the sights.

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It was a fantastic day and we cannot wait to go back!! To see the rest of our photos please click here.

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

Jess on L.I.F.E. Toronto Program

L.I.F.E. Toronto serves young people who have a physical disability and are making the transition into adulthood. The program provides participants with a learning environment to expand their social and professional skills while practicing the daily responsibilities of adulthood. L.I.F.E. Toronto’s goal is to bridge the gap between child and adult services by providing participants with new skills and resources. L.I.F.E. Toronto is a combination of Life Skills Workshops, Outward Bound Canada programming, weekly Social Outings, and Conductive Education.

Along with fun and adventure, participants experience some challenges. Indeed, the very purpose of the program is to help them find untapped resources within themselves and within the group, to help them discover that they are more capable than they know.

L.I.F.E. Toronto is a new program that continues with the support of United Way Toronto, TD Canada Trust, and Royal Bank.

Mark’s Strive for a Ride

By:  Tracy Lomond

I knew 7 months ago when we decided to start fund raising for a wheelchair accessible van for Mark that it would be a huge challenge. What I didn’t expect was that it would turn out to be like a full time job, one that would not only change me but other family members as well. It is funny to look back and see a family of very shy and passive people actually going up to strangers and asking for money, merchandise, and haggling prices at flea markets all in the name of making money for Mark. Mark is a 17 year old boy with severe cerebral palsy who is wheelchair bound and requires full time care. He is non verbal and for those of us who know him best you can either tell what he wants just from experiencing his daily routine, by his smiles for yes or shaking of the head for no or sometimes you can just see it in his beautiful blue eyes.  In the past two years he has had three hip surgeries and numerous treatments and appointments in Halifax, at least 9 in the past year. There hasn’t been very many months out of the past two years where we were not making a trip to the IWK. It’s heart breaking to see him go through so much. He has such a frail small body but a huge lovable personality. Once the hip surgeries were over and the chronic pain managed we decided it was time to take on the challenge of fund raising for the van. Not just because of the frequent trips to Halifax or the fact that the van we are currently driving will not see past this November’s inspection but because in February Mark will turn 18, an age when programs seem to expire as 19 is considered adulthood. The 9 trips I mentioned earlier, well those were not easy considering I had to borrow a vehicle to make the trips. I am scared to take the van I am currently driving the 22 km trip to his doctor, I certainly did not feel it could go the 400km one way trip to Halifax. So starts our journey.

One of our first fund raising ideas was selling tickets on a dozen of lobsters and 24 beverages. This was a hugely successful endeavor. Then I made up a sort of information package that I started e-mailing to everyone I could think of from local businesses to Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Gates. The information package included a flyer with Marks picture and a brief description of the purpose of the fund raiser, a letter from his occupational therapist supporting our efforts, and finally a letter from me describing in detail our situation and why we were doing the fund raising. I describe the fund raising as a full time job because it sort of took on a life of its own. We found ourselves at various malls selling tickets, gathering donated household items or clothing that we then sold off at flea markets almost every Sunday, a benefit dance, a merchandise bingo, personal donations, and even applying for any grant I could find on-line. I kept a journal of every e-mail, phone call, flea market, and a count of every book of tickets sold.

Through our personal efforts stated above and donations from clubs such as the Lions Club, the Kiwanis Club, the Royal Canadian Legion, Sydney Mines Seniors Pensioner Club and gift certificates for prizes from numerous local businesses we raised just over $12, 000. We were ecstatic to learn that we were approved for a $20,000 grant through the President Choice Children’s Charity. This was a huge piece of funding towards our goal and it definitely kept the family motivated. A huge donation of $5,000 was made by an anonymous donor. We couldn’t believe how generous people truly are. Then we won a contest through the March of Dimes and Pennzoil for $15,000 towards the retrofit (modification and conversion for wheelchair accessibility) of a vehicle. Global News Halifax picked up the story and we were on camera Nov 1st explaining our journey.

L to R: Mary Lynne Stewart, Travis Gunn, Michelle Watt, Tracy Lomond, Mark Lomond

That night at the annual Rock for Dimes concert, at the Cunard Arena in Halifax, we were presented with the contest winnings.  It was a trip that none of my family members that were able to attend will soon forget. Finally, an anonymous donor gave us the remainder of the funds approx $2,000 to complete our goal. What usually takes 1 to 1 ½ years to do, we have accomplished in six months. We are truly blessed to have friends, family, and strangers who supported our cause and allowed our journey to end with a new Dodge Grand Caravan modified with a wheelchair ramp. To say that having this van will change our lives is an understatement. It is crucial to have a reliable vehicle to travel back and forth to Halifax every 3 to 6 months (depending on the effect of the treatment) for Mark’s treatments. It is projected that these treatments will be ongoing for many years, if not for the rest of his life. With such health obstacles and life challenges, one realizes what’s important in life, and what I think I’ve learned the most is that we have to appreciate life. I believe it’s all about perspective; life is so short and frail. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for my family, friends and most of all my two children, Mark and Aaron. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to those who donated gifts, merchandise, money, their time and prayers. All I can say is, “Thank You, and God bless you as he has blessed me.”

I wanted to share my story, not because it was a successful journey in such a short amount of time, but because I wanted to inspire people to never give up or to be scared of a challenge… it is truly worth it in the end!

Sincerely,

Tracy Lomond

L.I.F.E. Toronto: Ferry to Toronto Island

Luckily we were able to fit in a trip to Toronto Island before it got too cold. On October 8th we all met at the Toronto Ferry Docks and caught a morning ferry over to Centre Island. The ferry is described as one of the best parts of the day. It is a time to relax, enjoy the fresh air and take in the view of the city. When we got to the island we checked out the map and headed for Far Enough Away Farm. Check out some of the pictures we got.

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We pretty much had the farm to ourselves and some of us even got to pet a pig! We explored the island and found a picnic table near the beach to have lunch. We checked out the pier and spent the afternoon wandering along the trails. There is so much to see on the island and it is wonderful to spend the day outside. We can’t wait to go back next summer when it warms up.

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

L.I.F.E. Toronto: Restorative Yoga with Jennifer

Here at L.I.F.E. we like to spend our Friday afternoons relaxing and rejuvenating our bodies with some restorative yoga. After lunch we push our desks aside, dim the lights and put on some relaxing music.

Our first yoga Friday we concentrated on our breathing because Jennifer told us it is the most important part of yoga. We make sure we are sitting with our legs hip distance apart and our backs straight. We close our eyes and think about our breathing and gain more control of our breath by counting. We follow the breath in and out and it helps us become more aware of our bodies.

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Our second yoga Friday involved more breathing but we also got to use therapy balls. By this time we all felt more comfortable and were willing to try new things. The therapy balls are about the size of a tennis ball but firmer. We put the balls on the floor and rolled our feet over them, applying the pressure that we desired. It felt like a foot massage and brought sensation to our feet that we do not normally get to experience with shoes on. Then we placed the balls behind our backs against our chairs and moved around. It felt like a back massage and tension was released.

We always look forward to Fridays and can’t wait to get on those yoga mats!!!

L.I.F.E.Toronto is a new program that continues with the support of United Way TorontoTD Canada Trust, and Royal Bank.

Campers Helping Campers

Looking back, we are thrilled to see that the March of Dimes Canada Campers Helping Campers Program has enabled kids and adults with physical disabilities participate in outdoor activities for over 40 years.  What once was a wish and an ambition of a couple of Ontario campground owners, today this evolved into a program supported by 200 campgrounds, campground staff, and campers across Canada.

We wanted to learn more about the program, and there is no better person to give us that inside look than Dennis Ullman.  Dennis has been with March of Dimes Canada since 1989 and has been the driving force behind Campers Helping Campers program for over 20 years. We caught up with Dennis for a chat while he was preparing for a Rock for Dimes fundraiser in Bingemanns Park.

MARCH OF DIMES CANADA:  How did you become involved with the Campers Helping Campers program?

DENNIS ULLMAN:  In the early 1990s while working for March of Dimes Canada I was introduced to the Campers Helping Campers program and soon realized there was tremendous potential for both the campgrounds and March of Dimes.  I have been able to develop some great friendships and relationships with campground owners, their families and managers, and found they were eager to help individuals with disabilities experience camping and the outdoors by organizing and facilitating fundraising events to support March of Dimes Outdoor Recreation programs.

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MODC:   Whenever we hear you speak about Campers Helping Campers program, we can’t help but notice your passion for the program; where does this passion stem from?

DU:  The Campers Helping Campers program raises funds for those who otherwise would be unable to attend a summer camp program, and I truly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience camping.  It is also the passion of the campground owners, camp staff, and campers that drives me.  It is a real joy to work with volunteers and supporters who support the March of Dimes summer recreation program and support them in developing new ideas to help keep the program fresh.

MODC:  Can you give us a sneak peek at what exciting fundraising events will  take place this camping season at some of the Ontario Campgrounds in support of Campers Helping Campers?

DU:  Some of the highlights include; Rock for Dimes at Sherkston Shores, and a variety of special events at various campgrounds as Sandy Beach Resort who will host their annual kids’ day and silent auction, and Country Garden’s RV Park who will host a corn roast, quilting retreat, book sale, and their famous home-made pie auction.

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MODC:  How can a campground or an individual become involved in the Campers Helping Campers program?

DU:  Visit our website at www.marchofdimes.ca/campers or send an email to campers@marchofdimes.ca.  There are a number of opportunities for individuals, campers, campgrounds, or simply anyone who would like to be involved.  This year we have also introduced www.mymod.ca, where interested individuals can make online donations.

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Summer season might be coming to an end, but campers across Canada are still pitching their tents, firing up the fire pits, and enjoying last days of summer, and camping well in to the fall.

Share your best camping memories in March of Dimes Canada Campers Helping Campers Presents: Camping Memories Facebook Essay Contest.  You can support the Campers Helping Campers program and get a chance to win  March of Dimes Canada swag.  The contest runs from Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 4:00:00 p.m. EST until September 8, 2013 at 11:59:59 p.m. EST.  Open to legal residents of Canada (excluding Quebec).

We would like to thank all the participating campgrounds, campers and campground staff for supporting March of Dimes Canada Campers Helping Campers Program.  See you next year!