Ralph’s Journey

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Words by Ralph.

There are many things I am proud to have accomplished in my life.  Today, I am proud to add stroke survivor to that list.  March of Dimes Canada helped me get my life back.

My stroke left me feeling like I lost everything in an instant.  I became a guy who could not dress himself. I needed assistance with pretty much everything. I felt helpless, but most of all scared.

Thankfully, I learned about March of Dimes Canada Conductive Education® (CE) Program and all the ways in which they help stroke survivors return to independent life. Having already been in physical therapy for almost two years, I was skeptical as to how much more they could do for me. But participating in their Stroke and Fitness Program, I soon learned that I needed to stop focusing on what I couldn’t do and instead channel my energy into finding solutions to reach my milestones.

It’s been a long journey but one I am proud to have made.  Through MODC I have been clawing back to the point where I now live alone and I can do most of my daily chores independently. With each passing day, I regain more and more of my self-worth and dignity; I am no longer the guy who needs help with everything.

When you suffer a stroke, you lose everything in a matter of seconds, and it takes the rest of your life to gain it back.  March of Dimes Canada taught me if I want it back, I have to work for it.  It’s been three years since my stroke and I plan on working hard every day to get better and live as normal a life as I can.  The only thing that can stop a stroke survivor from getting better is giving up.  I’m not giving up.

I wouldn’t be where I am now without you.  Thank you.

 

If you’d like to help other stroke survivors like Ralph, please visit: https://marchofdimes.akaraisin.com/SpringGivingMay2018

Volunteer Spotlight: Jane Parsons

Volunteer Spotlight: May 2018

Volunteer Spotlight: Jane Parsons

Our volunteers are the best and we appreciate them for all the work they do.  This year we’re spotlighting them so we can get to know a little more of their interests! May’s spotlight is Jane Parsons. See her profile below!

Name: Jane Parsons

Nominated by: Devon Evershed

Volunteer Position: Peers Fostering Hope – Peer Visitor

What is your favorite part about volunteering with MODC?

I love to help others in their recovery.

If you read – what’s a good book you would recommend?

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden, and The Marriage of Opposites – Alice Hoffman.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

This I struggled with as no one power would help everyone! But if I had to have one, it would be to cure any child illness.

What is your go-to dessert?

Cheesecake and Rhubarb Pie

What is your favourite movie?

Sound of Music.

We asked Devon why she nominated this volunteer?

Jane is in her fourth year of volunteering with the Peers Fostering Hope (PFH) program. As a hospital volunteer she visits new stroke survivors and provides much needed inspiration and hope. She is a reliable and dedicated volunteer, who speaks positively about the PFH program to potential new volunteers by explaining the impact the program has made on her life and the difference that she feels she is making with others. Her honest and open communication is helpful to the patients she visits and other volunteers, who benefit from her wisdom.

In 2017, she joined a pilot project for community visiting as part of the PFH program. In this pilot she was matched with two individuals. She provided emotional support, helped with goal setting, and helped with accessing programs, to support reintegration into the community after stroke. According to one individual she supported: “She talks about what she’s gone through and what’s worked for her—it helps me know what’s coming. It prepares me as I go through the process and makes me feel like I’m not the only one who’s been through this.” She has been very proactive not only in her efforts to support these individuals but also in providing updates on her matches and suggestions to those who were administering the program. Jane, along with other volunteers from the program, have addressed a gap in care for stroke survivors and provided support during a crucial time of transition from hospital to home. It has been wonderful having Jane give back as part of the Peers Fostering Hope program.

How long have you been an MODC volunteer?

4 Years.

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If you’d like to learn more about March of Dimes Canada’s volunteering opportunities, please visit this landing page from the website: http://bit.ly/MODCVol

Volunteer Spotlight: Mark Ewer

Volunteer Spotlight: April 2018

Volunteer Spotlight: Mark Ewer

We could not do what we do without the help of volunteers. We’re happy to be celebration National Volunteer Week this month (April 15-21) and will continue to acknowledge our volunteers for all the wonderful and hard work they do.

We’re also excited to be featuring volunteer profiles this year in this community blog of ours – here’s your chance to know a little more about Mark Ewer, our spotlight for April!

Name: Mark Ewer

Volunteer Position: DesignAbility® Chairperson – Hamilton/Halton branch

What is your favorite part about volunteering with MODC?

Using my creative energy to come up with creative solutions to help people live independently.

If you read – what’s a good book you would recommend?

“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Extreme intelligence/Creativity

What is your go-to dessert?

Chocolate Brownies

How long have you been an MODC volunteer?

15+ Years.

We asked Elaine Darling (DesignAbility®) why she nominated Mark Ewer to be a spotlight for our blog.

Mark has a huge commitment to the program, he’s very creative, and dedicated to helping people. He is truly a reflection of our organization’s mission.

 

Volunteer Spotlilght: Mark Ewer. Mark's book recommendation: "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson.

If you’d like to learn more about March of Dimes Canada’s volunteering opportunities, please visit this landing page from the website: http://bit.ly/MODCVol

Volunteer Spotlight: March 2018

Volunteers are vital to the success of our programs of March of Dimes Canada. We appreciate and acknowledge volunteers for all the amazing, incredible and hard work they do. This year we’re getting to know some of them a little more in these blog profiles!

Meet Darlene Johnson, our spotlight for March!

March Volunteer Spotlight

Name: Darlene Johnson

Volunteer Position: Communication Program Volunteer – ACDP Peterborough Site

What is your favorite part about volunteering with MODC?

How the clients are so motivated to improve their own communication and how they support each other through the process. I look forward to volunteering at the Peterborough Aphasia program because they provide a supportive and non-judgmental environment for clients, caregivers and the volunteers. The staff set the tone and they are knowledgeable, skilled and demonstrate respect for each individual that they encounter.

What are 3 adjectives you would use to describe yourself?

Caring, Friendly, Respectful

What is your favorite hobby?

Quilting

What is your favorite TV show?

Call the Midwife (because of a Nursing background)

How long have you been an MODC volunteer?

1.5 Years

We asked Elisha and Sara why they nominated this volunteer.

“Darlene’s positive nature, energy, and welcoming attitude deserve recognition! On top of her friendly personality, she displays kindness and concern for the well-being of our clients, supporting their strengths and encouraging them to develop new skills. As staff (and I’m sure clients feel the same) we’re very fortunate to have Darlene as part of our team.”

Sara Piotrowska (Staff Partner)

Her patience and willingness to learn and use supportive communication strategies ensures that clients’ messages are expressed, all clients are engaged, and conversation is mutually beneficial. – Sara

“The first thing that strikes me about Darlene is her caring and empathetic attitude in the program. She is genuinely interested in the clients and their well-being! She actively inquires about their lives and is always supportive of their interests. She is also very patient, allowing clients to respond in their own time and always encourages them to use the strategies to support their communication. It’s very evident how much the clients appreciate Darlene’s time and effort!”

Elisha Nesci (Staff Partner)

Volunteer Spotlight: Darlene Johnson. 3 Adjectives used to describe herself: Caring, Friendly, Respectful

If you’d like to learn more about March of Dimes Canada’s volunteering opportunities, please visit this landing page from their site: http://bit.ly/MODCVol

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Lara Kaufman

Volunteer Spotlight: February 2018

As we continue our volunteer appreciation throughout the year, we want to reiterate: Volunteers are so important to March of Dimes Canada. Thanks to them, we’re able to do the work we do.

Meet Lara Kaufman, our spotlight for February!

February Volunteer Spotlight

Name: Lara Kaufman

Volunteer Position: Peers Fostering Hope Hospital Visitor

What is their favorite part about volunteering with MODC?

Inspiring the patients they see and giving them hope.

What are 3 adjectives that they use to describe themselves?

Outgoing, Persevering, Insightful.

What is their favorite hobby?

She loves to read.

What is their favorite TV show?

Outlander.

Why are you nominating this volunteer?

Stroke recovery is like climbing a mountain. It takes hard work, perseverance and patience. But the view from the top is spectacular. – Lara

Lara’s positive attitude and awareness of the challenges that someone goes through after experiencing a life changing event, enables her to really touch the hearts of the patients she visits at Toronto Rehab as part of Peers Fostering Hope (PFH). The individual Lara supports in the community as part of the Community Visiting pilot for PFH has taken steps to get out into the community more than she would have without Lara’s assistance.

According to Paul Asselin, the Social Worker she reports to when she volunteers at Toronto Rehab, “Lara has made some terrific contributions and offered a lot of support to our patients over the years. I remember not long after she started here, one patient referred to her as an angel. She has received similar compliments such as: ‘Reassuring, good to hear it from someone who’s been there,’ ‘She gave me confidence.’ etc.

What strikes me about Lara in particular is that she finds the strength to come in, even when there are so many other things going on in her life. Through all of these life events, some good and some challenging, she manages to stay focused and present when she is visiting.”

Lara exemplifies what it means to be a PFH volunteer based on the feedback she receives from patients at the hospital. I would also support what Paul Asselin has said above. She is extremely dedicated even when she has a lot of other challenges going on in her life. She also is eager to get involved in new opportunities such as when she decided to be a part of the Community Visiting pilot. Outside of MODC she is involved in many other community projects. As a UHN Patient Partner, she has served on several committees, providing the patient perspective on various initiatives. She also co-founded with stroke survivor, Dr. Howard Rocket, Rocket Ride 4 Rehab in 2015. This static cycling event raises money for the Rocket Family Upper Extremity Clinic at Toronto Rehab. Lara is very deserving of recognition. She is also respected among her peers.

– Rebecca Phinnemore, PFH Coordinator


How long have they been an MODC volunteer?

Since 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Lara Kaufman

 

If you’d like to learn more about March of Dimes Canada’s volunteering opportunities, please visit this landing page from their site: http://bit.ly/MODCVol

Branden - The Impact of L.I.F.E. for young adults with disabilities

The Impact of L.I.F.E. – Branden

Branden - The Impact of L.I.F.E. for young adults with disabilities

When Branden joined the Learning Independence for Future Empowerment (L.I.F.E.) Mississauga Program, he wanted to learn how to take the MiWay Transit buses independently. Although he was comfortable using TransHelp buses and booking his rides by himself, he desired a method of transportation that did not require a booking process so that he can be more spontaneous and flexible in his outings. His goal was to take the MiWay Transit buses to get to the program instead of using TransHelp. He also wanted to expand his social circle and be more familiar with various places in the community.

L.I.F.E. Program Instructors determined that Branden could work on this goal by participating in the Transit Training component of the L.I.F.E. Program since he wanted to familiarize himself with the public transit system and learn how to plan trips using Google Maps. It was also determined that he would be a good candidate for social outings days as it would give him an opportunity to explore the community by attending various events with the program and spending time with other participants in social settings.

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Branden taking a MiWay Transit bus

During Transit Training, Branden was the first to search directions to the destinations. His attendance was excellent as well. He attended Transit Training for one session and is now comfortable taking MiWay Transit buses independently. He also learned many new routes to his house from the program, as well as directions to various recreational sites in his community. Additionally, he reported having an easier time running errands and going out with friends ever since using the MiWay buses. Branden has been very comfortable using conventional transit to the point that he was able to use the Brampton Züm buses to attend an event on his own!

I learned how to take the bus by myself. I met a new friend Siu Fan…He is my new bestie. I am excited to look for and get a job.

– Branden

Branden reported he has expanded his social circle as he met new friends at the program. He shared that he goes out with those friends outside of program hours especially on the weekends, visiting shopping malls like Square One and watching movies together at the theatre or at one of their houses.

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Branden at Square One shopping mall in Mississauga

Overall, Branden has increased his community engagement by learning to navigate the public transit system, which allows him to explore his community, and he has met new friends at the program. Branden has also been selected as a candidate for the March of Dimes pre-employment program (PEP), and he will begin attending it in November. There he will begin to work on another area of independence.

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Our goal for Giving Tuesday this year is to raise funds to expand our L.I.F.E. Pilot Program in Calgary so that it runs longer than 2 weeks. It’s the first step towards our overarching goal of bringing the L.I.F.E. Program to empower other young adults with disabilities in other communities across the country! We’ve teamed up with Eric Howk from the band, Portugal. The Man, and Savaria to spread the word. Savaria will also be matching every donation dollar for dollar until Giving Tuesday on November 28. This means your donation will be worth twice as much! Please see our crowdfunding pages below:

If you’d like to donate in CAD ($), please visit: http://bit.ly/IGGLIFE

For our international donors, please visit: http://bit.ly/MODCLIFE17

JAIPAL - The Impact of L.I.F.E. for young adults with disabilities

The impact of L.I.F.E. – Jaipal

JAIPAL - The Impact of L.I.F.E. for young adults with disabilities

Our Learning Independence for Future Empowerment (L.I.F.E.) Program has made a difference for many of its participants. Instead of us telling you the many different ways, we thought it would be best said from the participants and parents. Over the next week, we’ll be sharing testimonials through these blog posts!

Jaipal’s mother, Satpal Dhanjal writes:

“For me this program is amazing! Oh my god! Jaipal especially is really enjoying the program. We were talking earlier as we prepared dinner and he just kept going on and on about the program.

Jaipal (left) LIFE Mississauga participants at Ribfest

Jaipal can’t wait to get going in the morning to avoid being late to the L.I.F.E. program. He gets up, washed and dressed independently to avoid being late. 

To be having this lengthy conversation with my son shows the difference the program has made. My son no longer ignores me, there is no more swearing, he treats me with respect, we have conversations, he seems genuinely interested in me and grateful for the things I do as his parent – I feel appreciated.

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Tomorrow I am meeting with the agency, Mike Bennett Edge, that referred us to the L.I.F.E. program and I can’t wait to discuss how far my boys have come since attending the program.

There is really so much more to say such as how independent my son has become, taking the public transit to all the events L.I.F.E. attends in our community. I have also attended a few of the community events and watched her at work and she is amazing with the participants! They try everything and do many activities. I just can’t say enough.

Thank you!”

Our goal for Giving Tuesday this year is to raise funds to expand our L.I.F.E. Pilot Program in Calgary so that it runs longer than 2 weeks. It’s the first step towards our overarching goal of bringing the L.I.F.E. Program to empower other young adults with disabilities in other communities across the country! We’ve teamed up with Eric Howk from the band, Portugal. The Man, and Savaria to spread the word. Savaria will also be matching every donation dollar for dollar until Giving Tuesday on November 28. This means your donation will be worth twice as much! Please see our crowdfunding pages below:

If you’d like to donate in CAD ($), please visit: http://bit.ly/IGGLIFE

For our international donors, please visit: http://bit.ly/MODCLIFE17

Malic, the superhero!

Words by William Shatner

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Malic was born in Dubai and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant when his parents noticed he wasn’t meeting important developmental milestones. They immediately found physiotherapy for him, and continued to maintain a similar structure for him at home, reinforcing what he was learning in his therapy sessions. Though steady, his progress was slow.

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Malic at the museum!

Malic’s parents had heard of Conductive Education® (CE), but it wasn’t offered in Dubai. After the family moved back to Canada, they signed Malic up for March of Dimes Canada’s Conductive Education Summer Camp where they learned that the sky was the limit for this bright and engaging young boy!

 

After their first assessment, the family walked away feeling hope and excitement! The great staff at March of Dimes Canada knows that it is important not only for Malic to believe that he can do anything and everything he wants to do, but that his family believes it too! Malic is continually given challenges that are outside his comfort zone, and he rises to the occasion every time! He is always quick to say “I can do it myself…”

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Those are words we LOVE to hear at March of Dimes Canada. Those words are why we do what we do.

He loves superheroes, but to me, Malic is the superhero!

Malic’s accomplishments are all 100% his own. He loves to dance, listen to music and play video games just like any other boy. He loves superheroes, but to me, Malic is the superhero! The love, compassion and determination he shows every day of his life exemplifies the March of Dimes spirit.

People like Malic are why I support March of Dimes Canada. I hope Malic’s story will inspire you as it has inspired me.

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I am also pleased to remind you that March of Dimes Canada has been accredited by Imagine Canada’s Standards Program for excellence in financial accountability and transparency, fundraising and governance. Learn more about our Conductive Education® Program by visiting the following link: http://bit.ly/ModcCEP

"Nick Jaroka" - Nick shares his #PathToRecovery story!

Nick’s Path To Recovery

Written by Nick Jaroka

I remember spending time in the rehabilitation unit at Grand River Hospital (Freeport) and evenings quiet, visitors had gone home for the day and this was a time for reflection. One reflection was “now what, what’s next” for the future.

My first exposure to March of Dimes Canada was while going through inpatient rehabilitation; there I met a Linking Survivors with Survivors (LSWS) hospital peer mentor. He had a stroke and was open to talk to me about anything. I remember not being able to speak and frustrated that the words didn’t come out but he was also a stroke survivor and immediately understood, was patient and gave me encouragement to move forward. This LSWS volunteer visited me weekly and each time we met I asked him more questions and felt the hope to keep moving forward.

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Once I transitioned back home and continued with outpatient rehabilitation, I was looking to fill some of the spare time between therapy sessions. I got into contact with the LSWS community coordinator and we met. She (was awesome, fantastic… ha ha ) was able to explain the program and we decided that volunteering as a LSWS peer mentor was a great idea.

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I volunteered 2 days a week going back to Grand River Hospital (Freeport) and visited stroke patients. This has been a great experience, every time I visited I learned something new about myself and before I knew it I was finding I could do things I wasn’t able to do before.

These opportunities enable me to continue my rehabilitation but in a ‘give back to community’ aspect – Nick Jakora

While volunteering with LSWS, I also attended the YMCA Fitness for Function program. I approached them to see if it would be possible to volunteer in their programs to encourage survivors to continue their rehabilitation. These opportunities enable me to continue my rehabilitation but in a “give back to community” aspect; some days were tiring, but it was a good tired.

Throughout this stroke recovery path, I had this thought if it would be possible to return to work. This would be a huge financial support for my family if I could even work part time. I again approached the LSWS coordinator and she was able to provide linkages including that March of Dimes Canada has an employment program specific to persons with disabilities.

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From L-R: Lisa Livingston (Employment Services Team Leader​) Nick Jaroka (Stroke Survivor), Jennifer Estabrooks (Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist​) and Barbara Moore (Community Coordinator LSWS)​

I used March of Dimes Canada assistance to navigate the systems to get the appropriate referrals and the correct paperwork. I met with a career counsellor to find out exactly what my interests are and possible employment opportunities.

Currently, I’m attending a job search workshop where I continue to learn new things about myself, and how to manage those fears of knowing I had a stroke, what if I don’t understand while on the job, what if I can’t recall, and words or my speech get jumbled? Is this goal even possible? I know that I am not alone and will continue to work on my recovery. My next step will be securing part time employment in a field of new interest and can’t wait for the next step in my path to recovery.

For more resources on Stroke Recovery, please visit our landing page for Stroke Recovery Canada®, which is a national service offering support, education and community programs for stroke survivors, caregivers and their families: http://bit.ly/ModcSRC

March of Dimes Canada, Nektarios, New Community Blog Post / "If March of Dimes Canada didn't provide Conductive Education, I don't believe I would be where I am today!"

Let’s Talk About: Nektarios!

March of Dimes Canada, Nektarios, New Community Blog Post / "If March of Dimes Canada didn't provide Conductive Education, I don't believe I would be where I am today!"

Nektarios is a proud and successful 27-year-old young man with a bright future ahead of him. But it wasn’t always that way. His family knew that he was not meeting his important developmental milestones as he struggled to sit independently as a baby. As he grew older, he was increasingly dependent on his family and friends to help him in the activities of daily living.

Now, as a proud young adult, the last thing Nektarios wants is to rely solely on others for his care and comfort. He wants — and needs — to learn how to be as independent as possible. His mother found the March of Dimes Canada’s Conductive Education® (CE) Program after hearing about it through word of mouth from friends and acquaintances. Nektarios began attending CE sessions in 2004, at the age of 15.

At the beginning, walking was difficult for Nektarios. But he set big goals for himself in CE class. He wanted to gain the strength he needed to go out with friends, enjoy the outdoors, play his favorite video games and enjoy being an active member of his community.

 

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Nektarios during one of his Conductive Education classes with CE conductor Rachel

His own determination, the skills and dedication of the March of Dimes Canada staff, and your donations have all made such a difference for Nektarios in so many ways. He was able to live independently while at college, and tackle all of the challenges of daily living with minimal assistance. Walking with one cane — a task that was all but impossible for him just a few short years ago — is now something he can do with confidence and ease.

“If March of Dimes Canada didn’t provide Conductive Education® I don’t believe I would be where I am today,” Nektarios tells us.

Increased mobility has given Nektarios the freedom he always wanted!

The evolution of this young man has been extraordinary. He enjoys life and is passionate about spreading the word about March of Dimes Canada and the life-changing programs that are available here. Every aspect of his life has changed for the better.

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Nektarios (center) with his mother, Angela, and Aron Ralston at the Ability and Beyond Dinner in 2016

Conductive Education® is one of the programs that is also partly funded through money raised from our Door-To-Door campaign. Though physical Door-To-Door is coming to an end, you can still help support CE from the comfort of your own home! Sign up as an online canvasser and share your personal page with contacts and help support Canadians with disabilities: http://www.marchofdimes.ca/doortodoor/