Ralph’s Journey


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: 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?


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

Volunteer Spotlight: Joan Winter

Volunteer Spotlight: January 2018

Volunteer Spotlight: Joan Winter

Volunteers are so important to March of Dimes Canada and we are so appreciative and thankful for their continued support and work they do for the organization. It’s true – we really cannot do what we do without them!

We thought it would be a fun way to get to know some of our volunteers by spotlighting 12 this year; one a month and with a few fun questions. Check out Joan, our January Spotlight!

January Volunteer Spotlight

Name: Joan Winter

Volunteer Position:  Chairperson and Peers Fostering Hope Volunteer

How long have you been a MODC volunteer?  7 years

What is your favorite part about volunteering with MODC?  Being able to express that there is always hope and that people need to be determined towards their recovery, which will be rewarded.

What are 3 adjectives use would use to describe yourself?  Determined, dedicated and challenged.

What is your favorite hobby?  Grandchildren is number 1, Reading, and Toast Masters.

What is your favorite TV show?  The Young and the Restless and Big Bang Theory

Erica M. nominated Joan for a volunteer spotlight. Here is why she nominated her:

We have the pleasure of working with wonderful people who donate their time to this organization every day. I wanted to highlight Joan Winter as she is determined to beat the odds. She is her own advocate and works hard towards her recovery every single day. She doesn’t let disability become a barrier. She advocates for Tai-Chi and Toast Masters; two community programs that were instrumental in her recovery. These programs have given her both focus and balance. She doesn’t let stroke define her. She would say “that being the Chairperson for the Oshawa Stroke Support Group has made her stronger and has given her direction” she would also say that “if you think you can or can’t, you are right”.

In addition to being the Chairperson for the Oshawa Stroke Support group she is an active Peers Fostering Hope Volunteer, spending her free time giving hope to people who have newly experienced a stroke. Lastly, she also volunteers with the Living with Stroke program running it twice a year. She is truly remarkable and unstoppable! We want to thank Joan Winter for her time and positive energy towards helping other stroke survivors and caregivers realize that there is life after stroke.


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

Green banner with 'Carol Agnew' written on it. Purple background with photo of Carol smiling in the middle. Green speech bubble saying "New Community Blog Post!". Text at bottom says "Carol's experience with Urban Pole Walking"

Carol Agnew’s experience with Urban Pole Walking

Green banner with 'Carol Agnew' written on it. Purple background with photo of Carol smiling in the middle. Green speech bubble saying "New Community Blog Post!". Text at bottom says "Carol's experience with Urban Pole Walking"
Written by Carol Agnew

In May 2016, I had a Lt Hemorrhagic Stroke. Prior to that, I had been quite physically active, hiking, going to yoga , working out at our local YMCA and snow shoeing in the winter. I did the Terry Fox Run every year. After my stroke, I couldn’t do any of those well loved activities.

Initially, I had in-home therapies through CCAC, to improve my speech and walking skills. In late August, my walking balance had improved and my OT (Occupational Therapist) asked if I had ever heard of Urban Pole Walking. I had several friends who had bought poles, with the intention of pole walking in the summer, so they would be ready for snow shoeing in the winter. However, they had never used them. I got the contact name from my therapist and called the contact person for our local March of Dimes Canada Urban Pole Walking Group. This also led me to Orillia’s Stroke Survivor’s and Caregiver’s Support Group.

When I commented that I was “pretty tippy” and another person said “ We’re all pretty tippy here” I didn’t feel so alone.

My friends started taking me to our local mall on Tuesday mornings for pole walking.  It was a challenging, but wonderful experience. I was able to connect with people, who were experiencing the same struggles and successes as I was. When I commented that I was “pretty tippy” and another person said “ We’re all pretty tippy here” I didn’t feel so alone. I had never met other people who had survived a stroke before and it was wonderful to talk to them over coffee, get tips and talk about shared experiences.

Carol Agnew_Collage
Carol Agnew describing her experiences with Urban Poling – (Video to come!)

The first day of pole walking was really hard. I couldn’t get my poles and my feet to work together. I certainly couldn’t walk & talk!

However, as the Tuesday mornings went by, I was able to go longer distances and soon discovered that I could pole walk while talking. I was improving my both motor skills and endurance, as well as having a social experience with other stoke survivors and my friends.

..I have gained much more. My motor skills and endurance have improved as well as my speech. I have also made several new friends. Going out weekly for a fun activity has made me feel less isolated.

My initial goal for joining the pole walking group was to improve my walking skills, my balance and my endurance for physical activities. However, I have gained much more. My motor skills and endurance have improved as well as my speech. Just as important is that I have also made several new friends. Going out weekly for a fun activity has made me feel less isolated. I have gotten new links to community resources from other survivors, as well as the wonderful volunteers and Pauline Berry from March of Dimes Canada. An unexpected bonus for me was that last weekend, I was actually able to go snow shoeing. That was something I had thought I would never enjoy again. I certainly didn’t go far- just to the fence & back, but I was out enjoying winter again with my friends. Every small success is really a huge accomplishment for a stroke survivor.

World Stroke Day October 29, 2017. Did you know that walking with ACTIVATOR Urban Poles can save lives? Get involved >

In the lead up to World Stroke Day on October 29, 2017 we’ve partnered with UrbanPoling to help promote keeping an active lifestyle through a simple but effective activity – walking! During all of October, Urban Poling will donate 10% of online ACTIVATOR™ pole sales to our Stroke Recovery Canada® (SRC) Program. Take a look at the ACTIVATOR™ poles specs & the benefits of using them: http://bit.ly/UPACTWSD17

If you’re near a participating Guardian & IDA store (http://bit.ly/MODCWSD17) & decide to buy an ACTIVATOR™ Pole in person,  donating $10 to SRC will also get you a free set of snow baskets (for your poles in Winter!).


"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.


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.


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.

Nick Jaroka
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

” ‘You will dance again..’ rang in my ears! It was a challenge I thought impossible.” – Len Boser, Stroke Survivor

Stroke Survivor Stories: Len Boser
Written by Len Boser.

Fifteen years ago, I woke up to find the course of my life had changed forever. The day before, I was a physically active, healthy person leading the normal life of a father of two young sons, 7 and 10 years old. Overnight, I had a severe brain stem stroke that left me unable to walk, to talk and completely paralyzed on my right side.

After one and a half years in the hospital, I felt frustrated and hopeless despite the care of doctors and many trained healthcare practitioners. Despite their care, I did not know how to get my life back.

But, luckily, the inspiration and support from a fellow stroke survivor helped motivate me. His story about his recovery and even being able to dance again got me working on my rehabilitation and interested in helping others on their recovery as well. “You will dance again..” rang in my ears! It was a challenge I thought impossible.

Encouragement, support from my peers…and my motto…“Never Give Up!”

Len Boser 2
Len Boser

A key to the quality of recovery is support from fellow stroke survivors and their
caregivers…the people who have first-hand experience. This peer support was instrumental for me. And that is what March of Dimes Canada’s Stroke Recovery Canada® is all about…reaching out to other stroke survivors and giving them understanding, knowledge and hope.


For more information on Stroke Recovery Canada®, please visit: http://bit.ly/ModcSRC