Now What?

President & CEOs Remarks to the MODC AGM, July 24, 2018

andria spindel, president and CEOI delivered the following a few days ago to our senior staff and board members, and would like to share my thoughts as I prepare to transition to retirement after 37+ years at March of Dimes.

Its my pleasure to once again bring forward a review of the prior fiscal year, and my own reflections on how we as a corporation have performed, how our team at the top has performed, and to provide some comments on the next fiscal year. Generally, it’s my opportunity to personally acknowledge many who have contributed to our successes, shed light on any significant issues, say a few words of inspiration about the year to come and our ongoing vision of creating a society that is inclusive of people with disabilities.

This year’s AGM however, is a special and significant one for me; it’s my last as MODC’s senior staff person, my last in what has been a dream job with an incredible agency, the culmination of my role as leader of, and partner with, an incredibly talented and collegial team, the moment in time to consider what I have failed to accomplish and to acknowledge what is yet undone. I can’t any more pledge to make it all happen or give assurances but I do feel that I am in a position to share some observations as I begin the transition process.

Let me begin by acknowledging the tremendous support I have had over my 37+ years, from the Board, local volunteers, program volunteers, fundraising volunteers, and many dozens of committee members. March of Dimes has attracted some of the best people to carry our message, to inspire donors and friends, and to deliver many aspects of our services. Board members have always served us well and with honorable intentions, being aligned with our vision and mission. There have certainly been challenges, and challenging directors, but none without good intentions, none without some merit and I have learned and thrived in the main from the talented members of our two boards.

I cannot say enough about our wonderful, talented and dedicated staff. From the first 183 staff when I came in 1981 to our over 2000 staff now, I am proud of everyone. It’s been my goal to create a learning environment, providing opportunities for individuals to thrive and grow, and to define personally how best to give to the people we serve. Staff innovate and create programs, they imagine the impossible and make it possible, the staff at March of Dimes and our Non Profit Housing Corporation, are never without resource challenges, time constraints and complex and competing demands, but somehow it all gets done and the best is done for our consumers. The data on consumer satisfaction supports what I am saying. We are enhancing lives, creating opportunities and solutions for independence!

I wish I had time to name all of the people who have contributed to my joy on a daily basis, coming to work has made me happy. My children, all now young adults, understand that as CEO of March of Dimes, I have been fully dedicated to our purpose while also being fully devoted to them and there have been times, when they might have doubted that as children but today, as my daughter begins her career in an NGO, my eldest finishes his certification as an American Sign Language Interpreter and my middle son demonstrates the caring and compassion of a mature man, I see that March of Dimes has touched their hearts too.

Well, it has been another challenging, exciting, fruitful year for March of Dimes, thanks to all people mentioned above and thousands more – our donors and funders, and here are just some of the highlights:

March of Dimes grew by another 4.6% overall gross revenue and exceeded the budgeted net of $1M by $1.68M or more than double.

New offices opened in Winnipeg and Victoria, new services also began in North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN area, and continues to expand.

Our agency engaged in a new and radical venture, we purchased a private rehab company to expand our employment and ABI services into BC and establish March of Dimes Canada as a provider of record, positioning our agency in that province in such a way that we can bid on more such contracts.

Both Employment Services and Independent Living Services demonstrated that we have definitely addressed the goal of diversifying our revenues as established in the last 2 strategic plans. They both produced high net revenues from proprietary or fee based sources.

March of Dimes transformed a collaborative relationship with Stroke Recovery Association of BC into a full blown alliance and provided both governance and back office supports, and also new program development support, funding additional staff in the Vancouver office which now houses both our organizations.

The third year of our accessible mobile technology project has opened the vista for us no how technology can improve lives, without huge costs.

March of Dimes Canada Non Profit Housing Corporation began a series of construction projects after more than a decade without growth. Winning bids for grants in Sarnia, Sudbury and Hamilton has enabled this expansion and put our full spectrum of independent living in supportive housing front and center in these communities where we serve the most severely disabled people within the community.

Community Engagement, Integration, Inclusion are great concepts and at March of Dimes we make them ways of living, by offering an array of services to support people, by being a strong advocacy voice, and by communicating at all levels in the public sphere. Every day we are making people aware of the needs and rights of people with disabilities, and we are encouraging and training people with such lived experience to speak out, to demonstrate and demand their essential rights. Whether it’s through our Life Skills program, Conductive Education, Recreation or Government Relations and Advocacy, March of Dimes is helping people achieve their personal goals and then moving the goal post, reaching ever further to find successful tools and interventions to enable the dreams of children and adults with disabilities.

This evening you will hear about an important area that has expanded dramatically within our agency, as we re-entered the field of research, focusing on applied research designed at helping us to understand the best ways to achieve the best outcomes. With the appointment of Dr. Emily Nalder as March of Dimes Canada Paul J.J. Martin Professor, we have completed studies on the outcomes of our own services, attracted student and faculty research projects alike, partnered in several research projects, and served as advisors on external projects. Dr. Nalder will highlight the work of the last 3 ½ years of her 5 year appointment, and I trust get everyone excited about how research can inform our practice and further policies that benefit people with disabilities.

While, there have been some struggles to achieve our goals, the results have not been without learning, without sincerity, nor without accomplishment in forgoing new relationships. Challenges are but opportunities and at March of Dimes we accept and even encourage challenges.

We have become part of several international communities of academics and researchers, primarily through our role in the Bridging, Aging and Disability International Network, the International Centre for Disability Research at University of Toronto and the International Initiative on Disability Leadership. Over the past few years, I have travelled abroad for March of Dimes, speaking about our work and seeking collaborations with peers in other jurisdictions, and have fostered this same approach among other staff, so that we are finding the best of the best practices to inform our work.

I would truly be remiss if I didn’t also speak of both the challenges and successes of our Fund Development, Marketing and Communications Department which every year has to reinvent itself to address all the new ways that people in society are communicating and responding to human needs. We are operating on many social media platforms, delivering content in all formats, and searching out partners, sponsors and funders at all levels of government and across communities. The Department has significantly stretched to support non profit housing also, and leads the capital campaigns where we are building new supportive living accommodation. Often ahead of the rest of the organization, the department finds local business partners to deliver content, organize events, attract media, and develop March of Dimes Canada volunteer committees at the local level. Despite competitive markets, which are increasing with new charities being formed every year, the staff have managed year over year to grow the net for our community-based services.

We fundraise in all provinces now and while not physically in the Northern territories, we do have specialized services for Inuit from Nunuvat whose lives have been significantly impacted by an acquired brain injury. These services are unique, and designed in conjunction with the government of the territories to provide a safe supportive environment for these Canadians to experience the best opportunities for independent living.

I could go on and on about our accomplishments, and would, but you will be presented with the full story by Jerry Lucas later tonight within the Board meeting, at which time the actual numbers will be presented as to the revenue and expense allocation to programs, and the numbers of people served. All of this is possible, because years ago, we put in place the tools, policies and procedures for accountability and transparency; taught staff to plan and to measure what they do, to have informed clients, to have a consumer oriented approach to service, to adhere to administrative processes, financial controls, HR legislation and more, BUT above all, to think creatively and have good judgement. We seek compliance with a host of procedures AND we also seek to foster integrity; its not a matter of “but”, but “both”, that makes our team so successful – strong direction and individual action.

A word about the challenges unfulfilled. I cannot leave March of Dimes without acknowledging that I may not have accomplished all that I or the Board would have wished. Some of these wishes include – launching and delivering a national service that covers Canada coast to coast, is fully funded and brings together the wrap around services MODC offers to keep people in the community. We have began this in launching an “After Stroke” website, but there is much more to be done.

I would have liked to see Conductive Education embedded in our social and health services funding framework, and as part of the early childhood education offerings. We have made significant strides, but its imperative that more be done if this unique, holistic, cost effective program is to continue to be available in Canada.

We have just begun to explore new technologies for people with disabilities, while still working very successfully on low tech solutions through DesignAbility. In the immediate future, I would hope that March of Dimes will consider expanding the latter and investing in the former, presumably through major partnerships with universities, colleges and technical institutions.

Our first national study of significance was funded through the National Center of Excellence, called AGEWELL. It provides clear recommendations for a Canada in which there is equitable access to Assistive Devices/Technology for those with any functional impairment. I have hopes that it will serve as the basis for policy advocacy and education – perhaps giving March of Dimes a lead position in regards to provincial, federal and territorial deliberations. And of course, we have been active on the federal level as collaborators and consultants on the new Accessible Canada Act. I think my dream of an accessible, inclusive Canada is one step closer to reality, and we played no small part in getting it here.

I must stay I have no regrets. If I could have done more, been more astute, more sensitive, more enlightened, I do apologize.

For any missed opportunity, I apologize, and hope the champions within March of Dimes will grab the next opportunities; and continue to make a difference.

The question we have asked in this year’s AGM and Annual report is “Now What?” Its begun already to be a year of change with the recent departure of 3 senior staff, with the addition of our vibrant new Chief External Affairs Officer and talented Director of IT and Information Systems, and it will continue to be a year of change when I leave, and our COO begins his own transition. Neither Jerry Lucas nor I probably ever imagined we would get to these days. So for me, now what? I envision several things for myself: more time with my 3 millennial aged children and first grandson, Ezra, born May 29th. I hope to enjoy some R&R doing things I love, such as gardening, biking, reading and my return to needle craft. But, I am also taking on a new challenge and I decided to share it with you. In our fast paced, cyber connected, over populated world, there is a growing menace called anti-semitism, hatred of Jews and hatred of Israel. I have been increasingly engaged in attempts to confront and combat this unspeakable evil and thus “now what?” for me, means doing more to educate people whose desire to hurt or eliminate my community is paramount. So, I am starting here – tonight. For Canada, to be truly inclusive, it means accepting diversity, eliminating hatred, combating ignorance and bigotry, defending freedom of religion and expression, and the values that thousands of Canadians previously died to defend. I hope I can make some small contribution.

Once again, thanks for a great 37 years!





Time flies when one is having a good time!

Since December, I have not written in my blog but I have been capturing stories and giving a lot of thought to what I would like to share. To start I want to tell everyone about my amazing volunteer experience, taken during my vacation in the month of January, when I packed medical supplies along with 28 other volunteers, aged 17-82, from 6 countries. We know the supplies will be used not only to keep the country’s nationals alive if injured, but will also be used around the world to help people affected by natural disasters and emergency situations. We were given valuable lessons in teamwork and fellowship, as well as culture and military roles and responsibilities, international affairs, and local politics.

In February, I returned to a full schedule of events and activities, including budget preparation, completion of a Five-Year Strategic Plan, planning a March break weekend for kids in Nova Scotia featuring Conductive Education, participating at the Voluntary Sector Reporting Awards Luncheon, and a meeting of the Canada California Business Council. This was followed in March by the Celebrity Golf Tournament in Palm Springs, California, selection of the 2012 Jonas Salk Award recipients, and planning for the 2013 Ability and Beyond Gala, as well as implementing the March Break camp in Nova Scotia, working with students from George  Brown College who conducted a research project on a business concept for March of Dimes, planning and executing the March Board of Directors Meeting, and planning more events for both fundraising and programs. In April, 2013, we launched a new transitions program for young people with disabilities who are seeking support from the adult service sector as they navigate their way to greater independence.

In March, we began a conversation with Holland Bloorview Childrens’ Rehab Centre on a model of supportive housing for long term residents who are youth aged 18-30, needing to move to a community-based setting. The solution was possible through a new partnership that March of Dimes has with Reena, a community agency serving people with intellectual disabilities. Reena has developed a gorgeous new, fully accessible, rent geared to income, apartment building in the town of Richmond Hill. March of Dimes has arranged to serve people with physical disabilities in the building who require attendant care.  Also in March, we hosted a delegation from Gansu Disabled Persons’ Federation, representing the entire province of Gansu in China, who came to us to discuss programs and policies that facilitate independence for people with disabilities. I also put in my six-hour shift at our booth at the annual National Home Show in Toronto and spent a day in London, Ontario speaking at a conference we delivered called “Living With a Disability”,  followed that evening by Rock for Dimes London, a signature battle of the bands fundraising event. The latter was a great success.

All to say that a month in my position carries with it great opportunities to work in all aspects of the organization, from coast-to-coast, in fundraising, programs, governance, administration, public relations, and more.

The lessons learned and results achieved over these few first months of 2013 include:

Volunteering at any age is a great way to see the world, and make a difference. My volunteering in the Israel Defence Force confirmed that this army serves many humanitarian causes world wide, and shares its medical knowledge and conviction that human life is sacred.

The Annual budget and Five-Year Strategic Plan rededicates March of Dimes to the “Lifespan of Community Living for People with Physical Disabilities”. The Plan was adopted by the Board and will now be shared across the organization with all staff, and a summary will be produced and posted for all readers and supporters. Budget 2013-14 is the first year of the Plan. Check back  later to read the Five-Year plan.

March of Dimes Canada won the Voluntary Sector Reporting Award for financial transparency for a large Canadian organization, headquartered in Ontario. Read the story.

The Canada California Business Council organized its third annual Celebrity Golf Tournament. March of Dimes Canada, through our American affiliate was one of the designated charity beneficiaries. We were partnered this year with which is a unique American charity that teaches critical thinking on major issues of the day. This new tri-partnership means we will also benefit from a new tournament to be held in Los Angeles on October 21st, 2013. Read about the 2nd annual CCBC Celebrity Golf Tournament.

March Break Conductive Education Camp was a huge success for the nine kids who attended and a unique photo publication was produced documenting the activities of the kids. Parents and funders are all excited about the program and it is expected to be repeated and perhaps replicated in other communities.

Two award recipients were chosen this year for the Jonas Salk Award for Scientific Excellence, and both will be celebrated at the upcoming Ability and Beyond Gala Dinner, June 13, 2013, at the InterContinental Centre. Tickets are available online and are already 50% sold. The event is sponsored by Bell Canada and features comedian, actor and author, Alan Thicke. For more information go to

The business feasibility study completed by George Brown College students will not result in a new business but in an ongoing relationship with the College which expects to place more students with us this fall as we actively pursue other revenue generating ideas. The Centre for Business is interested in our entrepreneurial spirit.

The new transitions program in Toronto, called L.I.F.E. was successfully launched with private funding from TD Bank. It embraces a new formal relationship with Outward Bound and March of Dimes. Follow this link for more information or to register.

A partnership with Reena and Bloorview Kids Rehab, along with support from two Local Health Integration Networks, the Community Care Access Center and West Park Hospital, has resulted in a plan to move at least three long-term severely disabled young people to a new home in the community where we anticipate they will enjoy living outside the hospital environment, using community services, making new friends, and learning new skills. We will continue to work in this collaboration as we consider other models of care for people who have more complex needs. Watch for more stories when we move tenants to this residence.

Our dialogue with Gansu Federation representatives was lively and enlightening. The problems that a very populous country faces which is just beginning to grapple with disability as a social construct, as an area for social policy, as a reason to design new environments and to use new technologies, is awesome. We were thrilled to learn of the eagerness of the local and regional, government supported Federation to address issues, in this otherwise, poorly resourced part of the country. You can see photos of our new Chinese friends on our Gansu Disabled Persons’ Federation Visit Facebook photo album.

Our booth at the annual National Home Show in Toronto was sponsored by our partner, HME Mobility Services and featured many wonderful pieces of equipment that they can provide to make a home accessible. Organized by our Marketing and Communications Department, the 10 day event brings out many head office staff and a few volunteers to speak with a large public gathering interested in home design, appliances, gadgets and home improvement programs. Among others, we feature our Home and Vehicle Modification Program. See images of the show on our MODC National Home Show Facebook photo album.

Living with a Disability Day is now a modular program that we can bring to any community in Canada, and have done so in Peterborough, Calgary, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Fredericton, and Moncton to name a few. There will be many more this calendar year so visit our Events page often for updates. If you or someone you know was recently disabled, consider registering for the event when we come to your city. Learn about resources available, ways to cope, government benefits and entitlements, groups to join and much more. These seminars are sponsored by local companies and feature local “stars”. If you wish to sponsor one, contact Gemma Woticky, Education and Health Promoter, March of Dimes Canada, at

Last, but not least, we held a very financially successful, and fun Rock for Dimes London, and photos can be seen on our Pennzoil Presents Rock for Dimes London Facebook Photo Album. This event is presented nationally by Pennzoil and co-sponsored by Long and McQuade and AMG Medical. Local sponsors are being sought for upcoming Rock for Dimes events already scheduled, so for the one nearest you, go to

The Rock for Dimes fundraisers, along with Walk ‘n’ Roll, Ability & Beyond Gala, and many more activities help support our vital and innovative programs for people with disabilities. We are always available to speak about new ideas and to partner with established organizations or corporations that want to add value to their events.

The list of initiatives and activities for the next few months is as long as the above, so I will defer writing any more for now, and wish you all a  Happy Spring.


President’s Remarks to AGM

Once a year I have the distinct pleasure of sharing a story with employees, volunteers, award recipients, and supporters of March of Dimes. You are among the people we consider family. It is because of you that our organization is strong, innovative, and effective.

Like all families, we may have our internal struggles, but we also have our celebrations. You will see that we Homes for Sale Vancouver entitled our Annual Report, Dime And Jubilee, as we were still celebrating our 60th anniversary when we entered this fiscal year, April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012. Many here today share our history and know our traditions, many of you know of past tribulations, and have shared our worries, our hopes and dreams, our failings and our successes. We are together in mutual support because we share a vision, a vision of Canada as a truly inclusive society for all people, regardless of disability; and regardless of ethnicity, race, creed, sexual orientation or other differences. We view Canada as a family too.

This year we saw an expansion in Independent Living Services, programs for stroke survivors in BC and Alberta in partnership with local organizations, new pre-school activity for Conductive Education®, the opening of a new nyc apartment rentals Congregate Care Home in Sudbury for people with Acquired Brain Injuries, successful fundraising events in four provinces outside Ontario, new relationships with several provincial governments, new uses of social media, and a continuing display of our vast capacity for creativity and perseverance.

June 2011, saw the second Festival of International Conferences on Caregiving, Disability, Aging and Technology successfully carried off in Toronto under the auspices of March of Dimes Canada and the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. We can celebrate the success of six concurrent conferences that brought together over 1100 participants from over 32 countries, and involved over 150 volunteers. The conference delivered on its promise to touch all aspects of Living Longer, Living Better, with a cross section of many disciplines and a strong consumer presence.

We have many plans in the works for our next Five-Year Strategic Plan which has the working title, Lifespan and Community Living. This theme has been woven into the planning of all departments and programs and a new plan will emerge in March, 2013. Our new plan will touch on increased diversity, national expansion, greater uses of technology for staff and clients, standardized quality measures, national charters for our two major companies, coast to coast government relations, francophone services and communication, and significant expansions in some services and piloting of other services.

Canadian society will continue to increase in diversity and we believe it will also be more inclusive, and March of Dimes will continue to be a leader in ensuring this is so. There are many anticipated deliverables and the great news is that we have developed excellent monitoring and reporting tools that keep us on track and accountable. We can therefore ensure we meet our goals.

I am eagerly looking forward to this year’s activities, to concluding on our priorities and building alignment to achieve them. I thank the members of March of Dimes’ Board of Directors and our various subsidiaries that have been very active this past year, and I thank all the wonderful staff who collaborate every day in so many ways to fulfill our vision, of a society that is truly inclusive.