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 procon.org 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 www.marchofdimes.ca/gala

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 gwoticky@marchofdimes.ca.

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 www.rockfordimes.ca.

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.

Andria

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.

Andria

One Humanity

It has been my desire to write regularly and build a community of interest in my writing and in March of Dimes Canada. I don’t mind admitting that this is harder than I thought. Not because writing is hard for me, but because narrowing down a topic to what I consider of universal interest is challenging, and because it is tempting to just write about all the wonderful things that March of Dimes does, in providing services to people, in advocacy, in communication about  the needs and aspirations of people with disabilities. I write when I am moved by something that to me is big, like the Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) we set for our organization. “BHAG” is a concept from the book, Built to Last by James Collins and Jerry Porras, which served as an inspiration to March of Dimes’ management a decade ago. Now we, senior management, are reading Collins’ latest, Great by Choice, in anticipation of preparing our next five year strategic plan. We benefit a great deal from reading management studies and from looking at the environment around us, the research on consumers and on business innovation,  as well as in the not for profit sector and from our personal experience. In a future blog I will talk about various aspects of the development of our Strategic Plan.

What is “big” for me now and which I think must find its way into our multifaceted five year plan are both evidence-based practice and love of humanity. I think both drive this organization forward, and since most readers might not want to read research data in a blog, I am going to focus on the latter here and share a link to  a BBC video circulating on youtube  that came to me from an 80 year old friend. This must be shared.  I am pasting it here  and inviting all readers to view it and share  your comments, and pass this link on to your friends, family, and associates.   http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=2HiUMlOz4UQ&vq=large

While there are many excellent, National Geographic-like photo perfect moments that are on youtube if you have not seen this video I hope that seeing it now will move you,  or  if you have another favourite that also expresses our shared humanity, please also share it.  I provide this one because we so need to remember that all of humanity belongs to one family! Whether of different races, religions, biological genders or gender orientations, whether able-bodied or physically challenged, whether on this continent or another, the word “human” applies to all of us. How then do people make war, threaten each other, bully on school grounds, intimidate with words, discriminate with actions? It should be incomprehensible to all of us that  people in far away lands are battling for their right of free expression, or to vote, or the right to live a safe and secure life. It should be unfathomable that people live without pure water, that people with mental illness on this continent are living on the streets, and that in Northern Canada that there are people without sufficient affordable and safe housing. All of these unmentionables contribute to disability, to soul destroying limitations on life.

So, look at this video and imagine that  though humans struggle to survive in many regions of the world, the struggle is all of ours. We can be enriched by the actions of others and we can contribute to the fabric of humanity by our own creative, loving action. Imagine a more perfect world, where every human interaction is one of  kindness, where learning and love are abundant, where war abates and peace surrounds us. Imagine a world where there is more than sustenance for some and plenty for others. Imagine a world where life is valued by every culture and creed. Imagine that we can each “repair the world” with our deeds today, and ensure the future for your kids and mine tomorrow.

If I sound like a child of the 60s, it is because I am, but as a non profit “corporate” executive today, my feelings remain true to that era which is described in the statement below, and I hope that some of that idealism is  yet achievable, grounded as I am now in pragmatism after six decades of experience. Here is who we were in the 60’s according to one essayist on the web (author unknown):

“Teenagers were living dangerously and breaking away from the ideals that their parents held. In the process they created their own society (Burns 1990). They were young and had the nerve to believe that they could change the world. Their leaders had lofty goals as well. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had dreams of a truly equal America. John F. Kennedy dreamed of a young vigorous nation that would put a man on the moon. The youth wanted to live in a state of love, peace, and freedom (Gitlin 1987).”

We can still dream of change, of equality, of love, peace and freedom. We need only do nothing and the world will remain the same.

Every Opportunity Has Two Sides

 

Listening to a CBC radio interview one day recently I heard the following quote which struck me as speaking to the philosophy we promote at March of Dimes. Attributed to Winston Churchill, it was “With every opportunity there are difficulties, and with every difficulty, there are opportunities.” At March of Dimes Canada we have excelled at taking advantage of opportunities to do more for people with disabilities, even in challenging times and with limited resources or other difficulties, and with every change in the political landscape.

 

Colleagues are often amazed at the growth in operating budget and services that we provide. How when there have been recessions and economic downturns, government cutbacks, competition in fundraising and a shrinking donor base, has this agency grown? With the exception of two years in the last 30, and last year being one of them, we have exceeded all benchmark comparators. Since 1981, our 30th anniversary to 2011, our 60th year we have had 1950% growth.  Not accounting for inflation and a compounding effect, this is still extraordinary as over 1650 staff deliver services (we were 183 staff in 1981) to an ever increasing number of consumers with a growing range of programs.

 

The answer I believe is that we stay focused on our mission and vision and  practice “Planned Opportunism.” We are values based but not ideologically driven. We always work from both a 5 year Strategic Plan and an annual operating plan that aims to fulfill the 5 year plan. When other needs  or opportunities are presented, we incorporate them into the dynamic 5 year plan after careful consideration of their fit with our key goals and directions. We use every opportunity that is presented to fulfill the plan, such as partnerships, new funding  programs, volunteer initiatives, “adoption” of other programs, and a host of creative, innovative tactics. We do this because the needs of the constituents we serve, people with physical disabilities, are not static either. Demographics are changing and more people are surviving with severe disabilities. More people are living longer and acquiring disabilities at different stages of life. Chronic complex issues are arising. Those receiving our services often need increased service and need to access multiple services in the community. Thus, we are becoming increasingly, One Stop: Solutions forIndependence.

 

Research on quality of life factors generally support the notion of family and community being significant contributors to well being, not withstanding good medical care. We are here to develop family support, peer support, community supports and complement the other home and community supports available.

 

I am hoping to hear from  consumers and others who can tell me how they have benefitted from accessing services in the community from March of Dimes.

 

Best regards,

Andria