Another Way I support March of Dimes

Diane Spindel and Andria Spindel

The photo was taken over 9 years ago; my mother passed away on December 25th, 2007. She and I were very close and I still miss her, and most especially when I am with my young adult children and think about all the pleasure they give me, and how much I want to share it with their grandmother. It has caused me to reflect on the many things I want to share, some of which is incorporated in this article I wrote a few years ago. The article was shared with our donors and will be part of our Legacy Newsletter this month. I am sharing it here as another way to bring my mother and her journey into my memory.

“My own mother became disabled when I was only five years old. Perhaps that, more than anything else, has helped me personally understand, in a most profound way, the importance of individuals maintaining their dignity and independence, no matter what the disability. It’s a core value that instructs our every decision here at March of Dimes Canada. This childhood experience deeply impacted my life choices. At age 34, having just started working at March of Dimes Canada, I took the unusual step at that time of making a Planned Gift to 4 charities through the purchase of a life insurance policy, designating the charities as beneficiaries. I understood that it was an inexpensive way for a young person like myself to make a significant difference, to give back in a meaningful way, even though it would only materialize decades later. For me, making a Planned Gift was also a way to honour several of the most important pillars of my life, to formalize these commitments: community, international development, Jewish life, and the inclusion of people with disabilities. It has been my privilege to work at March of Dimes Canada for almost 35 years. While I could not have known at 34, when I purchased my policy, that it would be such a long relationship, I did already know that working with and for people with disabilities was my calling.

Making a Planned Gift to March of Dimes Canada made so much sense to me. During my time here, I have seen the life transformations that come from the services our organization provides to people of all ages and stages of disability. I have met with thousands of people whose lives we have touched, helped to establish programs that address their needs, and seen how advocacy enables change. I have worked with a remarkable team at March of Dimes and know their commitment is a major contributor to the success of the services we provide to the community we serve. I believe in the future of March of Dimes Canada, in the future of an inclusive society and in the benefits of planning now to ensure tomorrow’s important work — and hope that others share these values.

If you have not yet done so, I would encourage everyone to check with a financial advisor to learn more about the benefits of a Planned Gift. In doing so, it’s my sincere hope that you will consider including March of Dimes Canada in your plans. Based on my personal experience, I’m convinced that you will find Planned Giving to be a most rewarding decision.”

Remembering a Friend or Loved One

Reuters/REUTERS - A woman places a poppy on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Reuters/REUTERS – A woman places a poppy on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

It’s the time of year, as Remembrance Day approaches, that many Canadians think back on lost or injured loved ones who fought for Canada in the last great War, or more recently in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, or in a number of support missions that engaged Canadian troops. What mostly comes up for me is the recollection that my father shared about his service in Canada’s air force during WWII, while stationed in England. He only once spoke of the horrors, saying he had held a friend who was hit by an enemy attack over England and died in his arms, but my father was part of the service and support, not one who flew in a fighter craft. My father, like so many of his generation,  preferred this his daughters never know of the real horrors of war, and that peace would be our lot in life, and the world would never again witness such trauma and destruction as war, especially the war that eliminated 6,000,000 Jews, as well as dealt death to people with disabilities, to Roma, to gays and lesbians and to other minorities that got in the way of Hitler’s vision of an Aryan race dominated world.

That wish, for perfect peace, has never been fulfilled.  Much of the world has experienced various horrors related to wars, but events of the past week have awakened Canadians to what could be, what must never be, a war at home.

We were all aghast at the murder of two Canadian soldiers in two separate terror attacks, shocked by the senseless violence, by the probable association with an ideology that attempts to trump all others, as did Nazism, Communism, Fascism. We are all afraid to speak of it, afraid of being labelled, but that does not improve anything. An ideology is not a person or a people, it is a belief system and in this case, one that is attempting to impose its will on other people, and to eliminate those who disagree. But I write not to debate any religion, belief system, political ideology, but to point out the humanity of individual Canadians and how that binds us.

As the shots rang out in Ottawa, one of the five people that ran towards the Canadian War Memorial to assist the fallen soldier, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, was Barbara Winters, a former Canadian naval reservist who had served as a medical assistant, and now a lawyer in the government, who recounted her story on CBC radio. Not only did Ms Winters and the others perform CPR and other procedures in an attempt to save Corporal Cirillo’s life, but she did a most heroic, kind and caring act. She began telling him how much he was  loved and how proud everyone was of him.

“I kept telling him repeatedly that he was loved, that he was a brave man,” said Winters through tears. “I said look at what you were doing — you were guarding the dead. You were standing at the cenotaph. I said we’re all so proud of you, your parents are so proud of you, I said your family loves you, everybody here that’s working on you loves you.”

This selfless, simple act, was so profound, so deeply felt, so amazing. Her spontaneous response, to speak of love, brought me to tears just listening to the newscast. I heard Barbara Winters, in tears herself, recounting what came to her mind and why she did this. She spoke of two things: sharing such a message of love when she sat by the bedside of one of her beloved parents, even knowing the person was already in a coma, she still sent messages of love, believing she was heard, and secondly, she spoke of her conviction that everyone is loved, by someone or even many people. Love, is a message that one should take unto one’s death. She did not want our innocent Canadian soldier to feel alone, to feel only his pain, to die without being reassured of his being loved.
Of course, we have come to know how very much Corporal Cirillo was loved, and of the love he has earned from across the spectrum of Canadians, young and old, coast to coast.

So, now think, have you reminded all the people in your life how much you love them? Are you remembering friends, family, fallen or forgotten allies whom you love or loved? Sometimes, we have to give ourselves the love we might not have received, that we can attribute to someone who maybe did not know how to show it, be it a parent, a child, a spouse. As Barbara Winters said, no one should be without love and no one should die lonely, alienated, feeling unloved.

As we approach Remembrance Day, may we all find peace and love, and think of our Canadian troops who sacrifice all for the security of our country, for peace in the world, and so that we may freely express our love for one another.

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

What might each of us give up?

What are we willing to give up, in order to have a safer community,  to make improvements in the lives of others less fortunate, or to ensure clean drinking water for years to come, or  maybe to ensure our cultural values as Canadians remain entrenched or enshrined? These are some of the questions Canadians might ask  because everything is not affordable or achievable with a tick of a ballot. Having just voted federally and with  an Ontario election in the offing this year, do people really think that a vote will bring about all the solutions? My contention is that no one party has all the answers, and no one party is all right or all wrong. We are all, citizens and residents alike, building a society. Everyone’s contribution counts, and sometimes it means giving up something in order to get something. On a societal scale, it might be time to consider what we really need or want and how much we will “give up” to get it, rather than how hard we will demand it.

At March of Dimes Canada we value all manifestations of accessibility for people with disabilities and equitable opportunity. We place value on  people, regardless of their individual abilities. It sometimes means we have to rethink how things are to be done to ensure access, choosing only physical locations that do not have barriers, revamping material to be more accessible for  some readers, being very courteous to assist others, giving people more time to complete a task, redesigning activities for those less physically capable. Our work always includes asking questions about how things might be done by someone with a disability. Thus we were involved in the Toronto municipal elections last year when the City tested voting machines that enable people with disabilities to place a vote independently. We provided an accessible polling station and material to help educate first time voters on the process.

Thinking through our priorities as individuals, as communities, as a total society is essential. Can we come to recognizable commonalities of purpose and a vision of our society? None of us have all the answers so I recommend taking the time to discuss questions with all of one’s colleagues, family, friends about what one wants and what one will give up to achieve it. For March of Dimes it is somewhat simple. We want people to create inclusiveness and that sometimes means changing plans, going slowly, listening differently, making accommodations. However, it always means valuing all people, seeing the “ability” and not the “disability.”

Canada 2011 – election, democracy and disability

The federal election campaigning is well underway and all parties are jockeying for position with the Canadian electorate. Most Canadians will see the current national environment as rather “ho hum” with one pundit stating the only issue seems to be whether or not you are in favour of their being an election.

Democracy cannot be taken lightly so it is in everyone’s interest to participate and be informed. People are literally dying in North Africa and the Middle East for the right to have a democracy and a free vote. Some of us forget that our forebears also fought and died for democracy. It is a fragile state of affairs at the best of times and fraught with problems most of the time. But it is, in my view, better than most alternatives.

Voting in and of itself does not make for a democracy. Remember that well informed and educated people have voted in communism, fascism, statism, socialism, imperialism, colonialism, and supported sexism, racism, and other manifestations of barbarism (my term.) So, being an informed electorate is work. Being an engaged citizen is work. Being involved in the democratic process, such that one supports an open, equitable system for all citizens, does require one to be informed and engaged. That all citizens don’t have equal access to information, to services, to the polls is a concern of March of Dimes Canada.

We want to hear about issues that affect our most vulnerable citizens, people with disabilities, frail elderly people, those living below the poverty line (which is over % of people with disabilities.) Here are some of the positive measures that were announced in the federal budget that failed to get approval in the federal parliament:

  • Family tax credit of $2,000 to commence 2012
  • Medical expense tax credit to be increased
  • Top up of GIS for low income seniors

Are these policies that you support? What other policies would you like to see in the next budget? What are the policies that you would ask the candidates to address. Staff at March of Dimes will sort through your comments and share the feedback and over the next few weeks we will elaborate on issues that we think are of prime importance to our constituency.