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.”

A Year of Firsts

In June I had an opportunity to conduct my first celebrity interview. Alan Thicke, Canadian icon who sings, acts, writes, moderates shows and performs on many stages, was the featured celebrity at this year’s Ability and Beyond Gala, and I was invited to interview him prior to his performance. This took place after several professional interviews with external media so I wondered if Alan would still want to respond to questions, and developed some that might not have been asked.

Alan Thicke is a warm, kind and generous man who speaks lovingly of his sons and extended family. He’s still grateful for his early years in Elliot Lake, Ontario. He believes the private business sector must partner with charitable organizations and government to care for people with special needs.  He spoke of the  many ways in which collaboration take place, and this plus his funny, witty portrayal of caregiving, was the substance of his presentation at the 350 person Gala on June 13th.

I invite you to look at photos and listen to my first ever recorded interview, and enjoy a few minutes with Alan Thicke, http://bit.ly/16JnlYb

This interview is now chalked up for me as a first, along with the following that I’ve participated in since December 2012: my bat mitzvah, volunteering with the IDF, giving a Convocation speech, going on a five day bike trip, and soon going on a three day canoe trip. As I approach another milestone birthday I’ve decided to keep creating firsts for myself . I would also hope to  continue  to create firsts for March of Dimes.

On May 8, 2013 Ontario March of a Dimes actually ceased to exist as the name of our non profit corporation, and we officially became March of Dimes Canada. Much more will be said about this historic change in the months to come. Suffice it to say that we met all the legal requirements to continue under the new Canada Non Profit Corporations Act and are now registered federally. This allows the consolidation of all programs and services, administration and fundraising, under one brand, March of Dimes Canada.

This past year we inaugurated our first transportation service, MODMobility, launched Peers Fostering Hope for stroke survivors, raised funds through our US affiliate, Rehabilitation Foundation for Disabled Persons  US in partnership with the Canada California Business Council, became a founding member of BADIN, the Bridging Aging and Disability International Network, and developed an important national partnership with Pennzoil, sponsor of our 13 Rock for Dimes battle of the bands events across Canada.  March of Dimes Canada experienced its most successful financial year ever in fiscal 2012-13 and completed many milestones, including adoption of a new 5 year Strategic Plan, Lifespan Community Living.

These results and more will be told in our annual report which will be online the end of September.  I invite readers of this blog to visit our website again after our AGM on September 27th to read the report, www.marchofdimes.ca  In the meantime, I invite you to think about Firsts in your life, and never stop creating them. It’s wonderful to try novel things, to experience new places, activities and relationships. Make every year a Year of Firsts.

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

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.”

Happy 60th Anniversary March of Dimes Canada!

The year 2011 presents another unique and wonderful opportunity to celebrate the success of our organization over many years, and most importantly, the accomplishments of people with disabilities and their pursuit of equity, opportunity and justice.

For 60 years March of Dimes has operated in Canada, first to end the scourge of polio, and then to provide rehabilitative programs for those with severe disabilities. Then in the 60s, we helped organize civil rights advocacy initiatives with people with disabilities. Through the 70s we developed many programs at the grassroots level and by the 80s we expanded our service offerings, funded local advocacy initiatives, trained leaders from the “consumer movement,” and transformed into a regionally organized, but still provincial organization. In 2001, we linked with other organizations across Canada to celebrate our 50th anniversary, and by 2004, we were incorporated as a national charity offering programs outside of Ontario.

Since 2006, Ontario March of Dimes has been in the process of rebranding as March of Dimes Canada and we are very excited that now, in 2011, we have rebranded many of our activities and all of our fundraising. Our corporate board is working on a governance model that will facilitate a shift from being a provincial agency to a national one, but from this month forward, our work will be as one entity, March of Dimes Canada.

So, celebrate many aspects of our history and our future, as the lead community-based rehabilitation organization, strong on advocacy, service and innovative programs. Visit our website frequently for updates on all our activities and allow me to speak with you regularly also.

Best wishes,
Andria Spindel,
President and CEO March of Dimes Canada