It is October and that can only mean one thing for runners; fall race season. There are several important races that happen this time of the year; such as the San Francisco Nike Women’s Half Marathon and the Chicago Marathon, but Toronto has its very own prestigious race this month that attracts legions of international runners every year. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has become a fan favourite because its “flat and fast” course, that leads to many PB’s and is also known as a traffic-free Boston Qualifier.
I had big plans for race season this year until they were interrupted with a chronic injury, but I still wanted to find a way to take part and also do some good for my community. Personally, what I love most about the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is the race’s charity component. The Scotiabank Charity Challenge allows runners to go the distance and raise funds/awareness for their favourite charity. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be able to use my voice and running to raise awareness for causes and my #ScotiaChallenge this year was to give back to the Children’s Wish Foundation.
Through my own personal health issues, I learned that happy and positive experiences when you’re sick can be just as effective as medicine (some argue even more so). Children’s Wish Foundation is dedicated to providing kids with life threatening illnesses the opportunity to have their biggest wishes come true. Since granting their first wish 30 years ago, the Foundation has gone on to grant over 22,000 wishes – with the largest amount granted by the Ontario Region Chapter.
I got to spend some time with the team at their office last week and had the pleasure of attending the organization’s largest private event at Mosport Racetrack during Thanksgiving weekend. In its 25th year, the Children’s Wish Foundation’s “Ride-Along”, in conjunction with Pfaff Automotive Partners, is an amazing event for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families where they get to experience the thrill of driving the infamous racetrack in some of the most expensive vehicles with local race car drivers.
I got to take a spin in the red Porsche 911 GT3 Turbo of event Co-Founder Dave Lacey, President and CEO of Brookfield RPS, on Sunday morning. While hitting the track’s apex’s like a pro and pushing the GT3 to speeds over 200 km/hour, Dave chatted with me about starting this event and his enjoyment working with Children’s Wish. “It’s been almost 25 years since I started this event with Jeff Pabst of Pfaff Motors. We saw something similar going on in the U.S. and thought we needed to do something here at home. We are happy to be able to provide this unique experience to these wonderful children. The day represents the opportunity for the kids to forget their pain and illness and focus on something fun and exciting with their families. The race car drivers donate their time and use of their vehicles just to see the smiles on these children’s faces.”
During the event I got a chance to meet a very special 7-year-old at the side of the track who was eagerly waiting for her second spin with her twin sister. Taylor Roberts was diagnosed with Leukemia almost two years ago to date and spent nearly half of this time in insolation in hospital, separated from her family, including her twin Alicia. I will be honest, I was drawn to this family right away when I found out the parents had twin girls who had two very different lives due to Taylor’s diagnosis. In fact, I had assumed that having one twin who was healthy, might have made it more difficult for the other that was facing a life threatening illness. Much to my surprise, the twin’s Mom, Wendy Roberts, explained that it was in fact the complete opposite. “They are best friends. Alicia has not only been Taylor’s rock during these last couple of years but has also been her life line to the outside world – reporting back to Taylor on what’s going on at school, etc., allowing her to feel more included than left out.” Within the last 24 months, Wendy was forced to quit her job as a Communications Specialist in the financial sector and her husband has taken a leave of absence from his job, made possible by his understanding employer. To call their situation stressful is by far an understatement, however; the family looks forward to day outings like these where they can enjoy the time together as a family.
Photography by Nathalia Allen of AMillionMinds.ca
The average cost per wish is approximately $10,000 and the Foundation is able to grant nearly three wishes every single day with the help of amazing volunteers and generous donors. It has been amazing to learn about the dreams that Children’s Wish is able to make come true through the individual adventures they create for each Wish Child. Children’s Wish is a national charity with provincial chapters across the country. For more information on the organization or to donate head to ChildrensWish.ca
Click here for more information on the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the Charity Challenge. Wishing all the runners and walkers the best of luck on October 18. Can’t wait to see some of you cross that finish line and raise money for causes close to your hearts.