Kitchener pediatrician raises over $250,000 for children with cancer

As written for Kitchener Today

Jodi Rosner is a local pediatrician who always knew she would work with children.

Raised among three brothers, by a single mom, her role as big sister became that of a mentor. While teaching her youngest sibling to read and write she would find her passion.

“I was nine-years-old when I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician,” she recalls.

As a teen she started a small business, teaching children dance. She would then go on to coach soccer for young girls, “I always was telling them that they could do whatever they wanted to in life. One mom came up to me at the end of the season and told me that I was the only reason that her daughter was signing up for soccer the following year.”

While in medical school Rosner says she remained open to opportunities. “It was always the kids that I came back to. Their innocence, honesty, and their trust in people is amazing,” she says.

Early on in her career, she recalls facing her share of obstacles. “When I started working as a pediatrician in this community, I was one of only two women. It has been a challenge for women to have their voice heard – in a profession that had been primarily men.”

All of the children she’s worked with have left an impression, one that would lead to the creation of the Kitchener Kids with Cancer Run/Walk

“The very first patient who walked through my practice doors was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer. My connection to this boy was deeper than the typical doctor-patient relationship. This boy lived in my neighborhood, went to the school my kids attended and had siblings that my children grew to know. Making house calls, to care for this boy at the end of his life, being in his home and seeing his family really highlights how cancer is a disease that affects the whole family.”

While running a marathon, and struggling with her own determination to finish, she came up with the idea to start a run for children with cancer. She says while she found running challenging it made her think about what the kids in her care go through. “Needles, chemotherapy, surgeries, procedures, missing school, parties and friends. All this is much tougher than any pain that I endured in my life.”

She recalls crossing the finish line and already having the blueprint for her race.

In five short years, her race has raised over $250,000 for the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO). “Other cancer charity organizations provide funding for adult patients, kids are often forgotten. POGO is a strictly pediatric organization so it was the perfect match.”

Lynn Wilson, Chief Development Officer at POGO says they are honoured to be the recipient – “funds raised support some of POGO’s top funding priorities, including financial assistance to families, academic and employment counselling for survivors, and cutting-edge research.”

It takes a village.

Rosner says the longevity and success of her vision belong to a committee of devoted people. “I have families who have fought and won the battle with childhood cancer, families that unfortunately lost their battle, medical students, family friends, and of course we have Run Waterloo on the committee.”

Going forward, she hopes to see the race become provincial – supporting all eight POGO clinics.

The event isn’t just a run/walk. Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers are a favourite. This year, Deadpool is joining in on the fun. Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Chief of Police, Bryan Larkin as well as the Kitchener Rangers and CHYM FM will be in attendance.

This year’s event takes place on September 8, find out more here

As written for Kitchener Today

After almost suffering the loss of his foot, and being told he’d likely never walk properly again, Paul Jankura is embarking on the ride of his life. Departing August 31, he plans to cycle from Kitchener to Newfoundland in just 12 days.

Jankura is riding to raise funds for his friend, and self-described brother, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) around the same time as his accident.

“On August 6th, 2017, I was involved in a workplace accident that temporarily severed my foot and left me fighting to keep my leg,” he recalls. It was during this time that his friend, diagnosed with MS at 27, began to experience worsening symptoms.

“I want to use what I have learned through my challenges to lift my brother up during his.”

According to the MS Society of Canada, Canadians have the highest rate of MS diagnoses in the world. While it is most often diagnosed in young adults, aged 20 to 49, younger children and older adults are also diagnosed with the disease.

Every day three Canadians are diagnosed with MS, an unpredictable illness that affects vision, balance, memory, and mobility.

Jankura says he was lucky, “if my blood vessels had not remained intact, the trauma surgeons might not have been able to reattach everything.” He says his journey began after waking up from surgery and realizing his foot was still attached. “I looked to someone like Josh, who couldn’t just do physio and cure his condition – yet remained positive, looking toward the future. This encouraged me to stay positive and focus on rehabilitation.”

His rehabilitation would take 16-months.

As he grew stronger, with each physiotherapy session, he watched his childhood friend become weaker. It was during this transition that he realized he needed to focus on something much bigger than himself.

“During this time, I realized that I could do more to help others. To be their inspiration, to lift their spirit or to just use my new-found passion for good.”

A major part of his rehabilitation was cycling, “hopping on a bike, concentrating and riding helps to deal with not only the physical, but also mental symptoms left behind from my accident.” The decision to cycle to raise funds and awareness for Josh became a clear path, for both of them, to begin to heal.

For Jankura, by choosing to change his mindset and take less for granted, Ride for Vibes was born. “I will bike out to the East Coast, making my way through Sydney, Nova Scotia, where Josh was born and will finish my journey in Cape Spear, Newfoundland – the furthest East I can travel by bike.”

Josh will have to make large purchases to accommodate his condition throughout his life. This fundraiser will help alleviate some of the worry about where the money to make these purchases will come from.

“It’s who we are as Canadians,” says Jankura.

The ride has meant a year of planning, mapping out routes that will keep him off major highways.  A quote he once heard provides inspiration to keep moving, ‘be naive enough to start, but stubborn enough to finish.’ 

He plans to bike 300 km a day for 12 days straight.

Funds donated will be put into a trust for Josh, a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to the M.S Society of Canada. His personal goal is to raise $100,000 for MS Canada and Josh – so far, he’s raised over $20,000.

You can follow Jankura’s training and his Ride to Conquer MS on Instagram and make a donation at https://ca.gofundme.com/paul039s-bike-ride-to-conquer-ms

Digital minimalism: the future of social media.

Published by Kitchener Today

There’s a new trend in town, one that promises engaging conversations – minus sneaky glimpses at phones. Digital minimalism is driven by a quest for tranquility and inner contentment – but what will this detachment mean to those who make a living online?

Local influencer, Azra Gregor – mindset coach, blogger and owner of Matrescend – says she “began as a mom blogger who wrote honest reflections of the many ups and downs of motherhood – something that wasn’t all too common back in 2015. That niche has exploded since then and I begin to feel a pull to expand on the topics I discussed online.”

Rather than measuring her personal success based on the number of followers she has she says, “it’s the one-on-one connections. I find that I’ve gathered many new friends and genuine connections, so it has never felt like a job to me.”

“It is a universal truth that less people will see your post in their feed than they did 2-3 years ago, however; which translates to a lesser amount of likes per post. I simply see it as change, not less success.”

How has/will Instagram’s removal of ‘likes’ change your business?

I think that there are a million factors at play when it comes to how well a business will do. That said, I’m not too concerned about “likes” being removed – it’s an artificial showing of how many people truly connected to your post. I know my message will still resonate with those it is meant to.

What does the future hold for online influencers?

There are so many people working with brands and writing blogs these days that it’s hard to keep up! I don’t think that will stop. But I do think that more people will get tired of the inauthenticity of sponsored posts and try to niche down to make more meaningful connections. At one point we all have to realize there’s a social responsibility we have to the public and our kids regarding what kind of content we produce.

What would you say to your followers who wish to take a break from social media?

Just do it! Start with a few days and lead up to a week. If it makes you terribly anxious, it’s probably a sign that you’re letting it affect you too much.

What do you love the most/dislike the most about social media?

What I love about social media is the potential it has to connect like-minded people so they feel less alone. What I dislike is the power it has to influence massive amounts of people and how it’s turning into a marketing platform.

Will you regulate your children’s access to social media?

In my world, the kids won’t have a phone until they’re at least 11. That means no tablets for my toddlers. We’ll see how realistic that is when the time comes! They’re still little.

What is online authenticity?

We don’t realize how much is a produced show with people as actors – which is fine for entertainment purposes. What I have an issue with is when people start jumping on bandwagons solely based on what someone has said or promoted – that doesn’t sit well with me. Meet these people in real life before going and changing your entire diet or wardrobe based on what one person eats or wears. The danger with following influencers and trends online is that critical thinking often goes out the window.

Azra is speaking, on this topic, on June 13 at The Causerie in Kitchener.

The search for meaningful employment: jobs with impact

Written for Kitchener Today

There’s an old saying that goes, “do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”

Careers in social responsibility are becoming top priority for job seekers.

To be able to support yourself financially while doing something you feel passionate about is no longer a pipe dream. Employment opportunities in roles that include sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are allowing job seekers to align their career goals with their personal values.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 68% say that CEOs should take the lead on change, rather than waiting for government to impose it. There’s been a shift in whom the public deems as trustworthy, with media and government suffering most. Canadians expect businesses to advocate, and as a result this has created employment opportunities in CSR and Sustainability.

From grassroots administrations to organizations who use their brand power to foster change – there’s an emerging work trend that hinges on the importance of a work-life balance, encouraging employees to examine their own core values, while creating opportunities to find meaning in the 9-5.

According to a survey done by IPSOS Reid and Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) 68% of the Canadian public is paying attention to issues related to corporate social responsibility.

Heather Mak has been working in sustainability for over a decade. Her self-named consulting business, Heather Mak Consulting, was founded on the intentions of acting as an agent of change for sustainability, in food and consumer goods.  She says, “businesses can use their scale and voice to make changes that can affect the everyday lives of people.”

With almost 70% of Canadians as an active and engaged audience, internal CSR opportunities encourages employee satisfaction, increases public reputation, and stimulates support from stakeholders.

Earning a sustainable living, while genuinely loving the process, was once reserved for the elite few. Leaping out of bed in the morning, anticipating the day ahead, wasn’t something the average human could afford. Dream jobs were for those who were either born into them or had the good fortune of becoming wealthy – but meaningful work is no longer wishful thinking, it’s a human right.

Unique job opportunities include cause marketing, communications, ethical hacking, impact investing, engagement, and philanthropy roles. Experience levels embrace entry-level, to senior leadership roles – with commitment levels encompassing everything from part-time, to full-time and even work from home.

CSR roles rarely necessitate nonprofit experience, but requirements do include some variation of communications or marketing experience, as well as a form of secondary education – a fraction require a Master’s degree.

Do what you love and you will never dread another Monday. Here’s how to get started with your own meaningful job search:

Welcome to the career site that helps you connect purpose & paycheque. (Yes, it’s a thing). Resources, job listings, and profiles of companies where you can bring your values to work. Canada-wide job listings.

Find your next position on Canada’s favourite site for nonprofit professionals. The CharityVillage Knowledge Centre is where you can find free resources to help guide your career in the nonprofit sector along with industry news and information about CharityVillage.

Canada’s premier environmental job board. Environmental Careers Organization of Canada (ECO Canada) is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1992 to help nurture Canada’s growing environmental sector.

A sampling of such job postings, from across Canada, found recently on Monster.ca. They’re listed in ascending order of experience required, from none to five years or more.

Top 20 Corporate Social Responsibility jobs in Ontario. 

Grand River Hospital’s POGO Satellite Clinic: a place of healing for local children battling cancer.

Written for and published by Kitchener Today

Beyond the revolving doors, past the wheelchairs, resides the entrance to the POGO Satellite Clinic. Like a parent’s bedside after a bad dream, it’s a place where children go to feel safe. These children are battling cancer. The clinic is one of eight in Ontario.

Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) offers financial assistance to families to help ease some of the burdens associated with a childhood cancer diagnosis. POGO Satellite Clinics bring care closer to home for these families, also easing the burden of travel.

POGO Satellite Clinic Coordinator, and Resource Nurse for Children’s Outpatient Clinic, Cristina Peter has been with Grand River Hospital for eight years, “this was always where I wanted to be, in pediatric oncology.” She describes the best part of the job as “seeing the kids coming in looking well – able to receive their treatment, leave, and return to school.”

“Kids go through this and it’s the hardest journey of their lives, but many times they’re happy, singing, dancing and playing. It’s just amazing.”

The GRH POGO Satellite Clinic is the only hospital that sees children from all three tertiary centers; The Hospital for Sick Children, London Health Sciences and McMaster Children’s Hospital. Kids come to the clinic for anything from bloodwork, to chemotherapy. Clinic staff remain in communication with pediatric oncologists from the referral hospital.

Peter says all of the children are special to her, although; the ones that are diagnosed in the clinic hold an extra emotional connection. “Jonathan (J.T.) is one of the many families in our area that came in with symptoms and was diagnosed in our clinic. So, we were there when he had his first bloodwork done and results come in. Watching the family go through a cancer diagnosis is heartbreaking, but at the same time when you see them coming back feeling well and happy then it just helps us deal with the grief as well.”

Leanne Kukla, J.T.’s mom, recalls their cancer journey, “J.T. hadn’t been well for months but we didn’t know what it was.” Eventually they were referred to Sick Kids. On January 31, 2018 Jonathan’s family received a cancer diagnosis; non-Hodgkins’s T cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, stage 3. He was 10.

Childhood cancer affects the entire family. During critical stages of his treatment, J.T. and his mom lived at the Ronald McDonald House, in Toronto – separated from his dad and sister; Amber. Once he was in the intermittence phase, he was referred to the GRH POGO Satellite Clinic.

Again, they found themselves facing fear of change, “we were comfortable with the team in Toronto. We didn’t know what to expect or who we’d be working with.”

During their first visit they met Cristina. Leanne knew it was going to be ok when J.T. turned to her and said, “you know I think it’s going to be nice here.”

With treatment now 15 minutes from home, J.T. can attend school and sleeps soundly in his own bed – under the same roof as his mom, dad and sister.

“I can do anything, pretty much. I play hockey, I have a tournament this weekend, I’m excited for that.”

The Kukla family has also accessed POGO’s financial support – including meals and accommodations. “It’s not something you expect to have to spend, you have to and you don’t think twice about it but having the extra support, it’s been helpful.”

J.T. is in treatment until June 2020.

Find out more about POGO here.

KW Run for POGO happens early fall, find out more here.

Leanne Kukla, J.T. and Cristina Peter (left to right)