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

How the owner of Juici Yoga used her struggle with poverty, domestic abuse and racism to inspire change

Students are taught to consider how they move in the world, and whom they affect. “I live by the words of Maya Angelou “I come as One, but I stand as 10,000.”

Written for Kitchener Today

Selam Debs, owner of Juici Yoga, has become a voice for the voiceless in our community. Her empathy stems from personal hardships most of us could hardly fathom.

By hosting events like the Femcare Health Initiative, Inclusivity Diversity, Social Justice courses and Woke Women’s events, she heals.

Born in Amman, Jordan to Ethiopian parents – who left their birthplace due to conflict – she arrived in Canada at two-years of age.

Her parents would soon divorce, leading her to be raised by her mother who took on multiple low-paying jobs to stay afloat.

Molested when she was just nine-years-old, she would then be raped by two men, in the same night, at the age of 16.

“I experienced poverty, systemic racism, abuse and fear-based living.”

Debs relocated to Waterloo Region as a teenager. As an escape from reality, she would daydream about becoming a famous singer/songwriter. She would eventually find herself working with producers in the U.S., but her path would again lead her elsewhere when she found out she was pregnant. “The biological father walked away when I was six months pregnant and I became a single mother,” at the age of 21

Life experience, for Debs, would create a tireless empathy towards those who struggle. “I believe my purpose is to elevate the hearts and souls of those who are most marginalized, those who feel forgotten, to create spaces that feel safe and to share my story, unapologetically.”

She returned to K-W to raise her son and took a corporate job – soon realizing this wasn’t a path that would serve her, “it felt as if I was selling my soul.”

She describes finding her awakening during an abusive marriage, saying she became “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” During their separation, and later divorce, she studied to become a yoga teacher, became a Holistic Life Coach, and purchased Juici Yoga.  

Juici became her safe space to begin to “interrupt and end the generational cycle of abuse, poverty and fear. “Through my own healing and self-reflection, I am able to impact a generation of little girls and boys, and raise a new generation of hearts and minds to overcome their own personal history.”

Together, with her clients, they discover fullest potential.

She says she took over the studio when the opportunity literally fell into her lap. “I was going through a toxic divorce and the most overwhelming time of my life. At first, I taught almost all the classes as I couldn’t afford to hire more teachers. Clients left as they were not happy with the change – a common result of new business ownership.”

She rebranded and regained the trust of her clients and community.

Her practice, like her purpose-driven life, focuses on the importance of diversity, inclusivity and social justice. Students are of all backgrounds, ethnicities, body types, religions and creeds. “We support, and celebrate, initiatives such a Pride & LGBTQ+, FemCare Health Initiative for Menstrual Health and Equity, Black Lives Matter movements, Sexual Assault Centre of Waterloo, and African Camp.”

Students are taught to consider how they move in the world, and whom they affect. “I live by the words of Maya Angelou “I come as One, but I stand as 10,000.”

Embracing the power of storytelling Debs was instrumental in co-building the Woke Women’s Event, showcasing an army of diverse women in our community through TED talk style delivery of music, dance, and poetry. This sold-out event was the first of its kind in Waterloo Region featuring keynote speaker Marva Wisdom director of the Black Experience Project and co-founder of Canadian Black History Projects.

You can join Selam and explore the healing power of community here

Take a break from hating your body, it’s International No Diet Day

Written for and published by Kitchener Today

Toss the scale, abandon the calorie count and break out the elastic waistbands, it’s International No Diet Day (INDD).

INDD was introduced as an effort to educate the dangers of dieting, emphasize the importance of eating for health, not weight-loss – and encourage body positivity. Stacey Reinsma, Social Worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association says, “people typically diet in an attempt to change and control their bodies, and by promoting a day where they don’t do this, we are encouraging them to let their bodies be as they are.” 

Knowing that most diets fail, and result in disordered eating and eating disorders, Waterloo-Wellington Eating Disorders Coalition (WWEDC) has been promoting INDD for the last 10 years. They do so by reaching out to local store owners, asking them to display messages in storefront windows that encourage alternatives to dieting. This year, WWEDC has distributed to approximately 100 stores in Guelph, Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo, and St. Jacobs.

Debra Joseph is the owner of Twice is Nice, Twice the Man, in Uptown Waterloo. She has been participating for five years by placing the signs in her front window and on mirrors in dressing rooms. “We leave them up year-round. It’s just nice to send a positive message to women of all shapes and sizes. We hear so many beautiful women come out of change room with negative messaging and body shaming. We want to reinforce a positive way of looking at themselves.”

WWEDC says when storefronts participate than anyone who walks down the street sees a positive message wherever they look.  They believe that participation will help onlookers feel better about themselves after seeing these messages.

“This doesn’t mean we have to like or love our bodies, but rather we choose a stance of being ok with our bodies that can deeply impact how we engage in our lives and with others,” says Reinsma.

April Gates, registered Social Worker with The Wellness Collaborative and member of WWEDC adds, “store keepers, locally, welcome this one-week campaign and have received many positive comments from the public, applauding the body positive/affirmative messages that are so rarely broadcast in our present-day oppressive diet culture.”

This year, in addition to window signs, WWEDC are also providing stickers for shop owners to place on changeroom mirrors. The positive messaging decals include: “Take a vacation from hating your body.” “Change your mind, not your body.” “Be a good role model – say positive things about your body.” “26, 000 diets have been invented. None work.” “Don’t fight your genes, just change your jeans.”  “Confidence is beautiful. There is no ideal body” and “It takes a lot of willpower to give up dieting!”

Waterloo Region residents are encouraged to participate in the INDD body positivity awareness campaign. Residents can raise their voices on social media, by posting messages throughout the day and joining the fight against dieting, body-shaming and eating disorders using the hashtags: #edrecovery #eatingdisorderrecovery #nodieting #antidiet #losehatenotweight #bodypositive #healthateverysize #HAES #internationalnodietday

Joseph, of Twice is Nice, reiterates her desire to “gently reinforce a positive approach to looking at ourselves. One little store won’t fight the social media tsunami, little grains of sand won’t build a mountain. It’s shocking how many beautiful women need to be more compassionate to themselves. Love yourself, just as you are – not 20 pounds from now.”

For more information on eating disorders, size acceptance and the Health at Every Size movement, check out the following websites: National Eating Disorder Information Centre; Waterloo-Wellington Eating Disorders Coalition; or Healthy At Every Size.

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 They’re listed in ascending order of experience required, from none to five years or more.

Top 20 Corporate Social Responsibility jobs in Ontario.