Tag: Giving

Swim With Santa Event Splashes With Joyous Spirit

We had the pleasure of attending the Swim with Santa event which was done by Aqua-Tots Swim School in Mississauga.

This was a member-exclusive event which was an all-ages and complimentary with the annual membership to the school. It is one of many great perks of registering at Aqua-Tots Swim Schools.

The event was on Saturday, December 2nd from 2pm to 4pm and we were excited to go, especially Nikki who just adores going to swim school.

We arrived a little early which gave us some time to settle. We couldn’t help notice how beautiful and festive the swim school was decorated. They did not miss a single detail, from the candy cane shaped balloons at the front entrance to the festive décor at each activity section.

Our first stop was to drop off our non-perishable food donations for the Mississauga Food Bank which Aqua-Tots Swim School was collecting. Nikki happily placed our donation in the box and we were ready to see what to do next!

Nikki of course sat right at the arts and crafts station as it was her opportunity to get creative before Santa arrived. Nikki made a snowman ornament, coloured an Ollie with Santa page, and made a snowman mask. She had a blast!

Santa soon arrived and Nikki was in disbelief that he made it all the way to her swim school. Nikki was awfully shy so she opted out to take a photo with Santa. However, the pool was open for the family swim and Nikki was very excited to swim with her daddy (my husband , Mike).

It was so wonderful to see them both go into the swimming pool and Nikki showing her daddy all the skills that she has learned during swim class. They had such a wonderful time swimming together and Santa even made an appearance on deck to say hello to all the children with their families (please note that Santa did not go in the swimming pool, hehe).  Even though I was only a spectator, I couldn’t help feel the joyous spirit with the Christmas music playing in the background and watching all the families having so much fun. There was a holiday story corner where you can hear your favourite holiday story, a festive photo booth with props to capture your moment at the event and there was also a relay game where you need to help Santa deliver his gifts. All of these activities combined made it such an amazing event.

Not only did this event encompass all the fun from the holidays but it captured the spirit! Aqua-Tots Swim Schools showed the true spirit of the season by collecting non-perishable food items for the Mississauga Food Bank and they were also selling Ollie ornaments (Ollie is their official Otter mascot and the ornaments were created by one of the staff members – talk about talent!) which proceeds from the sale was benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters Charity. The true spirit of the season is giving and that is exactly what Aqua-Tots Swim Schools was doing on this fine Saturday afternoon.

Of course we had to purchase one and we have proudly hung it on our tree at home.

Above all, we had an amazing time at this very special event. We enjoyed every piece of it and the best take away for us was doing it together as a family. As we left the event, my husband turned to me and said that this was the best afternoon! He got to spend some real quality time with Nikki and this is everything that he ever wanted. Hearing that made my day as it was so nice to see them bond as my husband works different shifts and sometimes long hours so quality time is hard to do. This event gave that opportunity and it was just so much fun!

Remember that if you are looking to enroll your child in a swimming school, Aqua-Tots Swim Schools would be a great choice as they offer these types of events that really bring the community together.

Also make sure to follow them on Facebook to see what’s new.

Until next…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga


 

 

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Kidpreneur Making A Difference Through The Nice Bench

It always amazes me to see young people wanting to make a difference in the world and it is empowering to see them make an impact. This rings true to Owen who is already making a difference in his community and his inspiration came from his own family.

Imagine being a parent and told that your child has Leukemia. Sounds like a horrible nightmare, doesn’t it?! The Armstrong family had this happen to them when their nine year old son, Caden, was diagnosed with Leukemia. This family battled and stayed strong together. Now their other son, Owen makes benches and uses the proceeds to help other families travel to get treatment for their child.

We got a chance to chat with Owen and his mother Kirstin who gave us a deeper look at The Nice Bench Co. So grab your tissues and enjoy this inspiring story!

1. How did it all start? How was the idea developed?

“The inspiration for the benches came when Owen built and painted a bench for his little sister, Anikka. His grandparents and auntie loved Anikka’s new bench so much, that Owen was fueled to make more. He built twelve with scrap wood on Christmas Day! Those first bench prototypes were a little rough-looking, but the idea was born.”

2. What type of products does your company do?

“I get some help from a local high school student, named Ryan. He helps me build my nice benches. I have created three lines for these benches, “curious”, “wild” and “happy” – all words my mom uses to describe me! The “curious” line is basically anything I feel like doing, right now I’m really still in to stripes. The “wild” is roughed-up so it looks like it’s been out in the wild (rustic charm) and the “happy” line is solid paint in one of the milk paint colours I have chosen. There’s a big colour palette to choose from.” – Owen

“The step stools are painted using non-toxic, biodegradable, zero VOC milk paint and sealed with 100% natural hemp oil which often comes to us by way of donation from a Canadian company, Homestead House.

Curious
Wild
Happy

 

Owen has expanded his collection to include custom name plates and growth charts, and his step stools are now morphing into actual three-seater benches. We have some custom orders, with custom sizes for these that we are creating. Very exciting.

Every month, we try something new. Last month, in honour of childhood cancer awareness, we created a solid gold bench – the #gogold bench. This month we are featuring some artists work on the benches and later we will be doing something with Halloween inspired colour treatment.

BRIKA

Owen has some exclusive projects on the go for BRIKA (an online platform showcasing and selling heirloom quality artisan craft) and another: a screen-printed “THRIVE” bench for the ever-inspiring MAX LOVE PROJECT (a non-profit that aims to maximize quality of life and reduce serious health risks for all childhood cancer survivors with fierce foods and whole-body wellness).”

THRIVE

3. With the proceeds from the sales, how does it help families with children who are getting cancer care treatments?

“For every product sold, Owen collects $5-$10 ($5 from the sale of name plates and growth charts, and $10 from every bench) and purchases gas gift cards for childhood cancer families traveling long distances to Sick Kids Hospital for chemotherapy treatment.

One quarter of families of children being treated for cancer lose 40% of their total household income. Over 50% of mothers reported relinquishing their employment to provide care for their child. (Source: Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center)

Loss of income is huge, then add up all the extra hidden costs of medicine, childcare, meals on the road. Takes a toll on the family. Owen is hoping to offset that in the little way he can – by paying for the families to get their child to treatment.”

4. Can you describe what your family went through when your child was diagnosed and getting treatment?

“There are no words. Utter shock. A surreal, out-of-body experience. Our eldest boy, Caden was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of nine. What? Kids don’t get cancer.

It is so cliché to say that our world was turned up-side-down but it truly was. Pure chaos. We had just moved three hours north of the city and were set up to live on an island for the summer when we found out we had to turn around and relocate to be near Sick Kids, in Toronto. We had nowhere to go. A family of five. Thankfully, friends and family (our community/life-support) helped us out in ways that go way above and beyond. An expecting couple gave us their home for the summer, we had meals delivered, activities set up for our other two children, the list goes on-and-on. Incredible. We are beyond thankful for their help, it brings tears to my eyes.

Watching Caden endure years of treatment, lumbar punctures, complications, IVs…gutted me. This nightmare has shaved years off my life. I’m sure of it. Despite it all, I was determined to remain positive and happy and strong for Caden. I think he was doing the same for me. He remained stoic, fierce and next-level brave through it all.”

5. Is there any advice that you can provide to other parents who are going through what you have gone through?

“I attached zero negativity to the cancer. I only wanted glowing, positive energy around him. It’s tough, especially in the middle of the night when all is quiet, but I wouldn’t let myself spiral into that abyss of darkness and let my mind go “there.” Mind over matter.

Mind Over Medicine by M.D. Lissa Rankin is all about the power of thought. This book really helped me in the very early days of diagnosis. It gave me back a tiny bit of control. I could adopt a positive mind-set and teach Caden to use visualization techniques. Every night he would send out his “patrol guys” and they would make sure his body was rid of any cancerous cell that may still be looming.

We got through it. We just celebrated Caden’s End of Treatment with that very community that supported us through it all.”

6. How can someone purchase your products?

“Products can be purchased directly from Owen’s website, https://thenicebenchco.com. Owen will also be featuring products to sell at the upcoming Seasons Christmas Show from November 17-19 at the Toronto International Centre. Stop in to meet the young kidpreneur!”

Such an inspiring and strong family! We are truly touched by what Owen is doing and admire his drive as a kidpreneur. We know that Owen has a very bright future in anything that he does and the assistance that he is providing to families is heartfelt. I am sure the families that are getting the help appreciate the heart of gold from this family. Keep up the great work Owen and know that what you are doing is so much more than a nice bench. You are giving hope to families by helping them travel to get the treatment they need for their child. I know in my heart that this means the world to them. Special thank you to Owen and his mom Kirstin for taking the time to have us interview them as we are honoured to have had this opportunity!

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

 

Teaching the Spirit of Giving

My parents were not born in Canada but emigrated here from Azores, Portugal in the 70’s and like many immigrants who were coming to Canada at that time it was for a better life and future. My parents did not have much when they arrived in Canada but were hopeful on the life they can build with the opportunities that were here.

Growing up I saw how much my parents worked to ensure that my sister and I had everything we needed. I remember seeing the struggling times and then some better times; above all, I always saw them give to others. They had their own way of giving and it would be discreetly as “you give from your heart and no one needs to know,” they would say. I always thought this was what we should always do so of course I inherited that mind set. It could explain why I wanted to go into social services and how it transitioned into fundraising as I have always had a passion to help others.

So now here I am in the most important role of my life, a mother. I have the opportunity to shape, guide and support the teaching of giving to my daughter.

Our first lesson of giving was making a toy donation during the Christmas season to a toy drive. The toy that would be picked would correspond with our daughter’s age. As she gets older, it will be her job to pick the special toy for the toy drive. This has become our family tradition and one that we can do together as a family. We will explain to her how important it is to give to others who are less fortunate and it not only makes other people happy but it does for us as well. Nikki won’t understand this yet as she is only 16 months old but it’s never too early to start teaching her.

As our little girl grows we will incorporate other ways to teach her the spirit of giving and done throughout the year. We feel that by teaching her the spirit of giving, it will lay the ground work for her to become a compassionate and giving individual to others. Giving does not mean monetary all the time as well and we will need to teach her that she does not need money to be giving. I came up with a list of ideas that can help teach children how to be giving.

1. Donate gently used clothes and toys
We personally do this one already as Nikki like many children grow out of their clothes and toys so quickly. When this happens we go through it all and give them to a family in need. If you don’t know a family to give to, then Goodwill will take them.

2. Volunteer
This is a great way to give and it does not require money but only time. Think of causes that are close to your family’s heart and volunteer. It could be at a food bank, toy drive, animal shelter, etc. The options can be endless.

3. Involve your child in the decision-making on a cause
Let your child tell you what they care about and what they are passionate about. It gives them more pride and drive in giving to something they really care about. If they love animals for example, they may want to support an animal organization or shelter.

4. Help a neighbour or someone elderly
This could be as simple as baking them some cookies as you see they are lonely or helping them shovel the snow. The simple acts are the ones that mean the most.

5. Create a ‘donate’ jar for change
Throughout the year you can put your spare change in this jar and at the end of the year, you can count what you have and donate it to a cause that the whole family cares about.

6. Have a ‘Charity’ Birthday
There are many ways of doing a Charity Birthday party but the concept is that a portion of the proceeds or presents will go to your child’s charity of choice. A great example of an online services that does this is called ECHOage.com.

7. Be a role model
Our children are like mirrors or reflections of us. When we lead by example, they will follow and then in turn they will become their own giving leaders.

If you would like specific ideas for you and your family, leave a comment below and I will help you with some ideas.

In the meantime, our giving lessons will continue in my household in hopes to create a more generous world.

– Momma Braga

 

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