Meet Charissa

Ask Charissa what her superpowers are and she’ll tell you: tenacity and grit.

It’s no surprise that Charissa, who is a board member at Holland Bloorview Foundation, is determined to be a top Capes for Kids fundraiser this year. She plans to proudly wear her cape and host a family-friendly games day to raise funds for Holland Bloorview.

We chatted with Charissa about how Holland Bloorview has shaped her family’s life and how Capes for Kids sparks important conversations about the hospital’s impact.

 What initially brought you to Holland Bloorview?

Our eldest son was diagnosed at Holland Bloorview with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when he was just under three years old. We had a wonderful developmental pediatrician, Dr. Melanie Penner, who was just extraordinary. It was really an amazing and important experience for our family because his early diagnosis and the treatment plan that Holland Bloorview recommended was the catalyst for how we approached his ASD treatments. It really changed his life, and he’s doing exceptionally. I know that’s because of the information and the early intervention that Holland Bloorview gave us.

What do you love most about Capes for Kids?

It’s my personal favorite fundraiser because you get to be a superhero. I’ve never been involved in a fundraiser where you don’t have to say anything. It’s a conversation starter on its own. If you go to school or work and wear a cape, somebody is going to ask you about it. It’s such a fantastic way to bring awareness to the cause. Who doesn’t want to wear a cape and be a superhero?

Over the years, have you had any interesting conversations while wearing your cape?

100 per cent. I’m so pleased that more people know about Capes for Kids now, and that’s because of the exceptional job the foundation team has done to get it out there. But what was most surprising in the first few years of the campaign was how few people actually knew about Holland Bloorview. Maybe they heard the name before, but they didn’t really know what the hospital does. We have this incredible world-class organization right in our own backyard—and yet so many people have not heard of us. Having those conversations and shedding light on the fabulous place that is Holland Bloorview is a gift.

In addition to raising $1 million, one of the goals of Capes for Kids is to also raise awareness about the programs and services at Holland Bloorview. Why is that important?

It’s important to me because it personally changed our family’s life. It was life-changing for our family and it was such an “aha” moment for us. Now we’re armed with this knowledge and we have this great team of people who are cheering us on and cheering our son on. It literally changed his life. It changed all our lives because it’s hard to do anything when you don’t know what path you’re on. Then all of a sudden we had the tools we needed, and he’s been so successful on this journey. I tell this story all the time about how the hospital played a significant role in his life. It’s amazing.

What is your superpower?

Tenacity and grit. I don’t like to give up, and I’m always keen to meet my goals. Particularly in this instance. The cause is too important. We have to stay on course. Our children are our future and there are exceptional clients at Holland Bloorview. We owe it to them. We owe it to our future to make Capes for Kids one of the best fundraisers in Canada and beyond. Holland Bloorview is so critical to kids in Toronto and beyond. We need to nurture it and grow it to its full potential.