For those of you who know me personally, it will come as no surprise that I am head-over-heels, completely in love with my nieces and nephew and adore (pardon my French) the shit out of them. Each one – yes, even our sweet little, bubble-blowing, Isaac – holds a special place in my heart for something that is unique to them. I love watching as they grow into their own little people, with their own distinct personalities, every day.
Lillian, or as we lovingly refer to her, Dilly, and I share a special bond.
It could be because she is also the 2nd oldest or middle child as I am, or it could be that her sense of humor/being a butt resonates with my inner toddler, it could be her sweet disposition (when she’s in the mood of course), or our ‘moments’ (which is when she runs up to me, says “Auntie Tomee, you found me!”, lays her tiny little head gently on my shoulder, and stays contently in my embrace for a few moments as I rock her back and forth) or it could be that she was born at a time in my life when I was struggling and holding her in my arms for the first time set my heart and mind straight with positivity in a way that no other being in my life had been able to. Whatever the reason, I feel incredibly blessed to have this little light in my life.
Shortly after her birth, we learned of Dilly’s hearing impairment caused by the genetic disorder Waardenburg Syndrome. Initially, human nature caused me to think of all of the challenges she may face – I worried about how children at school might treat her (kids can be SO mean!), or the people that would discount her abilities as she grew (because adults can be assholes), finished school, entered the working world, or even started dating (for the record, totally not my idea, Ben!).
However, as Dilly settled into her life at home, these worries quickly faded and soon seemed so silly. Between the familiarity/normalcy of the syndrome within our family, the wonderful healthcare providers at Toronto Sick Kids Hospital and the blessing of her cochlear implant and hearing aid, as she grew I knew she would be just fine.
Then we were introduced to KidsAbility.
Before Lillian, I had never heard of this AMAZING organization.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with KidsAbility, it is a local non-profit organization that provides rehabilitation services for children from birth to the age of 18, with developmental delays and disabilities, coordination disorders, physical disabilities, and communication difficulties. Specific to Lillian’s hearing impairment, KidsAbility works with her to ensure her speech is developing properly and on track. Not only does KidsAbility work with children to make sure they are developing to their own potential, but they also provide parents and caregivers the tools and understanding to help their children at home in their day-to-day routine that they might not otherwise have access to – and they do it all for FREE.
This past Friday I had the pleasure of tagging along to Dilly’s speech therapy appointment and I instantly understood why she gets so excited about these appointments. The environment and staff are welcoming, warm and kind. Between the giant play/waiting area, the staff and volunteers that are ready to strike up a conversation with the children and easily relate to them and the form of speech therapy which allows Lillian to showcase what she’s learning and where she needs help, it is evident KidsAbility’s focus is to help children realize their potential.
Throughout the appointment Lillian showed me just how much she gets out of these visits. While Julia is always sure to share with us how we can help Lillian and what new tools she is learning, seeing her interact with Heather was a great first-hand experience. They work through a variety of exercises which help Heather to determine where Lillian is excelling,where she needs a little more help and what next steps she should include for her to work on at home.
While KidsAbility has held a special place in my heart for some time now, after seeing first hand how much Lillian – as well as a few other children I was able to witness in therapy – receives from this unbelievable organization, I am even more determined to help this foundation in any way I can.
Last May, I was lucky enough to participate in the Cambridge Times Rotary Classic KidsAbility Fun Run, which is usually held on the last Sunday in May. Our kick-ass team – suitably named Team Lillian – was able to raise well over $2300 thanks to a ton of personal donations, as well as one large corporate donation from Kitchener-based LEDgendary Lighting (seriously cool Philips lighting and Color Kinetics products – check them out!).
While gathering donations for this event, it made my heart happy to hear of the personal stories that people volunteered to share with me of how KidsAbility had helped their own children, nieces and nephews, or the children of friends. These stories reinforced the love I have for KidsAbility and instilled a desire in me to continue to participate in the KidsAbility Fun Run for as many years as I am able.
That being said, we are once again assembling a team for this year’s run! We will have our usual Facebook page, and link to our donation site up and running soon – if you would like to join our team, just let us know!
While the official site links and information have not been released (we will let you know when they are!), the sisters of Weather Vane Sisterhood are accepting donations as of today! We can arrange to meet with you in person to collect your donations, or you can email money transfer us your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember: every little bit counts – to us, to you, to KidsAbility and most importantly, to the children.