About 20 years ago, Michele and Jeff anxiously awaited the birth of their third child. Their first two daughters, Alyssa and Kaitlyn had uneventful deliveries and were very healthy newborns. Everything seemed normal as Michele carried her last daughter Courtney to term, but as soon as she went into labour, it became obvious something was seriously wrong!
Courtney came so quickly that the hospital did not have enough time to prepare for the birth. Michele saw panic in Jeff's eyes and asked what was wrong; all he could say was "I don't know". Only Jeff was there to deliver the baby and he was unable tell if it was a boy or a girl - all he could see was a stomach and intestines on the outside of the baby’s body. Courtney was born with a rare birth defect called gastroschisis, which can leave a child with lifelong problems or even be deadly.
Courtney was rushed to CHEO to save her life. Both Michele and Jeff were absolutely stunned at the amount of equipment connected to their daughter; from IVs to monitors, a ventilator and even a central line to her heart. She was in a special open incubator that allowed the doctors and nurses unrestricted access to care for her without having to move her body. Jeff and Michele learned that the equipment used on their daughter was purchased as a result of a large donation made by a family who lost their child to the same condition the year before; an unsuccessful attempt had been made to transfer their little boy to Toronto and they never wanted another family to feel that pain. If only one child could be saved by their donation, to them it was worth it. For Jeff and Michele, Courtney was that child, and every birthday they are acutely aware of that family's donation, and how it is a reason Courtney's birthday is a celebration and not a memory of losing their child.
20 years ago, Michele and Jeff pledged to one day raise over 1 million dollars to help our community, yet the "how" was the constant problem to which they struggled to find a solution. The situation their daughter faced made it apparent there was a need, if only they could figure out the way to make it happen.
Fast forward ten years. Michele was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer and had her own battle to fight. Again, the need for funding, education, and prevention became obvious when she learned the astonishing number of young people suffering from cancer. Her time off work gave her the chance to focus her energy on new ideas, which were a welcome distraction. An idea was born: Health, wellness, and fundraising - Health & Charity! A one-stop referral to businesses and events that contribute to our overall physical, financial, and emotional well being, all while giving back to causes and our community. Such a simple solution to donor fatigue, while offering safer products, local services, and income for local businesses. What better way to create a lasting legacy for many amazing causes that will go on for decades beyond our time!