Toronto, Ontario -- June 17, 2013 -- Nothing gives us a lift like a big group of smiling, laughing and happy children. In this case, though, the kids got a lift too. The latest Sunshine DreamLift to Walt Disney World took place Tuesday, June 11, 2013. A Sunshine DreamLift takes a plane full of children to a special destination for the day. All of these kids are challenged by severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses, and for many, the Dreamlift is their first chance to taste independence and experience the adventure of a first plane ride or a first day away from mom and dad.
Many volunteers give generously of their time to make sure the DreamLift succeeds, but a big part of the credit for this latest adventure goes to Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association (OARA) and Ontario Tire Stewardship (OTS) through the Tire Take Back Days program. Auto recyclers who participate in the annual event collect tires from the community, and then donate their Collector Fees to the Sunshine Foundation for a DreamLift. Tire haulers and OARA also provided matching funds.
This year, OARA and OTS helped to take 74 children, aged 7 to 17, on the adventure of a lifetime. The children were accompanied by a large contingent of health care professionals to help ensure a safe trip for them. Each child was partnered with a volunteer from OARA, health care or one of the 26 volunteer officers from the Metropolitan Toronto Police.
Let the adventure begin!
Susanne Robins is with OTS and served as a volunteer on the DreamLift. She describes the experience as overwhelming, but in a positive way.
“It was overwhelming to see the joy the kids had in terms of their first day of independence and just pure fun,” says Robins. “I’m overwhelmed at the incredible effort the Sunshine Foundation staff puts out just to make it happen. UPS would be in awe. Mostly, though, I’m overwhelmed at the spirit of the kids throughout torrential downpours. I’m overwhelmed at the spirit and determination of the young ladies who we were accompanying, and I’m overwhelmed in a positive manner that the kids could last 24 hours!”
Wally Dingman of Caughill Auto Wreckers with one of the kids he accompanied at Disney.
For many of the kids taking part in the DreamLift, this was both their first airplane ride and their first full day without their parents. Many have never traveled before due to treatments, special requirements, or physical challenges involved in their daily lives.
“I think it's very important to contribute and to take the time to see the impact of the dollars raised,” says Wally Dingman, President of Caughill Auto Wreckers Ltd. And Chairman at OARA. “My police partner and I accompanied two kids. They were both very excited, and that carried over to us.”
The day started early, meeting at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport at 3:00 a.m. for the flight to Orlando. For the parents, in most cases, it seemed to be a bitter-sweet moment. It was the first time most of the children children had been away from their parents, in another country no less.
Candy might not be an ideal breakfast, but every once in a while ...
It’s impossible to overstate the difference a DreamLift can make in the lives of these children. For the most part, their lives have been bounded by rules, either from health care providers or parents. For just one day, though, they were told: “Today is your day, no rules, if you want cotton candy for breakfast, ice-cream for lunch, you get it." The kids took that to heart, with at least two of them seen holding bags of candy at 4 a.m.!
Greg Woodbeck of Woodbeck Auto Parts in Stirling, Ont., was one of the volunteers on this year’s DreamLift.
“I thought it was remarkable how much appreciation the children have for everything people do for them. It really stood out how they didn't have a negative word to say, they knew that the experience they were having was something that people were making it for them,” says Woodbeck. “I have a lot of a admiration for how the day was about the kids being ‘normal’ kids, not kids with issues or kids in a wheel chairs. Just normal kids, having fun.”
Greg Woodbeck with his police partner and their two young charges.
Throughout the day, it was hard to tell who was more excited, the children or the volunteers. Asking the children what they were looking forward to at Disney, the favourite reply was "Having fun." Sounds like a plan!
Upon arrival in Orlando, we deplaned on the tarmac to sweltering heat and high humidity. We were welcomed by volunteers from Orange County Sheriff's Department who would accompany the children and volunteers to ensure that the children see what they want and get into what they want in a timely fashion. From there, everyone was loaded on to buses for the final few miles to Disney. Cheers went up as we entered the grounds.
Rob Smith of Erin Auto Recyclers in Erin, Ont., says one of the most emotional times of the day when he realized how other park visitors reacted to the kids and volunteers “fast tracking” through the lines.
“We're not used to ‘butting in line,’ so you expect them to have a look and think “Are you better than us?” but it was just the opposite. People smiled and looked happy for us,” says Smith. “It was emotional finding that people's reaction was opposite to what you'd thought it would be.”
After a group photo in front of the Disney Floral Garden, each individual group departed for their adventure. It was a real adventure for these kids, and the weather obliged. It wasn't too long before the skies opened, thunder and lightning followed and most of the rides were closed.
Everyone was soaked to the skin, but did the children care? Not at all! They wanted to get on with their adventure! Eventually, after flooded streets and a good soaking, things opened again.
At 6:30 p.m., everyone excited and exhausted, we met to return to the buses and our return flight to Toronto. The children were very excited about their adventures, and we were all very tired. But it was the sort of exhaustion that comes not from hard and difficult work, but wonderful and life-affirming play. It was the sort of exhaustion that comes over you when you know that, no matter how hard it may have been or what you faced along the way, you’ve done the right thing and it was worth it.
Dom Vetere and his companion ready to board the bus at the end of a long day. It's an exhausting schedule, but well worth it.
Dom Vetere of Dom’s Auto Parts in Courtice, Ont., says he his stint as a volunteer was inspirational.
“These kids are the real meaning of the word courage,” he says. “As a volunteer, you get out more than you put in. The joy in their eyes, their spirit and courage, these help to give you strength.”
We said good bye to our wonderful Florida team, boarded the plane with some very tired and excited children amd took off for home. This was a much quieter flight than outward. Our little charges were, for the most part, asleep.
We returned to Toronto after midnight. After passing through the usual details, such as customs and immigration, we moved into the arrival lounge so the children could reunite with their parents.
Each child and volunteer pair coming through the doors to the arrival area was greeted by huge applause and cheers by the parents. The children were reunited with their parents for huge hugs and many stories. Families expressed their gratitude to their child's partners for the day with hugs, tears and flowers. Without a word of exaggeration, unbreakable bonds were fully forged that day. It’s an experience that can’t be verbalized. Our language doesn’t have the right words to fully express what it’s like. It’s something you have to experience directly to fully appreciate, and it’s an experience that stays with you forever.
Terri Courneya of Hotch’s Auto Parts in Bowmanville, Ont., agrees. She says the biggest take-away for her was to witness the bravery of the young people she accompanied.
“They left for the day without their parents on a plane with a group of people they really didn't know. It must have been really hard for the parents as well to let their child go off for the day. I could see how excited they were for them but inside they must have been anxious about it,” she says. “It just amazed me to see how open the children were to share everything with us. I felt very lucky to be a part of the whole thing. I just wish we had more time.”
For more information on OARA, please visit oara.com. For more information on the Sunshine Foundation and the DreamLifts, please visit sunshine.ca/dreamlift.
John Bruner and Darcy Jordan pose with the painting that was up for auction at AGM 2013.
Sylvan Lake, Alberta - June 17, 2013 -- The Alberta Automotive Recyclers and Dismantlers Association (AARDA) recently celebrated its 25th anniversary at the 2013 AGM conference.
"The past quarter century has been a remarkable period for our industry as it has dealt with many changes that have come along, not the least of which have been increased environmental standards and expectations," AARDA president Steve Cox told association members during his closing remarks at the conference. "While we have struggled to improve in all ways, at the same time our members have prospered while growing their businesses."
The weekend consisted of a host of activities, including an opening reception, vendor exhibits with guests travelling from as far away as Italy, a presentation from John Couper of Couper Marketing Solutions, a golf tournament at Meadowlands Golf Club, special draws and auctions, and was punctuated by a performance by singer-comedian Richard Popovich and the closing dinner reception to end the weekend's festivities.
Cox told delegates that over the next year they will begin to see the launching of many new initiatives that will propel the association into its next 25 years, beginning with its recently relaunched website and extending beyond to include more industry advertising and greater collaboration with collision repair shops and insurance companies relating to the use of recycli automobile parts.
"I want to close by asking you to stay tuned for what is in store for the next year and in fact the next 25 years. Think about how great it would be for many of us here tonight to be gathered here again in 2038 to celebrate another quarter century of achievement for AARDA," Cox told delegates in his closing remarks.
AARDA's Executive Director Ian Hope was also in attendance, and feels it was a truly special occasion, especially with his being able to meet Keith Walker, the association's first Executive Director when AARDA was formed in 1988.
"It was quite special for me to meet him. It was amazing to hear their original visions for the association and see how we evolved towards becoming a responsible environmental group of recyclers," Hope says.
Hope felt it was a very friendly atmosphere and gave each delegate the chance to sit with each other and chat in a relaxed setting with likeminded people. He says that while many of the recycling businesses in Alberta are independent and family-owned, there's hardly an air of competition between the association's membership and they're all really good friends.
"They aren't so much competitors as they are collaborators. They want to share their knowledge and information," says Hope. "If you get one good idea out of the conference, then it's all more than worth it to attend the conference."
Hope says that collaborative idea rests at the heart of the conference atmosphere, and reminds of him of one of his favourite sayings that sums up the recycling business in his eyes.
"If I have a dollar, and you have a dollar and then we exchange our dollars, then we both have a dollar," he says. "Now, if I have an idea, and you have an idea and then we trade ideas, then we both walk away with two ideas."
Hope feels the association has come a long way, based on that very principle, and that they've made significant headway in achieving their objectives.
"I think our impacts are far-reaching. We've worked to protect the land, air and water that we share with the community. We've been instrumental in developing our industry so that there are plenty of recycled parts available," he says. "We serve to help people afford their vehicles and be in safe vehicles. We've brought the industry a long way from the junkyard stereotype and it's all be done on a voluntary basis by our members. Recyclers have chosen to meet AARDA's standards."
Hope says a huge piece of AARDA's success has been its sponsors and partners, while the organization has been a strong supporter of a number of charitable causes such as the Heart and Stroke fund, Cancer research, Autism Services Alberta, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, local animal shelters and preserving the habitat of the province's wildlife.
Bottom: Dave Schandor, Steve Cox, Steve Fletcher, Ian Hope. Top: Kelly Popow, Ron Campbell, Randy Montgomery, Raelene Day, Rick Morrish and Sarah Brophy.
John Bruner, of Coreline Auto Parts, is an Associate Member of AARDA and also attended the conference. He agrees with Hope in that the AGM is a great way to trade ideas with fellow members and relax, but the highlight of the weekend for him was the conference's draw. Bruner won a painting that was done by a local artist which depicts an old car in a field with flowers blooming around it. It wasn't the act of winning the painting that made his night, nor the painting itself. Rather, Bruner turned around and auctioned off the painting with all proceeds going to the Sunshine Foundation.
"I think the Sunshine Foundation is a worthy cause and I think all members should try and support them at some point in the year, because every little bit helps," says Bruner of the not-for-profit organization that recently organized the DreamLift trip to Disney Land for terminally ill children. "I'm all about putting a smile on someone's face."
The painting was sold for $900 to Darcy Jordan, owner of Lethbridge Used Auto Parts, who will also be putting the painting up for auction.
Bruner is happy to contribute to the Sunshine Foundation, and feels not enough attention is paid to them.
"They may not be curing anything, but they're making kids smile and I'm okay with that," says Bruner.
Hope is quite happy with how the event turned out, and relishes the opportunities to catch up with a group of people he feels are honest, genuine, value-driven.
"To me the best part of it is being with those kinds of people," he says.
Going forward Hope wishes to see a renewal of AARDA's efforts and expansion of their founding principles which began with Walker and the group's original vision 25 years ago.
"Let's do in the next 25 years what Mr. Walker did and achieved in the beginning and see where we can take AARDA in the next quarter century," Hope says. "I think it's important for us to not rest on our laurels."
Hamilton, Ontario -- June 10, 2013 -- CARSTAR’s 10th annual “Soaps It Up” got off to a great start with a donation from the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association (OARA).
Brigitte Pesant and Sherry Baugh of OARA presented the donation on behalf of all 420 members of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC). Lisa Mercanti-Ladd, Executive VP of CARSTAR Canada and Melissa Slote of CARSTAR Hamilton Midtown West received the donation on behalf of the organization at CARSTAR Hamilton Midtown West in Hamilton, Ont.
The donation of $2,100 represents $5 for each ARC member. To date, CARSTAR has helped raise over $2 million for Cystic Fibrosis Canada.
For more information on OARA, please visit oara.com. For more information on CARSTAR, please visit carstar.ca.
Brigitte Pesant of OARA, Melissa Slote of CARSTAR Hamilton Midtown West, Lisa Mercanti-Ladd of CARSTAR and Sherry Baugh of OARA.
Edmonton, Alberta -- June 5, 2013 -- The Alberta Automotive Recyclers and Dismantlers Association recently initiated a program that gave each of its recycler members the opportunity to choose a charity to receive $500 of the proceeds from the End of Life Vehicle program. Cherie Cohen Diamond, daughter of owner Jack Cohen of Jasper Auto Parts in Edmonton didn’t hesitate in choosing the Centre for Autism Services.
Her son Adam has autism, and Cherie wanted to direct her yard’s allocation of funds to the Centre where her son, now 18, receives specialized services. And when she learned some AARDA members had not yet made their charity selections, she got an idea.
Cherie called the AARDA office asking if she could contact some of these yards, suggesting they also select the Center for Autism Service for their charity allocation. Getting the green light, she was able to increase the amount within a few days to a total of $2,500. The yard owners who indicated their support of Cherie’s suggestions were Nick Spina of Central Auto & Truck Parts, Barry MacDonnel of Kendale Truck Parts, Sukh Dhillon of Grove Auto & Truck Wrecking as well as Western Auto & Truck Parts in Calgary which is operated by Cherie’s brother, Dave Cohen.
Said Cherie of her experience: “They were really great. When the owners I called heard about the Centre and the key services they provide to autistic clients and their families they were immediately supportive.”
Cherie Cohen of Jasper Auto Parts presenting AARDA’s contribution of $2,500 to Deb Usunier, Executive Director of the Centre for Autism Services, Alberta (centre). Also shown are The Centre’s Gail Standford and AARDA’s Exec Director, Ian Hope.
The AARDA Board had wanted to give their members a more direct involvement in the charitable allocations including the presentations of the contributions so that the many positives could be felt at the member level. This has worked out well as there have been many favorable comments back after members have had the chance to participate directly in the giving process.
Cherie Cohen of Jasper Auto Parts is shown presenting AARDA’s contribution of $2,500 to Deb Usunier, Executive Director of the Centre for Autism Services, Alberta. The Centre’s Gail Standford and AARDA’s Exec Director, Ian Hope look on.
Toronto, Ontario -- June 5, 2013 -- With another successful Tire Take Back event coming to a close on June 1, Sunshine Foundation is ready to send 80 kids suffering from life-threatening and debilitating illnesses and 60 support volunteers on a wondrous one-day journey to the Magic Kingdom. The DreamLift will take off for Orlando, Fla. before daybreak at 3:00 a.m. on June 11 and return to Toronto by midnight the same night.
This is the fourth year the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association (OARA) and Ontario Tire Stewardship (OTS) have organized the Tire Take Back event to raise money for the Sunshine Foundation. Last year's event ended with overwhelming success.
“This year, we have once again set a goal of $100,000” says Brigitte Pesant, Director of Business Development at OARA. “The six participating haulers have until June 28th to pickup all of the tires collected during the event.”
While a final tally will have to wait until all of the numbers are in, Pesant says there are already some success stories.
“One OARA participating recycler collected less than 100 tires last year, and this year has collected over 1,200 tires” says Pesant. “If each of the 62 participating Recyclers collects an average of 1,000 tires, the Tire Take Back 2013 event will have once again achieved and exceeded its fundraising goal!”
Thai Milton (centre) is one of the children participating in the 2013 DreamLift. He and his little brother stopped by Dom's Auto Parts recently for a tour courtesy of owner Dom Vetere. Vetere is one of the OARA volunteers for this year's event. Click the photo above to see the full gallery!
The collection of each eligible passenger, light truck, and agricultural tire has impacts on the environment and in the community.
“It is so important because there are still tires sitting around backyards and sheds that collect stagnant water and could be recycled,” says Susanne Robins, Director of Marketing and Promotions at OTS. “Last year we collected 139,000 tire and we believe there are more to be collected, recycled, and converted into green products”
“The event supports the environment but also the Sunshine Foundation to help kids realize their dreams, each tire yields approximately two dollars towards Sunshine,” said Robins, “OTS is also providing a community prize worth $15,000 to the OARA member that collects the most tires. Last year, Woodbeck Auto Parts of Stirling, Ontario won the prize and it is being used to renovate a local hockey arena by installing recycled rubber slip-resistant flooring for the players in the foyer and surrounding areas.” In addition to the prize winner, OTS will also reveal the top OARA member fundraisers by early July.
For many of the 80 kids taking part in the DreamLift, this will be their first airplane ride or their first full day without their parents. Many have never traveled before due to treatments, special requirements, or physical challenges involved in their daily lives. They will be accompanied by 60 volunteers who are also excited for the June 11 adventure.
“I think it's very important to contribute and to take the time to see the impact of the dollars raised,” says Wally Dingman, President of Caughill Auto Wreckers Ltd. And Chairman at OARA. “My police partner and I will be accompanying two kids, they're both very excited and they can't wait for this week to end so they can finally go on the DreamLift next week.”
MP Jim Bradley, Wally Dingman of Caughill Auto Parts and Susanne Robins of Ontario Tire Stewardship at a recent event held at Caughill's main yard.
“It makes me very happy to be a part of this,” says Carrie Leatherdale of Port Perry Auto Wreckers. “I will be accompanying Maggie and Marianna, they both seem very excited, it's a great opportunity for them to go on this unique experience and be independent and have fun.”
Sunshine Foundation has made dreams come true for thousands of children across Canada since 1987. For more information, Please visit sunshine.ca