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Old 03-16-2011, 08:54 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,915
Default Lightfoot helps children's centre
Mar 16, 2011 - 8:08 AM
0 .Million-dollar fundraising goal reached
Kids' arts camp at rehab centre to continue
Donna Cappelli is grateful Vito and Sandra Bigioni helped save the special needs camp her son has attended for six years.

When Vito heard funding for Holland Bloorview's SmartCentres March Break Creative Arts Respite Camp was to be reallocated in 2007, the Markham resident sprung into action to make sure the program his daughter Emily attended would stay put.

The Bigionis, with help from the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, quickly set out to raise $1 million over five years to secure funding for the camp.

On Monday, March 14, the goal was officially announced at the Bayview and Eglinton avenues rehab hospital.

Cappelli, who called it "devastating" when told the camp was in jeopardy, said she drops off her 10-year-old son, Julian, at the program with little worry.

"It's one of the rare camps I don't have to send a worker with Julian," she said of her son, who has cerebral palsy. "He went to the school here for three years so it's a very familiar place. I want to say thank you to Sandra and Vito."

The camp, which caters to children with complex disabilities, has room for 40 clients.

"It's a very important program to our family," Vito said of the camp. "It was a long, hard, four-year journey. Having children with special needs is different. A break in routine can be difficult. The camp has a very artistic flavour to it and Emily is always happy and smiling when she's there."

Fifteen-year-old Emily, who is non-verbal and born with pachygyria, which is similar to cerebral palsy, helped her parents deliver news the fundraising goal had been met during Monday's announcement.

Vito, who works as a general contractor, helped organize numerous fundraisers to reach the goal, including a performance by Gordon Lightfoot at Bloorview, and received corporate and individual donations from generous donors, he said.

"They knew what we were doing was for a good cause," Vito said.

Skye Gross, program administrator for Bloorview's centre for the arts, which includes the March break program, said the kids participate in a range of art-based activities, including puppetry, music and theatre.

"It's an amazing feat," she said of reaching the $1-million goal. "All the parents were in a panic (when told the camp would not continue)."

Valerie McMurtry, president and CEO of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, said she and the Bigionis had their share of dark days but were hopeful the goal would be reached.

"We were in a bit of awe that a parent was willing to take this on but thank God," she said. "We needed help."

The money will be put into an endowment to ensure the camp's continued existence, she said.

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