"TRULY INSPIRING" PARENTS REWARDED WITH INDULGENT WEEKEND GETAWAYS

Tourism Toronto program touches 250th family with special luxury weekend

TORONTO, May 13 /CNW/ - A single mother of a child with complex special needs checks into The Ritz-Carlton today, Toronto's newest luxury hotel, for a free weekend getaway courtesy of Toronto's tourism industry. Maria Niembro is the 250th parent to be rewarded by Tourism Toronto's Relax, Recharge, Renew - a unique, award-winning program that provides much-needed weekend breaks to parents of children with special needs.

The Relax, Recharge, Renew program was started by Tourism Toronto in 2008 as a unique way for businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry to give to some inspiring local families. Every weekend throughout the year, the RRR program provides two sets of parents of children with special needs a much-deserved break. With the support of hundreds of hospitality businesses, each family is provided a limousine pick up, a two-night hotel stay, tickets to shows and museums and other attractions, and meals at local restaurants. Two families benefit from these weekend getaways every single week and overall approximately 100 families are served each year.

The responses from the families who go on the weekends have been overwhelmingly positive. Dana and Jared, the parents of triplets with special needs said, "I just wanted to let you know how incredible our weekend was. We are so appreciative of this program and it meant the world to us as parents and as a couple to be able to take some time away for ourselves to relax, recharge and renew. Thank you again and we hope to do it again next year! What you are doing is just incredible and so appreciated!"

This weekend, the 250th "family" is actually a single mom named Maria, whose 6-year-old son, Frankie, has a rare genetic disorder that has severely curtailed his development. While Frankie is being cared for at Safehaven, a high-quality respite care centre, Maria and a friend will be spending two nights at the new five-star, Ritz-Carlton, Toronto. They will enjoy spa treatments at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, before being treated to dinner at Joe Badali's Ristorante Italiano & Bar, then heading to see the Calendar Girls at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. The rest of the weekend will be spent enjoying the Art Gallery of Ontario, brunch at Brassaii, Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and dinner at Luma in the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

"We are extremely proud of this unique program and the support we have received from more than 200 Tourism Toronto member organizations," said David Whitaker, President and CEO of Tourism Toronto. "We have all been inspired by these truly amazing parents."

The child with special needs is cared for in one of several high-quality, provincially-funded respite care centres. Under coordination of respiteservices.com, the remarkable respite care facilities partnered on this program are The Safehaven Project for Community Living, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Community Living Toronto, Erinoakkids, and York Special Services.

"It is so important for parents to have a break now and then," said Beverly Gordon, Chief Executive Officer of The Safehaven Project for Community Living. "They return refreshed and ready to give their full energy to caring for their child."

The Relax, Recharge, Renew program has been recognized by a variety of prestigious local and international organizations for exceptional corporate social responsibility. Awards and recognition include: - Commitment to the Community Award - IMEX (presented in Frankfurt, Germany)  - CSR Award for Community Affairs - PR News (presented in Washington, D.C.)  - Tourism Innovator of the Year - Tourism Industry Association of Ontario   - Destination Champion - Destination Marketing Association International 

Tourism Toronto's Corporate Social Responsibility platform also includes scholarships for students in tourism and hospitality programs at nine Ontario universities and colleges as well as a comprehensive sustainability program including offsetting the carbon emissions of hundreds of flights each year.

ADDITIONAL QUOTES:

"Mike and I had such a wonderful weekend. We want to thank you so much for your excellent organization of the events. We used every gift certificate...the breakfasts at the Intercontinental were incredible...what a superb hotel! We very much enjoyed the Steamwhistle Brewery tour and had so much fun tasting beer and just being "us."  Dinner at Joe Badali's was very good and the limo drivers were so efficient and friendly. Thank you again for reminding Mike and I that we are still very much a couple…and now we are ready to continue to take good care of our children after such a recharging weekend." - Kelly and Mike, Toronto

"I wanted to make sure that I sent you an email thanking you so much for all of your efforts to put in place the fantastic weekend that my husband Chris and I just enjoyed.  It truly was incredible and the perfect thing for us both. We have not been able to spend time together like this for years - probably before our kids were born. It was such a generous gift and we enjoyed every minute of it!!! Chris and I are so appreciative of all of this because without you it would not have been possible for us to have such a wonderful experience and re-energize and relax so that we can be in a better position to enjoy our lives with our three beautiful children!" - Heidi and Chris, Toronto

"On behalf of my wife Karen, I'd like to thank you for organizing a most wonderful respite weekend. It couldn't have come at a better time, middle of winter! We took full advantage of all the events offered and enjoyed them immensely. Please offer my thanks to all who were involved in supporting this worthwhile opportunity for parents of special needs children." - Mike and Karen, Scarborough

About Tourism Toronto
Tourism Toronto, Toronto's Convention and Visitors Association, is an industry association of more than 1,200 members established to sell and market the greater Toronto region as a remarkable destination for tourists, convention delegates and business travellers around the globe. Tourism Toronto operates in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture as Regional Tourism Organization 5 representing Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton. For more information please visit www.seetorontonow.com.

SOURCE Tourism Toronto

For further information:

Cathy Riches
Tourism Toronto
416-987-9077
647-981-4834
criches@torcvb.com


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