Celebration Honouring Caregivers from across Canada - "Dressy or Messy" event May 6 in Toronto

TORONTO, April 26, 2017 /CNW/ - It's billed as "Dressy or Messy", an evening in celebration of family and professional caregivers from across Canada set for Saturday, May 6 at the CBC's Barbara Frum Atrium in downtown Toronto.

Actors, comedians, musicians and other entertainers will donate their talents to this special night while raising funds for Canada Cares, a program of the Canadian Abilities Foundation, a not-for-profit initiative dedicated to raising awareness about caregiving and providing support for family and professional caregivers.

This year's Canadian Abilities Foundation honouree is Lee Melymick of Toronto, a university student who became a paraplegic as the result of a summer job accident two years ago.  His mother, Terry Haubrich, is among the caregivers being honoured at the fundraising event.

"Dressy or Messy" will feature appearances by Kim Coates who played "Tig" in the Sons of Anarchy television series, Mark Breslin of Yuk Yuk's fame, Geri Hall of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, plus actor Victor A. Young, crooner Michael Vanhevel, the band Flash Teeter and The Men From Mars, musician Peter Kadar and many more.

Twelve awards will be presented recognizing outstanding family and professional caregivers along with one award for accessible design.  The 2016 award winners are:

Canada Cares:

This year's ONE WISH AWARD prize was split between two very deserving families.

Each family receives $5,000  - Brad and Lindy Paquette of Amherstburg, ON and Terry Haubrich of Toronto

Brad and Lindy Paquette are the parents of Tammi (11), Trent (6) and Brinley (4). Tammi and Brinley have a genetic condition known as Fumarase Deficiency, which impacts their speech, cognitive development, gross and fine motor skills and their ability to gain weight.

The family lives in a rural area. Brad works the family farm and Lindy recently left her full time position to spend more time with her children. Their modest, older home has a very small, main floor bathroom. Both Tammi and Brinley wear diapers but there is no private, safe change table.

The funds from the One Wish Award, donated by CBI Health, will help the family create a comfortable bathroom changing area for the girls.

Terry Haubrich is Lee Melymick’s mother. In the summer of 2015, Lee was a 20-year-old summer student washing windows. After a fall, the damage to his spine resulted in paralysis from the waist down and other complications. His mother, Terry, never lost hope and stayed by his side to provide encouragement, support and advocacy.

To care for Lee, Terry has given up her job and learned to help with her son's pain and medications, toileting, bathing and testing urine samples for infection. She cooks his meals, goes to appointments, orders supplies, etc.  Terry's tireless caregiving, unfailingly positive attitude and love have undoubtedly made a difference in Lee's progress and approach to life. She is a shining example for other caregivers.

One Wish funding donated by CBI Health will cover travel expenses so Terry can be with Lee when out of town specialists perform the complicated surgery necessary to remove the painful rods in his back.


Lea Legge is a Paediatric Cardiology Nurse for the Variety Children's Heart Centre in Winnipeg. Not knowing what the future holds for the children in her care and helping parents prepare for the unknown is difficult. Yet throughout her career, Lea has kept a refreshingly positive outlook and provided wonderful care and support to hundreds of children like Russell Lepp who live with cardiac related illnesses. Lea has been providing constant care for Russell who was born eight years ago with a congenital heart defect.

Lea has also made it her life mission to be an active referral source for The Children's Wish Foundation for over 20 years. To date, she has referred 500 children who have received their wish.


Imagine providing care for 26 years for your husband, who was a heart transplant patient, and then continuing to provide care for others in similar situations. Julia Chan, a nurse by training, helped to alleviate her husband Frank's pain and suffering. Now that he's gone, all of the love and care that Julia provided to Frank continues in various ways for the 400 residents of Yee Hong Garden Terrace.

Volunteer of the Year - Laurelea Conrad of Toronto, ON

In 2013, Laurelea's husband, Steve, was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Ever the problem solver, Lauralea stepped up the focus on finding ways to extend his life, if not cure him.

When they were referred to palliative care it was too late for Steve, but Laurelea found support for herself. Since then, as part of her healing journey, Laurelea has made it her mission to talk about and provide tools for patients and their caregivers in the area of Palliative Care and Advance Care Planning.

She is now a volunteer with Kidney Cancer Canada and she is also making a difference in the support of caregivers at Sunnybrook Hospital and the Odette Cancer Centre.

Canada Cares Family Caregiver Award Winners:

Diane Fleming of Elliston, NL

Diane cares for her husband, Gord, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease seven years ago. He is now 67. Diane dresses, washes and shaves Gord every day, carries in the firewood as their home has no electric heat, and quietly indulges him as even the simplest of tasks can entertain him for an hour. She keeps the door locked so he doesn't wander, ensures he has healthy meals, administers his medications, and takes him to appointments and for walks. Most importantly, she does everything with love.

Still, Diane looks beyond the confused person who is constantly pacing the floor and sees the man she married 42 years ago. She tells us they sit together on the sofa and he looks at her and says, "I love you". That's her real Gord - not the one the ravages of Alzheimer's have stolen.

Elizabeth Anthony of Victoria, BC

James was just 3 weeks old when doctors discovered multiple health issues, including hydrocephalus. At last count, his mother, Elizabeth, had cared for him through 57 life-threatening surgeries for shunt-failure and other complications.

Elizabeth lives with a number of medical issues herself and has faced the loss of a sibling to cancer and the passing of her mother in 2014. And now her husband, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran, has been diagnosed with PTSD and requires support from her on a regular basis.

Despite her busy life, Elizabeth volunteers with BC Search and Rescue, and helps with various fundraisers.

Sara Shearkhani of Toronto, ON

Nima, Sara's husband, was diagnosed with cancer five months after their arrival as students from Iran. They were newcomers who had little money, spoke very little English and had no friends or family to help them.

To care for her husband and keep up his spirits, Sara gave up her studies and found a job. The challenge then became juggling work and finding time to care for Nima.

Steering Nima through surgeries, seizures and difficult circumstances became Sara's purpose in life. She learned to navigate the health care system, learning English as she went. All the while, she never lost sight of the need to respectfully maintain Nima's independence and his right to choose which type of treatment he wanted (and when).

Sara also started a volunteer group called Family Caregivers Voice to educate new caregivers on their journey. For this, she was chosen as one of the Faces of Change in Ontario.

Canada Cares Professional Caregiver Award Winners:

Lise-Nathalie LePage of Rimouski, QC

Lise-Nathalie is a professional clown with a generous heart and boundless energy. Her motivation is to make children happy! Over the past ten years, her loveable character, Clopin Lanouille, has visited many children and their families. Lise-Nathalie dresses up in her clown costume and arrives with a beautiful bouquet of balloons to tell kids that their wish has been granted.

In her spare time, she also acts as a public relations coordinator for the Rimouski Children's Wish Volunteer Committee. Plus, her contribution in terms of fundraising is undeniable.

Jason Anderson of Burnaby, BC

Those under Jason Anderson's care are indeed fortunate to have this incredibly protective, caring and supportive man to assist them with their day-to-day needs. "He even supports me when I get it in my head to do something crazy like climbing a mountain or staying up for 24 hours straight," says Roger, a high-level quadriplegic after a motor vehicle accident.

Jason has served as a personal support attendant for 26 years!

Darlene Kidd of Sudbury, ON

"Caregiving beyond expectations" defines Darlene. Since the mid-80's, she has been providing exceptional nursing care to Killarney residents and the tourist population.

Killarney has challenges, given its weather conditions and access to urban medical resources for the senior population in the region. Darlene is constantly upgrading her skills and is committed to making things better in her community.

Darlene also follows her young patients' hockey games, goes to their school plays, and supports community events. To her credit, patients refer to her as "being the best" and often return just to re-thank her for the care she provided when there was nowhere else to go. Darlene's efforts really make the community safer, healthier, happier and stronger, say her nominators.

Marilyn Cassidy of Ottawa, ON

Marilyn is an Interlink Nurse with the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. To Marilyn this has never just been "a job." She remembers every child by name and their story and is always trying to find ways to make their lives better as they go through cancer treatment.

As her nominator tells us, "Marilyn is exceptional. She is kind, giving and never without a smile".

Canada Cares Powell Award for Accessible Design Winner:

Anmol Tukrel of Toronto, ON

Anmol is a student at Holy Trinity School in Toronto. His project involves using Artificial Intelligence to help visually impaired individuals. Anmol plans on presenting his findings to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and subsequently forming a non-profit organization to distribute this technology for free to any visually impaired individuals who wish to use it. If there was any advice he could give to other students doing a project, it would be that the only thing needed to create something innovative is curiosity.

About Canada Cares

Canada Cares, a program of the Canadian Abilities Foundation, is a not-for-profit organization that celebrates and appreciates family and professional caregivers by recognizing and raising awareness about the important role they play in our society. It has established multi-disciplinary, multi-sector partnerships that focus on recognition, participation, awareness, accessibility and diverse community engagement.

Canada Cares encourages families, workplaces, governments, industry and other stakeholders to support caregivers for young children, teens, adults and seniors, and to recognize the value and contribution of caregiving to both quality of life and our Canadian economy.

About Lee Melymick

Lee Melymick is this year's Canadian Abilities Foundation honouree.  He was an engineering student at Toronto's Ryerson University and a gifted athlete when he was seriously injured in a fall in 2015.  His spinal cord was completely severed and he was diagnosed with total paralysis from the waist down.  Lee spent many days in intensive care fighting for his life. Following his third surgery, he was able to move from intensive care to a trauma centre where he spent another 70 days before moving to a rehabilitation facility.  During this ordeal, Lee went from a strong, athletic 210 pounds to a fragile 135 pounds on his 6-foot-4-inch frame.  Just before Christmas of 2015, he was allowed to go home where he continues to require full-time care. Lee suffers from chronic pain caused by his surgeries.  With no viable solutions in Canada, the family is currently exploring medical and surgical options outside the country.  Funds raised will assist with travel and medical costs.

NOTE: Media are invited to cover Dressy or Messy on May 6 and/or conduct interviews prior to the event.  More information is available at www.canadacares.org .


SOURCE Canadian Abilities Foundation

For further information: Terry Scott, Dressy or Messy committee volunteer, (905) 220-4012, terrycscott@gmail.com; or; Caroline Tapp-McDougall, Chair, Canada Cares, (647) 268-6749, caroline@bcsgroup.com

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