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Monday, September 22, 2014

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Gala supports kids with neurological disorders

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Dana and Jared Florence are co-founders of Three To Be. [Cara Edell photo]

TORONTO — Heroes Among Us, the theme of this year’s Three To Be gala, was chosen to recognize those who support the organization’s work to help children with neurological disorders, says Dana Florence, who, with her husband, Jared, founded the group.

“From the children to the doctors, the parents to the donors and volunteers, each is a hero in our eyes, and we want to show them our appreciation by celebrating their dedication,” she said.

More than 900 people attended Three To Be’s third annual Stems of Hope Gala  at KoolHaus in downtown Toronto Sept. 29.

Three To Be is Canada’s only registered charity dedicated to raising awareness and funds for research and therapy for a broad spectrum of children’s neurological disorders. Its scientific advisory committee is made up of doctors, scientists and professionals in the field of neuro-development.

Founded in 2010, Three To Be supports the Hospital for Sick Children, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and the March of Dimes Canada Academy of Conductive Education (ACE), a school for children with neuro-motor disabilities.

Dana and Jared are the parents of four-year-old triplets Taylor, Cole and Brody, who were all diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a type of brain injury that has no known cure.

Overwhelmed and shocked by the diagnosis, but motivated by love, Dana and Jared decided to turn their situation into one of hope and empowerment with the creation of their organization.

“We are already starting to see the difference that Three To Be is making in the lives of children with neurological disorders and this is because of all the support and love we are getting from so many people,” Dana Florence said.

“Seeing the progress, smiles and building hope in the children and their families makes it all worthwhile.”

Funds raised at this year’s gala will support the group’s three initiatives: the Hospital for Sick Children’s stem cell program, led by Dr. Freda Miller, and programs at Holland Bloorview and ACE.

The evening was hosted by Leslie Roberts and Anne Mroczkowski of Global News Hour in Toronto and featured hip hop performances by Naughty By Nature, Young MC, Rob Base, and Master G and Wonder Mike from the original Sugarhill Gang.

Guests were transported through the pages of an animated comic book that came to life with retro decor, live action heroes, sumptuous food and an auction.

The Stems of Hope Gala has raised nearly $1.5 million in just two years. Funds raised from the 2011 event went toward the purchase of a Pediatric Lokomat Pro, a robotic device to help children with neurological conditions learn how to walk and gain independence. The device is now being used in a clinical study at Holland Bloorview.

“This year we are also funding the first double-blind crossover drug trial in 30 children treated with radiation for the most common malignant brain tumour at SickKids,” Dana Florence said.

“This work can set the stage and provide important initial data for future trials in children with stroke, traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy. It’s exciting to think that by focusing on brain repair, they may bring new hope to families dealing with the effects of brain injury in children.”

Dana Florence said Three To Be has given her and her husband hope for Taylor, Cole and Brody, and for all children affected by neurological disorders. The progress her triplets have individually made since their birth has surpassed limitations that were placed on them with their diagnosis.

“Cole was deaf when he was born, and we were told he would never hear. At the age of three, he received cochlear implants and now hears every whisper. It’s nothing short of a miracle.”

Florence said she and her husband are grateful they have been able to channel their energies in a positive way through Three To Be. “We really don’t know what we would do without it.”

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