TORONTO — Sixty children aged two to six ran a half-kilometre track May 21 in a mini-marathon that raised more than $7,000 for their school – Torah Tots – and to help others.
In addition to Torah Tots preschool in Thornhill, the funds will go to the Zareinu Educational Centre and Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. The kids were the youngest participants in Canada to take part in Kilometres for Kids, an event sponsored and run by the non-profit organization Crafting for a Cure, which was created to raise money for the Hospital for Sick Children, specifically the pulmonary department.
Zareinu, a Jewish day school and treatment centre, provides special education and individualized therapies to children with developmental challenges.
Crafting for a Cure’s Creating Breathing Space is a foundation whose mandate is to re-design the playrooms at SickKids and to raise money to find a cure for chronic lung disease.
Under its president, Pamela Bielak, Crafting for a Cure has donated crafts for children in the emergency rooms at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.
Bielak’s son Daniel, the catalyst that led to the formation of the charity, has a rare form of asthma and is allergic to puffers. His immune system rejects medication, and his condition is so rare that doctors do not have a name for it yet, Bielak said. The Bielaks found emergency rooms didn’t have enough play items for children and set out to change that.
Six-year-old Amanda Gawza of Torah Tots’ senior kindergarten donated her tooth fairy money to “help a little boy breathe.” Her mother, Naomi, noted how seriously her daughter took the mission.
“She called all of her relatives and emptied out her piggy bank. She told people, ‘I need at least $10, but you can give more if you want to.’”
Touched by her daughter’s enthusiasm, she asked Amanda if she realized that was the same amount of money to buy a Hanna Montana DVD. Her response was, “I still want to give it to the boy to help him.”
At the fundraiser, Doo Doo the Clown, Toronto Argonaut Andrew Durie and YTV host Tonya Harper helped add to the fun for the kids. The event at Torah Tots was also sponsored by CTV, the Toronto Argonauts, Starbucks, Nascar Speedpark, Farco Entertainment, Creativ Festival, and Dare.
Durie has a special connection to the work that Zareinu does. His son, six-year-old Malcolm, has autism. “I just had to come to show support. I know how scarce funding is. Anything I could do to help, I wanted to be a part of.”
Bielak credits the idea for these marathons to Josh Hoffman of Charlton Public School in Thornhill. His bar mitzvah project in 2003 was to raise money for his school and for the Hospital for Sick Children. Since then, under Bielak’s leadership, Kilometres For Kids has had more than 5,000 participants in the GTA and 450 in Saskatoon.
Torah Tots, which is run by Chabad Lubavitch, teamed up with Crafting for a Cure in January, when Bielak became acquainted with Torah Tots’ preschool director Goldie Plotkin.
“For us, it was an amazing breakthrough to the Jewish community. Hopefully more Jewish schools will follow suit,” Bielak said.