TORONTO — More than $500,000 was raised at the fourth annual Stems of Hope Gala in support of a charity dedicated to investing in innovative research, education, therapies and programs for childhood neurological disorders.
Three To Be was founded in 2010 by Jared and Dana Florence, parents of triplets who are now 5-1/2 years old and were each diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that has no cure.
“Our theme this year was ‘Just Be Love’ which is such a fitting theme for what is happening in this room tonight,” Dana told the1,000 people at the Oct. 4 event, which was hosted by Global TV’s Leslie Roberts and Liza Fromer.
“We do this for the love of our children, Taylor, Cole and Brody, and to show them that life is to be celebrated and that real hope exists despite adversity,” Dana added.
“Along the way, we realized there was a need to help the parents of these special children. We are incredibly proud of [Three To Be’s] Parent Advocacy Link [program], which is allowing us to provide guidance and support to the most important advocates for children – their parents.”
Money raised by this year’s gala will fund research in two key areas: stem-cell treatments that promote brain repair, and innovative technology to make communication possible for children who can’t speak.
The Stems of Hope Galas have raised more that $2 million in total in the past four years.
“A portion of tonight’s funds will go toward helping kids who have no means of communication,” said Yvonne Stefanin, vice-president of the Holland Bloorview Foundation.
“Our researchers, led by Dr. Tom Chau, have developed these amazing ways of defining any sort of sensory motion that a person might have. Some may just be able to move their eyebrow, others move a tongue, or even just wink slightly. Dr. Chau picks up on that motion and he is then able to train the person to be able to define letters on a computer, so that with a blink of an eye, or a move of an eyebrow, they are able to take a letter and for the first time ever they are able to communicate like never before.”
Dana Florence told The CJN about her children’s gains over the past year.
“Taylor loves princesses and the colour pink. She loves to go shopping and she loves school and her friends. Although my son, Brody, can’t communicate verbally, he’s been working on his communication, and he’s really come very far. Through his communication book, he’s able to tell us exactly what he wants and needs, and for him, that is just remarkable. Then there is Cole, who has come leaps and bounds with his talking.”
Deaf until age three, “Cole wears cochlear implants and is now reading and able to type on a computer. He can even write letters.”
“Three To Be is what gives us strength. The overwhelming support from the community inspires us to continue on. Nothing is impossible. The word itself says that ‘I am possible,’” Dana said.