When Jason Tafler and his wife drove their son to Holland Bloorview’s Play and Learn nursery school for the first time, it was difficult to tell who was more anxious.
A Time of Transition
That was in the spring of 2011 – a time of transition for the Tafler family who moved back to Toronto from the US so that Jason could take on a new career challenge at Rogers Media.
Their son, Aydan, then two years old, had experienced some health issues and social challenges.
“Picture a very anxious, shy child and our dropping him off at a new, unfamiliar place,” said Jason. “He had never been in a school environment before…I wasn’t sure how he was going to react.”
Jason asked himself, ‘Would he make friends? Would he feel comfortable? Would he be overwhelmed?’
Nervously, the family got out of the car and approached the school.
A Sigh of Relief
Immediately, they felt a wave of warmth, friendliness and inclusion that Jason will never forget.
“I just remember this wonderful environment that was so open and accepting,” he said. “I recall how the other kids were welcoming him and calling him over to play – all different kinds of kids, kids with severe disabilities, mild disabilities, all playing together.”
Grateful for this environment, Jason immediately wanted to give back.
Giving Back to Holland Bloorview
After speaking with fellow Rogers employees whose kids had used Holland Bloorview services, Jason began attending fundraising dinners and met and mingled with hospital staff and volunteers.
“I then helped the Foundation understand its donor base, and come up with a comprehensive approach to digital marketing strategy,” he said.
Wanting to do more, he joined a community outreach committee and was later nominated to the Foundation’s Board last summer.
“I’ve always been passionate about kids in terms of having hope, opportunity and potential,” he said. “Then I got to know Holland Bloorview and I loved the approach, the vision, and the culture of accepting any child with any type of disability…it was all about hope.
“You go into the hospital, you feel people are happy and positive and the staff there are just unbelievable,” he continued. “Holland Bloorview has all the right people, tools and capabilities to give kids the best shot at what their best life could be.”
Aydan is now in Grade 2 at a new school, a successful adjustment that Jason credits to Holland Bloorview.
“Holland Bloorview got him on the right track,” said Jason. “He still has some areas that he is working through, but he did really well in school and he has good friends, and I think that initial warm, inviting, play-based environment really helped him.”
Jason has since changed career paths, giving him a little more flexibility. Taking advantage of his less-demanding schedule, he’s working with the Foundation to get more involved with hands-on volunteering at the hospital.
“While it’s important to help with digital strategies and fundraising, actually being at the hospital and spending time with the children is very exciting for me,” he said.