Runner makes big strides to help Holland Bloorview

On a beautiful sunny June day, Ashleigh Saith found running the first nine kilometres of the Spring Fling running race in Toronto’s Sunnybrook Park a real pleasure. The last six kilometres, not so much.

“Why do I keep running races?” she asked herself during that final kilometre.

“I was just happy to cross the finish line in one piece,” added Saith, a director at a Toronto women’s shelter who has had to overcome her share of painful running injuries like plantar fasciitis and shin splints.

“Running has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted,” she admitted. “I don’t run because it’s easy – I run because it’s not.”

Inspired running

Channeling that determination to raise funds for Holland Bloorview, she thought about some of the kids’ stories she had heard during those last tough kilometres. Thinking about their courage and perseverance, she decided nothing was going to stop her from crossing the finish line.

One such story was about Dung Le – a young man in his 20s with cerebral palsy who is a quadriplegic and unable to speak. Holland Bloorview staff had developed a technology that allowed him to communicate via computer simply by opening and closing his mouth.

Using this technology, Dung Le typed his very first word ever – ‘Mother.’ It was a powerfully emotional moment for his family that made headlines across the country.

Pushing limits like Wesley

The second story was about Wesley.

Shortly after Wesley’s first birthday, doctors found a malignant tumour in his brain. His cancer was cured but the treatments took a toll on his little body and he had a stroke. His motor skills and speech were affected and when his mom brought him to Holland Bloorview, Wesley could hardly roll over, swallow, or hold his head up.

Wesley has since worked with therapists at Holland Bloorview who helped him learn to walk, swim, and ride a bike. Things his mom never dreamed were possible for him. And now, at age four, he’s training for his first triathlon.

“Wesley doesn’t know the meaning of disability – he’s testing his limits every day,” said Saith. “That’s more than I can say about myself when I’m feeling crabby about having to run in the rain.”

Raising funds and awareness

Through the Spring Fling run, Saith raised $905 for Holland Bloorview.

“The fundraising aspect is what kept me training when there were days where I was sick or hurt or just not feeling it,” she said. “Committing to doing a fundraiser really holds you accountable to your goals.”

Her goals also included spreading the word about Holland Bloorview.

“It's a cause that's new to a lot of my friends and family,” she said. “I think it's important to raise awareness that way. Even if they didn't give, they're now aware of the remarkable work Holland Bloorview does and the amazing kids who use its services.”

If you would like to learn more about how you can turn your hobby into a way to raise funds for Holland Bloorview, contact Paige Cunningham, Development Officer, Community Partnerships at pcunningham@hollandbloorview.ca or call her at 416-425-6220 ext 6037.