Nurses holding a delivery of brownies.
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Serving sweet support one brownie at a time

Like many small businesses, Carolina’s Brownies has faced unexpected challenges thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But on top of supporting her business, Carolina and her family were also left navigating these uncertain times while caring for a child with medical complexities.

Carolina’s 17-year-old daughter, Duda, lives with Mowat-Wilson Syndrome—a rare genetic disorder that can sometimes include delayed development and birth defects. This means that Duda needs support with many day-to-day tasks, such as feeding.

That’s why, upon moving from Ottawa, the family turned to Holland Bloorview to help Duda thrive.

“We started to go to camps and the respite program,” says Carolina. “The place is just amazing.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Duda participated in the Spiral Garden Summer Camp, weekend respite programs, and Drum Circle—an Arts program—at Holland Bloorview.  

“She loves that place,” Carolina observes. “She can interact with other kids and she is playing the whole time.”

Unfortunately, because Duda is considered at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the family has avoided very public spaces and Duda can only attend respite twice a week. Similarly, physical distancing measures and the cancellation of Toronto’s One of a Kind Show, where she would have been a vendor, have impacted Carolina’s business.

But, for this entrepreneur, connection is key in keeping small businesses afloat during these challenging times.

“I think that the [small businesses] that will survive are the ones that think of the community and think of other people,” says Carolina.

Previously a baker in her native Brazil, Carolina wanted to work in a way that allowed her to also stay close to Duda. Thus, Carolina’s Brownies was born: serving up flavours like raspberry, caramel sea salt, and dulce de leche.

Over the years, Carolina has donated a portion of her proceeds to respite programs at Holland Bloorview. And for every sale of over $40 made during the COVID-19 pandemic, Carolina has also given her customers the option to donate a box of brownies to someone in need.

“If they do not have someone to send it to, I will send it to Holland Bloorview,” she says. “It is just a small gesture, but it is something I can do.”

On top of navigating her business, Carolina, along with Duda and their family, are also adapting to the realities of physical distancing.

“It’s not easy, but we do FaceTime with our family and she talks to her teacher [online],” says Carolina.

Besides staying connected, Duda enjoys listening to music—she loves everything from heavy metal to opera—playing with her Mickey Mouse toys, and cooling off from the summer heat with her kiddie pool. While there have been many silver linings in this time of uncertainty, Carolina and her husband Fabricio remind themselves to enjoy time spent as a family and not force Duda into certain activities. Oftentimes that means allowing her to just play, and other times it means turning folding laundry into a game.

“We have to work with Duda,” says Carolina. 

Fabricio adds, “We just take time to ourselves, enjoying whatever it is we are going to do.”

Although Duda still misses participating in drum circle, she and her family are staying connected to Holland Bloorview through their generous—and delicious—donations.

But, like many in the community, they too are looking forward to returning to their day-to-day routines, especially more visits to Holland Bloorview.  

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