Guest Post: What’s It Like To Rock Tribe’s My First Race Program

Through the Tribe “My First Race” mentoring program I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and running with over a hundred new or returning runners. Folks who literally got off the couch to join our run, those returning after having a baby, and those looking to connect with family through fitness.

As we begin our third “My First Race” program I wanted to share a story of an amazing inspiration, Ljiljana Stanojevic, a fierce mother who not only met her goal of racing Spring Run-Off as part of our training program, but then went on, with the motivation of her daughter, to race a 15km road race and a half marathons during 2015. Ljiljana has a drive and energy that is truly contagious and you can’t help but be inspired when you sweat with this gal. Please enjoy the “My First Race” story of Ljiljana.

When I joined the ‘Learn to run’ program I couldn’t run. I thought it would be easy to start running, but all my attempts failed and I ended up with sore muscles and an injury. During a weekly yoga class held by Tribe Fitness at MEC Toronto, I heard about the ‘Learn to Run’ program with Canada Running Series and signed up without too much hope that I would ever be able to run, was I ever wrong.

IMG_2043My first day of training was interesting. I was nervous and I thought that all the other participants would run with ease while I fell behind. Thankfully, all of the Tribe mentors were there and were so encouraging, patient and supportive, explaining what to expect and the difficulties that everyone can face when beginning to run. We were all given a training schedule provided by Tribe. During this first session we ran for 1 minute, walked for 2 minutes, and repeated that for a specified amount of time. During the week we were told to run two times on our own as part of the program and once a week we would meet and run with Tribe. The running time would increase and the walking time would decrease every week.

A draw to this free program is that we were teamed up with experienced run mentors from Tribe. We would connect through email and in person at the weekly runs. My mentor, Jenna Pettinato, was amazing. She helped me by providing valuable advice and sharing her own experiences. She understood the difficulties that I had and followed up with my training through emails. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be running today.

IMG_2042What I loved most about the ‘learn to run’ program is that Tribe is like a family. They care and help each other and always welcome new members. I felt very comfortable during my training and later on during the runs with Tribe. Tribe’s founder Heather Gardner invited various representatives of sporting goods and supplies stores to come during the training sessions to talk to us about proper clothing, running shoes, nutrition etc. which was very helpful. We learned more than just running, we became part of a community.

The goal race was Spring Run-Off. Everyone knows it finished with a giant hill. During the Spring Run-Off killing that hill would have been impossible without the Tribe cheer squad standing at the bottom cheering everyone on. You get an energy boost when you see a bunch of people yelling words of encouragement, holding signs, dancing, and telling you that you can conquer the hill.

One thing I would tell a new runner would be, you can do it! It’s an amazing program. Your mentor and all the Tribe members will be there to help you all the way. You will not regret it. Trust me, you are going to kill that hill!

If you’d like more information or to sign up for this free training program, find all the details here.

Guest Blog: Letter to Kadence by Andrea Haefele

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I am honoured to share a guest post written by my friend, fellow teacher, and rad mother, Andrea Haefele. For the past two years Andrea has shared her personal story about her family’s mission to bring visibility to children and families living with disabilities in support of her daughter Bella who has severe Autism Spectrum Disorder. Read Andrea’s previous posts here. I was personally inspired again by Andrea (if you know this power house momma, you’ll know this happens regularly) when a couple of months ago she shared with me her family’s latest excitement, their newest family member Kadence. Kadence is an Autism Assistance Dog Guide for Andrea’s daughter Bella. Kadence has become the 5th member of the Haefele household, giving Bella support, independence, and joy. Andrea and her family will be participating in the Purina Walk for Dog Guides on May 25th along the Harbourfront here in Toronto. Please read Andrea’s letter to Kadence below. In the past you have been beyond generous sharing Andrea’s story and raising funds, so I will ask you again to read, share, and please if you can donate. Bella playing with k 1Dear Kadence,

We’ve waited almost three years for you to come into our lives.  I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am that you are finally a member of our family. I know that you’ve already been through a lot and have worked very hard to get to where you are today. From birth, you were exposed to different noises and obstacles to help encourage confidence and curiosity. You were then raised by a foster family who gave you basic training and socialized you to as many sights, sounds and smells to prepare you for your future career. When you were only one-year-old, you left your foster family to endure many assessments, and you were carefully selected to become an Autism Assistance Dog Guide. Since February, you were matched with our daughter Bella and have officially joined our family.

B and K for birthday at BV mall 1Our household is now filled with high-pitched screams of excitement every morning when Bella sees you. You’ve brought such a sense of joy and hope into our lives. Since becoming a mother, I’ve carried a lot of weight on my shoulders. I wake up every morning and go to bed every night worrying. When Bella was a baby, I would worry about why she wasn’t hitting her milestones like the other babies. I worried that she would never be able to walk. I worried that the doctors would never be able to provide us with a diagnosis that would explain why she was different. Now that Bella is 6 and in kindergarten, I worry if she has friends to play with at recess. I worry about her hurting herself because she does not walk steadily. I worry about her wandering away and getting lost because she has no sense of personal safety. I worry about her getting sick and enduring another seizure. I worry that I’m not doing enough to help her reach her potential. Most of all, I worry about her future.

One of the hardest challenges that I have faced as a parent to a child with special needs is having to rely on others to help my child because I can’t. Although as a teacher I help students on a daily basis to reach their goals and soar beyond their potential, there’s only so much that I can do for my little girl. I’ve had to learn to trust doctors, specialists, therapists, educational assistants, and her teachers to provide the tools that I don’t have to help Bella. Over the past years, granting these experts our trust has paid off because their training has helped Bella to learn how to walk and communicate with us with the help of visual aids and picture cards. We’ve worked very hard to get Bella to where she is today. However, I never expected to, one day, welcome the expertise of a four-legged furry creature who wags her bum, drools and passes gas unapologetically.

Bella loves her teeth on her handsWe are now on the journey of, not only embracing you as part of our lives, but entrusting you with our happy little girl. The trainers have told us that it may take up to a year until you meaningfully bond with Bella. Because she is non-verbal, I know it is challenging for you to read her and understand her needs. However, in just the few months that you have been with us, you have already learned Bella’s pace as she tiptoes while she plays, and stomps while she walks. You quietly lie beside Bella when she is in her IBI, speech and language, and physiotherapy sessions and provide her with the self- assurance and confidence that she needs. You tolerate her pulling and whacking on your tail because you see that it makes her giggle. You lick her hand because you know she likes the feeling of your teeth and your tongue. When Bella wakes up crying in the middle of the night, you’re beginning to check on her and turn Bella’s terrified cries into reassured smiles.

Kadence, I admire your work ethic, patience, and manners. As I load the kids into the car, you sit by my side until you are given the command to jump in. You always wait patiently for your food as Bella is learning how to place it into your bowl, and refuse your dog treats before we give you the command to go ahead. When other dogs bark at you for your attention, or when a squirrel runs across the road, you continue walking straight ahead because you know you have a job to do. I wonder if you’ll ever truly grasp the importance of your role, not only for Bella, but for all of us. We will never be able to provide Bella with the companionship and emotional support that you can. Nothing makes Bella’s smile larger than seeing you.

I look forward to witnessing your growing bond and seeing Bella thrive with you by her side. Now that Bella is getting older and taller, she is beginning to stand out when we’re out in public. I can see it in people’s eyes. They stare and wonder why she wants to lick everything, why she makes funny noises, why she spins around and around, and why she still wears a bib.

DSC00523Before you came into our lives, Kadence, I would sometimes feel self-conscious and carry an arsenal of tools to calm Bella down and to help her cope. We sometimes have to put her in a wheelchair for family outings to keep her safe. Now, with you walking by our side, I feel a sense of pride and comfort. The red harness that you wear is a poster creating awareness for autism and advocating for Bella.

People are now more open to approaching us with questions. Meaningful questions such as: How does Kadence help her? What do you need Kadence for? What kind of training did she have to go through? Does your daughter enjoy Kadence? I love how people have the courage to ask. We are working towards having Kadence go to school with Bella in September so that Bella can continue growing, learning and moving forward as you provide her with confidence, competence, and independence. Thank you, Kadence, for providing my daughter with laughter, companionship, strength, and courage. But most of all, thank you for being a friend to our Bella.



Although a dog guide is valued at $25,000, they are provided free of charge to families who apply for a dog guide (whether it be for the vision and hearing impaired, seizure response, autism assistance, diabetic alert, and other service dogs). The Lions Foundation of Canada is the founder and primary funder of Dog Guides Canada. Lions clubs across Canada contribute 25% of the revenue for the organization, so they depend highly on donations, sponsorship, and fundraisers. Every year our family has done an annual run to raise awareness for people and families who live with special needs. With the addition of Kadence into our family this year, we decided to do the Purina Walk for Dog Guides on May 24th at the Harbourfront in Toronto, Ontario. Please consider making a donation to help provide dog guides to other families. Donate here. For more information on Autism Assistance Dog Guides, please visit:

Guest Blogger: “The Pink Benefit” Fundraising for Evelyn by Kym Stasiuk

I am always happy to open my blog to friends and family who need a platform to share and educate others. When I learned of the seriousness of a neighbours illness I knew I had to act. I grew up in Hamilton Ontario on a small street busy with kids and fun. We had epic games of hide and go seek which took place over many front lawns, and road basketball games that went on all night. We were a community connected and caring. I grew up across the street from a family of six kids, most of us were similar in age, the Stasiuk family. They were… are… one of the most loving families I have ever met. A house filled with music, creativity, deep love, and great laughter. Last August while on maternity leave with her second child, my neighbour Evelyn Stasiuk, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer and thus unable to work. I’ve heard regular updates from my dad, who still lives across from the Stasiuk family, and the hardships that they are going through, please take a minute to learn about Evelyn and her family and if you can, please donate.

UPDATE: Tilt have agreed to wave all fees connected to this campaign. 100% of donations will go towards the Stasiuk family.

SONY DSCAs some of you may be aware, my brother Galen’s wife, Evelyn, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer last August, something very rare for a woman still in her 30s. At that time, Evelyn was on maternity leave with their second child and the family was living in Cape Breton where Galen had recently accepted seasonal employment as the head chef at the well-known dining and live Celtic music venue, The Red Shoe Pub. Unfortunately, the testing revealed that the cancer had already spread to Evelyn’s liver and spine. The doctors’ recommended that the family return home to Hamilton immediately so that Evelyn could receive proper care at McMaster Hospital. Taking this advice, Galen left his job at the Red Shoe and returned home to Hamilton where Evelyn would commence chemotherapy treatment that September. For obvious reasons, neither she nor he has been able to return to work since the diagnosis and instead have focused entirely on battling this illness, while raising two small children (ages 1 and 3).

IMG_0090 Evelyn’s co-workers are organizing a fundraising event for her at the Royal Canadian Legion located at 435 Limeridge Road East in Hamilton (across the street from Limeridge Mall) from 7pm to 1am on Saturday, March 21, 2015. Funds raised will be used to support Evelyn and her family while she continues to receive care during this difficult time. Tickets are $10 each. If you are in the area and interested in attending the event, please contact Evelyn’s sister, Jenn by email at

If you would like to support the cause but are not able to attend the event, an online campaign has started where donations can be made at, using the following link:

Thanks in advance for your consideration and support,