The Ultimate Gift You Could Ever Receive & How You Can Get One Too! #ToyotaWishmaker
We’ve reached the beginning of holiday season which means that most of us have children who are making lists of things they want/don’t need. The radio and television are sounding off with a multitude of commercials pushing the latest and greatest gadgets, toys and other things that “you need right now” because hey, it’s the holidays after all!
Yesterday, I received the best gift I could have ever received thanks to the Ontario Toyota Dealers Association and Lisa Richer, a friend of mine here in town. No, I didn’t win a vehicle, instead I was given the opportunity to do something that made me feel such an incredible amount of joy, that I still can’t quite put into words.
Lisa Richer and her husband Julien have two children, Ryan and Emily. Emily Richer was born February 2, 2003 with a rare condition called “Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome”. It is a very rare neurological disorder that affects 1 in 50,000 children. She is visually impaired, tube fed and basically she needs to be monitored for 24 hours a day, requiring a trach so she can use a ventilator to help her breathe at night.
Emily is visually impaired, developmentally delayed, hypotonic, experiences frequent seizures, and has to be tube fed through her stomach. This is in additional to 10 other conditions. She is now almost 12 years old and still acts like a newborn.
Emily was diagnosed with CCHS at 1 month old and her parents were told in a room full of 6-8 medical professionals that their only two options would be for her to be trached or let go. Her parents didn’t accept their consensus and did everything they could to make sure she got the best care. She was trached during the SARS outbreak and her parents were then told that she’d have to live in Sick Kids Hospital for 1 1/2 – 2 years. Thankfully, Emily ended up doing so well that they allowed her to come home at 3 1/2 months. Both Lisa and Julien visited her almost every weekend for those months (6 hours driving each way) and because of their dedication the hospital felt comfortable with allowing her to go.
A couple of years ago, the Richer family had to spend 10 days in the hospital over Christmas because their daughter had a UTI that turned septic, she was also anemic, had a case of pancreatitis and a break on her arm. They thought they were going to lose her. Thankfully she pulled through and they were able to bring her home.
Both Lisa and Julien are incredible, dedicated and loving parents, who have done such an amazing job caring for their daughter. When you meet Lisa, you can instantly recognize her inner light and joy. Even amongst all of her difficulties she shines and makes you feel warm and welcome. She’s an incredible human being that pays it forward in her community and inspires me daily with her dedication and love amongst all of the trials she’s experienced.
Although they both have full time jobs (Lisa works from home and does lots of volunteer work), there is a substantial financial strain due to the extra care and medical help needed for their daughter. They have an ongoing fund set up for Emily, which people contribute to from time to time, but it’s not enough. Things are tough.
Last week, Toyota sent me an email asking if I’d like to take part in their new initiative, the “Wishmaker Holiday Calendar.” From December 1st – December 24th, the Ontario Toyota Dealers Association will be making 24 wishes come true to someone new every day. The weather has been atrocious in most of Ontario and Lisa and her family are in need of winter tires. It’s an added expense that they can’t afford right now, so my wish this holiday season is to give them a new set of winter tires for their vehicle.
I’m so proud and excited to say that the Ontario Toyota Dealers Association will be making that dream come true for the Richer family, thanks to this program. Giving her the news yesterday is one of the most satisfying and emotional moments for me and I’m so humbled to have been given this opportunity.
I encourage you to try and make a difference in your own community this holiday season by visiting Toyotawishmaker.ca, scrolling down the page and sharing YOUR story. You can send a story, video or photos (a combination is good too) and nominate someone who you think deserves some holiday magic. For 24 days in December, the WishMaker will grant a special wish to one person per day and your story could be the one chosen!
A big thank you to the Ontario Toyota Dealers Association for facilitating this opportunity and giving me the best gift I could have ever wished for. Thank you, thank you!
Photo credit: Christian Lambert Photography and Lisa Richer’s family photos