Rita’s Generosity Lives on: Downsview Family Hosts Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway

In fall 2008, former Downsview resident Rita Qaqish was diagnosed with breast cancer, an illness that will affect 1 in 9 women in Ontario, and the most common cancer facing women.  With the loving support of her husband Muneer and her son Matthew, Rita bravely fought this illness for 7 years until it took her life in the fall of 2015.

On October 5, 2017 the family of the late Rita Qaqish held a free Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway in her honour at Yorkgate Mall to help spread awareness about breast cancer and to urge women to get regular breast screenings through mammograms.  Participants lined up well in advance of the event to receive a free frozen turkey and vegetables, a Grocery Gift Pack Voucher (redeemable after completing a mammogram at an Ontario Breast Screening Program site), and the opportunity to speak to experts about breast cancer screening.

“My wife always put the needs of others before her own.  Our family is making this donation so that Rita’s goodwill lives on and may even help save a life.” said Muneer Qaqish.

The Qaqish family partnered up with Toronto Public Health, Durante’s No Frills, Black Creek Community Health Centre, the Humber River Hospital, Yorkgate Mall, Councillor Anthony Perruzza, and DUKE Heights BIA in the creation of the event.

“The best chance to beat breast cancer is early detection”, said Judy Murray, Manager of the Chronic Disease Program at the Black Creek Community Health Centre located in Yorkgate Mall.  Judy is also a breast cancer survivor; after her regular breast screening in 2011, an abnormality was found and she underwent fast and appropriate treatment.  She has been cancer free since.

You can book a mammogram through your family doctor, but if you are 50+ years of age, you can simply book a mammogram directly by contacting the Ontario Breast Screening Program line at 1-800-668-9304 to find the closest screening site.

The Humber River Hospital (HRH) Breast Health Centre located at 1235 Wilson Avenue (416-242-1000 ext. 63600) is one such location to book your mammogram.  “The mammogram is the gold standard for breast cancer detection”,  said Jia Inacio, Breast Health Supervisor at HRH. “Our HRH Breast Health Centre has physicians, technologists, nurses, and navigators working together to help you. Through our Direct Referral program, your imaging and diagnostic tests can all be done in one day.”

Lisa Swimmer, Manager of Chronic Disease Prevention and Injury Prevention at Toronto Public Health, recommends healthy lifestyle choices in addition to regular breast cancer screening through mammograms.  Her list of healthy choices below can reduce the chance of cancer and also improves overall health and well-being:

  • Eating a variety of vegetables and fruit, whole grain products, choosing lower-fat foods, and having meat alternatives such as beans, peas and lentils
  • Being physically active every day
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Not smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol use

While it is recommended for women aged 50-74 to be screened every two years, Lisa mentioned women who are in a higher risk category between the ages 30-69 should have yearly mammograms.  Women are in the higher risk category if they have had breast cancer before, have family members who have had breast cancer, are a confirmed carrier of a specific genetic mutation, or have a personal history of radiation to the chest before the age of 30.

Local area Councillor Anthony Perruzza was honoured to have the event in the Downsview community, “I want to thank the Qaqish family for their tremendous act of generosity.  The strength and love of this family is a great example for all of us.”

This month, make the time to get screened for breast cancer or urge someone you care about to be screened, it may save a life.

Hospital bed shortage continues to be major concern

The Ontario Government is considering reopening the Finch site of the Humber River Hospital to try to address the large shortage of beds, overcrowding, and hallway medicine in the area and in the province.  The Finch site would be used to hold 150 seniors waiting for long-term care. Two years ago, the Wynne Liberals closed the Hospital which has contributed to the severe shortage.

Over the last few years, community members have pushed to create expansions to the Finch site of the Humber River Hospital; efforts have included getting thousands of signatures for petitions which have been presented at Queen’s Park. The location was promised to be kept open for ambulatory care, but instead became an acute care facility and was subsequently closed. Now the Wynne Liberals are scrambling to solve the problem that they have created and ignored for many years.

Tom Rakocevic, Ontario NDP Candidate for Humber River-Black Creek said: “Our community played a big role in the creation of the Humber River Hospital on Finch, and we were disappointed to see it closed despite assurances of the contrary.  The government talk on the potential re-opening of this site in some form highlights the government’s mistake to close it down in the first place.  Our community deserves answers on the future of this important hospital site.”

Throughout Ontario, there have been thousands of cuts and layoffs to hospitals while we have been facing a shortage of beds. There is a 30,000 person wait-list for seniors’ care, and hospitals all over the province are at over 100 per cent capacity. This disconnection has reduced the quality of the health system in Ontario and has put the lives of many people in jeopardy.

Earl Bales Park Welcomes Community Centre Expansion

The Earl Bales Community Centre is in the process of a 4.5-million-dollar expansion. The City of Toronto is redeveloping the property in order to upgrade how the building functions and benefits the community. Construction began this past June, and is expected to wrap-up by summer 2018.

Earl Bales is the fourth largest park in Toronto, known for being a fully accessible alternative to other parks in the core of the city. Supporting over 50 local groups and clubs of all age groups, Earl Bales Community Centre is a hub for leisure, education and growth.

The new gymnasium has been the subject of immense anticipation. With a full basketball court, two half-courts, and three badminton courts, the 50×80-foot space will provide sufficient recreational opportunities for countless residents. In addition to the exercise zones, the expansion will include two universal washrooms, a family change room and a lounge area.

The design of the gymnasium allows natural light to illuminate the room by incorporating enormous windows, featuring views of the park and playground. Visitors to the new site will enjoy an upbeat and comfortable atmosphere.

Councillor James Pasternak has expressed his excitement, saying that this project is a major part of “ongoing attempts to make Earl Bales one of the premier parks in the city.”

In addition to the gymnasium, the building will receive upgrades to the kitchen, barrier-free doors, and a movable partition in the multi-purpose room to accommodate simultaneous events. The flooring will be upgraded, providing a seamless transition from the main hall to the multi-purpose room.

Environmentally friendly features like a sustainable “cool roof” as well as energy efficient lighting will be added to the building as a part of the City’s ongoing green adjustment initiatives.

The 127 acre park has always been known for its picnic pads, trails, and ski centre. This new expansion offers numerous upgrades that will make the park an outdoor hotspot for years to come within and beyond Ward 10.