In early 2017, the Nanny Angel Network was thrilled to announce that NAN founder Audrey Guth had been named a recipient of L’Oréal Paris’s inaugural Canadian Women of Worth program.
The signature philanthropic program embodies the L’Oréal Paris belief that ‘Every Woman Is Worth It’ by elevating and celebrating women who find beauty in giving back. The 10 Women of Worth Honourees were celebrated and awarded more than $100,000 in charitable grants at an Awards Gala on March 8, International Women’s Day, hosted by L’Oréal Paris spokesperson, award-winning actress and humanitarian, Blake Lively.
“We have been inspired and awestruck by the hundreds of Women of Worth nominations we received about extraordinary Canadian women who are selflessly volunteering their time and talents to make Canada a better place,” said Stephanie Binette, General Manager, L’Oréal Paris in Canada. “Our first Canadian Women of Worth are advocates for refugees and the homeless, and champions for women and youth in need, among many other important causes. We applaud this year’s Honourees.”
The Women of Worth program honours Canadian women who selflessly volunteer their time to serve and improve their communities. In its inaugural year in Canada, the program received more than 350 nominations which were judged by L’Oréal Paris, Points of Light, the world’s largest volunteer service organization, and esteemed volunteer leadership experts. Selection criteria was based on the impact of the cause on the social fabric of the community, the nominee’s ability to meet an unmet community need or concern, as well as the passion and innovation she has demonstrated to effect change.
Every year, we recognize the outstanding commitment, dedication and enthusiasm of one of our Nanny Angel volunteers.
Meet our 2016 Nanny Angel of the Year, Verna Ross.
Verna has been a dedicated Nanny Angel since April 2014. In her time with NAN, she has logged over 350 hours and provided support to 10 families. Verna has touched many lives. Below is just one example of the difference she makes for the families she supports.
“A very big thank you to Verna for her absolute devotion and dedication. She is truly an angel. She has shown so much love, care and kindness to me and my son. My son eagerly looks forward to their outings together and I can tell when he gets home from each outing that he’s had so much fun.” – Felicia, NAN Mom
When asked why she chooses to volunteer her time with the Nanny Angel Network, Verna expressed how much she appreciates having the opportunity to share her expertise in childcare. Verna was beyond gracious when we presented her with the award, saying, “it is a privilege to be a Nanny Angel and an honour to have mothers entrust their children to me during their struggle with cancer. Your organization has enabled me to reach out to mothers who both need and appreciate help. My volunteering experience with NAN has been very rewarding and special.”
Congratulations to Verna on being awarded our 2016 Nanny Angel of the Year!
Our work at the Nanny Angel Network would not be possible without amazing volunteers like Verna. We appreciate all our Nanny Angels for volunteering their time, opening up their heart and providing support to NAN families when they need it most.
Saturday, July 23rd marked the 7th annual Chantal Millet Memorial Golf Tournament, hosted at Sparrow Lakes Golf Club in Welland Ontario. The Millet family began hosting the event in honour of Chantal, who succumbed to breast cancer after a four year battle. Husband Ian and daughters Lauren and Andrea decided the best way to honour Chantal would be an annual golf tournament where family and friends can gather and celebrate their memories of her.
This year’s event raised a total of $4,300 and all proceeds were donated to NAN! A big thank you to the Millet Family for their generosity and support. We look forward to continuing this wonderful partnership and working together more in the future. The day was full of fun and sun on the course followed by dinner and prizes. Our very own Emily was in attendance and all participants were sporting pink – which you know we love!
“Chantal Millet was a fun loving, avid golfer whose idea of a good time on the golf course was taking way more shots than necessary, and always said “if you follow all the rules, you will miss all the fun”. After just completing the 7th annual Chantal Millet Memorial Golf Tournament, the day has become a means for friends and family from all over Ontario and Quebec to gather together, remember their amazing friend and family member, all while raising money for charity. We are thrilled to partner with NAN as our exclusive charity for this year and the future.” – Lauren Millet
Educators emphasize the importance of introducing young children to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) early. However, for parents and nannies who don’t have a background in STEM, and for whom the days of grade school science experiments are long ago, the thought of introducing STEM concepts to young children can be quite daunting. Happily, engaging children in STEM while they are young is less about teaching equations and more about teaching how to problem solve!
Children are naturally inquisitive, as anyone who has endured a couple hundred rounds of ‘why? But why?’ can attest. STEM for young children is based on capturing the curious nature of children and teaching them how to reason it out independently. You don’t need to have a PhD in physics, biology, or mathematics to engage children in STEM based play. In fact, learning together can be half the fun!
Having children use reason, prediction, hypothesis, and problem solving to attempt to discover an answer to a question teaches critical thinking. It is easy to incorporate these skills into play, from activities that use chemical reactions, such as making elephant toothpaste, to nature walks that encourage children to explore their natural environment. Our Nanny Angels often incorporate STEM into the activities they do, through crafts and investigation of the natural world! Encouraging children to form their own hypotheses about the natural world fosters their natural curiosity. When a child asks you why something works the way it does, ask them why they think it works that way. Once they’ve created their own hypothesis, you can help them put it to the test. Teaching STEM concepts can be as simple as walking through a forest with a child!
Aside from nature walks, experiments are another way to engage children, and are teachable through activities that children will absolutely love doing!
One classic experiment is the egg drop experiment. It is simple, and easy to adapt to any age group. The challenge is for the kids to design a contraption using various materials, usually recyclables, to protect an egg when it is dropped from a height. By designing a protective case for the egg and going through a trial and error process, children learn why their design might not have worked, and come up with ideas about what might work instead. Check out this website for a compete outline of the experiment. Beware… some eggs will have to be sacrificed in the name of science!!
Another classic, and a favourite amongst kids and Nanny Angels alike, is the explosive combo of baking soda and vinegar! This magically fizzy combo can be used in a variety of experiments, from film canister rockets to the classic volcano. Ana Dziengel at Babble Dabble Do has come up with a very cool version that uses the citric acid in lemons rather than vinegar to create tiny volcanos. She also uses dish soap and food colouring to make the reaction even more dramatic! You can read the complete instructions over on her blog.
Angels like Leigh are what set the Nanny Angel Network apart. NAN provides so much more than just childcare, our Angels are passionate and highly educated caregivers who go above and beyond to support families, and create a safe space where kids can just be kids.
Leigh has worked and volunteered with children since she was ten years old. Babysitting jobs evolved into volunteer positions with a local church classroom which turned into working at the ER of her local children’s hospital. Along with a background in education, Leigh received a BA in psychology, and a BScN. She’s currently a nurse in the Child & Family Program at VHA Home Health Care.
Leigh first discovered the Nanny Angel Network in 2014. Her three passions are healthcare, children, and volunteering so NAN could not have been a more perfect fit. She applied immediately, and was accepted and placed with a family.
A typical visit with her family begins with NAN’s famous Green Bag, filled with toys and games from the closet at the Nanny Angel Network head office. Leigh visits with a three-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl, who loves crafts. Leigh likes to plan seasonal crafts to get the kids excited for holidays. Often times the kids will initiate medical play, where Leigh acts as the patient while the kids pretend to be doctors. Leigh explained “If they want to talk about cancer they know that I’m a safe person to talk to, but I never push them to talk about it.”
When asked about her role as a Nanny Angel, Leigh shared the responsibility she feels to ensure the children are made to feel safe, and have fun. “I support the kids on their terrifying roller coaster ride, offering answers when I can, and being a comforting presence the rest of the time.” While some days as a Nanny Angel can be difficult, it can also be incredibly rewarding, Leigh explains.
“I think the best experience would have to have been when my then 2-year-old looked up at me with big brown puppy-dog eyes and said to me, ‘I wuv you in my heart.’ That got me right in the feels!”
In an interview with the mother of the children Leigh visits, the mother shared the impact Leigh has had on her children. “Leigh, when she was younger, she would say “goodnight, sleepy angel” to her sisters growing up, and she does that with my kids, and so they say it to her. They don’t say it to us – they only say it to her! If she doesn’t say if first, then they’ll make a point of saying it and she has to say it back. So it’s really nice to see that they have their own thing together.” Having Leigh visit also provided the mother with some much needed time to rest. “When I was at work, it was nice to have one night where I could come home and not parent – and just sleep.”
NAN was excited to name Leigh our 2015 Nanny Angel of the Year for all of her hard work, passion, and dedication. She was presented with one of our Angel Wing Necklaces by NAN Board member Joyce Frustaglio on June 23rd. Thank you so much Leigh, for everything that you do for NAN and for mothers with cancer in your community.
The Nanny Angel Network could not be possible without people like Leigh volunteering their time out of their very busy schedules to provide the specialized care the children of mothers affected with cancer need. The Nanny Angels support the children’s development and provide a safe environment for discussion so that the children do not feel the need to suppress the numerous emotions they feel under the circumstances. Nanny Angels build relationships with their clients and genuinely care about their well-being. The kind of support they offer is extremely hard to find in the childcare market today, much less offered at no cost. This ensures that mother is not left without help when she is going through such a difficult time.
Text: Mia Shulman Photos: Omar Duragos, Nanny Angel Network
Father’s Day is bittersweet for many of our Nanny Angel Families. Fathers often carry a tremendous burden when their partner becomes ill. We would like to celebrate the important role father’s play in helping moms during the difficult time of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. For all of the fathers who find themselves in a situation that they could never have imagined, we acknowledge that you are often the glue that keeps your family together. You deserve this special day.
For some dads, this may be the first Father’s Day that they are celebrating without their children’s mom. One such dad is Pawan Sharma. When Pawan and his wife were introduced to the Nanny Angel Network, it was just after Pawan’s wife had been diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with their second daughter. The Nanny Angel Network was able to support Pawan and his family through his wife’s treatment and after she passed. The Sharma family holds a special place in the heart of the Nanny Angel Network family, and we’re so thankful that Pawan agreed to share his story.
The Nanny Angel Network came into my life as its name reflects, like an angel, like hope. It’s not easy to know your loved one is in pain and is going through so much. I’ll never forget the night I was waiting outside the operation theater, praying for two lives, my wife’s and our unborn daughter’s, to come through safely. You can’t even imagine that moment. It was so heavy for me and I felt helpless. After my wife was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, my role as a husband and as a father totally changed. On one side I had my wife, who was fighting for her life and whom I promised before marriage that I would be there for, in her happiness and her sorrow, and on the other side, I had my little angel who was born premature. I was on an emotional roller coaster but I gathered my courage and cared for my wife until the last moment of her life.
I can’t even express my gratitude and thanks to the Nanny Angel Network. NAN provided moral support to my family and a financial gift when Audrey Guth was selected as part of TD Canada Trust’s Make Today Matter campaign. The Nanny Angels assured my wife that everything would be okay and my wife was able to take satisfaction from knowing that our kids were in good hands.
When my wife passed away, I was very down emotionally. Returning to work a couple weeks later seemed like a new challenge, I was scared and unsure of what would happen. When Audrey called and told me that she would stand beside me, I felt secure. She kept her promise and I returned to my job with no worries.
Michelle, our Nanny Angel, stepped in and cared for my kids as a mother would. She gave love, affection, and support to my kids when they needed that support the most and she even provided help for my mother, who was living with me and my daughters.
She came to my house everyday and gave a bath to the kids, fed them, read stories and allowed my mom to take breaks and relax. At that time my older daughter missed her mother a lot, and was experiencing many emotional difficulties. Life was not normal anymore, but our Nanny Angel supported us and became our savior.
My younger daughter knows nothing regarding our situation; she is still too young to understand what happened, but my older daughter went through a very emotional phase. She visited the hospital many times to see her mother before she passed, and asked so many questions. “Why is mom not coming home? When is she coming back?” After my wife’s death, she went through the grief phase, just like us. It’s so hard to even think of now, I am just so thankful to God that NAN came into our lives.
The Nanny Angels touched our lives and I hope and pray that they will touch many more in the future.
Pawan’s story has touched the hearts of those at the Nanny Angel Network and it is so uplifting to know the difference NAN is making in the lives of those experiencing such challenging and exhausting circumstances. Pawan and his daughters are one of many families who lives have been profoundly impacted by the presence of a Nanny Angel. This impact is exactly the kind of difference NAN aims to make in the lives of every family they serve.
Colouring books have been a favourite childhood activity for generations. Books often feature children’s favourite characters from television, movies, or books, as well as animals and other cute subjects. NAN’s Nanny Angels often use colouring books while working with children who are coping with a parent’s cancer. It is often during these quiet moments that a child will open up and feel safe to ask questions they are afraid to ask anyone else. Happily, Nanny Angels are specially trained to answer the difficult questions children have about their parent’s illness.
More recently, there has also been a huge trend towards colouring books for adults. The craze began in 2013 when Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford was asked by a British publishing house to create a colouring book for children based off her designs. Instead, she proposed a colouring book for adults, and Secret Garden soon became an international bestseller, followed by Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean.
For children, colouring books are a great way to occupy their time. They also provide a number of developmental benefits, from fine motor skills to eye tracking and focusing. “When a child colours in set spaces… she must coordinate a complex set of skills,” wrote homeschool teacher Marilisa Sachteleben. However, some are less enthusiastic about children’s colouring books.
New York-based art therapist Nadia Jenefsky explained in an interview with Quartz that children are so creative that colouring books often hamper them, forcing them to conform to pre-set designs rather than stretching their innate creativity. “I don’t buy colouring books for my kids,” Jean Van’t Hul writes on her website, The Artful Parent. “I’d rather have them draw their own art than color in someone else’s.”
Whether you agree or disagree on the benefits of colouring books for children, the recent trend in adult colouring books has turned colouring into an activity that parents and children can both enjoy. Sitting down and colouring with your child is something that doesn’t take a lot of energy – perfect for a parent undergoing draining and extensive cancer treatments – and can be taken with you wherever you go. Besides being an excellent low-energy activity to do with your child, there are additional benefits for colouring for parents who are going through the immense stress of cancer treatments.
Though the American Art Therapy Association has cautioned that there is a difference between art therapy and art that is therapeutic, adult colouring books can be very relaxing for adults, and the organization has supported their use for pleasure and self-care. “People with a lot of anxiety respond really well to colouring books,” art therapist Jenefsky explained, “There are some choices involved – in terms of choosing what colours you’re gong to use and how you’re blending your colours – but there’s also a lot of structure.”
From the beautiful and delicate designs of Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom to the cheeky Color Me Swoon, with its images of Hollywood stars, the adult colouring book trend has produced a huge variety of colouring books. As an activity to do with your children when you don’t have much energy left or simply as a way to relax and unwind after treatment, adult colouring books are perfect for parents undergoing cancer treatments.
In 2008 ECHOage was created by two moms who wanted to introduce their children to the idea of giving back to the community through charitable donations. Their goal was to make giving to charity a fun and exciting activity for children while also making the lives of parents easier. ECHOage’s innovative structure splits funds raised through a party between a charity and the party’s host. This allows the child to choose their own gift, as well as giving them the experience of picking a charity to support.
“When you are blessed, it is important for the kids to learn what it means to give,” said Jordy, a mother whose daughter recently celebrated her birthday through an ECHOage party. Giving through ECHOage is a yearly tradition in their household, with the children picking out a different charity every year. Jordy explained that her family believes that when you are in a position of privilege, it is essential to teach your children the importance of giving to those who are less fortunate.
Jordy’s daughter, Ella, was the one to choose the Nanny Angel Network for her birthday. Every year her and her mom sit down and go through the list of charities on the ECHOage website, discussing the ones that catch Ella’s eye. Jordy was already familiar with NAN when it caught Ella’s attention, and she was able to explain to Ella the services the Nanny Angel Network provides to mothers with cancer and their children. Ella, who has her own nanny that she adores, found NAN’s mission very relatable, and told her mother that she would like NAN to be the charity to benefit from her birthday this year.
Jordy emphasized the importance of the lessons that are taught to children through ECHOage parties. “It’s not even really a choice in our household,” she said. She believes it is important for her daughter to learn that you don’t need a million presents, that you can still get gifts while also giving back to someone else.
The lessons taught to children through giving to charity are ones that stay with them throughout their lives. By hosting a party through ECHOage, children learn to think about what life is like for other people and the ease with which they can impact the world around them in a positive way. The Nanny Angel Network, which provides childcare to children who are going through some of the hardest times of their lives, is an excellent choice for children looking to help other children. Giving to NAN through ECHOage allows Canadian children to have a direct impact upon their community.
Community support is key to NAN’s success, and we are always so excited when someone chooses to support us in providing more mothers with cancer the support they need during this challenging time. For every dollar that is donated to NAN, we are able to provide two dollars of specialized, in-home relief childcare to mothers with cancer.
Please consider hosting an ECHOage party and selecting the Nanny Angel Network as your charity of choice. Simply go to echoage.com to register, create an event invitation, and choose NAN as your charity. If you have any questions, or would be interested in raising money for NAN in a different way, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 416-730-0025 x0.
“I just feel like I’ve lost myself. I have nothing left that used to be me. I can’t even walk anymore. I just want my life back.”
Heather had thought nothing of the tissue samples that were taken during her breast reduction surgery in December 2014. But within a few weeks of her surgery, she got a call she’d never expected: she had breast cancer. Her whole world was suddenly turned upside down. Heather went from being a full-time worker and mother of 2 boys, Nathan and Jesse, to a full-time patient undergoing surgery and chemotherapy.
A double mastectomy left her unable to lift her hands and made everyday tasks difficult. For months, Heather struggled through the recovery process and the start of an aggressive chemotherapy regimen without help. Each day, she still got out of bed at 6:30am to wake up her 8 year old son Nathan for school. Some days, she was so nauseous after getting up that she’d have to ask her older son Jesse to get Nathan out of bed. But nothing was going to stop her from making sure that Nathan was properly cared for and supported.
One day at the hospital in March 2015, Heather came across a pamphlet for the Nanny Angel Network (NAN). After being encouraged by a friend to contact the agency, Heather had two Nanny Angels looking after Nathan.
“The two Nanny Angels that I have are amazing. They really are. They’re really good. And they’ll think ahead. They’ll plan something for the next time. Or they’ll bring something that they want to do. So they’ve been really good.” One of Nathan’s Nanny Angels found out that he wants to be a scientist when he grows up – so what better way to spend their time together than by doing science experiments? Backyard volcanoes, lava lamps and rock collections soon ensued and Nathan couldn’t have had more fun doing it. Nathan’s other Nanny Angel discovered different things he loved to do, like Lego, battleship and treasure hunts in the park.
Having the Nanny Angels take care of Nathan was a great source of relief for Heather. “Before NAN came I was worried trying to find something for Nathan to do or go and trying to make arrangements for him when I’m really not well and not feeling up to it but still stressing over what was going to happen with him. When I had the Nanny Angels, they knew when to come and they would just come when I asked them and I didn’t have to stress. I didn’t have to worry so much. I knew Nathan would be okay and he’d be out playing and wouldn’t be watching me receive chemotherapy treatment.” During the Nanny Angels visits, Heather is able to do the one thing she needs most: rest. Sometimes, that meant retreating to her bedroom to lie down. Other times, when she was too weak, she would stay downstairs on the couch and quietly watch Nathan and the Nanny Angel playing together.
Nanny Angel Network’s services have been even more vital to Heather given her level of family support. “My first chemo treatment, my sister was supposed to take me and the day before she canceled and said “I can’t do it.” So I had to scramble to find a ride to the hospital and back. And then that day I wasn’t feeling good, so I called my mom to see if she could bring McDonald’s over for Nathan because… I was just so sick and didn’t have time to make dinner. She came in, brought him McDonald’s, looked at me and she wouldn’t stay. I asked her to stay to help me but she just said “I can’t” and left. They can’t deal with what’s happened to me. They can’t look at me.”
Throughout all of these disappointments, obstacles and challenges, one thing has kept Heather going: Nathan. “If I didn’t have him, I would be totally different. I think I probably would be crying, laying there doing nothing. But he doesn’t give me the opportunity.” Nathan’s joyful and resilient spirit has brought humour into a difficult situation. With Heather’s hair starting to come back, she decided to buy a wig and wear it to pick him up from school one day. Noticing the wig, Nathan was quick to say, “Oh, Mommy you look really good.” Which was soon followed by “Can I pull it off?” Heather was simultaneously mortified and amused.
Heather’s battle with cancer is not over. But she is continuing to look for joy in her everyday life. “I say this to people, that, you may not understand, it’s this horrible thing we’re going through, but I’ve been lucky in some ways. We’ve had a lot of nice things happen that wouldn’t have happened. Like the nannies – we wouldn’t have met them. And Nathan enjoys them. He really does.”
After a week of the Nanny Angel Network team anxiously checking the weather reports and peering nervously up at the sky, Friday morning dawned bright and clear, and we collectively breathed a sigh of relief. Following a morning of checking and double checking that everything was ready for that evening, the NAN team headed out for our offices to the gorgeous Palais Royale on the lakefront. The perfectly sunny day set the lake alight, and the air was filled with the sounds of pedestrians out taking advantage of the beautiful day. In front of the doors was a stretch of brilliant pink carpet that drew the eye to the first sign of the event’s 60’s theme: an adorable retro Mercedes-Benz.
As guests arrived, they were greeted by a crowd of paparazzi calling out in excitement. Guests grinned in delight as they posed for a souvenir photo. Doormen dressed in period garb ushered VIP guests to the back of the building, where the deck beside the lake awaited them. In the bright sunlight, and accompanied by the wonderful voice of Canadian singer/songwriter Kenny Munshaw, guests mingled and sipped on cocktails. Among them were adorably dressed retro cigarette girls selling angel wing necklaces and raffle tickets.
Guests moved inside for dinner, reluctant to leave the sunshine behind. However, the inside of the venue was as perfect as the exterior, and everyone had soon happily found their seats. The evening’s emcee, Stefano DiMatteo introduced the guests to the Nanny Angel Network’s founder, Audrey Guth. She focused on the story of one of the evening’s attendees, Pawan Sharma, whose late wife Priyanka and her children had been the recipient of NAN’s services prior to her death. His two young daughters have continued to receive visits from Nanny Angels throughout the past year as they grieved the loss of their mother, and as their father struggled with the loss of his wife. Audrey spoke of how Priyanka inspired her. Tears filled her voice, and it was easy to spot others in the audience wiping at their eyes. The story of Pawan and his family is just one among many that NAN has helped in the GTA, something demonstrated by what Audrey next introduced, the 2016 NAN Impact Video.
After this video, you would have been hard pressed to find a dry eye in the crowd. Audrey took the stage again, thanking our title sponsors, Jeff and Diana Kerbel, longtime supporters of NAN whose impact upon mothers with cancer in the GTA is truly immeasurable. She thanked Paul Bailey of Bazil Developments, our Entertainment Sponsor, Barbara Weinberg of MLSE for all her hard work and passion for NAN, David and Jenni Belford of Surplus Freigh who, as a major sponsor, supplied the jet for Michael Feinstein et al. along with being an event sponsor. She also thanked OMDREB for their ongoing support of NAN, and all of our corporate sponsors who made the evening possible. She emphasized what an incredible impact donations to the Nanny Angel Network have – for every dollar that you donate to NAN, we are able to provide two dollars of specialized, in-home relief childcare to mothers with cancer.
Adam Moskowitz provided auctioneer services for the evening. The fast talking Adam got the crowd so excited they were quickly breaking the rules of a live auction, guests shouting out to draw attention to their bids. The prizes on offer were incredible thanks to the generosity of those who donated them, and the auction was a resounding success, raising over $35,000. One prize, a dinner for ten, was so successful that the donor offered a second one, which went for the same price of $10,000 each! After the excitement of the auction, the time had finally arrived for the evening’s headliner, and Michael Feinstein took the stage.
The two-time Emmy and five-time Grammy nominated artist was accompanied by a nineteen piece Swing band, and captured the audience’s hearts with his beautiful renditions of Frank Sinatra. Clips from Michael’s performance can be found on the Nanny Angel Network Instagram page, as well as other behind the scenes images from the night.
Following Michael’s wonderful performance, the raffle was held to great excitement from the guests. Many lucky winners took home incredible prizes, including a private film screening of a theatrical release complete with popcorn and drinks for 40 guests from Warner Bros. Canada, and a trip to Nicaragua at a luxury resort.
Following remarks from co-chairs Joyce Frustaglio and Kendryn Hutt, the evening concluded. Guests were given a copy of the first edition of NAN’s Halo magazine as they headed out into the night, full of warmth and the joy of having helped support an amazing cause.
For more photographs from this wonderful evening, be sure to check out our image gallery.