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Nanny Angel Michelle Donais

Meet Nanny Angel Michelle

Like the children she cares for, Michelle Donais has parents with cancer. She has witnessed firsthand just how painfully difficult it can be to deal with the illness and its treatments, along with day-to-day life, let alone caring for young children on top of it all.

Michelle has spent her life dedicating her free time to organizations benefiting children with cancer. She’s volunteered at summer camps for children with cancer, participated in fundraising events, and even plans to cycle Canada from coast to coast in order to raise awareness and funds for children with the disease. After learning about the Nanny Angel Network, Michelle submitted an application and was welcomed into the organization.

Michelle volunteers with a family that’s close to NAN’s heart. She looks after two young girls who recently lost their mother, Sherri. The parallels between their grief and Michelle’s own struggles as she cared for her own sick parents have brought her and the girls together.

“As Sherri’s cancer was progressing, I was also dealing with my own Mom’s cancer progression,” Michelle says. “I ended up moving back to my parent’s home for several months and wasn’t able to physically be with the girls because of the geography, so I arranged with their father to Skype with the girls as often as I could.”

“Their mother and my Mom shared many of the same symptoms and effects of the cancer and treatments, experiences in and out of the hospital, and their desire to be at home as their diseases advanced.” The similarities between their situations weren’t lost on the girls, either. They’d often ask Michelle questions about her own mother’s illness, which led to a dialogue about their feelings and concerns.

“They did ask me questions about my Mom and her illness, that I knew related to what Sherri was going through,” Michelle says. These questions included ‘Can your Mommy eat anything?’ (she had an NG tube, similar to their mother, and was able to eat very little), and ‘Where does she sleep?’ (in a hospital bed in the living room, also similar to their mother). “The training we were given from NAN helped me to answer them and also connect with them through our shared experiences,” Michelle says.

NAN used every resource possible to support Michelle and the family she cared for through the mother’s illness, treatment, and death. “The support from the NAN team has been tremendous. As Sherri’s disease progressed, the NAN team was incredible with providing us with various tools and resources to support the family,” Michelle says.

“Many years ago, I heard a quote that had a big impact on me: ‘No one can do anything about the quantity of life, but we all can do something about the quality.’ Being able to support Sherri during her illness, and provide her with much needed time for respite, while at the same time creating a fun environment for her kids, was meaningful and important to Sherri and her family. This has been a life changing experience for me, and I know that volunteering as a Nanny Angel has created a meaningful difference, not only for this family but also for myself. I’ve created a special bond with this family that I hope will last a lifetime.”

Volunteer Michelle with one of her NAN children, Hanora

Michelle with one of her NAN children, Hanora

Top 5 Ways to Stay Safe in the Sun

In the warm summer months, it’s hard to resist the urge to spend time in the sun soaking up the warmth – especially with how long our winters are in Canada! However, before you slip on the flip-flops and head to the beach, there’s some important steps to take to reduce your risk of developing melanoma (skin cancer). Nanny Angel Network shares our top 5 tips to stay sun safe and protect your skin!

  1. Stay in the shade when possible, whether this means under a beach umbrella or a tree – the best shade protects from above and from the sides, such as a gazebo!
  2. Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants, skirts, or maxi dresses made from tightly-woven fabrics, such as polyester. You can also find specially made UV-protective clothing that block both UVA and UVB rays. The most important thing is to limit how much skin is being exposed to the sunlight!
  3. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your neck, head, and face. The brim should go around the entire hat to ensure that you are completely protected!
  4. Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen to all exposed skin. A minimum SPF of 30 is recommended by doctors. Make sure you check the bottle for directions on when to reapply! The skin of your lips is also susceptible to burns – lip balm with a minimum SPF of 30 should be applied to protect your lips.
  5. Wear good quality sunglasses with 99% or 100% UVA and UVB absorption. The best sunglasses have frames that fit close to the face and are wraparound, protecting the eyes from exposure to sunlight from the sides. These are especially important to help reduce the risk of ocular melanoma!

The sun’s rays are strongest between 11am and 4pm, making it even more important to follow these tips during those hours. You should also make sure you are drinking lots of cool liquids if you’re spending a lot of time in the sun and heat – even if you don’t yet feel thirsty!

While most people spend far more time outside during the summer, it is important to remember these tips in the winter, and even when it isn’t sunny. Sunlight reflects off of clouds, potentially causing damage to skin even on cloudy days. Snow has a similar effect in the winter – you’ve probably seen someone come back from a ski trip with goggle tan (a bonus tip for skiers: check your googles for their UV protection rating before hitting the slopes!). Keep wearing sunscreen and sunglasses all year round, have fun, and stay safe!

Read more on the Cancer Care Ontario website

A Mom’s Story: Beth

“One of the cutest things is that she kind of sees the Nanny Angel as a friend who is coming over to visit her. I’ve just kept it like that, I don’t call her a babysitter.  It’s like her special friend who is an adult. So, I think that makes her feel kind of special. It’ll be a sad day on our last Nanny Angel visit.”

Raising a 4-year-old is challenging no matter which way you cut it. Add on a cancer diagnosis and you’re on a whole different playing field. This is the reality that Beth and her husband Todd were forced to confront in 2015.

Beth was first diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2015 and underwent a mastectomy soon after. Surgery was followed by chemotherapy, chemotherapy by radiation, and radiation by more medication. “The biggest challenge was probably looking after my daughter, for sure,” Beth said.

During the first few months of treatment, Beth and Todd struggled to juggle an overwhelming number of doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy sessions, and medical decisions while still trying to maintain some normalcy for their daughter, Charlotte. Beth had to constantly arrange for family, friends, or paid help to look after Charlotte. “I could never let a day go by where there was nobody involved,” she said. One chemotherapy treatment was particularly bad because its side effects were so unpredictable. “It was a bit unsettling not knowing how bad I was going to feel with the next treatment or how much help I was going to need.”

When the Nanny Angel Network stepped in, taking care of Charlotte suddenly became one less thing Beth had to worry about. Having a Nanny Angel meant there was someone who Beth could consistently rely on to care for Charlotte – no questions asked or favours owed. Having a few extra hours each week meant that Beth could take the chance to sleep or read a book. As she moved farther along her recovery journey and regained strength, she joined an exercise class that helped her get back into shape and return to a more normal rhythm of life. One evening, Beth and Todd got to go out for dinner while the Nanny Angel was over – a rare opportunity they hadn’t had in a very long time.

While Beth has since recovered and graduated from the Nanny Angel Network’s services, her and Charlotte cherish the memories of their Nanny Angel – and the help she provided to their whole family.

Charlotte and her Nanny Angel, Jen

8th Annual Chantal Millet Memorial Golf Tournament

The 8th annual Chantal Millet Memorial Golf Tournament was held Saturday, June 3rd at Pelham Hills Golf Club in Welland, Ontario. The Millet family began hosting the event in 2009 in honour of Chantal, following her four-year battle with breast cancer. Husband Ian and daughters Lauren and Andrea decided the best way to celebrate Chantal’s life would be an annual golf tournament where family and friends could gather and celebrate their memories of her.

In 2016, the Millet family decided to donate all funds raised through the tournament to the Nanny Angel Network, and we are thrilled that they chose to donate to NAN again this year! This year’s event raised an incredible $5,794! A huge thank you to the Millet Family for their generosity and support. NAN staff members Emily and Jensine were in attendance to speak to participants about NAN and to help out with the “sink the dinghy” game. The day was made all the more exciting by the fact that, for the first time in the 8 years of the tournament’s history, a golfer actually managed to get a ball into the dinghy. It was a wonderful day, and we are already looking forward to next year’s tournament!

“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”. The tournament 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

Audrey Guth: 2017 Women of Worth Honouree

Audrey Guth: 2017 Women of Worth Honouree

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.

2017 L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Honouree Audrey Guth with actress Blake Lively

7th Annual Chantal Millet Memorial Golf Tournament

NAN Receives Generous Gift of $4,300

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

A Dad’s Story: Pawan

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.

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Text: Mia Shulman       Photo: Omar Duragos

Relax & Colour

pencil crayons

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.

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Text: Jensine Jones
Sources: CBC Quartz The Artful Parent hubpages

Celebrate with ECHOage

cakebnner

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 admin@nannyangelnetwork.com or by phone at 416-730-0025 x0.

Echoage - for echoage article