In our lives, we all face great challenges. It is when we can face our challenges and learn from them, that we learn to truly live life in a way that is meaningful and filled with purpose.
As many of you know, Ellen’s eldest son was challenged to extremes. He couldn’t walk, talk, see or move. At first, they couldn’t accept it. They wanted to do anything possible to help him, to cure him. But as soon as they listened to Jake, and stopped trying to fix him, he fixed them. They never turned back from that lesson. Ever!
Our challenges can become our greatest strengths. And today’s guests live their lives through this lesson.
First up, is such an absolute Legend. Michael Landsberg has been a prominent face and voice on the Canadian sports scene since the 1980’s. He was the producer and host of ‘Off the Record’ on TSN. He has also launched his own initiative, a charity called ‘Sick Not Weak’. It is dedicated to changing the way Canadians see mental illness.
Michael recalled his earlier life and the struggles he had in finding himself. As a young child, Michael had fears and anxiety that prevented him from doing many things. He had Emetophobia; a fear of throwing up. Turns out, he also had learning disabilities, which he actually didn’t realize that he had, until much later in life, when his son was diagnosed. In University, when his friends were all becoming professionals; doctors, dentists, he was lost, failing out of school. Then one day, he decided to do what he really wanted to do. He walked into the University of Toronto’s radio station, pushed that red button, and started talking. It changed his life. He then became focused and finally found his place.
Michael has also suffered from severe depression and anxiety. But over the years he learned that even these challenges can become strengths. He sees mental illness as a sickness, not weakness and it has now become his strength. No longer is he ashamed or embarrassed, for he considers it to be part of his greatest assets.
Michael sees depression as a double-edged sword. It can be the worst thing in his life, yet now he can talk about it and share his experience to make a difference in the lives of others. What once was a poison for him, can be turned into a medicine for someone else. Something bad can become something good! “Well said, Michael!” It only seems fitting that Michael is now an official spokesperson for Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk Day’.
Next up, was the very talented Lily Librach. Lily just graduated from the prestigious Sheridan College’s Bachelor of Musical Theatre Performance Program. Next year, she will be starting her Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Musical Theatre at New York University. Lily has performed in many productions and starring roles since she was just 8 years of age. She was named a top ten finalist in Mirvish’s worldwide Show Tune Idol Competition. Tonight, she beautifully performed, ‘Some Things are Meant to Be,’ from Little Women.
We first met this Shining Star when he was a young Grade five student in our Project Give Back Program at the Leo Baeck Day School. We knew he was a star then. But now, Mason Drutz is seventeen and has just published a book about Juvenile Diabetes called, Teen1D. It features seven stories from teenagers, who share their unique experiences with the disease.
Mason told how he was diagnosed 7 years ago and had thought it would affect his ability to play sports and ruin his life. Yet, he soon discovered that one of the best things to come out of his diagnosis was acceptance. He learned to persevere and this helped to spark the idea to curate his book. Now, Mason can make a difference to help others, by sharing his story and show teens that they too, can overcome challenges.
We had another Shining Star who also just released her own book. Her name is Arielle Weinstein and she is a Grade 11 student. She took her own challenge and turned it into purpose. Arielle has Trichotillomania, which is a hair pulling disorder. It was discovered in March 2020, right at the beginning of COVID.
Arielle explained that many with ‘trig’ hide, which was easy to do during COVID. Like others who suffer from this condition, she was embarrassed to share her story. But recently she was given an assignment for school and decided to write about the disorder. She was then encouraged to turn her story into a book, which comes with a great message; you are not defined by your condition, rather you should learn to embrace it. She is, ‘Perfectly Imperfect’, which also happens to be the title of the book. Check it out on her Instagram page, @perfectlyimperfect.trich
Thank you to all of guests, who shared their vulnerable yet powerful stories that truly reflect what our theme is all about, turning challenge into strength.