TORONTO, April 04, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) honoured three caregiving heroes—Zulfikar Alladina of Toronto, Taylor Allen of Welland, and Madolina Sasa of Scarborough—who won this year’s Heart of Home Care Awards at the not-for-profit’s annual event, held yesterday in Toronto. The award—now in its 13th year—recognizes the extraordinary efforts of a friend or family member who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide a loved one who is disabled, elderly, or chronically ill, with the support needed to live at home with more independence.

“It is an honour each year to shine a much-needed light on the often invisible heroes of healthcare through the Heart of Home Care Awards,” says Carol Annett, President and CEO of VHA. “Family and friend caregivers have a profound impact on the quality of life and care experienced by people who use our health system. They take on many roles: nurse, physical therapist, counsellor, chauffeur and advocate for their loved ones—and that is just scratching the surface. Many caregivers do this in the shadows with very little support. The Heart of Home Care Awards are VHA’s way of saying ‘We see you and we appreciate you.’ ”

This year the event included a special luncheon for the nominees and winners, a musical performance by ‘the new First Lady of Soul’ Ania Soul, and an inspiring keynote presentation by Manjusha Pawagi, author of Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy. An exhibition of photos shot by caregivers as part of VHA’s PhotoVoice project also made its debut at the event.  The annual event continues to shine a light on caregiver experiences and the need for more resources and services to support them.  “Though progress is being made, there is always more to be done to support family and friend caregivers,” says Annett.

Winner Profiles:

Video Link: http://bit.ly/2018HeartVideos

Zulfikar Alladina - Winner, Caregiver to an Adult

Zulfikar (Zul) had an ideal relationship with his father, Sultan. An émigré from Tanzania, Sultan was a spiritual leader who radiated positivity, and the two often went swimming and attended Mosque together in the afternoons. Sultan lost his left leg in 2008 due to complications from diabetes and when he lost his right leg in 2012, Zul became his full-time caregiver.  “He [was] very consistent, very patient, passionate, loving and caring,” says Allaine Anne Ariate, Sultan’s personal support worker and Zul’s nominator. Allaine noted that even though Zul suffers from severe back pain caused by a 2010 car accident, he helped his father with all of his activities of daily living without complaint. “He never thinks about himself and his own happiness. I see the unconditional love.” Zul says feels honoured to have taken care of his father because, as he puts it, “He deserved it.”

Taylor Allen - Winner, Young Caregiver

Taylor is not your typical 15-year-old girl. The grade 10 student is an artist, an elite bowler, a volunteer, an A-student and an indispensable support to her mother in the care of her brother, Alex, who is has severe autism. When Taylor isn’t winning medals with Team Canada’s 10-pin bowling team, she is helping Alex with his meals, his bedtime routine and supporting him to build life skills. “Without Taylor to help me with Alex I don't know where I would be or for that matter where Alex would be,” says Lisa Knechtel, Taylor’s mom and nominator. “She taught Alex to walk, to crawl, and many more things. He looks up to her.”  Taylor enjoys the bond she shares with her brother, and as she prepares for the chance to represent Canada again in 2019/20 international competitions, Alex will surely be her biggest cheerleader.

Madolina Sasa - Winner, Caregiver to a Child

Madolina moved to Canada from her native Sudan to escape the war-torn region. In the midst of adapting to her new country with her family, she gave birth to her third child—a beautiful girl who was immediately diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. When Madolina saw the happiness her daughter’s very survival brought to the people around her, she named her Joy and vowed to make this positivity her own life mantra. Now 17, Joy is non-verbal and uses a wheelchair, and Madolina has been true to her vow. “Madolina has a great smile and laugh, and is a wonderful role model for others. You will never hear her complain about her challenging life,” says her nominator Samantha Jani. Madolina brings her infectiously happy attitude to everything she does—from her work as an extreme cleaner to prevent homelessness to the tender care she gives to Joy, whom she credits with making her a better person. “She teaches me a lot: patience and how to accept other people. And this gives me so much energy to take care of her and also to take care of others,” she says.

The Heart of Home Care Awards event would not be possible without our Presenting Sponsors: PACE Consulting, Teak Printing; BDO IT Solutions Canada; Big Red Oak; and Home & LongTerm Care Magazine.

About VHA Home HealthCare

VHA Home HealthCare—a not-for-profit, charity—has inspired Ontarians to create possibilities for more independence since 1925. VHA's professional team of over 2,500 caring, compassionate people support clients and their families throughout Ontario and is proudly:

  • Accredited with Exemplary Standing by Accreditation Canada.
  • An RNAO Best Practice Spotlight Organization.
  • An anchor agency of United Way Greater Toronto.

For further information contact:
Pamela Stoikopoulos pstoik@vha.ca
Senior Communications and Public Relations Manager
VHA Home HealthCare
Work: (416) 489-2500 ext. 4344 Cell: 416-294-5186

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://resource.globenewswire.com/Resource/Download/4436475b-b726-4f4f-813b-a1ca08e02a46