We Want To Hear From You

Reena provides supports and services, including  day program and outreach programs, to individuals with developmental disabilities.

Our aim is to support individuals based on their interests, abilities and strengths.

Over the next three months, we will be seeking feedback from all of our stakeholders including staff, volunteers, individuals/families and community partners. We will be specifically focusing this review on program content, locations, times, structure and cost.

Our goal is to gain feedback to ensure that our programs are meeting your needs and remain cost effective.

We look forward to engaging you at various levels of this review through open houses, surveys and individual discussions.

If you have any questions regarding this review,  you are welcome to contact  Kelly Casey, KC Professional Solutions at 289-221-9665 or kcpsolutions2@gmail.com

Our Trip to Camp Wahanowin

On our way to Camp WahanawinWe had a very busy summer at Camp Reena this year and one of the highlights was an overnight trip to Camp Wahanowin. Here is a recap from our Outreach Staff Team about this amazing excursion.

Arriving at Camp Wahanowin, we were greeted with the friendly faces of campers and staff. Wahanowin staff had Reena campers introduce themselves in a circle, making us feel extremely welcomed and excited for the rest of our stay. Reena campers participated in arts and crafts, as well as, swim activities guided by the Leadership in Training Program (LTPs). Both Wahanowin campers and staff were very interested in getting to know us all on a personal level. At lunch time in the dining hall, Reena was introduced to the entire camp and several LTPs joined our tables. Some assisted by bringing food, accommodating various dietary needs and adding to the inclusive atmosphere. In order to make it easily accessible for Reena campers, ramps were placed in front of cabins, the dining hall and washrooms. In addition, the cabins we occupied were located close to the main buildings and to the lake, making it easier to get around.

During the overnight, Camp Wahanowin created activities specific for Reena, such as a beach party, late night tubing and a bonfire. The whole camp participated in the beach party and everyone had an absolute blast! LTPs would visit our cabins throughout the day to see if they could join in any of the activities, which made Reena campers feel like part of the camp community. We were taken on a sailing lesson and both campers and staff got their level one boating certifications along with bracelets to show their accomplishment. Before leaving, Wahanowin campers came to our cabins to say goodbye.

The Reena campers that stayed overnight expressed that they had an experience of a lifetime and did not want to leave; some made new friends in such a short time. It was clear that a lot of effort and thought was put into our visit, which was very much appreciated by both campers and staff. Overall, it was a wonderful experience enjoyed by all and one that will hopefully be repeated.

A big thank you to everyone at Camp Wahanowin!

Dani-Toronto Community Lecture Event

Date: Monday, October 30
Location: BAYT Synagogue (613 Clark Ave West)
Time: 8:00PM
Admission: $10.00 Raffles Available

Join Dani and Dr. Kranz-Ciment in discussing “A Fresh Lens on Inclusion | Fish Don’t Climb Trees”!

Dr. Kranz-Ciment is a physical therapist and has been a strong advocate for the disability community for over ten years. She is the founder of Steps PT and the director of the Friendship Circle of Virginia, a non-profit organization that empowers social opportunities for children and individuals with disabilities. Additionally, Sarah is the Project Director for the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative which aims to create an inclusive environment in Chabad Houses around the world. Sarah lives with her husband and children in Richmond, VA.

Rebounds For Reena

Rebounds for Reena is an inaugural basketball tournament in support of Reena Foundation. The event will take place on August 27 at 9600 Bathurst Street in Vaughan (Bathurst & Rutherford). Rebounds for Reena will include up to 16 basketball teams that will compete for the Rebounds Championship. A Bump Tournament will be held at halftime, where individuals supported by Reena will be invited to participate. There is no entry fee, but each team (up to 5 players per team) is asked to raise a minimum of $180 per player for a total of $540 per team. Special for Students and Young Professionals. Min $90 fundraising goal!

For details click here or contact us by clicking here.

Reena Supported Employment Services Receives $484,300 OTF Grant


Thornhill, ON – On Friday, Reena held a BBQ to recognize the accomplishments of its Summer Employment Transition Program, and recognize the $484,300 Grow grant that it received from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) earlier this year to help grow the program over the next three years. Savi Singh, the Chair of OTF’s Simcoe-York Grant Review Team Chair, joined in the celebration to deliver OTF’s congratulations and officially present the organization with a plaque.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have organizations like Reena in our community.  Their dedication to breaking down barriers for people with developmental disabilities enriches us all,” said Gila Martow, MPP – Thornhill.

Reena promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities within a framework of Jewish culture and values. Reena was established in 1973 by parents of children with developmental disabilities as a practical alternative to institutions. Since that time, Reena has grown to provide support for 1,000 individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

Reena will be building on the success of its Summer Employment Transitions (SET) Program foryouth in York Region with developmental disabilities, which is modeled after the Community Living Sarnia Lambton Program and has been operated successfully for four summers.

“We extend our sincere gratitude to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for making it possible for us to provide expanded employment support for people with developmental disabilities and their employers in York Region.” – Bryan Keshen, President and CEO of Reena

With the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Reena will be able to: Grow the number of employers from the current 20 (summer only) to 75 year-round over three years; Place more students into employment – the students supported are between 20-21 years-old and graduating from York Region District School Board. This past summer, Reena had 20 students and anticipates 75 over the next three years.  And finally, it will help support students and employers using the model created by Community Living Sarnia-Lambton and implemented as a summer program by Reena for the past four summers with exceptional results

To learn more about Supported Employment Programs at Reena contact info@reena.org or (905) 889.6484.

An agency of the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation is one of Canada’s largest granting foundations. With a budget of over $136 million, OTF awards grants to some 1,000 projects every year to build healthy and vibrant Ontario communities. www.otf.ca


Spotlight On Transformation – August 2017

The August 2017 edition of “Spotlight on Transformation” is available. This bulletin is provided by the Ministry of Community & Social Services and covers the developmental services transformation.

In this issue:

  • Ontario Pledges Support to Improve Access to Developmental Services.
  • New Guidelines for supporting adults with developmental disabilities and long-term care homes.
  • Recommendations Coming Out of the Ombudsman’s Annual Report.
  • Community and developmental service agencies receive support for repairs and renovations

To view the bulletin click here
To view previous editions of the bulletin click here

Health and Wellbeing Conference

Health & Wellbeing In Developmental Disabilities 
Engaging Health Care Professionals
November 29-30, 2017 | University of Toronto Conference Centre


The Health and Wellbeing Conference provides a forum for health care professionals from across Canada to help improve the health and wellbeing of people with developmental disabilities. Plenaries, workshops and an interactive poster session will provide participants with opportunities to learn effective practices, and innovations in the assessment and treatment of complex needs.

Who Should Attend

  • Health care professionals
  • Health care professionals
  • Developmental service providers
  • Students in health care disciplines
  • Caregivers
  • Academic faculty and researchers
  • Policy and decision makers

For Details and Registration Information

416.978.2719 I 1.888.s12.8173
@HWDDConf I #HWDD2017

Inspiring Presentation From Dr. Yona Lunsky

We were pleased to welcome Dr. Yona Lunsky as guest speaker at our Annual General Meeting on July 19, 2017. Below is a copy of her incredible presentation.

When I was invited to speak, I am guessing it was to impart some wisdom about where we have come from in the developmental disabilities field, and where we are going. But what I came to realize over the past little while as I prepared my comments for tonight, is that it is impossible for me to speak to this group professionally without making it deeply personal.

Reena AGM 2017

I want to begin by saying how grateful I am for this opportunity to speak with all of you. Let me tell you why.

I was first introduced to Reena in the 80’s, when my older sister, a teenager, and our entire family were navigating that difficult terrain of the transition to adulthood. At the time, I understood that Reena was a Jewish agency that my family was involved with in order to plan for my sister’s future, its office was this little building on Cartright and I knew that it also had some great recreational programs that she loved.

Reena must have made an impression on me then because it was through Reena that I got my first job in the developmental disabilities field. In the summer of 1990, fresh out of high school, I was head of the Drama program at Camp Reena. I spent 3 summers in Palgrave Ontario, and those summers changed my life. (And I am not just talking about meeting my future husband.) After my first summer at Reena, I decided that instead of being an economist or a school teacher, I would study psychology, and specialize in this field and I have never looked back.

Much of what I have studied over the past twenty something years, I began learning about over those summers. I want to highlight some of the most important learnings briefly now.

1. First and foremost, I observed how common both mental and physical health issues were in the developmental disabilities population, especially in adulthood. What I didn’t understand then but I know now, is that these issues emerge early. Some are closely tied to the disability etiology, like sleep apnea and Down syndrome, but far too many are the result of an interaction between biology and environment. But we get so used to seeing these health issues in our work, that we can forget this important fact. Sometimes called diagnostic overshadowing, we discount mental and physical health problems or we just begin to accept that they are part and parcel of developmental disabilities. They are not. As adults with developmental disabilities age, we have to work extra hard to promote their health: regular checkups, diet, exercise, positive relationships. Careful use of medications. Work from my H-CARDD and MAPS research colleagues in partnership with Reena and the Ontario Partnership on Aging and Developmental Disabilities (OPADD) has shown that adults with developmental disabilities age faster: “80 at 50”. Falls prevention, chronic disease management, complex health care planning has to start at a much younger age. Our standard models of aging supports don’t fit. In terms of mental health, the age at which adults with developmental disabilities are most likely to be admitted to hospital psychiatrically is in late adolescence and early adulthood, 15 to 20 years younger than what we see in other adults. We need better mental health supports sooner, so we can avoid repeated and stressful hospital admissions. To address these health issues we have to be inventive, bringing sectors together, as Reena knows and models extremely well.

2. I worked with young, creative staff over those 3 summers. I saw how the work they did inspired them, but how without the proper supports in place, it could also exhaust them. And I saw how much they meant to the people they supported and how much they meant to each other. I learned about team work. And for any of you, who want to learn about how to work as part of an effective team, spend time with the direct support professionals at Reena and in this sector.

3. I met many families. I learned then, although I can appreciate much more now, how much it meant to a family to hear about the great things their family member was doing, to share with a family how much you really cared for their family member. How you appreciated them. We use the phrase “catch ‘em while they’re good” in our interventions to develop positive behaviours in those with developmental disabilities. But we don’t remember enough how this applies to what we share with families. Knowing how much a teacher or a staff loves your son, daughter, brother or sister, especially when everyone is always focused on flagging and then fixing problems that is the necessary medicine that keeps families going.

4. Most important, I learned about the strength and resilience exhibited every day by people with developmental disabilities and the importance of friendship, love, and respectful support. Starting in childhood, this group is at terrible risk of feeling lonely and isolated, of being ridiculed and stigmatized, and having to endure some very difficult and stressful situations. But if you think about it, they handle their situation, for the most part, with more grace than other people might. Having a sense of humour, being honest, being able to be flexible and put up with all sorts of changes and many things they have little control over, but staying open, appreciating the good in others. Trying every day to navigate a complex world that wasn’t designed with them in mind.

So I am grateful for that early exposure to some important realities, pieces of the puzzle that I have focused on in my research and clinical efforts: mental and physical health promotion, supporting families and paid caregivers, and building resilience.

But my gratefulness, so closely tied to my career also extends beyond my career. As a sister of someone who moved into a Reena residence in 1991, I am grateful that Reena worked together with several families of young adults to invent something that wasn’t, to find a way to design something new so my sister could move out as a young adult, similar to me and to her other siblings. The home co-created by Reena and several families including my own, was modeled and funded differently than the group homes in existence at the time, with increased family involvement.

Knowing my sister was supported, I went to the states to graduate school before settling in Toronto. I was able to enjoy then and I am able to enjoy now being part of my sister’s life, but I also know that she has her own life, and is not reliant on me or on our aging parents 24/7. What I have never really put into words before is that the only reason why I am able to do the work that I do from 9 to 5 Monday to Friday to benefit the developmental disabilities field is because I am not a full time caregiver for my sister and I can work collaboratively, respectfully, and in partnership with the caring people who are. I am keenly aware that there are far too many parents and siblings who haven’t had this luxury of time and support the way I have to make a difference for others. Because their life is full, AS IS. Imagine the innovations we could explore if more of them had this capacity to give back the way I have. If we want to hear their voices in the work we do, and the work we want to do, we need to listen extra carefully. Because it is those families who have the hardest time taking part in board activities, coming to events, and making their needs and their ideas known.

So here we are now in 2017, 30 years after my family was meeting with Reena to plan for my sister’s adult life. Some things are the same, but lot has changed, in my family, and in the sector. That said, I think we can learn from the past to guide the future.

So here is the million dollar question: How do we meet the emerging needs of those not yet receiving services who very much need them while at the same time continuing to meet the changing needs of those in service, like my sister?

I don’t have the answer, but it is question we need to keep asking. Otherwise, we are at risk of focusing on one to the detriment of the other. I am guessing Bryan, that your mom and the Reena board from the 80’s wrestled with this same question 30 years ago, in trying to support and plan for my family and other families then.

It comes down to this: we need to understand the evolving needs of those receiving service and those seeking services. Some things we can prevent, and others we just prepare for. Being afraid of what might come, and doing all we can do to avoid it is not sustainable and it is not responsible.

My kids understand this concept well. I am here in the city and 2 of them are tripping in Algonquin Park. Now I admit, I wish it wasn’t such a rainy summer. I pray that when they are in the depths of the park that it doesn’t rain on them, or if it rains that it finishes quickly. But my kids know that part of camping means getting wet. Sunshine when it happens is a glorious treat. “Lightening position” is something they get up in the middle of the night and do. And they do it with grace.

Looking into the future, we can pray, we can invest and prevent, with the hopes that things will go well. But sometimes they won’t go well, so like my boys in Algonquin, we need to prepare.

How do we prepare?
Partnerships between staff, families, individuals, and our broader community – Big cities are awesome when it comes to needing the most specialized specialist, or when you are looking for a kosher, gluten free sushi place that serves breakfast at 3am. But they are lonely and complex and can be terribly anonymous. This makes community building harder but we have to keep doing it.

Remembering that there are all kinds of experts. Decision making is harder, but the outcomes are far richer when we figure out how to play in the sandbox together – service providers, researchers, policy makers, individuals, and families. I don’t want to belabor this point, but we need to keep in mind that family is broader than just parents. We need to find ways to support and engage siblings as much as we support parents, as well as other extended family.

We need to continue to find ways to make sure that the quietest voices can be heard, and discovering new and creative means of doing so. These are the antidotes to the challenges that will come.

I thought I would end my comments with a story, one that I shared with parents of kids with developmental disabilities in a workshop focused on siblings that I did a few years back.

Once there was an aging Hindu master with a very unhappy apprentice. He instructed the young man to get himself some salt, put it in a glass of water and drink it. How does it taste? Bitter, spit the apprentice.

Next, he asked the apprentice to take a similar handful of salt and put it into the lake. They walked in silence for a little and then the master asked his student to drink from the lake. How does it taste? Fresh.

The salt was there, as much as it was in that small cup, but it was surrounded by fresh water. The lives of the people we support through Reena and their families have some salt. But love, friendship, support, and community, can be the water to help dilute that bitter taste.

For more information on Yona’s research and health care resources, you can go to www.hcardd.ca or www.camh.ca, or you can follow her at @yonalunsky.

Downtown Toronto Art Mentorship Program

Downtown TO Art Mentorship Program

Recently the Pathways South and Channels South groups participated in a series of art workshops. The two groups came together to create amazing art based on different concepts and techniques from art history. Twice per month our facilitator, Katie came in to teach a brief lesson about art styles followed by a related exercise. Through this experience we got to create some amazing art.

From the beginning our teacher made the process professional. We used stretched canvasses and high quality paints and paper. We sketched out our ideas in advance and planned out our works based on the lessons we were taught.  We modeled our techniques on works by Picasso and Joan Miro amongst others.

Even when working within similar genres with similar materials, each of our individual art styles shone through in our paintings. We were encouraged to use our own brush techniques that are unique to us. Some of us used paint rollers for paintings and others used brushes. We each drew subjects that were interesting to us. We had some participants paint scenes from video games and movies, TTC vehicles, characters from TV shows and more.

Since participating in this workshop all of the participants in the programs have become confident artists who have honed their styles and learned to express our own unique artistic vision.

After completing the workshops we had the pleasure of hosting our own art show on. One evening after program we came with our families and got together to appreciate what we had done.  The room was catered with fancy tables and tablecloths.  Our art was set up on easels and we felt proud to see what we had accomplished.  There was a silent auction and we sold our art.  We kept the money and it felt great to have people buy our art. We felt like we had created something amazing that people really wanted.  

Some of the things that made the night extra special were all the great speeches given by some of our own participants, and by our instructor Katie, and by Elizabeth the Visual Arts Coordinator from the Schwartz/Reisman Centre. We were even congratulated by a representative of the Honourable Chrystia Freeland and awarded a signed Certificate from the House of Commons.

Another great benefit to having the art show was that our families and staff came together and met each other. Plans were made to spend time together outside of program. Many of our families had never met each other and everyone got along great.  It helped us to feel a sense of community that brought the group together.  Even in the weeks following the event we all felt closer to each other, knowing that we had accomplished an amazing thing together!

In the words of one of the participants, “We would do it again in a New York Minute!”

SAVE THE DATE – DSTO Information Fair

October 18, 2017 | 35 Carl Hall Road, Unit 2, Toronto ON, M3K 2B6
This is a free event and no pre-registration is required.

The event includes: 

  • Information from Toronto based agencies on services and supports for transitional youth (16 years of age and older) and adults (18 years of age and older) with a developmental disability.
  • The opportunity to explore purchasing services with your Passport dollars.
  • Information on fee for service programs.
  • Agency and Community Partner presentations on topics such as: Developmental Services Ontario, ODSP & Passport;
  • What you can do while you wait for services and supports.
  • Opportunity for families to speak to DSTO agency staff, self-advocacy groups and family groups.
  • More information will be available on the Developmental Services Ontario (DSO) website as we get closer to the event. Please check in for updates at www.dsotoronto.ca
  • Presentations from the Fair will be available for viewing after the event at www.connectability.ca

For more information contact Mia Tremblay

You invested, now see the work you made possible

Take a look at the impact your investment in Reena made over the past year in our latest Annual Report. 

In the report:

  • Highlights from 2016 – 2017
  • Stories from our community
  • How your funding helps
  • Strategic plan updates

To view our Audited Financial Statements click here.

Take Action: Affordable Housing For People With Disabilities

Ensure Access to Affordable Housing for Persons with Disabilities

Did you know that 90% of people with developmental disabilities live below the poverty line?

Despite a commitment at various levels of government to address critical housing issues and prioritize support for vulnerable Canadians, current funding is insufficient to ensure people with disabilities are able to live in safe, clean, accessible and supported housing.

You can make an impact.

Take action today and send Premiers from across the country an email asking that their governments explicitly earmark a set allocation of affordable housing funds for people with disabilities. This should include 5% of total affordable housing spending directed to support people with developmental disabilities.

The Council of the Federation meeting in Edmonton this week (July 17 – 19, 2017) provides the ideal opportunity for Premiers to express a united commitment to this policy.

Click here to take action today!

Cross Sector Complex Care Model Evaluation

Prepared by Cathexis Consulting Inc. for the Cross Sector Partners
April 24, 2017 

The cross sector model was developed in response to rising concern among families, caregivers, and members of health and social services communities that the current approach for supporting young adults under 40 years of age with medical complexities and developmental disabilities is insufficient. These individuals face challenges accessing traditional supports and services that are designed either for individuals with developmental disabilities or for individuals with medical complexities, but not for individuals with both.

The cross sector complex care model offers a highly individualized approach to care that integrates services from health and developmental service providers into a single, coordinated person-centred package. The model enhances social determinants of health for the individuals supported by investing in access to health and social services, social networks, food and housing.

The model has been implemented in York Region at the Reena Community Residence and The Richmond Hill Hub, and now houses 9 individuals. At the Reena Residence and the Hub, the package of services includes:

  • Accessible housing that is safe for individuals with disabilities.
  • Person-centred transition before, during and after the move.
  • Person-centred services to support activities of daily living and community participation.
  • Access to appropriate and timely health and medical services, accompanied by a care provider.
  • Community integration through structured day programming/individualized programming.
  • Care coordination/case management.
  • Equipment and supplies necessary to manage declining health conditions and changing physical needs.
  • A system of supports available as needs change.

This evaluation set out to 1) understand the benefits and drawbacks of the model; 2) examine the value of the model in relation to alternatives; and 3) learn about key success factors, challenges and lessons learned. The findings are intended to guide similar initiatives, inform funding decisions and stimulate conversations, collaborations and actions for joint-funded work between LHINs and MCSS.

The evaluation was carried out in February and March, 2017. It was informed by administrative records as well as interviews with almost all of the individuals supported, family members, staff/supervisors and cross sector partners. The program is still quite new, so there isn’t yet enough data to support firm conclusions about longer-term impacts on health, safety and quality of life. However, by looking closely at costs, benefits and implementation, the evaluation provides a better understanding of the model’s potential to fill a gap in the system, while also meeting the unique needs of individuals.

Read the summary here
Read the full report here