Saturday, October 3, 2015


As inviting as the beautiful loaves of fresh bread in the window of LeaH'S, Bek Zolnierczyk, works the tiny bakery on St. Clair west in Toronto.

Born in Kitchener, Ontario in 1987, Bek has worked at LeaH'S for two years. It is a small and welcoming bakery on the corning of St. Clair west and Wychwood avenue offering tempting treats and baked goods. Wedding cakes can also be created along with other custom orders.

When Bek is not behind the counter, she is a volunteer birth support worker for expecting and new parents from marginalized communities. She supports mothers in labour and provides postpartum counselling, assistance with nursing and helps clients to adjust to a new baby in the house. 

Bek is moving to Montreal to take a course in her area of interest with the Montreal Birth Companions. Bek's interest is in helping women and families from the queer and trans communities as well as newcomers to Canada and people without status for whom access to healthcare is a challenge. Bek's volunteer work also extends to public education, working with queer and trans youth to provide sex education.

BEK FUN FACT: In addition to bringing up her 14-month old husky, Bek pauses to think of something fun about herself, "Oh, I'm so boring... Oh, I know! I'm really good at knitting", she says! After attempting to knit a tent for a cat, she has moved on to knitting many Harry Potter scarves for friends!


Friday, October 2, 2015


Project Hope brings "a little bit of light in a darker time".

Jane Watson embodies her words every Christmas Eve morning through Project Hope which she organized over 11 years ago. Out of her own loss, Jane now gives back to Saint Joseph's Health Centre in Toronto as a way to thank them for their care. She spends a few minutes speaking with each patient and gives them a small gift of a stuffed animal while letting them know someone is thinking about them.

You can watch a short video about Project Hope here:

Her caring for people also extend to her professional life. Jane is Vice President, Consulting at Optimum Talent, one of Canada's leading career management firms. 

Last year Jane took on one of her most physically and mentally challenging endeavours. She signed up and became a fighter in the Fight to End Cancer. It was here that she stepped out of the boardroom and comfort zone, to step into the boxing ring. Together with her female opponent and other fight teams, she helped raise money for cancer research. She maintains that those battling the disease are the true fighters and are her inspiration. 

Keeping a fit mind and body, she continues to box as well as run. Winter running is her favourite, as well as playing platform tennis, an outdoor winter racquet sport.

JANE FUN FACT: She was Toronto's first female garbage collector! It was, " An awesome summer job for a student"!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Raised by his grandparents and aunts, the 12 year old Virgil finally made it to Canada four years after his mother emigrated from their home in Suriname, South America to further her education. Due to complications with a visa, Virgil had to stay four years longer.

Barrow now calls Etobicoke, on the west side of Toronto, home. His office is the padded floor of a boxing ring at the Kingsway Boxing Club. He is a head coach at the gym and though it is his work, it gives him much more satisfaction that his past information technology background.

He only just found out his great grandfather was a Samurai, so his love of the sweet science and a fighter's disciple must flow through in the blood. In addition to Japanese, he is also a mix of African, Portuguese, Chinese and German. Barrow is a man of the world.

Barrow is a quiet man, not given to outbursts or trash talking. He coaches his students and fighters by encouragement, example and an understated power and intensity.

Virgil once had a deaf client confined to a wheelchair. He was impressed by the man's courage and will to learn. Virgil had to change the way he taught and communicated with the student. He says the experience he says made him a much better coach.

VIRGIL FUN FACT: With his gleaming smile, Virgil says many would never know that he is actually fluent in Dutch. Not surprising given Suriname was originally colonized by the Netherlands.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015


The first time I saw Humberto Cox, he was at the Pottery Road exit of one of the Toronto ravine trails and appeared to be asking for directions. His three-wheeled scooter looked more like a lost, bright red Christmas ornament against a verdant backdrop of lush green forest. We eventually met a short time & distance later in our common destination, the Toronto Brick Works.

Now 51, Humberto was born in Mexico City to a Canadian father and Mexican mother and moved to Canada in the early 1970s. "You are the only person who speaks English with a Spanish accent and goes, "Eh". " A friend of Humberto's in Florida says of him. With that anecdote, he rocks with laughter – again!

Humberto took actuarial science in school. After graduating, he worked in this capacity, predicting insurance costs for the insurance industry. Now retired, he loves to read a lot, travel and explore. His travels have taken him all over Europe, South America and Asia.

When one travels and has an electric scooter, one has to think of accessibility and logistics. "You just have to do a lot of planning and you never can do too much. Now with the internet its easier but still you might face last-minute challenges at the location." Humberto describes as he recounts some of his travel stories.

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing, China was one such example of a mobility challenge. Forget the uneven cobbles that are difficult for everyone to walk on, Humberto found other unique challenges. To get from one building to the other there are ramps, but to exit a large building to the outside, there are particular obstacles! "...the next thing you know, there are these giant doors, and in the bottom they have a beam which most people just walk over, but I can't," he describes of the large red doors found throughout the Forbidden City. "There are people ready to carry me, but I go, "No, no, no! I look at it and it looks like you just lift up the beam and then you should be ok." He tells as he figures out a solution. He found people who will simply lift the beam up and out of his way, replacing it after he passes. Such is an example of a local mobility challenge not necessarily found during online trip planning.

HUMBERTO FUN FACT: While visiting Aukland, New Zealand, he found the Sky Tower is exceptionally accommodating! At 328 metres (1076 feet) it is the highest man-made structure in New Zealand. Similar to Toronto's CN Tower Edgewalk, Aukland's tower offers walks around the exterior of the top of their tower – and they are able to accommodate wheelchairs! "They put all this stuff around me, these harnesses around me, that was the hard part," he motions, describing how the Sky Tower staff secured him so his chair would not fall off the top of the dizzying height. "So there I was flying over Aukland! My mother and aunts though I was crazy!" he laughs remembering their reactions to the safe, but scary stunt!


Monday, September 28, 2015


Asked where her favourite spot in Toronto is, Mary Vallis Cowan did not hesitate to say the Toronto Brick Works, a converted brick manufacturing facility dating back to the 1800's. "Its a place where my daughter watched a turtle laying eggs in the middle of Toronto".

Born in Montreal, her dad headed west to seek employment in the Alberta's oil patch when she was 11 months of age. Eight months later, with an oil job, Mary and her mother followed, settling in Edmonton. After a move to Kelowna, British Columbia when she was high school aged, Mary headed to Victoria, British Columbia to attend the University of Victoria.

Landing a job at the National Post in 2000 began Mary's career in journalism but not before she had to finish writing her last exams in the office, Andrew Coyne, National Post political columnist and author!

Ten years after starting at the National Post, Mary moved to the Toronto Star where she is now Life Editor. Leaving hard news at the Post and working her way into the Life department she is finding it a refreshing change, "I came to the Star as an editor. Now I am the Life editor and it is so fun and creative," she says of the freedom to experiment with ideas and stories.

Now heavily involved in taking stories in a different direction on their new iPad tablet edition, Star Touch, things have become very exciting. "It's exceptionally visual. We're telling stories in a completely new way. It shows off photography so well," she says of the display possibilities of the new tablet edition of the Star. She did a count a few days ago of the number of photos in the Life section. There were 10 printed photos in the newspaper, but in the iPad edition there were 100. "We are focusing on how people want to consume their news and putting them in control," she says of the platform's high level of interactivity.

MARY FUN FACT: "I'm a secret Coronation Street fan," she admits of her guilty pleasure. "It's all so tawdry and it's a 20 minute escape in her day. After I put the kids to bed I curl up with a glass of wine and watch the terrible lives of Coronation Street," she says laughing. She never has to worry about being without as she simply downloads the episodes from iTunes... on her iPad of course!


Sunday, September 27, 2015


This is the group shot of the 500px Global Photo Walk in Muskoka. The walk took place this year in 210 locations around the world. Once place that needed representing was Muskoka, the hours north of Toronto. The day was warm, sunny and the 6km trail was dry and easy to walk.

If you are interested in finding out more about this walk or about the global photo community of 500px, check them out at As well, Fujifilm Canada was a title sponsor of this year's event. Thanks to Helen Hayter from Fuji for attending this walk and for dispensing some prizes after the walk!