On a cold and wintry February afternoon you’ll find 13-year-old Tobey Lawson knocking on his neighbours’ doors in Toronto’s east end, canvassing to raise funds for Heart & Stroke.
“I think it’s really important that everyone puts in an effort to help people in need,” says Tobey.
Tobey was once one of those people, and his need was desperate. He and his twin brother Kyle were born two months premature, with congenital heart defects. Their parents, Susan and John, were preparing for the worst.
“Instead of placing Tobey and Kyle immediately into incubators, the nurse brought them to us to hold,” John recalls. “They thought it might be the only time we’d meet.”
The twins were born with patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart defect that occurs when a blood passageway which normally closes after birth, fails to close properly. The result is too much blood flow to the lungs.
Kyle responded well to the medication given to repair his heart, but Tobey did not. After living for six weeks in the incubator at SickKids hospital, Tobey had to undergo open-heart surgery.
John spent what he called “the worst two hours of my life,” pacing around the hospital, anxiously waiting to hold his son once again.
Survival of children born with congenital heart disease has greatly improved with medical advances in Canada. Sixty years ago, fewer than 20% of infants born with complex heart defects reached adulthood. Today, more than 90% do.
It’s pretty cool he’s working with something so closely related to his own fate.
Tobey is an active eighth grader. He spends 10-12 hours a week playing baseball, soccer and competitive hockey. In the future he hopes to attend university. But between sports, school and volunteering, he doesn’t have much time to think about it. For now, Tobey is determined to make a difference by getting involved in his community.
“Kids should all try to canvass, not only for Heart & Stroke, but for other charities too,” says Tobey. “A lot of kids don’t realize it’s not just the small little school we go to, but outside of it, in the world, people need help too.”
John is excited his son has taken this step to help his community. “It’s pretty cool he’s working with something so closely related to his own fate.”
Tobey raised $250 last year for life-saving Heart & Stroke research. This February, he’s knocking on doors again.
His tips for canvassing? “Be yourself, and interact with people in a way that makes them feel special.”
Tobey is one of nearly 90,000 people who join Heart & Stroke to volunteer across Canada, canvassing in their neighbourhoods or online this Heart Month.
Please give generously through your local canvasser, or donate online.