When Tourism Toronto started the Relax, Recharge, Renew program eight years ago, the vision was to create a program that helps out the parents of children with special needs. We take our role in the community seriously and we wanted to do something meaningful and unique and sometimes the best way to help these inspiring children is to give mom and dad a break. So while we knew you can never do enough for the kids, we also knew that there wasn’t anything like this being done for parents and other caregivers. That’s how RRR was born.
So far, the program – which provides weekend breaks to parents of special needs children every week, all year long – has served over 475 families. That’s a lot of hotel nights and meals and attraction tickets and limo rides! Our partners in the hospitality and tourism industry have been unwaveringly supportive of the program in the 8 years it’s been going.
The program has been recognized both within Canada and beyond.
Here are a few of the awards it’s received:
• IMEX “Commitment to the Community” award, a globally-recognized honour given out every year in Frankfurt, Germany;
• PR News’ annual CSR Awards, presented at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.;
• Power of A Silver Award from the American Society of Association Executives;
• VIA Rail Canada Community Service Award from the Travel Industry Association of Canada;
• “Tourism Innovator of the Year Award” by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario
The most gratifying part is hearing from the families that got a weekend break and how much they appreciate it. Here’s an example:
Thank you so, so, so much for the opportunity to go away with my daughter so we could spend refreshing time together. It was honestly fabulous. I felt like a new person afterwards. Here are a couple of photos of us enjoying our weekend, as well as a letter that my daughter wanted to write to thank you as well.
At first I felt guilty having such a relaxing time away from my son, but then I realized it is not him we are taking a break from, just his disability, and when we got back we had much more energy to take him to appointments and do the things we needed to do. He has spinal cord surgery coming up on July 9 and so I feel like our holiday was perfectly timed, as I have so much to do now to prepare and help him recover. Thanks again so much! We are so, so grateful.
Sophie and Deserae
You may have heard a little less about Relax, Recharge, Renew in recent months, but as we celebrate the 8th anniversary of the program this month, I can assure you it is still going strong and we want to thank everyone in our industry who supports it. Please reach out to us if you wish to donate to the program. Contact Lindsay Cowell at firstname.lastname@example.org.