A Personal Message From Rayhan Azmat
I had presented to large groups before but this keynote marked the first time I’d share certain personal moments in my life. I never had a reason to do so before, but that night was to highlight the impact of disability and raise money for SMILE Canada, an organization that supports children and youth with disabilities/critical illnesses and their families. The support around me and access to services have made a profound difference in my life, and I feel a deep responsibility to contribute to improving the lives of those who may not have the same advantages. Contrary to popular belief, government benefits in Canada cover only 6% of out-of-pocket expenses for disabled children. Waitlists for essential therapies and funding can be up to 2 years which means years of little to no resources and support. SMILE Canada provides healthcare, education, and social programs to underserved families, including hospital support, family wellness, and financial assistance that helps families get the disability-related assistance they need. On the night of the gala, despite a heavy winter storm, almost 800 people gathered to make an impact. I was moved by the dedication and resilience of the extraordinary individuals I met, and their stories left an indelible impression on me. Truly, the way we think and act can change everything. Your donation can make a big difference in the lives of these families. Thank you for considering supporting SMILE Canada, a Canadian registered charity in its 15th year of helping families in need.
About Rayhan Azmat
Rayhan's story is an exemplary tale of resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Despite being diagnosed with a rare degenerative muscle condition in his 20s – one that impacts only two people per million worldwide – Rayhan has flourished professionally and personally. He currently serves as a Vice President at a publicly traded film company, is a father, husband and disability advocate. What began as a limp has left him fully confined to a wheelchair in his early forties. Nevertheless, he has triumphed over enormous physical challenges and thrived in all aspects of his life. Rayhan started his 20-year professional career at PwC - the world's largest global professional services firm - supporting clients such as Sony and IMAX as a Chartered Accountant. He then used his lifelong appreciation for cinema to further develop his career within the Media and Entertainment industry; he is now serving as Vice President, Financial Planning & Analysis at Cineplex Entertainment. During this time, Rayhan traveled the globe with his wife and two children while continuing to pursue his love of film, attending multiple memorable sporting events in Toronto. Additionally, he is committed to advocating for disability rights and inclusion, working on the Board of Directors for DEEN Support Services - a Canadian charity championing inclusive support services for those living with physical or intellectual disabilities. The eldest child born to immigrant parents based in Winnipeg, Rayhan often found himself to be one of few people of colour within his middle-class neighbourhood. Rather than focusing on what made him different, Rayhan learned to embrace being distinct and gained an outlook that enabled him to confidently maneuver through life’s experiences. By sharing the triumphs associated with overcoming physical, emotional, and social obstacles candidly, Rayhan has inspired many around him. His story exemplifies perseverance throughout uncertainty and how joy can be found amongst it all.
A $100 donation to SMILE will provide a wellness package for a child in critical condition at the hospital
A $500 donation to SMILE will provide 20 hours of respite services
A $1,000 donation to SMILE will provide a child with assistive technology that can help a child communicate, move, and learn
A $5,000 donation to SMILE will provide a child with necessary adaptive equipment such as a hospital bed, chair lift or wheelchair
A $10,000 donation to SMILE will give 25 underserved families critical wellness support with qualified mental health professionals. Wellness support includes one on one/family counselling, sibling support groups, or grief and bereavement counselling.