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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

Despite being diagnosed with a rare degenerative muscle condition in his 20s – one that impacts only two people per million worldwide – Rayhan has built a name for himself professionally and is currently a Vice President at a publicly traded movie company. What started with a limp has now left him fully confined to a wheelchair in his early forties. Amid enormous physical challenges, he has thrived in all aspects of his life.

Rayhan began his 20-year professional life at PwC — the world’s largest global professional services firm — where he supported clients like Sony and IMAX as a Chartered Accountant.  He later channeled his life-long love of cinema to pursue a deeper career in the Media and Entertainment industry. He is currently Vice President, Financial Planning & Analysis at Cineplex Entertainment.

He has traveled the world with his wife and two children, pursued his passion for film and has attended some of Toronto’s most memorable sporting events. Rayhan is also dedicated disability advocate for disability rights and inclusion.

Rayhan currently serves on the Board of Directors for DEEN Support Services – a Canadian charity that works to ensure the social and cultural needs of those living with physical or intellectual disabilities are met through inclusive support services.

Rayhan also serves on the Board for the Disability Screen Office - a national, not-for-profit organization that works with the Canadian screen industry to amplify voices of people with disabilities across the Canadian media landscape.

The eldest of three siblings and the son of immigrant parents, Rayhan's journey began in the cold Canadian winters of Winnipeg where he and his brothers were among the only people of colour in their middle-class community. Rather than focusing on what made him not fit in, Rayhan learned to celebrate being different and gained a unique perspective that prepared him to navigate the world with confidence.

Through candidly sharing his experiences of overcoming physical, emotional, and social obstacles, Rayhan has inspired many. His story is a testament to the power of perseverance and finding joy among the uncertainty of life's experiences.

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