Good Samaritans helping students with supplies, computers
CBC Ottawa highlighting acts of community caring during pandemic
We hope you've enjoyed our daily positive news blog. We've enjoyed sharing these stories with you for the past eight weeks! You can still contact CBC about the amazing people and good deeds you're seeing in our community by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 26, 2020
Good Samaritans helping students with school supplies, computers
The shift to online learning has been difficult for lots of kids. Those who can't afford their own computers, or even pencils and notebooks, are finding it even tougher.
A number of charities and individuals have been pitching in to help.
Clarissa Arthur, executive director of the Education Foundation of Ottawa, has just packed 700 bags full of school supplies to give out to families in need.
There weren't quite enough scissors, glue and pencil sharpeners left in the office from the supplies the charity usually distributes, so she went shopping and packed the bags herself at her home.
"For two weeks it pretty much looked like a school supplies store, but I was really happy to be able to do it," Arthur said in an interview with CBC News.
Meanwhile, Kiwanis Clubs across eastern Ontario have been fundraising to supply 80 families with laptops so kids can keep learning from home.
"If they don't have the computer, if they don't have the technology, they don't have the ability to keep up with their peers," said Glynn Kneebone, president of the Kiwanis Club of Kanata-Stittsville.
The Kiwanis Clubs hope to be able to distribute more computers, which unlike the laptops on loan from the school boards, won't ever have to be returned.
"What's become evident to us is this divide between families who have access to technology and those who don't. It's much bigger than we anticipated in our communities," Kneebone said.
He believes the child-focused charity will have to continue to raise money to distribute computers in the future in an effort to bridge that divide.
One Ottawa computer wizard has also been distributing computers to families in need.
Justin Saunders is refurbishing old computers and giving them away for free.
"I saw a lot of people posting that they need a computer for their kids because the school is out of computers," he said.
So far, Saunders has repaired and redistributed 20 computers, only charging for parts that he can't source through requests in online recycling forums.
Saunders is on the Ontario Disability Support Program and has been in self-isolation since the pandemic struck due to pre-existing health conditions.
He says he's happy to donate his time to helping others as a way to thank his neighbours for looking out for him.
"The community has helped me a great deal, especially with my medical issues," he said. "I like to give back."
While the need for school supplies and computers is most urgent now while students are away from school, Arthur believes the situation for some children won't improve for a very long time.
"The reality is that we know children were in need before and those children are probably going to be in even more need," she said.
"And those who weren't in need before are going to be in need now."
May 25, 2020
For the class of 2020, it's virtual grads and school trips
Students and teachers across the world are having to come up with creative ways to celebrate this year's graduating classes.
At Algonquin College, one student in the Game Development Program created a graduation ceremony that took place entirely in the multiplayer online video game Minecraft.
"I wanted to do something about it, to have one last hurrah with all the game developers," said 20-year old Wesley Sweazey.
Sweazey downloaded an online map of Hogwarts into the 3D game and then invited staff and students to join him in the Great Hall via their avatars.
"I had seats set up and cake and beverages — kind of as a joke — for people to eat at the entrance, and then they sat down on the chairs and we had a few people give a speech," he told CBC News.
In true gamer fashion, Sweazey presented his peers with "Level Up" certificates rather than diplomas.
The graduating Grade 8 class at the Claude Watson School for the Arts in Toronto, meanwhile, normally celebrates the end of the year with a school trip to Ottawa.
"Every generation has basically gone. So we've been really looking forward to it and it was really disappointing, I think for all of us, that we don't get to go this year," said Grade 8 grad Pearl Zhang.
Instead, her teacher, Megan Schroeder created a virtual four-day trip. She sent each of her students an online itinerary that included visits to the interactive sections of the websites for the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum.
She even sent them the menu for Dunn's Deli on Elgin Street and had students choose what they wanted to "eat."
Schroeder said she wanted to give the students a sense that they were really seeing the city, so she also Chromecasted images of famous Ottawa monuments — like the Centennial Flame and Maman, the giant spider sculpture outside the National Gallery of Canada — from her phone onto her TV.
She then positioned her computer so it appeared to students that she was really standing in front of them.
"I think all the teachers at my school are doing a really great job in making up for what we lost," said 13-year old Zhang.
"Even though it's a difficult time we've come together and tried to figure out creative solutions to solving all of these problems."
May 24, 2020
School custodian gets the last laugh
Perry Brown has been working all alone at Berrigan Elementary School ever since it was deserted in March when the pandemic stuck.
Now the chief custodian is getting the last laugh by posting messages on the school's outdoor billboard that are designed to make the community smile.
The current post reads wistfully: "School isn't fun without u. We miss you all."
"I get to interact with the kids every single day that they're in the school. I probably get 20 fist bumps and high-fives a day," Brown told CBC in an interview.
Brown has been managing the sign's messages for almost five years, and has often posted messages of encouragement and thanks during tough times — including during the 2018 tornadoes.
Although he's currently working on some long-term maintenance and yard projects, he's looking forward to the kids' return so he can keep cracking his terrible dad jokes.
"I'm a dad without being a dad," he said. "I'm a faux-pa."
May 23, 2020
Senior 'climbs' Kilimanjaro from comfort of her own room
Mount Kilimanjaro stretches 5,895 metres above sea level in Tanzania, and one 88-year-old Ottawa woman has just "climbed" it to raise money for charity.
Anna Neufeld has been locked down in the Rockcliffe Retirement Residence for three weeks. Her son Ken Neufeld, who is Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan, climbed the mountain when he was teaching at a girls' boarding school in Tanzania in the 1980s.
He suggested a novel project to his mother: walk 5,895 metres around her rooms at the retirement home for a total of 128,263 steps to raise money for Tembo, an Ottawa-based charity that focuses on girls' education in Tanzania.
Last Wednesday Anna Neufeld reached her goal.
"I would walk to the window and back and keep track on my hands how many times I did that," she told Ottawa Morning's Robyn Bresnahan.
Ken Neufeld emailed his mother instructions based on his memories of his own climb to inspire and encourage her, describing to her what she might be seeing on the trek and what precautions she should take.
"We were quite elated to get to the top," he said about the 1986 trip. "Of course, going down is actually possibly more difficult than going up because it's so steep, and a lot of people eventually lose their toenails from jamming their feet into their boots."
Luckily, his mother did not suffer that fate, but she did take his advice on what to do when the climb started getting tough.
"One day he talked about it being very slippery, and you stepped up one step and slid back two. And that's the day I decided to use my cane to do walking inside," she said. "Using my cane on those difficult tracks was helpful."
The family has now raised almost $3,000 for Tembo, but Ken Neufeld has more plans for his mother.
"We're going to send her on a little bit of a safari around the game park in the Serengeti for a couple of days, then I was thinking of flying her to Vancouver Island and walking her down the West Coast Trail."
May 22, 2020
Nepean teacher offers trivia sessions with a twist
When Ontario went into lockdown and school was cancelled, Nepean High School math teacher Nadia Amimi wanted to offer kids a little bit of fun every day.
She started hosting online trivia sessions on Facebook Live for seven- to 12-year olds from Monday to Friday. The twist? She dressed up in a different costume every day.
"It's just more fun, right? Every kid likes to dress up. Apparently every 50-year-old lady also likes to dress up," Amimi said.
Amimi schedules different themes that have included magicians, Star Wars and characters from books, and invites the kids to dress up, too.
While it all may seem like fun and games, she tries to sneak some math puzzles and science into the trivia questions. Amimi said by researching questions for a younger audience than she normally teaches, she's learning, too.
"I learn something every single day … and yet the little kids know it ahead of me," she told CBC News.
"This little girl said to me, 'How did you not know an octopus had three hearts, Nadia? I knew that when I was in junior kindergarten.'"
What started as something to occupy her friends' children before online learning began has ballooned into a project, with kids she doesn't know or regularly teach taking part.
Up to 60 kids a day are tuning in, and Amimi said although she's planning to wind it down soon, she can't quite pull the plug on it yet.
"I love to teach, so when I find kids who have shown a thirst for knowledge that isn't being forced on them, how can I not do this trivia daily?"
May 21, 2020
Local artist raises $10K for food bank through weekly auction
Ottawa artist Christopher Griffin has raised more than $10,000 by selling off his pieces and donating the money to the Ottawa Food Bank.
"I wanted to give back in some way, and I read these news stories about the food banks not getting the donations, but they're also getting a lot more people looking for their services," Griffin said.
"I thought, well, what I'll do is I'll auction off a piece of art each week and see how that goes."
The Every Thursday Art Auction takes place online and has been going for eight weeks. One piece, called Bison Bison, sold for $3,250.
"A lot of pieces are going for double and triple their value," Griffin said. "The prices are going crazy higher, because people want to donate. It's going to a good cause."
Some paintings were pre-existing works in Griffin's studio, while others have been painted since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
The Isolationist depicts a pelican surrounded by a polka-dot sky.
"In the past it would have been just a pattern. But now looking at it, are these different viruses? Is this the air we're surrounded by?" Griffin mused.
"I'm starting to look at my work through a different lens, and noticing things that have a little bit more relevance to the times we're in right now."
For today's auction, Griffin is selling the mylar template he used to create the concrete crow imagery for the Glebe Parking Garage in 2014.
The minimum bid for the Every Thursday Art Auction pieces is $100.
May 20, 2020
Doctor makes thank-you video with song from musician dad
For many people not being able to see loved ones has been the hardest part of being in lockdown.
Julia Buthmann is a first-year resident at The Ottawa Hospital. Her father Martin Gallop is a professional musician who lives in Germany, where Buthmann grew up.
When she heard the lyrics to his latest song — Hold me closely, even if it's only in your heart — they struck her as particularly relevant to her situation.
"The song for me represented my relationship to my family far away, and also to everything that I've been going through here working on the front lines during COVID," Buthmann told CBC News.
Although the track was originally written as a one minute commercial for a European power company, Buthmann convinced Gallop to extend and finish the song so that she could film a video featuring Ottawa's front-line workers to accompany it.
She says she wanted to make it as a thank you to the public for abiding by social distancing rules.
"I'm not just trying to praise the health-care workers, I'm trying to praise everyone because I think Ottawa has done an amazing job at managing this difficult time," she said.
Buthmann has been treating COVID-19 patients and has herself had to be tested for the illness.
"Working during a pandemic is definitely not something I ever expected to experience during my family medicine training," she said, but added it has also been a valuable experience.
"I feel so privileged and grateful that I get to be a doctor and I get to help people during this difficult time."
For his part, her father couldn't be more proud of the work she is doing.
"It makes me incredibly proud of her — sometimes a little worried too — but the overwhelming emotion is great pride," said Gallop.
May 19, 2020
Long-thought extinct, dinosaurs now walking dogs in Ottawa suburbs
It may have been a typical scene some 75 million years ago, but you have to admit that these days it's pretty weird to see a bunch of T. Rexes walking down the street.
But there have been a few sightings of dinosaurs around Ottawa these days.
So this blog went hunting and managed to catch up with some of them in Orléans.
"We just wanted to show some love and support to the community in these tough times and let everybody know we're still here and we're still strong," said Kelly Roberts, one of the dinosaur pack.
Roberts and friends Suzanne Ladouceur and Heather Stokes, an intensive care unit nurse at The Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus, plan to soon "walk the dinosaur" around the hospital campus to bring a smile to patients who can no longer have visitors.
And if these T. Rexes can survive an asteroid impact and the ice age, their message is that our city can survive COVID-19.
What a dino-mite idea!
May 18, 2020
Alta Vista woman finishes first in marathon (of one)
Stacy Goldstein started training for the Toronto Marathon in February.
When the May 3 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Goldstein had to decide whether to keep up with her training or postpone her marathon plans for another year.
"I figured I would keep going," she recently told CBC Ottawa Morning's Robyn Bresnahan.
So the Alta Vista chiropractor mapped out a route in her neighbourhood, and last week, hit the streets to run 42.2 kilometres.
Goldstein said the support she got from neighbours and friends who came out to cheer her on was "incredible".
"My first few kilometres, every time I turned a corner, there'd be someone else there with a sign [and] people cheering. And it just was so incredible to see people come out and motivate me," she said.
"There were some friends that even came out on their bikes and rode opposite me on the other side of the street, but still rang their bells and kept cheering for me to keep going."
Given she was the only racer, Goldstein said she's not sure if she technically finished first or last — but knows it was the right decision.
"I just felt love and support, and in a time that there's so much stress, I just felt this was the most incredibly uplifting experience I could ever have," she said.
"I've run other races where there's lots of people on the course — but they're not all there cheering for me."
May 17, 2020
Chefs cook for home-care staff and their patients
Some of Ottawa's top chefs have joined an initiative aiming to provide 300 meals a week to frontline workers and their patients.
Donna Chevrier, the owner of Ola Cocina Taqueria in Vanier, is one of the restaurateurs taking part.
On Thursday, she and other chefs in the Love Local Delivery group provided individually packaged meals at cost to Carefor nurses and personal support workers, as well as their clients — many of whom are elderly and isolated in their homes.
"I always want to give back. This is my home town, and there's no better time to do that than now," Chevrier told CBC Radio's All In A Day. "It also helps us get staff back into each of the restaurants."
Carefor was able to get the program off the ground through a grant from the Ottawa Community Foundation.
"This initiative will help Carefor ensure some of Ottawa's most vulnerable residents are getting fed and staying connected at this difficult time," said the CEO of Carefor, Steve Perry, in a statement. "In addition, it will give a morale boost to our home-care workers and nurses."
May 16, 2020
Woodroffe High helps hard-hit Carlingview Manor
Good neighbours help each other during times of crisis.
So when COVID-19 started spreading through the Carlingview Manor long-term care home, where 42 people have now died from the disease, teachers at neighbouring Woodroffe High School wondered how they could be of assistance.
"I've been sort of dreading it was going to happen, as we learned bit by bit in various places across the country what was happening in care homes," said English and drama teacher Wendy Gunter-Woods.
"And when it struck around the corner — we're less than a kilometre away at Woodroffe High School from these buildings — it was very upsetting, and I was wondering, 'Is there anything we can do to help?'"
The school has a long history with Carlingview Manor, from co-op students doing placements there to music and drama students performing for the residents.
Now, teachers are dropping off care packages: staff are receiving healthy snack packs, while residents get the toiletries they can no longer shop for themselves.
Woodroffe High is also planning to build some kind of memorial to commemorate those who have died of COVID-19 at the home, possibly involving woodworking students, once classes have resumed.
"There is an immediate crisis that we can [possibly] help right now, but there's going to be a longer-term thing that we could show our support for our neighbour in the future," said Gunter-Woods.
May 15, 2020
How to cope with a long-term house guest? Play musical bears
For most newlyweds, having a visitor for more than two months would be un-bear-able.
But Ottawa's Lily Zeng and Sam Snow are loving having their old friend Ray Zhou around the house.
Every week, the three dress up in bear pyjamas and record cover versions of their favourite songs.
Zhou, a musician from California, first arrived in March to visit his old college pals.
"We were thinking [he'd stay] maybe a week or two, because it really wasn't clear that things were going to get totally locked down at that point," said Snow.
"We did not foresee a border closure," added Zeng.
The trio met as graduate students at Yale University, and between them have a master's degree in music, a PhD in forestry and environmental studies and an almost-completed doctorate in evolutionary biology.
But as the soft and fuzzy "Quarantine Bears," they're now fulfilling a less-academic but nonetheless lifelong ambition.
"We finally get to be in the band we wanted to be in," said Zhou.
Zhou said the bear costumes were just part of life when he showed up at Snow and Zeng's home. "This is just what they wore in the house every single day."
Zeng said they're necessary for a long winter's hibernation.
"It was really cold — even though it's March, and April, and May, it's still snowing — and so we were singing in these bear outfits."
"It's part of the deal of moving up here as an American to Canada," added Snow, originally from Cincinnati. "I need to be sure that I'm going to be able to be warm all the time."
They offered Zhou a spare pair of PJs and got to work recording six songs, including "Stacy's Mom" — a tribute to singer Adam Schlesinger, who died last month from COVID-19 complications.
There's a fourth set of pyjamas in the house, which has allowed them to occasionally welcome special guest star Justin Bie-bear.
The group is split on their musical future, though.
"I'm not at all surprised that we started a quarantine bear band," Zeng said. "This feels pretty on-brand for me."
While she wouldn't say no to a record deal, Snow isn't so sure.
"I still feel I really enjoy the work I do as an evolutionary biologist. And I think I'll probably continue to do that."
May 14, 2020
6-year-old's care home fundraiser gets big boost
Lennox Donnelly wanted to raise $50 to donate to the Almonte Country Haven, the long-term care home where his aunt works and where 28 people have now died from COVID-19.
"I just wanted to support the staff and make everyone feel better," Lennox told CBC News.
Two weeks ago, this blog brought you the story of how he sold his homemade macramé key chains for the good cause.
After the article was published, Donnelly got a surprise when an Ottawa law firm called and offered to pitch in $5,000.
"It broke my heart," said Miryam Gorelashvili, the lawyer who donated the money on behalf of her law firm, MG Law. "The story of so many people dying in this nursing home, it was devastating."
Gorelashvili said she was so affected by Lennox's fundraising project because in Azerbaijan, where she was born, "Culturally, we take care of our seniors."
"I saw what he was doing and I was thinking, well, if this little boy can do what he can … we can probably do much better. We just have to open our hearts and do what we can."
On Wednesday, Lennox and his dad Clayton Donnelly used part of the $5,615 he raised to deliver lunch for staff at the home.
"It means a lot to us," said Cheryl Thompson, the clinical care coordinator at Country Haven.
She said the home hasn't yet decided what to do with the rest of the donated funds, but it will help staff focus on a "new beginning" and "better days to come".
"We're thinking maybe a new garden," she said. "It will be in memory of the residents we lost to COVID-19."
WATCH: A fundraising boost for aunt and coworkers
May 13, 2020
A pot to pee in: Truck drivers get a break from Cornwall company
Amid all the outpouring of gratitude for frontline workers, there is one group that Christyn Veinotte feels isn't getting as much attention as it deserves.
"It's a really scary time to be a nurse or a doctor, but I think it's a really hard time to be a truck driver, too."
She works as a service adviser at Cornwall Truck Maintenance. The company has just started handing out care packages to its customers — long-haul truckers who have been having a hard time finding food and bathrooms during the pandemic.
Among the healthy snacks, gloves and hand sanitizer in the box is an unusual gift: a portable urinal.
"With places being closed down now, it's hard to make a pee stop," said manager Cherry-Ann Dupres (above, left). "They tend to use a water bottle."
Dupres and her husband, the owner of Cornwall Truck Maintenance, said that even though it's expensive to give away what is essentially medical equipment for free, they wanted to support customers who are keeping their business going during the pandemic.
"When you have more, you do more," said Dupres. "Given that we're still getting some sort of revenue flow through the business … we just wanted to give back, because without them we wouldn't be open right now."
Veinotte says the truckers are very grateful for the portable urinals.
"They often end up having to go in whatever they have at their disposal in their truck," she said. "The first time I gave it out I was a little bit nervous. But the guy said, 'This is such a fantastic idea.'"
Truckers are telling Veinotte about how they have to stay away from their family members for months on end for fear of infecting them with the virus, and having no one to talk to because their usual pit stops are closed.
"I literally was so naive to how hard it is for them on the road," she said. "I had no idea."
May 12, 2020
Nurse raises funds for food bank to thank public for its support
When COVID-19 first struck eastern Ontario, nurse Dawn Erickson will admit she was afraid.
"At the beginning it was really frightening. We didn't know who had COVID. We were swabbing all of our patients, [and] putting on a lot of PPE," Erickson told CBC News.
The nurse at Winchester District Memorial Hospital says her husband, a screenprinter, offered to design a T-shirt for hospital staff to help build morale.
"I gave a couple to our housekeepers just to say thanks and to build team spirit and relieve the fears of everybody a little bit. And it took off from there."
Everyone from the lab technician to the CEO asked if they too could purchase the $20 #WashYourHands T-shirt with the Ghostbusters-style no-COVID symbol on the front. The morale boost worked.
"To see management wearing the T-shirts, to see housekeepers wearing the T-shirt, it really did hit home that we are all in this together," Erickson said.
The Ericksons have now sold 225 T-shirts, and have donated the profits to local area food banks. They said the donation was their way of thanking the community for all of the support its shown frontline workers.
"The public is unbelievable," Erickson said. "We have received food from restaurants … the fire department on Tuesdays comes by with their fire trucks to say thank you, our local churches are ringing their bells."
The couple has donated $500 to the Winchester's Community Food Share, and if they sell another few dozen T-shirts hope to give $500 more later this month.
May 11, 2020
Why can't teachers stop lip-syncing?
Followers of this blog will know that we at One Good Turn love celebrating all the people in our community who've been getting creative during COVID-19.
In April, we shared a video of Kingston, Ont., arts teacher Kristen Martin dancing around her apartment while singing new COVID-themed lyrics to Lady Gaga's Poker Face — now christened Can't Touch My Face.
We've also featured the teachers at Nepean High School lip-syncing to I'll Be There for You, the theme song for the comedy Friends.
Since then, we've had an avalanche of educators sharing their lip-syncing videos.
Lisgar Collegiate Institute, for instance, tried "rickrolling" its students, pretending to send an important message from the principal only to have them click on a link to teachers lip-syncing to Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up.
Meanwhile, it was Hammer time at John McCrae Secondary School, where they reminded students that during lockdown U Can't Touch This.
Staff at W. Erskine Johnston Public School and Gloucester High School both lip-synced to the 2006 film High School Musical with We're All in This Together. Educators at Goulbourn Middle School, meanwhile, sent us their version of Ain't No Mountain High Enough.
And a chorus of different teachers at the Ottawa Catholic School Board sang Lean On Me.
The pressing question for this blog is: why?
"It's simple. Music connects everyone — it's universal — and I think during this crazy time of social isolating we're all craving to feel the connection we did when we were in the classroom," said Charlotte Coates, who teaches at the M.F. McHugh Education Centre and was the co-ordinator of their version of Madness's Our House.
Renfrew, Ont., teacher Anne Lefebvre agrees. She directed staff at Queen Elizabeth Public School in a lip-sync montage of 14 different Disney songs relevant to life in quarantine, including Bare Necessities.
"For educators you build everything you do in the classroom on connection. You can't teach the three r's if you don't have connection," Lefebvre said.
"So having that severed suddenly without any warning was heartbreaking for us. We had to find a new way to connect with our kids."
Lisgar Collegiate's Lani Sommers says the humour in lip-syncing makes it a great way to reach out.
"The students really love to see teachers embarrass themselves. And now they get to see us do it at home."
Speaking of being at home, Kingston teacher Kristen Martin is still stuck in her apartment, so she sent us her version of a Michael Jackson classic, now pointedly titled I'm Bored.
May 10, 2020
Window jokes warm mom's heart — and also get a few groans
Shannon Laughlan hasn't seen her 80-year old mother in person since the beginning of March.
Instead, every day for the past seven weeks she's been visiting Mary Lunney outside the window of the dining room at the Island View Retirement Residence in Arnprior, Ont.
"In the rain, in the snow, in the sunshine, in the wind. I've been through it all," Laughlan told CBC News.
Each day Laughan brings a different joke with her to put up in the window, large enough not just for her mother to see, but the other residents as well.
"It puts a smile on her face and it warms her heart," Laughlan said, though she admits when she posts a real groaner (What did the police officer say to his belly button? You're under a vest!) her mom will give her a thumbs-down sign.
"Then you get the hand gesture: go away, go away! It's quite comical."
May 9, 2020
Isolation Museum seeks to capture 'slice in time'
A photo of a cat holding a poker hand. Two kids sitting metres apart, having a play date. A Barbie wearing a face mask.
Those are just some of the artifacts in The Isolation Museum, a new website created by graphic designer Kit Chokly.
"It's a capture of people separated by space, but then it's also a slice in time," Chokly told Ottawa Morning's Robyn Bresnahan.
Chokly is a recent communications and media grad from Carleton University whose project keeps growing and growing, with submissions from Ottawa and Toronto as well as the United States, Britain and Australia.
"I've been organizing the artifacts into, air quotes, 'collections,'" Chokly said. They include a section on creative endeavours, one on plants and animals, and a page for "a lot of beautiful photos of empty public spaces."
Some of the images are humorous, some are poignant.
"Someone submitted a photo of their grandmother on her 99th birthday, and it was taken through a window of an Alzheimer's care centre," Chokly said.
"They titled the artefact 'Locked Away.' So that was definitely pretty touching right there, and shows what a lot of people are facing today."
Chokly wants to add new collections to the museum and is promising to keep the link live even after lockdown is over, as a time capsule of what we've all been through.
May 8, 2020
10,000 masks sewn by Ottawa volunteer group
Dilshad Manji doesn't have time for Tiger King, or whatever else people have been binge-watching on TV during this lockdown.
Every day, after the public servant finishes work, she gets out her sewing machine and starts to make cloth masks. On weekends, it's a full-time job.
"I have no time for watching television or anything," she said. "I wake up at 6 a.m. and I'm working until 10 p.m. on the weekends."
She's one of 70 sewers making masks that are distributed free of charge via the Facebook group Free Ottawa Cloth Masks.
So far the group has gifted almost 10,000 masks to members of the public.
For Manji, it's a family effort done, in part, to honour her mother's memory.
"My mom was a seamstress … and I grew up watching her sew," Manji said.
"Because my mom's passed away now, this [is] like using her memory and reliving that experience of her. I know that if she were here, this is what she would do."
Manji's children and husband are also deeply involved in the project.
Her 20-year-old daughter Leena is a second year nursing student at the University of Ottawa. She is responsible for cutting the fabric that her mother will turn into masks. Seventeen-year-old Adel is learning to drive by making mask deliveries with his father.
"We get to do it together, so that's what I really love about it," said Leena.
Dilshad Manji downplays any effort on her part and says the front-line workers are the real heroes.
"There are so many people who are working so much harder than I am. When I think of the front-line workers and I think of how I can do anything to help them — just anything — this is just our way of helping."
May 7, 2020
Close to meeting Mozart: Composer Q&A hits right note with band students
One of the first things that struck Lani Sommers when classes were cancelled this spring was how she'd be able to teach band online.
The Lisgar Collegiate Institute band and orchestra teacher was worried, she said, that her group of students would lose its musical connection due to the pandemic.
"Nobody signed up to play alone in their bedroom or banished to the garage. They all signed up to play together," Sommers told CBC News. "So it was a challenge trying to figure that out."
Then Sommers realized all four of the composers whose music her students are playing this year live in North America — two of them in Ontario. She decided to invite them each to attend a video call with her students to answer questions about their work.
"It's not quite the same as meeting Mozart, but it's as close as you can get," said Sommers.
Toronto-based composer Cait Nishimura is one of the musicians who's been fielding questions from the Lisgar students.
"I do rely on them to bring the music to life, so those conversations are really fulfilling for me too," she said about the hour-long video conference that took place last week.
Nishimura said there were the usual questions about music careers and the work she's most proud of. But the conversation, she added, also veered into questions about coping with creative blocks.
"I ended up talking a lot about self-doubt and what to do when you feel stuck," said Nishimura. "Those are concepts that translate really well outside of music as well."
Sommers said Nishimura provided a visual tip that provoked a great response.
"The best part was when she held up her little sticky note and it said 'just try something' on it. It's great advice not just for composition but for anything."
Including just trying a new way to teach band and orchestra online.
May 6, 2020
Special delivery: A taste of home for a boy fighting cancer
The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for one Ottawa family.
The Acosta-Pickerings have travelled to Toronto three times since the lockdown began to seek treatment at SickKids hospital for their son Ollie, 7, who is suffering from a rare form of cancer.
Being away from home during a pandemic with a very sick child has been challenging.
"You feel like you're in the middle of the apocalypse, quite frankly," said Ollie's mother, Dawn Pickering, who has to be extra vigilant about the virus around her immuno-compromised son.
During their most recent trip, Ollie was more focused on the fact that he couldn't get his usual Friday night treat in Toronto: a cheese and olive pizza from Ottawa-based chain Gabriel Pizza.
The family tried to explain that the restaurant doesn't deliver to Toronto, but Ollie wasn't buying it.
When Gabriel Pizza vice-president Ray Skaff heard about Ollie's wish through a family friend who posted about it on Twitter, he picked up the special order from one of the chain's Kingston locations last week and drove it to Toronto himself.
"All we wanted to do was put a smile on Ollie's face," said Skaff, who brought extra pizza for the staff and other patients at the hospital.
Now the company has put Ollie's signature dish on the menu.
The Ollie's Pizza is covered with cheese and green olives, and part of the proceeds from each sale will go to Candlelighters, a charity that supports children with cancer.
"For Ollie it felt pretty amazing for that piece of home to be brought to Toronto," Pickering said. "In the end he was right — it could be delivered."
May 5, 2020
Polish dance recital gets Lego Movie treatment
Everything is not awesome for the Polonie Dance Group.
The 60-year-old Polish folklore dance troupe had to cancel their annual spring concert when the pandemic struck.
Enter a small yellow solution.
Inspired by his own kids' efforts at stop motion movie making, dance instructor Andrzej Borowiec decided to reimagine one of the best known Polish dances in Lego.
"Given the quality of the animation you would think it was my children but it was actually me. I took time in between study breaks and lunches to put it together and film it," he said.
But he insists that the choreography of what he's calling the Quarantine Krakowiak is accurate — "within the limitation of movement of Lego characters," that is.
Check it out below:
May 4, 2020
3D-printing doc gets proactive about PPE
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Dr. Alexandra Bunting heard the horror stories coming out of other parts of the world and wondered how bad it would be here in Ottawa.
"There were a lot of scary articles published about [how] in New York there's no [personal protective equipment] … and they don't have enough face shields," said Bunting, the chief resident of orthopedic surgery at the Ottawa Hospital.
Bunting was concerned about the risk of exposure for her surgical colleagues, as well as for her own fiancé, an otolaryngologist in Montreal. Doctors working in the ear, nose and throat field are known to be at greater risk of catching COVID-19.
"There are reports worldwide of people in their 20s and their 30s getting it and passing away from it, so it's definitely something that's very real to us," she said.
So she and two colleagues decided to get proactive before a personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage hit hospitals in Ottawa.
Their department had just started using a 3D printer to create models of fractures so that patients could see and understand, for example, how bad their broken ankle was.
They appealed to car parts shop Princess Auto to donate clear plastic shields, and worked with engineers at Carleton University to reformat the design. Then they set to work printing 250 face shields for use in The Ottawa Hospital's surgical departments.
The shields aren't being used in the intensive care unit, which hasn't yet run out of PPE, according to Bunting. Still, there's been "a couple of days when there's been no shields available in the operating room, so our surgeons have been wearing them on those days," she said.
Bunting has also given some of her 3D-printed face shields to her fiancé.
Due to the pandemic, the couple has had to postpone their June wedding. And aside from the visit to drop off the face shields, they've been unable to cross the Quebec border to see each other.
Even after travel restrictions are dropped, Bunting said they'll keep apart for the sake of their patients.
"If he was exposed to a coronavirus patient and wasn't symptomatic and he gave it to me, then I could spread it to all of my patients."
Bunting admits that re-organizing a wedding "alone and from afar" will be difficult, but the couple are able to see each other over Facetime and send gifts in the mail.
"We're trying to make the best of it," she said. "It's not fun for us, but it's not fun for anybody right now."
May 3, 2020
Postal convoy pays tribute to hospital staff
Staff at Ottawa's hospitals received a drive-by tribute from a group of Canada Post employees last.
Watch that tribute here.
May 2, 2020
Virtual karaoke club builds community of crooners
Mélanie Mathieu starting going to karaoke clubs when she was four years old.
The lifelong fan was singing her heart out twice a week until she got a full-time job — and even after that was managing to hit the clubs twice a month.
So when the pandemic struck, she was bereft. How to stay sane when you can't croon along to Purple Rain or I Will Survive?
"I didn't miss so much the karaoke aspect, because karaoke is just about seeing your friends.… What I missed was the sense of community," Mathieu said in an interview with CBC.
A month ago, she decided to form an online karaoke group on Facebook so her friends could link up virtually and keep singing.
Members of Covid Karaoke Cafe Ottawa record themselves singing a favourite tune, then upload it for everyone else to see.
The idea filled a void in Ottawa, and now the group has 500 members.
"Originally, I didn't expect the group to get so big. I thought it would just be my friends and their friends," Mathieu said. "It really blew up pretty quickly."
While some of the members are professional musicians with incredible skill, Mathieu said most are people just like her.
"I'm just an average person with an average voice. I make mistakes, and when I do, I still post it.… It's not about perfection, it's about having fun."
Mathieu said she's now chatting to new people every day, and all the group members are telling her they've made firm friendships through the karaoke club.
"I've made at least 10 new friends through this group," she said. "We're all going to get together when this is all over and we're looking forward to that.
"I feel like we're almost a family."
May 1, 2020
6-year-old raises money for Almonte Country Haven
There is a small ray of sunshine in Almonte, a town that has been hard hit by the coronavirus.
Six-year-old Lennox Donnelly has raised more than $500 for the Almonte Country Haven nursing home by selling his homemade macramé key chains.
At least 24 residents have died at the home, where Lennox's aunt is a manager. Lately, she's been working long hours and caring for the residents herself.
"She just does the same thing that everyone else does, trying to help the residents get better," Lennox told CBC News.
"She's working very hard and I just want to keep her safe from getting corona … because they have a lot of cases and I just want them to get better."
Lennox's father, Clayton Donnelly, used to work at Almonte Country Haven. He said staff there are trying to keep their spirits up.
"They know day after day that it's going to be hard, but it just goes to the people that work in long-term care. They work there because they care."
He said the money his son has raised will go toward buying staff meals and personal protective equipment.
"I couldn't be prouder for him at six years old to come up with this idea. It's amazing."
April 30, 2020
'We need to help out': Med students pay it forward
Medical students who've seen their classes cancelled and clinical rotations abandoned might not be able to be on the front lines — and so some coming up with other ways to help their future colleagues fight COVID-19.
Heidi Li is a third-year medical student at the University of Ottawa. She and her friend, Simran Aggarwal, have created a service that matches student volunteers with front-line workers who need child care and other household errands done.
"When push comes to shove, we need to help out. That is the foundation of medicine," Li said in an interview with CBC News.
Now, nearly 60 medical students are providing child care to allow doctors, nurses and paramedics to get to work, while another group is providing a grocery delivery service to seniors.
"Not being able to help in a medical capacity may be frustrating," Aggarwal said. "But this is a huge responsibility. To have someone trust you to take care of their children is an honour."
Kameela Alibhai is another U of O med student trying to find a way to help out.
Last weekend, she helped organize a personal protective equipment (PPE) drive, inviting members of the public to drop off equipment at the St John's Ambulance on Morrison Drive.
The group she's working with has been able to collect masks and gowns donated by nail salons and dental clinics and redistribute them to general practitioners and inner-city health teams who don't have enough to see patients.
Alibhai plans to be at it again this Saturday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
"I wish I could fast-forward four or five years and be in a place where I could help and be more useful," the first-year med student said.
"We're playing our part to do something small and make sure our front-line workers stay protected so they can continue to serve our community."
Daniel Milad is a third-year med student at the University of Laval who's back home in Ottawa for the duration of the pandemic.
He and two friends are fundraising to provide meals for front-line workers. Their organization, FrontlineFeeds, has raised $11,000 on its GoFundMe page and they've dropped off 500 meals so far.
"Food is such a universal way to say thank you," he said.
For Milad, the fact that medical students in particular are rushing to help out is no surprise.
"We want to give back because we want to be on those front lines," Milad said. "If [the pandemic] was only one year down the line, we would be there with them."
April 29, 2020
6-foot sub delivered to care home staff — from a safe distance
The deputy mayor of South Stormont knows first-hand how tough it is for employees in long-term care homes right now.
His wife has worked at the Woodland Villa in Long Sault, Ont., since the day it opened.
"It's not just the physical work they do all the time, it's the emotional work," David Smith told CBC News.
He said that while his wife's facility has not experienced an outbreak of COVID-19, over the course of her career she has often been brought to tears by the emotional toll of her job.
"It's a sad thing to say, but [people] are dying and the last person that they see before they take their last breath are these health-care employees," he said. "They're the last hand that they hold."
On Tuesday, Smith decided to show his appreciation by bringing a six-foot-long Subway sandwich to staff at both the Woodland Villa long-term care home and the Sunset Cove retirement home in Long Sault: a sandwich so large it would allow him to hand it over without getting too close to the care workers.
"We were able to social distance with one person at each end of the sub," Smith said. "When I picked it up we had to put it in the back of my truck. We got a lot of attention loading it."
He did wonder if he should have had a red flag hanging off the sandwich, because "legally you're supposed to have a red flag at the end of a large load."
The staff were very appreciative of the gesture, Smith said.
"You couldn't see the smiles on their faces because of the masks, but you could see it in their eyes."
Smith is now calling on Canada to designate a day of recognition for frontline workers — including PSWs and maintenance staff. He plans to contact his network of fellow mayors and deputy mayors to see if they would lend their support to the idea.
"It's not a lot to give back," Smith said. "They deserve to have a day a year that they can call their own."
Out-of-work songbirds sing for seniors
With theatres and concerts shut down across the country, one woman has found a way for the show to go on.
The Ottawa-born writer and director Fiona Sauder has launched a project called the Songbirds Series. The public can commission a song from an out-of-work theatre artist and send the video to a friend or family member.
"It was really inspired by our need to connect and also our own sudden artistic idleness," Sauder told CBC's Ottawa Morning.
Sauder is the artistic director of Bad Hats Theatre in Toronto, but is riding out the lockdown at home in Ottawa.
The participating artists are from across Canada and the U.S., and would normally be performing in Toronto or at the Shaw or Stratford Festivals, or even on Broadway.
"Many of the artists on our roster are theatre artists whose jobs are essentially to empathize and to pay attention to stories of individual people," Sauder said.
"This initiative … is something that they're quite good at and makes them feel they are able to do something."
The fee to commission a song is $35. Sauder said most of the videos are being sent to seniors, with Leonard Cohen, Tom Jones and Anne Murray among the top requests.
If patrons want to give a bit more when they buy a song, the extra money will go toward a virtual Mother's Day concert Sauder is planning for May 10. Donations will be split between the artists and women's shelters.
Perth man's homemade game show delights audiences, boosts businesses
Move over, Jeopardy!: there's a new game show in town, and it's got people in Perth, Ont., tuning in by the hundreds.
Every night for the last few weeks, Ryan Murphy has broadcast the Car Car Truck Show from his kitchen on Facebook.
Audience members are invited to guess which vehicles will drive by his house first: car, truck, SUV, or van.
They can also take a shot at which of Murphy's cousin's roosters will cross the finish line first in a literal chicken run, name the tune that Murphy plays from his kid's phone, or send in a TikTok to be shared with the audience.
Westport, Ont., resident Christina Card has watched every single show. She says she tunes in to feel connected to her community while she's stuck at home alone.
"It's hilarious. Ryan's just a naturally funny, witty, dry-sense-of-humour guy," she said.
Murphy's charmingly homemade show doesn't just entertain friends and family, though. It's also given a much-needed boost to local businesses.
Every night, different sponsors purchase gift certificates to local restaurants, bars and golf courses to be given away as prizes.
"It doesn't seem like much," said Murphy. "But you don't know if that $100 that we spend now, when they're not open — maybe that's the one that keeps the lights on, or pays the cook."
Dan Allatt, the owner of O'Reilly's Ale House, has had a number of people buy gift certificates for his pub.
He also just loves the show.
"Everybody's sitting captively at home with very little to do, and Ryan's just given us something to give us excited about every day at 5:45," Allatt said.
Murphy did try to give up hosting the show after three weeks, but his fans demanded more — and now, there's likely only one way out.
"The only way I see Car Car Truck ending is by giving away a car," said Murphy, adding that he's already approached local dealers to see if they might agree to his plan.
"Hopefully by that time, the world will be back to normal — and there's no need to visit with me every night."
Sidewalk chalk talk reminds residents 'kindness doesn't cost a lot'
On a street in Beacon Hill, one sidewalk philosopher has set out to change her neighbourhood's attitude toward life under lockdown.
Victoria Lynes normally teaches yoga and mindfulness in schools. She says her focus is "working with the kids and figuring out with them how they can be kinder humans".
So at the start of the pandemic, when she saw posts in a community Facebook group by adults wanting to call the police on teenagers who weren't respecting physical distancing rules, she decided to act.
"I've just been trying to increase our sense of community during this time, rather than tear us apart," Lynes said.
That's why every day, between 3 and 4 p.m., she writes a quote in chalk on the sidewalk outside her house, from thinkers as wide-ranging as Mother Theresa and John Lennon.
Lynes said she wants to remind people "that kindness doesn't cost a lot."
Gloucester residents have now put Eastvale Drive on their walking route, she said, and she was thrilled when a neighbour across the street joined the mission with quotes in French outside their home.
They now call it "Chalk Talk with the Sidewalk Philosophers".
And as Desmond Tutu put it: "It's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world."
Gatineau boy pitches his COVID-19 version of Monopoly
The board is square and the name is the same, but everything else about 12-year-old Alexandre Robillard-Nadon's edition of Monopoly is very different.
The properties are specific to the Aylmer neighbourhood where he lives, and include friends' and neighbours' houses as well as local restaurants. The jail has been turned into a hospital and the luxury tax is now a social distancing fine.
The Community Chest cards have been replaced with CBC News Flashes.
"It takes a lot of time to create the whole board, the cards, everything that comes in a Monopoly game," said Alexandre's mother, Geneviève Robillard. "But then we just thought, you know what? We have plenty of time on our hands, we're confined here at home, why not?"
The cheapest property for sale in COVID-19 Monopoly is one of Alexandre's favourite restaurants, and the most expensive are those they wish they could be visiting right now.
"The highest-priced are the grandparents' beautiful houses that we miss the most," said Robillard.
She says her son loves to play Monopoly and got the idea while playing the Stranger Things edition of the game.
"He likes to be the banker. I think it's all about the money. He's great at negotiating."
Alexandre pitched Monopoly's creators, Hasbro, the idea of personalized online versions of the game, but the company replied that due to legal reasons they had to reject his idea.
Instead, they suggested he attend the Young Inventor Challenge at the annual Chicago Toy and Game Week with his COVID-19 version of the game.
"It's great recognition from them," said his mother.
Alexandre is just content with the fact that the first time he played his version of Monopoly, he won the game.
Beer league issues charity challenge to other hockey teams
A recreational hockey league for seniors is calling on teams across the country to donate their ice time refunds to charities in their local areas.
The Ottawa Legends' season was cancelled when the COVID-19 lockdown started. When the rec centre where they play refunded their ice booking fees, the Legends decided to donate the refund money to the Ottawa Food Bank and the Ottawa Mission.
The two charities ended up splitting $7,000 equally.
"There's a lot of pain going around, so anything you can do to relieve the pain is just great," said Patrick Esmonde-White, one of the players.
Now he'd like to see other hockey teams in Canada do the same.
"We're hoping that people around the country, hockey teams that are just like us … they may have got a refund and they may say 'How do we split it up?' This gives them a better idea."
Esmonde-White says he's already been contacted by another team that's donated their $3,000 refund to charity.
"It's no great noblesse on our part, because it's found money," Esmonde-White said.
"In fact, we're saving money because we're not drinking as much beer."
Mosque volunteers deliver food to the needy
Two University of Ottawa students are spearheading a relief effort on behalf of the United Muslim Organizations of Ottawa-Gatineau (UMO-OG) to bring food to needy families in the city.
Mariam Aly and Soumaya Marhnouj are both in their third year at the university.
When the lockdown started last month, the tech-savvy women were asked to support the UMO-OG's efforts to organize the delivery of food boxes.
Marhnouj said this kind of charitable work was already being done by Ottawa's mosques, but after COVID-19 struck "we knew we had to widen the group of people that we actually reach."
Aly said the mosques turned to them to create a database of those in need "because we're young and we know how to use Google," but that quickly developed into the pair leading the project, along with their friend, Momin Janjua.
Now 300 volunteers are involved in ordering food, packing it into boxes and having it delivered to families in need in Ottawa.
"It's not just for Muslims, it's for the entire community, and there have been a lot of non-Muslims partaking in the program," Aly said, although she added that with Ramadan starting the team will be packing extra food and treats into the food boxes for families that will be fasting.
The group is also exploring whether a virtual Iftar — the sunset meal when Muslims break their daily Ramadan fast — could be held for the community over the virtual meeting app Zoom.
"Even if people aren't able to leave their homes and gather with the community, as long as they can have those Iftars at their homes ... and have enough food that they're able to enjoy that at home together is something that's really important to us," Marhnouj said.
Mother-daughter team help mobilize army of mask sewers
We've all seen them on social media: an energetic army of sewers putting in a stitch in time to save lives.
Now there's a website that aims to link those sewers to the people who need masks.
Tonya Dickenson got involved with Army of Masks after a friend in Florida asked her to help mobilize sewers in Canada. The website's goal is to connect local sewers across North America with the people in their communities who are in need of non-medical masks for personal use.
"If we don't flatten the curve fast, the next few years could be very, very tough," Dickenson said. "I believe masks are part of the solution."
She appealed to her mother, Ottawa-based cookbook writer Margaret Dickenson, to put down her recipe cards and dust off her 55-year-old sewing machine.
Margaret admits the first mask took her two hours, but now she's speeding along with an easier design. She said she's very proud of her daughter's efforts to help fight COVID-19.
"She was so passionate, I mean she was almost in tears. So I'm on board full time," she told CBC News.
Tonya Dickenson said she's grateful for the efforts of all the volunteers pitching in to help out right now.
"My biggest dream is a mask for every American and Canadian — and ideally two, because one should be in the wash!"
Kids share stories about life under lockdown
An Ottawa-based writer and mother of two has created a website where kids can share their own stories about life under lockdown.
The Kids Write now has 85 entries from children in eight different countries.
Jeni Armstrong launched the website April 1. She said it started when she asked her own kids to start keeping a diary of their COVID-19 experiences.
"Like millions of other parents across the country, my kids wrapped up their March Break and all of a sudden I wasn't just mom, I was also a teacher," she told CBC's Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan.
Armstrong said there are common themes like missing friends and being bored. One girl wrote that she was tired of eating "home food." Another boy described his excitement at getting a new puppy.
"Some of [the stories] are insightful, some are heartbreaking and quite sad, but the one thing they all are is honest," Armstrong said.
The website was given a big boost when Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, tweeted about it on April 4.
Armstrong said she hopes the children will read each others' stories and feel a little less alone.
"There was one 12-year-old in [a family shelter in] Ottawa who talked about how it was hard for his mum to buy things she needed at the grocery store," she said.
"Even stuff that's difficult to read reminds me that kids are paying attention, that they're grounded and that throughout all of the change and disruption, they remain who they are. And that really gives me a lot of hope."
Cleaner rescues clothes left at donation bins
An Ottawa woman has been washing and folding clothes left abandoned at a charity bin in Orléans in the hopes they won't end up in the landfill.
The bags of clothing had been piling up at a donation bin in the parking lot of St. Peter High School. Some had been opened and ransacked, and what was left was caught in the rain.
"It was just a hot mess," Sherry Legge told CBC. "You could see the bags and the stuff piling up."
Charities have appealed to the public to stop donating their clothes at this time because they have no capacity to collect and sort them for resale.
Legge runs a cleaning company and said she wanted to do something useful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I know a lot of people are sewing masks right now," she said. "I don't sew. But I can wash and I can do laundry, so that was my little bit that I thought would be able to help."
She started collecting the clothes bag by bag, and after making an appeal on social media, the Mission Thrift Store stepped in to collect the entire lot.
The clothing is now sitting in one of their trucks.
"Unfortunately, if she can't save it, it will be waste," Marc Poirier of the Mission Thrift Store said.
Legge has appealed to a local laundromat to let her come and bulk wash 30 to 40 bags of clothes at once.
"To know that all of that stuff would be just designated as garbage and waste because [it's been] out in the elements, it's just such a shame. Especially in the pandemic with so much job loss ... there will be an even greater need for these items in the future."
Poirer's hopeful Legge will be able to keep those clothes from going to waste.
"She's such a wonderful lady," he said. "She has really creative plans to get this all done."
Cute babies help spread public health message
Carly MacDonald says she really wants people to take the public health guidance to stay home and save lives seriously.
The 27-year old mom from New Liskeard, Ont., is immunocompromised, as is her 16-month old son, Lincoln.
"I think honestly what the government is asking — for people to stay home — is so simple in comparison to what other people have had to do for our country in the past," she said.
That's why MacDonald organized for more than two dozen of her friends to take photos of their adorable babies to help spread the word.
The photo montage has been shared on social media, as well as in the nursing home in North Bay, Ont., where MacDonald's mother works.
MacDonald says she thinks the campaign has helped raise awareness.
"There's nothing better than seeing little faces smiling. So I think the kids really did it for everyone."
Thrashing moistly: Ottawa metal band covers viral Trudeau riff
For those who can't get enough of it, the strange Canadian sensation that is Speaking Moistly is getting another boost after an Ottawa band created a thrash metal cover version of the internet hit.
Last week, an Edmonton musician created a song out of a gaffe Justin Trudeau made during a press conference.
The song went viral — in a good way — and as of Friday evening, has had 2.6 million views on YouTube.
Now an Ottawa metal band has done their own cover of the hit.
"We just couldn't stop laughing. He actually used Justin Trudeau to sing the song, which we thought was super funny," Armin Kamal, the lead singer of Infrared, told CBC News.
The group decided it would work as heavy metal, too. So they recorded their parts separately, spliced it all together and posted the result online.
"We thought the tune was so catchy we were just like, wouldn't this be awesome?" Kamal said.
The singer gives all credit to the Edmonton musician who created a song that, for better or worse, really sticks in your head.
"It's catchy because he wrote a good catchy tune … and I think a good melody will translate into any genre, and that's why I think it worked out for metal as well."
Infrared met in the 1980s as teenagers and played together for only five years. But the lifelong friends regrouped a few years ago and have had greater success, opening for well-known metal acts like Venom Inc. and Sacrifice.
Speaking Moistly is "a little happier-sounding than most of the songs we write or play," Kamal admitted, though right now that's probably a good thing.
"In these times, where everybody's so stressed out, just having some good fun is levity for everybody to [alleviate] a little bit of pressure."
What goes around comes around, paper carrier learns
Stan Hurlbert has been leaving chocolate milk out as a treat for his local paper carrier for years.
The retired waste collector remembers how hot and thirsty he used to get on his rounds, and wanted to let the local kids who deliver the Kemptville Advance know how much he appreciates their work.
Then, two weeks ago he came home and found a loaf of bread by his mailbox.
"I went, 'What the heck is that?'" Hurlbert said. "My neighbour said, 'I think it was the paper girl that left something there.'"
Georgia Davidson, 11, who took over the route in January, confessed to the good deed the next day. She told CBC she and her mother noticed how little there was on the grocery store shelves, and wanted to share with a neighbour who had been so kind to her.
"We were thinking there's barely any bread in the store, actually no bread. So we ended up putting one of our two breads in the bag and leaving it at his house," she said.
The gesture blew Hurlbert away. "You don't think that children are paying attention to the world, and yet she did this," he said. "Just the idea that she was returning the favour…. She thought of me, thinking that I would run out of food.... What a sweet little girl."
Georgia has learned an important lesson that what goes around comes around, according to her mother, Cynthia Davidson.
"When we started the paper route I thought it'd be a great opportunity for her to have some responsibility, to have some extra spending money.… I didn't anticipate the community outreach and the lessons to be learned," she said.
Georgia said she feels even the smallest acts of kindness can mean a lot right now.
"It's very important for people to do little gestures and help other people … because everybody's scared and they don't really know what's happening right now," she said.
Nepean High staff sing I'll be there for you to students
The words couldn't be more fitting for 2020:
No one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job's a joke, you're broke
Your love life's D.O.A
But it's the chorus — I'll be there for you — to that Friends theme song that teachers at Nepean High School really want their students to hear.
More than 40 staff members have posted a video on YouTube of them lip-synching and dancing to the song.
"It's in their nature for teenagers to want to be together and socialize, so this social distancing is quite tough for them," said Melissa Pregent, head of languages at Nepean and the teacher who organized the video.
She wants students to know that even if it hasn't been their day, their week, their month or even their year, their teachers are still there for them.
Nepean's communications technology teacher, Anne-Marie Theoret, took on the task of editing all the video clips together.
"Even though they're stuck at home without being able to see their friends … they're not alone," she told CBC News.
"We're still there and we're still ready to support them, and we can't wait for all of this to be over and get back to school and be able to be together again."
Instagram therapy dogs helping students stay positive
Carleton University's therapy dogs are used to helping stressed-out students take a little "paws" around exam time.
Now they've moved to Instagram to provide virtual support.
Shannon Noonan, the university's manager of student support and mental health outreach, says the 14 dogs in the program normally "provide love and support to students just by being their doggie selves."
She says students have been missing the animals since the campus closed. She decided to film her three-year-old Dalmatian Elroy having a nap and posted it live to social media.
"A bunch of people started tuning in and commenting, saying this is the kind of content we need during this kind of depressing time," Noonan said.
Elroy has been seen playing harmonica, Zak, seen above, has been reinforcing hand hygiene tips and Moose is just really cute having a nap.
Noonan says the fun part about sharing the video with the more than 2,600 followers of @cutherapydog is the positive feedback.
"You get pretty heartwarming comments from people just appreciating that this is not normal and that this is something bright and nice that we can put into the world."
April 14, 2020
Autism therapy centre offering free services
Routines have been thrown out the window for all families, but it's especially hard for those with children on the autistic spectrum.
That's why one local autism therapy centre is now offering to help with free virtual workshops and "camps" during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"What we're hearing is that many families are really overwhelmed," said speech and language pathologist Cindy Harrison, the CEO and president of ACT Learning Centre.
Harrison told CBC News that when the government announced its emergency wage subsidy program, the centre rehired staff they'd laid off and got their therapists back to work.
ACT is now offering free virtual workshops on topics such as how parents can talk about COVID-19 in a way that children with autism can understand.
One family Harrison has worked with was having difficulty with a highly anxious non-verbal child. She recommended they share an online storybook that had stick figures and a picture of the novel coronavirus in it.
The story, Harrison said, explained that while COVID-19 can make some people sick, if children stay home with their parents they'll be OK.
"It turned out what he was most worried about was that his mom and dad would get sick," Harrison said.
She says they've also set up a free virtual camp with a therapist in a "Zoom room" with a small group of young people.
"Some of the children we see are dinosaur aficionados, so we're doing things like dino trivia," she said.
Tara Bautista's five-year old daughter Aria has taken part in the camps.
"It's tough for families like ours to have our supports taken away," Bautista said. "So any time a family like ours gets any resource for free, it means a lot to us."
April 13, 2020
Gatineau artist sells paintings of Quebec's top doc
Quebec's Dr. Horacio Arruda has become the subject of dozens of internet memes, and has inspired the province to share recipes for Portuguese tarts.
Now a Gatineau artist is selling his paintings of Arruda — and other key political figures — and donating the proceeds to the Outaouais Youth Centre.
Christian Quesnel, best known for the graphic novel Ludwig, has raised $1,900 for the centre so far.
"Giving hope to people is a little bit the quote-unquote 'mission' right now." Quesnel told Radio-Canada. "It's my way of contributing to what's going on around me."
April 12, 2020
Isolated choir members sing together for Easter
People aren't allowed to gather in person for services this Easter weekend, but one community choir has managed to find a high-tech way to sing together.
The Caelis Academy Ensemble asked each of its members to record themselves on their phones singing songs for Holy Week.
One of the ensemble members then used professional editing software to merge the two dozen voices.
The editing process was extremely labour intensive, according to Matthew Larkin, the founding artistic director of Caelis Academy Ensemble.
"About a minute and a half of music is about seven hours' editing time. It's an enormous amount of work," he said.
The singers had to concentrate carefully to follow the piano track, as well as the video Larkin sent them of his conducting.
"You've got to be really disciplined about the timing," he said. "The slightest lack of attention or lack of focus can result in an early entry or a late entry, which would never happen in a live performance because everyone's watching the conductor."
WATCH: The Caelis Academy Ensemble performs the hymn Drop, Drop Slow Tears
April 11, 2020
Sharbot Lake residents to share Zoom Easter meal
There may not be high-speed internet in the small community of Sharbot Lake, Ont., but that's not stopping residents from trying to have Easter brunch together over the video conferencing app Zoom.
Amrit Kaillon is the founder of a local "caremongering" group that's organized for a low-cost Easter brunch to be delivered to 200 families, including many Meals on Wheels clients.
The $20 meal feeds four people and will be prepared by Seed to Sausage, an artisanal butcher based in Ottawa. Other Sharbot Lake businesses will provide drinks, apple crisp and chocolates for dessert.
Diners will be given instructions on how to connect over Zoom when their meals are delivered.
"We are in a small community, so our internet is not high-speed, like in the city. So we have to think about those logistical things as well," said Kaillon.
Whether or not the tech works in their favour, Kaillon says the project has brought the rural community — and the cottagers who visit it — together.
She says many people who own cottages have sponsored Easter meals for families who might be struggling right now.
"There's been a lot of discussion around cottagers staying in the city and not coming [to Sharbot Lake]. I was very surprised and happy to see that many cottagers in cities were calling to sponsor meals for people in the community," Kaillon said.
"It was really really nice, and makes your heart feel fuzzy and warm when that happens."
The international human rights lawyer has herself only recently returned home to Sharbot Lake after 20 years of living abroad.
"Having my daughter has changed everything. It's just changed what is important for me," Kaillon told CBC News. She came home so that her daughter can grow up in a small town and learn to care for her neighbours.
Kaillon is setting an example with the COVID-19 Support Group she founded.
"If anything this whole COVID-19 has taught us that no matter who we are, what we do, where we come from, we're all experiencing the same thing."
April 10, 2020
Minecraft Easter egg hunt aims to bring kids together online
An Ottawa company has helped create a virtual Easter egg hunt that will take place in a custom-made Minecraft world on Saturday.
The programmers have also built one for older kids in Roblox, another multiplayer online video game.
Children across Canada will be able to play with friends in the virtual world they can no longer visit in real life.
"It's a great way for kids across the country, even though they're stuck at home, to get together and have fun together," said Maurice Loiselle of Code Ninjas, a franchise that teaches kids to code while building their own video games.
Both games are free to enter. Children will log on and then search for Easter eggs within the virtual worlds. White eggs will be the easiest to find, yellow slightly more difficult, and black the most challenging to find.
Loiselle was set to open the Barrhaven branch of Code Ninjas on March 16, but has had to keep his doors shut due to the pandemic.
When he can eventually start his business, Loiselle says he hopes games like this will inspire children to build their own worlds — and learn how to write computer code.
April 9, 2020
Grandmother cleans mailboxes to protect postal workers
A Nepean woman and her grandson have been washing down mailboxes in the Tanglewood neighbourhood in an effort to protect mail carriers from catching COVID-19.
"We take our bucket and our scrub brush every day. We take turns doing the scrubbing and the other person does the wiping and drying," Julia Hill said in an interview.
She explained the duo are cleaning the banks of community mailboxes near their condo, as well as some that are stationed farther down the road, 112 individual boxes in all.
Hill says she's using the experience to teach her grandson, Lucas Valpy, 7, about community service.
"It's just the importance of solidarity and being part of the community and doing what you can," she said.
"I have a daughter-in-law who's a nurse… I am really worried about her, I wish I could do more to protect her. It made me think about how postal workers and their families must be feeling about their safety, and how they must be frightened a lot of the time as well."
Lucas is happy to be helping, calling it "really fun."
Their local mail carrier recently shouted out a thank you — from a safe distance. Hill is now hoping more people will take up a bucket and scrub brush to protect front-line workers.
April 8, 2020
Letters of hope at a long-term care home
Each window has a single letter, but read them together and the message coming from Carlingview Manor Long Term Care Home is clear: inspire, embrace, triumph, success, courage and more.
Thanks Carlingview, we're all in this together.
April 8, 2020
Family celebrates mother's life with help from local restaurant
When Hilda Gervin passed away last week at the age of 94, her family wasn't able to have the kind of funeral they wanted.
"The service would have been at St Luke's and the church ladies would have had amazing food prepared for everyone," Gervin's daughter, Karen Deme, told CBC News.
Instead, there were only seven family members in the funeral home chapel, each sitting in separate pews to maintain their distance. After the service, there was nowhere for Deme to take her father, Bill Gervin, to have a special meal.
Deme phoned up her parents' favourite restaurant, Chances R on Woodroffe Avenue in Nepean. The Gervins had been going there twice a week for over a decade.
"They always sat at the same table, went at the same time, and everyone there was always so kind to my parents," Deme said.
Unfortunately the restaurant was closed. But owner Mike Bouris still wanted to do something for such loyal customers.
"They've been coming to the restaurant forever. The most polite, genuine, kind people that you'll meet," Bouris said.
The restaurant is still making meals for their 50 staff members, so Bouris prepared extra for the Gervin family to take home to eat.
"He was so touched, my father … when I said [the meal] was from Chances R," Deme said. "The restaurant itself means so much to him, and it did to my mother as well."
April 7, 2020
Kids dress up to honour essential workers
Children from Steve MacLean Public School in Riverside South got all dressed up last week as a way to say thank you to Ottawa's essential workers.
The virtual spirit day was organized by Grade 1 french immersion teacher Stephanie Dubuc.
"It was really cute," she said. "The feedback and the response was fantastic."
The students were obviously limited to costumes they had at home, but Dubuc said they still managed to dress up as a range of essential workers including doctors, nurses, firefighters, chefs, grocery store workers and mail carriers.
Dubuc said the children learned about their own role and responsibilities during the pandemic, but for the teachers the greatest joy was in seeing the photos that were shared afterwards.
"It was so great to see our little students' faces that we haven't seen in so many weeks," she told CBC News.
"We miss them so much, and it was really lovely to see those that shared [photos] with us."
April 7, 2020
Hip-hop nurse raises money for hospital
Alea de Castro is a nurse who moonlights as a street dance teacher. Now she's combining her two careers into a fundraiser for staff and patients at The Ottawa Hospital.
Her company, MOOV Ottawa Dance, normally hosts monthly street dance battles at city hall. Now they're offering online classes over Facebook Live. Instead of payment, she's asking students to donate to the hospital's COVID-19 emergency response fund.
"All the money that's raised will go directly to the hospital," de Castro told CBC. "In turn, it really goes towards the whole community being a safer place."
De Castro is working on the front line, testing patients who present at the hospital's Civic campus for COVID-19.
"You can't deny that it is a little scary," she said about working at the hospital right now. "But at the end of the day we got into it because we want to care for people."
She says she and her partner, Arnaldo Betancourt Silva, stay positive by dancing. "We feel like it's important to move, to dance and enjoy music, even in this really difficult time."
The next Facebook Live class will be held Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m.
April 6, 2020
Principal acts on school motto
Last week we told you about a stranger who ignored social distancing rules to help Scott Miller while he was having an epileptic seizure. (Scroll further down to read that story.)
Today Victoria White, the principal of St. Philip Catholic Elementary School, emailed to say she was that stranger.
"I was out for a walk when I could see family members panicking as they were looking for Scott. The only thing to do was to help. Even when the world is topsy-turvy it's important to look out for other people."
St. Philip's school motto? Go be kind Falcons.
There's a teacher who's practising what she preaches!
April 6, 2020
Deliveries 'a godsend' for seniors stuck inside
For seniors or people with compromised immune systems, staying inside may be the only way to stay safe right now.
That may mean not even making trips to the grocery store for food, or to the pharmacy to pick up medicine.
One local company is stepping in to help.
Even as it faces uncertain times in its industry, Ottawa General Contractors is dedicating one of its own drivers to run errands for seniors.
Fares Elsabbagh, the company's president, said it has helped 30 people so far — and the driver, Abe Abbas, is "loving what he's doing".
Nora Drouillard and her husband Mike haven't left the house since March 12th. She has asthma and diabetes, so the couple is being extremely cautious about avoiding COVID-19.
"It's been a godsend," Drouillard said of the grocery delivery.
Abbas picked up the groceries they had ordered online, she said, as well as their prescriptions and even the food they needed for their dog.
"We asked if we could tip the driver, but he said no," Drouillard said. "So we're going to make a donation in the company's name instead."
April 5, 2020
Mysterious joker keeps Kanata light-hearted
Tim emailed CBC to say that someone was posting jokes on lampposts on Steeplechase Drive in the Bridlewood area of Kanata.
"My 12-year-old and I had a few laughs when we were out for a walk [recently]," he said in an email to CBC News.
"It brightened up our day."
April 4, 2020
Vanier neighbours 'kick it like it's 1986'
Residents on Carlotta Avenue were rebels just for kicks this week, dancing at the end of their driveways to Feel it Still by Portugal. The Man.
Of course, if it were 1986, they wouldn't have to stand so far apart.
April 3, 2020
Mother's shout out to stranger who helped epileptic son
Donna Miller wants to thank the stranger who came to the aid of her son Scott, 34, while he was having an epileptic seizure.
Scott Miller has been having life-threatening seizures since he had surgery to remove a brain tumour when he was 16.
Every day he takes his dog Willow out for a walk in Barrhaven. Last Friday when he didn't return on time, Donna knew something was wrong. She and the rest of the family went out to find him.
That's when a stranger stopped to offer to help.
Scott was located semi-conscious in the Farley Mowat Public School playground. Miller says the friendly neighbour stayed with Scott — who was bleeding from his head and nose from his collapse — while Miller went home to get help.
"She was absolutely steadfast in staying with us," Miller said, adding that if she knew her name, she would pass on this message:
"I would be telling her how grateful I am for the kindness she extended, especially in this COVID situation where we're to stay great distances apart. She just sprung into action, and for that I'm doubly grateful."
April 3, 2020
Your tributes in CBC Ottawa's new Facebook group
A member of CBC Ottawa's new "We're all in this together" Facebook group posted this tribute to the hardworking people who come and take the garbage and recycling away in Riverside South. Keep your pictures coming! We'll share some of them here.
April 3, 2020
Babies who volunteer move to online visits
Jessica Turner is determined not to let COVID-19 get in the way of bringing happiness to Ottawa's seniors.
She runs a non-profit group that organizes for mothers and babies to visit people in retirement homes and respite centres, reading stories and sharing cuddles. Babies Who Volunteer has 2,000 members who visit 50 homes across the region.
They shut down their visiting program in March but as of Friday they have launched virtual visits via the video communications app Zoom.
"We didn't want to just stop that, knowing that the seniors were going to be in lock down and weren't going to have their families visiting," Turner said.
"This might be the only contact that they have, the only joy that they get right now."
The first virtual visit will take place at the Richmond Care Home. Babies Who Volunteer hope they can expand to other centres soon.
Teacher hoping to inspire students with Lady Gaga parody
The messages from public health agencies are clear: Stand two metres apart. Wash your hands. Don't touch your face.
For Kingston, Ont., art and music teacher Kristen Martin, that last directive became the inspiration for a creative project.
She decided to make a parody video of Lady Gaga's chart-topper Poker Face to both drive the message home, and encourage her Sydenham High School students to use their time creatively.
"I have no idea why, but the mum-mum-mum-mah kind of just became co-ro-na-na in my head," Martin said.
"It's been about three weeks in my tiny little apartment with just me and my cat. I've been looking for ways to stay entertained."
So far she's received videos of guitar playing and TikTok dances back from her students.
"I think the arts are a great way to get rid of that energy we're feeling when we're all pent up at home," she said. "It's less lonely when you can be creative."
See the full version of her parody video here.
April 2, 2020
High-end chefs cooking for low-income families
Joe Thottungal of the Coconut Lagoon and Thali restaurants is one of the most celebrated chefs in Ottawa. And now even more so — because as of last week he's providing free meals to some of the city's most vulnerable.
With ingredients supplied by the Food For Thought Café, Chef Joe and friends are providing 2,000 meals a week to homeless families living in shelters, many of whom are refugees.
Next week they hope to ramp up to 3,000 meals a week.
"Joe has been such a big community champion," Food for Thought Cafe director Abhijit Potdar told CBC's Ottawa Morning.
"A lady came to us and said, 'we never thought we were going to see a hot meal or real food in this space,' because again they live in a motel facility and the only kitchen equipment they have is a microwave oven and a mini-fridge."
Potdar says chefs from North & Navy, Absinthe and Thyme & Again are joining Thottungal in the Thali kitchen and will expand the menus being offered.
April 1, 2020
First responders salute hospital staff
Police and firefighters tipped their hats to the staff at the Queensway Carleton Hospital for all their hard work.
Ottawa doc raises money for hospital staff meals
One good turn deserves another, as the saying goes. So after the owner of Meatheads Grill in Orléans dropped off free burgers to staff at The Ottawa Hospital one night last week, Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng had an idea.
"The impact it had on morale was insane," said the intensive and palliative care physician in an interview with CBC News. "It's extremely tough times for front-line workers right now … so these little gestures meant the world to the team."
On Thursday, he and the group who work on his health-care podcast launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $3,000 to buy meals for hospital staff working on COVID-19 wards. Within six days, they had raised almost $25,000.
They're now trying to drop off meals every few days at the General, Civic, Queensway Carleton and Montfort hospitals, as well as the COVID-19 testing site at Brewer Arena. They're also making sure to buy the meals from small, local restaurants that need the business.
Kyeremanteng said one nurse told him the gesture was a huge pick-me-up.
"'The tension just was relieved within the intensive care unit. We started to talk about things that weren't COVID-related, and we were smiling again,'" Kyeremanteng said the nurse told him.
"It meant the world to get messages like that."
Roofer scales new heights for front-line workers
Many small businesses are facing uncertain times right now. But roofer Byron Bustillo of BB's Roofing is using his downtime to step up. He put out a message on Facebook offering to do small repair jobs for front-line workers and seniors, free of charge.
Alicia Robblee is an ICU nurse at The Ottawa Hospital who was stunned when her neighbour called Bustillo to fix her leaking eavestrough. Water was pouring into the window wells of Robblee's Westboro home, putting her basement at risk of flooding.
"It brought me to tears," Robblee said. "In my job right now it's very tense … and just knowing that there was somebody who wanted to take their time to help nurses and other health professionals, it really touched me."
Robblee said when Bustillo finished the job he actually thanked her for her nursing work. Bustillo said he wishes he could do more.
"Just being able to help out the community and give back to the people who have been giving to me all these years makes me feel good," Bustillo told CBC News.