Physicians, hospitality workers and neighbours spreading hope: Meet this week's Front-line Heroes
Every day, CBC Toronto is introducing you to a new face on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic
Every person has the ability to make a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic, a fact proven by this week's front-line heroes.
From family physicians spreading hopeful messages on Facebook — and lessons learned from a previous pandemic — to a homeowner using holiday lights to brighten neighbours' spirits during a time of crisis, people across the GTA are finding their own ways to beat COVID-19.
CBC Toronto wants to introduce you to these people through a series we're calling, Front-line Heroes.
We want to hear your stories, too.
If you'd like to tell us about your front-line hero, send us a video explaining why they're a hero to you. Or you can send a short description to email@example.com. Be sure to include a few photos of the person either way.
Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik
CBC Toronto received an email about Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik from Ann Adema, saying although she didn't know her, she wanted to recognize her for her daily positive posts on Facebook.
Zajdlik is a family physician and regional HIV specialist, and she says experiencing the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic has given her a different perspective on COVID-19.
"I started posting to try to calm people's fears … and make them feel more resilient and confident," she said.
WATCH: Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik explains why she thinks we can beat COVID-19.
"Brilliant, hard-working, compassionate," are just some of the words used by Troy Campbell to describe his "mentor," Sahand Ensafi.
Ensafi is an emergency medicine physician assistant (PA) working in emergency departments at the University Health Network during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"While Sahand has been working with potential COVID-19 patients, he has also made sure that all other patients entering the ED are provided with the best possible care," Campbell said.
As the Ontario director of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants, Ensafi has also worked to ensure PAs — who provide a broad range of medical services — are available in various regions of the province.
"Sahand has been a valuable asset and a strong member of the health-care community in this battle against COVID-19."
Dr. Thomas Dashwood
Dr. Thomas Dashwood is a resident doctor of internal medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.
"He always fights for the little guy, advocates for the marginalized, and is now fearlessly fighting COVID-19," said brother Kit Dashwood, who clangs pots and pans on his Fort York neighbourhood balcony each night to recognize his brother's contribution.
"Even after he is done his long shifts, he will always have time to answer our family's questions, explain the situation, and offer advice."
WATCH: Kit Dashwood honours his brother in what's become a daily salute to health-care workers.
Dino Ari, the owner of Dino's Wood Burning Pizza, says he's now given out more than 1,000 free pizzas to hospital workers, police officers and firefighters to help keep them fed as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
"We know it's a difficult time everyone's going through, and everyone is sacrificing," Ari said.
Ari has three locations in Toronto.
With rent to pay, Ari says the financial burden is getting hard to manage. He's seen huge demand for the free pizzas, so he had to put a limit on the orders. Still, he is willing to personally deliver a free pizza to hospitals in need.
"We should help each other."
WATCH: Dino Ari explains how he thinks we can get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Long-term care home residents are some of the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic and Oya Muslu is doing everything she can to help keep them healthy, says her partner Hélène Kay.
Muslu is a nutrition manager with Southbridge Care Homes working in Pickering, Ont.
"She is doing absolutely everything humanly possible to keep her 300-plus residents healthy and properly fed. Her staff is awesome, but Oya is juggling an ever-diminishing workforce and is working her magic to fill the gaps," Kay said.
"I can attest that she is indeed a force of nature."
Dr. Vanessa Zannella
Literally at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Vanessa Zannella is one of the medical professionals admitting patients to hospitals in Toronto.
As a senior internal medicine resident physician, Zannella and her colleagues provide care to patients with a variety of illnesses, says her colleague William Silverstein.
"While all of my colleagues are fantastic and heroes of this pandemic, Vanessa is particularly special. This is because recently, one of the hospitals was in critical need for a resident to be on call," he said.
"Vanessa stepped up and volunteered without any hesitation. She is a compassionate physician who deeply cares for her patients, colleagues, and the system as a whole," Silverstein added.
Greg Smee is spreading joy at a time when positivity can be hard to find.
For the past two weeks, he's been turning on his Christmas lights every night "as a beautiful beacon of hope," says his neighbour Sharon Mah-Gin.
The lights come on at Smee's Willowdale home between 7 and 10 p.m., and in an email, he told CBC Toronto they would stay on until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
"The sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned!"