“Be a voice, not an echo.”
Maria’s smile flowers around these delicious words.
For her, they mean getting out of her comfort zone, overcoming fear, pursuing her passions and standing in her power.
And she’s putting these wise words into practice.
A stay-at-home mom of two from Hamilton, Maria dedicated many years of her life to volunteering with adult cancer patients. When she expressed an interest in extending her work to children with cancer, she learned a shocking reality: such services don’t exist where she lives. Through research, volunteering at the Darling Home in Milton, and outreach to families touched by illness, Maria saw the huge need for funding to make essential alternative therapies accessible. After many sleepless nights, Maria knew she had to find a way to help: she would create a charity.
Plenty of challenges have presented themselves along the way, including her own fears about lacking experience, but Maria’s conviction, generosity and faith in her path have brought to life Catarino House: a grassroots wellness centre and charity for children ages 4 to 18 with cancer, brain tumours or who are in palliative care. Currently in the stage of building awareness about her charity, Maria continues to dream big, with an aim to reach more and more families by eventually creating chapters in cities across Ontario and the country.
Maria’s passion is fueled by the stories and enthusiasm of the families and volunteers she has brought together through her charity, and by her deep drive to help others. It seems to run in the family. Maria takes great inspiration from her 11-year-old niece, whose passionate advocacy work with her charity and other causes exemplifies the incredible power of children’s voices in creating a better world. Through her work, Maria plans to be a voice for children with cancer and their families, and hopes that her story will empower others to face their fears and create change as well.
At 44, Maria no longer feels that her fears can hold her back from her mission. Bolstered each day by the need she sees and by the inspiring stories that families continue to share with her, Maria knows she is on the right path and doing the right thing. She looks forward to seeing the charity grow and to expanding the framework needed to help these children and their families to heal and live better.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Through Catarino House, Maria is laying the foundation for a village of her own.
Her sincere passion is abundant and her unique voice a ray of hope for many.
Life, she says, is amazing.
Article written by Amanda Milroy
Amanda is passionate about languages and writing. She’s currently finishing her last year of studies for a degree in translation and professional and technical communication. She’s excited to be helping this project and being involved in inspiring other women and herself to take risks and create positive change in the world.