Tony Tasillo can’t say enough kind words about The Hospital for Sick Children.
Owner and sensei of the recently re-opened Streetsville Martial Arts Karate studio, Tasillo and has family have become SickKids ambassadors and make several public appearances to accept donations on behalf of its Foundation.
It’s close to their heart because their youngest daughter Mia was born deaf and received her first of two cochlear implants before her first birthday.
“In all the speeches I give, I say SickKids gave us what God didn’t, and for that, we’ll be forever grateful,” he said.
“Without them, we’d be doing sign language, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s a whole different ball game … This technology is amazing.”
Now 14, Mia is becoming versed in the family craft and is now a junior black belt in karate. She was one of many brave individuals who chopped or kicked a board on fire in half as part of Saturday’s grand re-opening ceremony for Streetsville Martial Arts Karate.
The school’s previous sensei, Wayne Arsenault, had to step aside after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and before Tasillo took over, it was close to going out of business due to financial difficulty.
Tony said breaking a board on fire is part of the testing criteria for junior black belt certification and although she was scared at first, he signed her up for a board-breaking seminar so she could grow more comfortable with it.
“She saw some of the kids doing it and saw it wasn’t that bad,” Tony said. “She overcame her fear and did it.”
Saturday’s board-breaking festivities were part of a fundraising effort for the SickKids Cochlear Implant Program.
The event raised $3,000 and counting, far more than the $1,000 or so Tony was expecting.
Cochlear implants are computer chips that are surgically implanted into the inner ear.
When Mia needed the implants, Tony remembers the government only operating on one ear at the time because it was a $125,000 surgery.
He said the government covered Mia’s first implant and the second was funded as part of a study. Her first surgery was featured on the TV show Life’s Little Miracles.
Although she struggles at times with this obstacle, Tony says she treats it as a blessing in disguise.
“We made sure from the get go that she was proud of what she was wearing because the external devices can be disturbing to someone who hasn’t seen it before,” he said.
“We put diamonds on them, made them sparkly so she was always proud of them. She called them her magic fairy ears because you have the option of having a blinking light to show if they’re working or not, and we did that.”