As part of his healing and as a way to honour his beloved mother, Sonny Von hosted a non-profit "feel good event" at a Scarborough long-term care home on Friday.
Von held a meet-and-greet after starting a GoFundMe fundraising drive to collect money for the Tony Stacey Centre for Veterans Care in Scarborough. It featured puppies, an ice cream truck, doughnuts, balloons, and more, all to cheer up residents and remind them that the community cares about them.
Long-term care homes are near and dear to Von, especially since on Saturday it will be two years since his mother died.
"I thought what better way to honour her than to give back to the community," Von said.
His mother Kostadinka lived in Craiglee Nursing Home from 2017 to 2019.
As CBC's Marketplace reported in an October 2020 story about mistreatment and neglect of patients at some Ontario long-term care homes, Von and the rest of her family witnessed abuse and negligence care after placing a video camera in her room, and promptly moved her to another long-term care home. She died in 2019 after suffering from dementia.
Soon after, Von went through a difficult time in his life, one full of anger and sadness. He said he soon turned his suffering into healing by helping the community.
"That's what my mom was about, sharing happiness and sharing love," he said. "The justice system, it wronged us, so this — sharing love — is justice."
So he raised more than $4,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to help the long-term care home with costs associated with beds, mattresses and other equipment. But also, he's trying to make the residents feel valued and respected.
"I want them to smile, and be kind, it's about togetherness," he said.
For about three hours on Friday afternoon, Von brought gifts for staff and residents, balloons, an ice cream truck, hot chocolate, doughnuts, and a few puppies to "brighten people's spirits."
The ice cream truck in particular is a symbol of the bond he had with his mother. "Me and my mom were ice cream addicts," he said smiling while wiping a tear from his eye.
He chose to help the Tony Stacey Centre because it's a non-profit long-term care home for veterans and families of veterans. "That's special to me," he said.
The centre is home to seniors from all over the Scarborough-Rouge River area. Sinceveteran numbers are dwindling, Lang said, it will consider admitting anyone applying from the community. It's currently home to 80 residents, with the home planning on taking more admissions to reach full capacity as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
"The big picture here is to have happy staff," Von said of the fundraiser. "A staff with proper PPE and a good mood is going to make for a healthier and happier resident."
"Even though those PSWs did us wrong, these PSWs didn't. It's about forgiveness and growing," he added.
The centre's manager of operations, Evy Lang, says the event means a lot, especially given the challenges facing the industry in the last year and a half, when thousands of Ontario long-term care staff and residents contracted COVID-19, and many died.
"To have somebody from outside come and recognize what we've been through, it's heartwarming," she said.
Lang said the home is aiming to get electric hospital beds and therapeutic mattresses with the funds Von has helped raise.
"So it's important for residents to have the proper beds and mattresses for comfort, safety, and proper care," she said.