When Gladys’s mother Corazon sadly lost her fight against Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, she found herself falling into a dark place where she lost interest in daily activities, lacked motivation, and ultimately lost her love for art until she started using it as a healing process.

Gladys and her family moved to Scarborough from the Philippines when she was eight years old. Since then, Scarborough has become her home as the warm culture embraced her.

“The diversity of Scarborough is my favourite thing. I grew up knowing every kind of food, every kind of culture, every kind of family dynamic. I felt like home away from home,” she says.

Working in the Social Services field as a Case Worker and a Pyrography (the free handed art of decorating wood with burn marks using a heated tool) artist on the side, Gladys often finds herself giving back to the community that raised her.

Her connections to Scarborough Health Network (SHN) run deep, as she and her family are frequent visitors to the hospital. She gave birth to her daughter at the Scarborough General Hospital, her sister works as a Registered Nurse at Scarborough General Hospital, her brother was treated there after his stroke, and her mother had her final moments at Centenary Hospital in the Margaret Birch Wing. Gladys is no stranger to the amazing quality of care SHN provides

“The staff were amazing, from the Tim Hortons staff to the maintenance crew, to the doctors, and the nurses that made sure our mom was comfortable in her last few days. They were all just super helpful to our family,” says Gladys.

While Gladys’s mother was sick, she used her Pyrography business, Esma Jay Creations, named after her daughter and son, as a way to bond with her mother, who was slowly declining.

“All those times when my mom was still at home, I would do the wood burning between 11pm and 2am in the morning because my mom would be up. So, it was my way of completing my orders and keeping her company. When I was wood burning, I showed her my art every time I was done. I don’t know if she really understood what I was doing, but I shared my piece with her anyway, and she would always have a little smile. I don’t know if it was natural reflex, but I would like to think that she was smiling and encouraging me,” Gladys recalls

After her mom passed away, Gladys started to feel unmotivated about her art during her grieving process but quickly realized that’s not what her mother would want for her.

“I went to a really dark place. I was so unmotivated, especially when my mom passed away and the lack of motivation carried me well into the first few months of this year. I had to figure out how to help myself overcome this feeling of loneliness, emptiness and lack of motivation. I decided, you know what? Something’s got to change. My mom would definitely not want me to be in that place.”

With a newfound motivation and a desire to honour her mother, Gladys decided she couldn’t give up on her art and looked for a way to continue doing what she loved while also making her mom proud. This sparked an idea to host a woodburning class through SHN Foundation’s Show Your Love program, where proceeds would be donated back to the hospital to help patients just like Corazon.

“My mom is gone. Of course I’m sad. It’s always a bittersweet moment. But I thought, let me do something to give back to the hospital that helped her over the years, and raise funds for them in memory and celebration of her life. That’s how it really started,” says Gladys.

When Gladys shared her woodburning class with all her family and friends and educated people on the importance of giving back to Scarborough hospitals, she had no idea how much support she would truly get. She set a goal of just $500, and with the help of her community, she raised over $1,600 for SHN.

“I thought it would be really fun for people to experience my love for Pyrography and to be able to share an alternative outlet which helped me, and continues to help me through my grieving and healing process. This is my way to celebrate my mom, give back to the community and share what I can do with a simple heated tool, a vision and my hands,” she says. “People just started to pour their hearts out and, of course, opened their wallets and were able to give back the way they wanted to,” she continued.

A total of 15 people attended Gladys’s woodburning class. They used heated tools to delicately burn the outline of a tree into pieces of wood. According to Gladys, the symbol of the tree signifies life. The tree’s roots signify new beginnings, and the branches and leaves signify community. Burning the tree symbol was meaningful to her, as it represented her mother being an important part of her life.

“My mom was the foundation of that tree,” says Gladys.

Not only has Gladys given back to Scarborough hospitals through her Show Your Love fundraiser, but she has supported the hospitals through her business by donating art pieces to silent auctions and attending our fundraising events.

Thank you, Gladys, for sharing your story and for supporting our Scarborough hospitals in such a meaningful way.

To create your own fundraiser in memory of a loved one, please visit shnfoundation.ca/ShowYourLove