Six years ago, as a new mom, Melissa Rosato was inspired by a TV commercial for Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids). She wanted to reach out to other mothers who were going through an incredibly difficult time. She wanted to let them know they weren't alone. And she wanted to remind these moms of their strength.

Already a volunteer for the hospital, she wanted to do something on Mother’s Day for moms who had a child in the hospital. With the support of family and friends, she raised over $2,000 in donations and created 60 care packages that were handled out to very appreciative moms.

Melissa has repeated and grown her kind initiative every year and in partnership with her good friend Christina expanded it to also support dads on Father’s Day. This year, they raised over $10,500 in donations and decided that on Mother’s Day and Father's Day, they would give every single parent at Sick Kids a Tim Hortons gift card with a handwritten message of support.

Melissa and Christina preparing to donate their gift cards at Sick Kids.

We loved Melissa and Christina’s story of supporting their community and how it aligns with the Tims For Good philosophy of how small gestures can add up to a big impact.

Since 2020, we’ve donated over two million cups of coffee in every Canadian community that Tim Hortons calls home to local unsung heroes who are making a difference.

Inspired by Melissa and Christina's story, our restaurant owners in nearby Barrie, Ontario are donating 300 $10 Tims cards to be distributed to patients at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre on Father's Day.

Charmaine Smith (Manager, Obstetrics and Birthing Unit), Stacey Gill (Resource Nurse, Obstetrics) and Kimberley Sparling (Resource Nurse, Birthing Unit) from Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre with Tims owners Mark Hinton, Tammy Jacklin, Brandon Newlove, Sarah Hinton, Paul Stevenson, Johnny Mizzoni and Mily Perigo.

We connected with Melissa to share her beautiful story and why she feels so strongly about supporting other parents.

Where did the idea for this great initiative come from?

I happened to see a commercial Sick Kids put out in honour of moms ahead of Mother's Day. The commercial showed the side of being a mom with a sick child, which was incredibly raw. In that moment, I thought, "My God, I need to do something to let these moms know they aren't alone." I thought about how hard Mother's Day must be in that hospital. In the age of social media, when everyone is posting their “picture perfect” day, there’s another mom fighting for their child's life. As a mother myself, I just felt this need to remind these moms that they are incredible and are being thought of.

How has your fundraising grown over the years?

That very first year, I remember thinking, "I need to do something for every single mom at the hospital." Although my intentions were good, it wasn't realistic - at the time. I reached out to the donations co-ordinator at the hospital and shared my thinking about delivering care packages for moms. She said I could choose a unit, and those care packages could be anonymously handed out on Mother's Day.

I had volunteered at Sick Kids five consecutive summers, each summer on a different unit. The unit that stuck out to me for that first year was haematology/oncology. The stays were often long and incredibly hard. So that first year, I reached out to family and friends and by word of mouth, raised just over $2,000. This allowed me to create 60 care packages to be handed out, by Sick Kids staff, on Mother's Day weekend to all moms on the haematology/oncology unit.

The second year, my incredible friend Christina asked if she could help me and she became a partner in this. That year, with the initiative being called Stay Strong Super Mom, we raised enough money to create care packages for all moms on the cardiac unit as well as hematology/oncology.

The third year, we raised enough to add the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to that list as well. Then COVID hit, and restrictions were put into place on bringing items into the hospital. So we thought about an alternative to care packages. We thought about what these moms could benefit from during their long haul stays. Tim Hortons gift cards were the perfect answer. Having a Tims right in the hospital, we knew the cards could be used to grab a meal, a snack or a hot drink. And so the fourth year, we raised enough to purchase over 200 gift cards and the fifth year, enough money to purchase gift cards for every single mom at the hospital.

All the Tims gift cards Melissa prepared for Mother's Day and Father's Day this year. 

What were your results this year?

Our results this year were beyond anything we could have imagined. The co-ordinator reached out to us and asked if there was any chance we could not only do something for all the moms on Mother's Day, but all of the dads on Father's Day as well. We didn't even hesitate - instantly we said yes. But it would mean that we would need to raise over $3,000 more than our $7,000 goal the previous year. So we hit the ground running. Lots of posts, lots of messages, and lots of incredible people who have beautiful networks. We raised $10,500 this year. Which meant that every single parent at Sick Kids would be getting a Tim Hortons gift card on Mother's Day and Father's Day.

How does it feel knowing you are brightening someone’s day during a difficult time?

The saying “it takes a village" is absolutely true. In life, it takes a village to remind you you're not alone. If this initiative can make moms and dads going through something so hard, feel even a bit more cared for - we've reached our goal.

Follow Melissa’s Stay Strong Super Mom initiative on Instagram.