Creamy avocado dressing for spring


The biggest issue I have with salads is the dressing, they can either make or break the whole dish. Salad dressing must be homemade, I can taste the chemicals in the commercial ones.

This is a low fat, vegan and rich tasting salad dressing made in a blender or food processor – all you do is throw in all the ingredients, blend and enjoy!

Avocado Dressing


2 ripe avocados, peeled & seeded

1 cup plain Greek yoghurt

2 garlic cloves

Juice or zest of a whole lemon or a large lime

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil


Blend and use on salads or toast and enjoy!

Chef Janet Craig’s recipes are simple, healthy, delicious and ABI friendly.  You can find out more about her HERE.

Satisfied Soul Personal Chef Service logo

#areyouaware: Meet BIST’s Amazing Brain Injury Awareness Month (BIAM) Committee


Volunteer Appreciation Week is just around the corner – and we at BIST have been using the month of April as an opportunity to congratulate the winners of our Volunteer of the Year Award: Christiane Kokko (Caregiver Category) and Rob Ashe (ABI Survivor / Thriver Category). Stay tuned next week when we announce the winner of ABI Ambassador Category!  In the meantime, find out more about the hardworking members of our Brain Injury Awareness Month (BIAM) Committee below!

Member of the 2017 BIAM committee
Members of the 2017 BIAM Committee: (L-R) Tonya Flaming, Kelly-Anne Rover, Jordan Assaraf, Meri Perra, Matthew Chung, Celia Missios, Colleen Boyce and Joe Pileggi Missing: Alex Piotti (chair), Ian Bowles, Ian Furlong, Miranda Hong and Vivian Ng (on leave)  

At our last meeting, BIAM Committee member and long time BIST volunteer Colleen Boyce mentioned, “I have a display of Brain Injury Awareness events going back to 2000 in my basement, would BIST like to have it in the office?”

Colleen said that just after committee chair Alex Piotti handed over a DVD of a BIAM event from fours years ago she ‘happened’ to find amongst her stuff. Take away: you know you’ve got a committed group of volunteers when members of the committee literally carry the history of the work with them.

Colleen said her reasons for sticking on the BIAM committee all this time have stayed the same, “The goal at the time and still is awareness and for me personally to give back to the community and the brain injury industry. I did and still feel you need to talk the talk and walk the walk!”

(top L-R) Vivian Ng (third from left) and volunteer Rob Ashe (in blue #areyouaware shirt) at Sunnybrook Hospital in 2016; (bottom L-R) Alex Piotti, Ian Furlong and volunteer Mychal Reeves in 2016

There are several BIST committees, and all of them are where work crucial to BIST happens, our major fundraising events such as Birdies for Brain Injury, the 5K Hero Run, Walk and Roll and the Mix and Mingle would be impossible without these volunteers. Simply put, without volunteer hours, BIST would not be where we are today.

Enter the BIAM Committee, where some members such as Boyce (who was the founding chair of BIST in 2004) has been involved since 2000, before BIST existed.

Throughout this time, the committee’s work has expanded from throwing Brainstock events at Nathan Phillips Square (check out none other than Mr. Ben Mulroney as our special guest in 2012) where members of the ABI community would gather, snag some swag and celebrate the strength of brain injury thrivers / survivors in the heart of Toronto.


Committee member Tonya Flaming helped organize Brainstock events after joining the BIAM committee (because a colleague told her it was ‘fun’) in 2009. Jordan Assaraf, currently a BIST board member, has sat on the committee for three years. New-this-year members such as Celia Missios (also a board member), Matt Chung (a former Communications Committee member) are contributing new ideas and energy to the group, as is Kelly-Anne Rover who replaced her colleague and long-time BIAM Committee member Leslie Allen this winter.

Joe Pileggi, director of client services at Thomson Rogers has been active on the BIAM committee for years. He and Thomson Rogers partner Ian Furlong ensure the committee has meeting space in the Thomson Rogers boardroom, including free coffee and doughnuts as a bonus. (Legal assistant Esther Wiik helps a lot with this part!) Joe is also responsible for giving the committee free access to professional design services through Lime Advertising for BIAM’s print materials.

Super BIST volunteers Tonya Flaming and Frank Bruno at a TTC Brain Injury Awareness campaign in 2015.

BIST Volunteer of the Year winner in 2012, Ian Bowles, joined the committee six years ago, he says partially as a survivor representative, but also because he was interested in ‘reaching out to people who do not know the implications of brain injury.’

Members of the BIAM Committee at Brainstock in 2013, (bottom right) Ian Boyles wins BIST Volunteer of the Year award for his work on BIAM and the Communications committee in 2012. 



In 2014 and 2015, the committee, along with dedicated BIST members, went into the TTC during June to distribute brain injury awareness messages.

Last year, the committee invested in ads in the TTC and held awareness booths in Toronto hospitals.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 12.14.41 PM
Screen Shot of


areyouaware logo

In 2014 and 2015, the committee, along with dedicated BIST members, went into the TTC during June to distribute brain injury awareness messages.

Last year, the committee invested in ads in the TTC and held awareness booths in Toronto hospitals.

Former BIST executive director, Michelle McDonald and BIAM committee member Vivian Ng at the TTC in 2015
Former BIST executive director, Michelle McDonald and BIAM committee member Vivian Ng at the TTC in 2015

The switch to focussing on social media and the #areyouaware message worked, and in 2015 the committee won an award from the Ontario Brain Injury Association Advisory Council for their work:

Brain Injury Awareness Month Committee
The Ontario Brain Injury Association’s Advisory Council award, proudly displayed in the BIST office with #areyouaware material from previous years above.

This focus is continuing in 2017, so be on the look out for brain injury awareness booths in Toronto hospitals in June, our booth at Pride Toronto  and another great social media campaign!

And thanks to all BIAM Committee Members (past and present) for their hard work!


Meri Perra is the Communications and Support Coordinator at BIST – she feels very lucky that she gets to work with so many amazing people at her job – including this committee!




Meri Perra

Communications and Support Coordinator

Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST)

15 Things You Don’t Know About Rob Ashe, BIST Volunteer of the Year, Survivor / Thriver Category

No stranger to doing amazing things for the brain injury community, Rob is a long time BIST member known for his amazing style, friendly attitude and commitment to BIST. This year, Rob joined the Ontario Brain Injury Associations’s Advisory Council, where he attends meetings as a BIST representative.

Congratulations Rob – we think these answers show your amazing spirit and we can’t thank you enough for everything you do for BIST!

Rob shows off his art at a Community Meeting in 2016

1. The reason I began volunteering for BIST was:

I get great satisfaction from being round people (my peers) and knowing I was giving without expecting anything in back.

 2. If I could pick any job in the world, I would:

Work as a social worker.

 3. I have an (irrational or otherwise) fear of:


 4. My greatest assets as a volunteer are:

I like to laugh with people and do what I need to do.  Be caring and see people feel good about themselves.

Rob at BuskerFest, in summer 2015

5. My friends would describe me as:

Dependable, likes to be active and give of myself and know I am making a difference.

 6. If I could invent a super power, it would be:

A purveyor of love.

 7. What inspires me most about BIST is:

The people I’m around, who, despite challenges, give me hope as I see how they overcome them.

 8. If I won $1 million dollars I would:

Give it to charities that mean the most to me; ie. Brain Injury and help people.

2014_island_Kat and Rob
Rob with former BIST programs and services coordinator, Kat Powell, at Toronto Island in 2014

9. My personal hero is:

Mike “Pinball” Clemons because he was part of the winning Argos team in 2004 and he has time for everyone.  He actually gave me a hug once and I bawled my eyes out.  It felt like about four minutes but was really only 15 seconds.

 10. My celebrity “crush” is:

Jennifer Lopez!

11. My favourite BIST event is:

The summer picnic because everybody enjoys getting together, catching up with each other.

 12. A quote/motto I try to live by is:

“Keep calm and carry on”  “Always look on the bright side of life.”

 13. If I could volunteer anywhere in the world I would:

Live in England and volunteer with a Brain Injury group.

 14. One time, as a kid, I:

Had a paper route that showed me what responsibility was.

 15. I am most proud of: 

Going to Renascent Treatment Centre and being sober for 24 years now and being married to Amanda for 24 years.

Stay tuned as we announce the winner in the Ambassador category next week!

15 things you don’t know about Christiane Kokko: BIST Volunteer of the Year, Caregiver Category

We are thrilled to announce the first winner of our BIST Volunteer of the Year award in the caregiver category – Christine Kokko. If you popped into the office this fall, you would have noticed some changes – mainly that the office was super, duper organized. That’s all thanks to Christiane, who took time out to help do massive de-cluttering and -reorganizing of our space.

We can’t thank her enough!

Christiane Kokko

1. The reason I began volunteering for BIST:

Because I love what they do, and wanted to be part of it!

2. If I could pick any job in the world, I would be:

The first Female Governor of Bank of Canada, as such I would promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada!

3. I have an (irrational or otherwise) fear of:


4. My greatest assets as a volunteer are:

Multitasking, administrative skills and my love for networking 😉

5. My friends would describe me as:

A Leo – passionate, tenacious and full of love!

6. If I could invent a super power, it would be:

A cure for my husband’s condition

 7. What inspires me most about BIST is:

The team – and the quality of work that comes out of the organization.

8. If I won $1 million dollars I would:

Help people in need  – to give them the opportunity to smile and be happy.

9. My personal hero is:


10. My celebrity “crush” is:

Sting — AND — Colin James … shh – it is a secret!

11. My favourite BIST event is:

Tuesday’s activities – and caregiver me time.

12. A quote/motto I try to live by is:

Be yourself, be and in the moment.

13. If I could volunteer anywhere in the world I would:

Volunteer in Canada — the best place on earth!

14. One time, as a kid, I:

Would run down the hill after school to be the first on to get a candy from the crossing guard – proud moments.

15. I am most proud of:

Who I have become – thanks to my friends and family believing in me.

Stay tuned throughout April as we announce winner in Ambassador and Survivor/ Thriver categories!

Having a brain injury can increase your chances of dementia; here are activities to reduce your risk


The facts are scary. Research suggests people with traumatic brain injuries have a higher risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. The good news is research also suggests that by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and participating in key activities, the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia may be reduced by 50 per cent.

older adult sitting on a bench, looking at a dirt road

A healthy lifestyle includes doing what we’re all supposed to be doing anyway: maintaining a healthy diet, getting quality sleep and proper stress management.  

Here are three main types of activities that can prevent, slow and possibly even reverse cognitive deterioration:

Physical activities

Regular, moderately intense exercise is essential. Keep in mind that the definition of moderate exercise is different for everyone. If you exercise too lightly, you won’t reap the benefits from it, but if you push yourself too hard, you risk injuring yourself. Where possible, the exercise regimen should include cardiovascular, muscle strengthening, and balance exercises. Do what you can and do your best. For example, if you can only use your arms, then find endurance and strength training exercises that are tailored to your arms, shoulders, and back.

You can find examples of exercise routines from a chair, here.

Social activities

Face-to-face interaction is the best. You can be one-on-one or with a group of people as long as you are engaged in the exchange. You could join a club, volunteer, take a class, chat with a friend over coffee, go to a museum etc. If you aren’t able to go out, have a phone conversation or video chat with a friend.

You can also join our #BISTUESDAYS or #BISTEVENINGS activities! 

pexels-photo-84663Mentally challenging activities

There are many different types of brain training activities with varying difficulty. The greater the challenge and novelty, the better, but work your way up to more complex activities gradually. Here are just some suggestions:

  • learn something new (e.g. skill, language, musical instrument etc.)
  • change your habits (e.g. use your non-dominant hand, explore new routes, try different organizational systems for your things and electronic files, etc.)
  • play games (e.g. board games, card games, puzzles, crosswords, riddles, brain teasers, memory games, word or number games, math games, etc.)

two men walking by a beach on the board walk on a foggy day

Other important factors to take into consideration:

  1. The activities must be challenging and engaging, which means that they should be, at least, moderate in complexity or intensity. Remember to increase the level of difficulty of your activities as you improve.
  2. There must be variety in the activities, so that your brain is truly being challenged to form new neural connections. Adding variety to your regimen will also help to make your activities more fun, engaging, and challenging.
  3. The best results are achieved when a single task incorporates at least two of the three types of activities. For example, playing board games with other people is considered a social activity as well as a mentally challenging activity. Also, exercising with another person and playing a team sport have both physical and social components, making them better options than exercising by yourself.

I’d like to note that these strategies are also helpful in treating brain injuries, depression, and low self-esteem. So get active, try new things, connect with friends, and have fun with it!

Thank you to Dr. Emily Nalder for presenting this information at BIST’s Aging and the Brain seminar in February, 2015.

‘Mind Yourself with Alison’ is a collection of self-help tips, research, and personal experiences dedicated to helping people thrive after brain injury (or other trauma). Check out Alison’s other BIST Blog articles Women and Brain Injury: What you need to know and How to be a Good Friend to a Survivor.

Wheel-Trans eligibility is changing – are you effected?


Wheel-Trans has changed their criteria concerning who is eligible for their services, and now people living with the effects of brain injury may be able to access the service based on their cognitive ability.

BIST is hosting an information and application assistance session on the new Wheel-Trans updates at our Social Drop-In program on Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 – see below for details.


New Wheel-Trans eligibility criteria includes people with mental health, sensory, cognitive and physical disabilities.

Eligibility is not based on income, age, or type of disability, so having a certain type of disability does not guarantee you access to Wheel Trans service, but how your disability effects your ability to use public transit does.

Also new, a support person assisting persons with a disability is now able to travel on the TTC free of charge, but will need to apply for a TTC Support Person Assistance Card.

The Support Person Assistance ID Card allows one support person to travel with the card holder on the TTC on a single fare. Any additional supports must pay a fare, but a card holder may travel with different support person at different times.

If you are not already a customer of Wheel-Trans and think you may be eligible, please see the link below to access the application and additional application information:

As the screen shot from the Wheel-Trans website shows, the application is now a five-part process:


Need help?

BIST is hosting a free Information and Application Assistance session on the new Wheel-Trans updates at our Social Drop-In program on Tuesday, March 14th, 2017.

If you or anyone you know is interested please attend or for more information please contact the BIST office: or 416.830.1485.


Jaleesa Thomas is BIST’s first social work placement student, and we are so VERY LUCKY to have her!

Social Drop In
March 14th, 1-3 pm
Northern District Library, 2nd Floor Meeting Room
40 Orchard View Blvd, Toronto, ON, M4R 1B9


Notes from our ABI Caregiver Self Care and Communication Workshop

On February 11, 2017 BIST hosted a ABI caregiver workshop, facilitated by:

Stacy Levine of Journey Rehabilitation and Behaviour Therapy 
Carrie MacKinnon, BIST’s Peer Support Program Coordinator 

Click on the first slide on the left below for notes from our group discussion which concluded the workshop.


BIST members have access to our FREE workshops, programs and services.

To find out more about becoming a BIST member, click HERE.