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Roxy Zapala and her son Levi, 6, at their home in Toronto on Feb. 14.Laura Proctor/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Roxy Zapala

The pitch: Raising $112,000 and climbing

The cause: Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children

A few years ago Roxy Zapala’s 21-month old son, Levi, had an accident that every parent dreads.

Levi somehow managed to pull a baby bottle warmer off the kitchen counter, splashing steaming water on his face, chest and arms. Ms. Zapala and her husband rushed Levi to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children where doctors treated him for third-degree burns which soon became infected. He had three skin graft surgeries but one of his lungs also collapsed and he needed a blood transfusion.

“He was basically fighting for his life at that point,” Ms. Zapala recalled from the family’s home in Toronto.

Levi is now six and almost fully recovered. “He is doing amazingly,” said Ms. Zapala. “He’s does every sport and every activity on the planet.”

He still has check-ups at the hospital and he sometimes complains about the look of his scars. But Ms. Zapala said her son is coming to terms with what happened.

She now wants other parents to learn from Levi’s accident and to speak openly about prevention. She’s met too many moms and dads who are ashamed to talk about their kids’ accidents for fear of being judged. “They feel guilt and embarrassed that they allowed an accident to happen,” she said.

Ms. Zapala is an event planner by profession and so she launched Fired Up, an annual fundraising gala that also raises awareness about burn prevention.

The first gala took place in February 2023 and raised $45,000 for the burn unit at Sick Kids. This year’s Fired Up is on Feb. 23 and Ms. Zapala is hoping to raise $75,000. Even more importantly, she hopes more parents come to understand that burns “can literally happen anywhere, at any time.”

She laughs when people ask her about calling the gala Fired Up, given what happened to Levi. “I wanted to get the message across,” she said. “What is this about? It’s about burns. What are we? We’re fired up to raise the funds to prevent them.”

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