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Left to right: Luciano and Alison Fiorini, and sons Laurence and Lucas, in the room of their daughter Jordana Fiorini, who passed away from a rare brain cancer, at their home in Vaughan , Ont., on Dec. 12, 2021.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

The organizers: Alison, Luciano, Lucas and Laurence Fiorini

The pitch: Creating Jordana’s Rainbows Holiday Gift Card Drive

One Christmas Eve a few years ago, Alison Fiorini and her husband, Luciano, were sitting at their daughter’s bedside in Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children when a nurse handed them an envelope.

Inside was a Starbucks gift card and a note which said, “Merry Christmas – you are never alone.” Ms. Fiorini had no idea who had sent the card, but it touched her deeply. “I just broke down, I thought it was the most beautiful thing,” she recalled from the family’s home in Toronto.

Their 10-year-old daughter, Jordana, had been diagnosed with a rare brain tumour called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, which forms in the brain stem. Jordana died on Jan. 22, 2016, just four months after being diagnosed.

In honour of their daughter, the Fiorinis launched a charity called Jordana’s Rainbows Foundation, which has raised nearly $2-million to fund research into DIPG. Ms. Fiorini also wanted to do something for other parents who have children in the hospital and she remembered that gift card.

With the help of Mr. Fiorini and their teenaged sons, Lucas and Laurence, the family started the Jordana’s Rainbows Holiday Gift Card Drive, which distributes hundreds of gift cards to parents at the hospital every year around Christmas. Each card also contains a “You are loved” note.

Since it started five year ago, the campaign has given out nearly $90,000 worth of cards, all of which have been funded through donations. Ms. Fiorini said the cards – usually around $25 each – can be used at most of the food outlets in the hospital so parents don’t have to be away from their children for too long. Other cards can also be used to buy gas or clothing. Hospital staff have helped out with distribution because of the pandemic.

“You actually think, ‘What’s the big deal? Anyone can buy themselves a cup of coffee.’ But it’s just a matter of when you’re alone that you’re not forgotten,” Ms. Fiorini said. “It’s that human connection, that human spirit that you feel when you’re not expecting it. It’s very powerful.”

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