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Kathy Laszlo, director at DANI, works alongside her son Dani at a Mother's Day brunch in Vaughan.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The Donor: Kathy Laszlo and Susie Sokol

The Gift: Co-founding DANI; Developing And Nurturing Independence

The Reason: To provide skills training for disabled adults

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When Kathy Laszlo's disabled son Dani was about to leave high school a few years ago, she worried about his future.

Mr. Laszlo, who is developmentally challenged and has autistic tendencies, didn't have many prospects and Ms. Laszlo feared he would stay at home and do nothing. After searching in vain for some skills-training programs, Ms. Laszlo teamed up with Susie Sokol and some other parents and started their own organization.

At first, they operated out of Ms. Laszlo's backyard in Toronto before eventually finding a house to rent. They converted it into a skills-training centre called DANI – Developing and Nurturing Independence.

Today, DANI operates a kosher catering service, a coffee house, event space, gift shop and greenhouse. More than 25 disabled adults work at the centre, which also offers vocational training, job placement and educational programs. The organization earns about 15 per cent of its annual $1.2-million budget from the catering service and coffee shop. The rest comes from donations.

"It started as a dream," said Ms. Laszlo, who runs the centre with her family and about 25 volunteers. "Then it became a vision and now it's a reality."

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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