“Reena is a lifeline for every parent and sibling of a child with developmental disabilities. I know that my child is going to be okay…he is going to be able to have a life without me.” 

Like many parents of a child with diverse abilities, Mona and Bob Sherkin became aware of Reena when their son, Jon, was quite young. Mona heard about Reena’s innovative programs and camp when her son was 13 but was told they could only accommodate adults 19 or older.  

According to Mona, she drove Outreach staff “insane” until they finally agreed to let her bring Jon to the program once. While she had concerns, she says Jon came home with a big smile on his face. Since all went well, he continued to return becoming excited every time. Eventually Mona helped Reena organize a younger group for individuals under 19. What started with a group of ten kids has since turned into numerous programs for children aged 7 and up. 

Mona began to get involved with Reena “doing little things and volunteering” which soon led Sandy Keshen to ask her to join the Reena board. From there her involvement snowballed with committee work and appointments on both the Reena and Reena Foundation board, where she still sits, and where she was joined by her husband, Bob, two years ago.  

As a member of the Reena board, Mona co-chaired 5 gala dinners recalling a busy time filled with wonderful honourees, happy people and profitable fundraisers. “I felt like I was contributing. Reena was giving me so much, I felt that I could give back, “says Sherkin. Sometimes giving back meant giving right up to the last minute. Sherkin nostalgically remembers having to ask her husband Bob to bring her clothes down to the gala venue so that she could change in the bathroom because she was so busy finishing setting up the room for dinner. Mona also laughingly reminisces about policing the wait staff after being horrified by the amount of wasted wine. “I became vigilant…walking around the room telling servers when they could or couldn’t open bottles of wine!” 

Mona was also involved in fundraising for the Reena Community Residence (RCR), renamed recently Sandy Keshen Reena Residence, on the Lebovic Campus, the intentional community her son Jon would eventually move into. “What the RCR gave him is everything I had ever hoped for him, because its given him a community, friends, a place where he belongs,” says Sherkin. 

While the journey to the RCR was not an easy one for either Jon or his family he has settled into his new home and is thriving in the environment. “The Reena building is amazing,” says Sherkin, “…and where they put it? The proximity to the Schwarz Reisman centre…Johnny loves to work out and uses the facilities often.” 

Mona says what really confirmed the RCR was the right place for Jon was a result of the day when she received a call from RCR staff worried because they didn’t know where Jon was. There was no record of him leaving the building, and yet no one could find him. Mona admits to becoming frantic but having all her fears calmed once she got a call from her son, who was annoyed to be bothered, as he was in his friend’s apartment playing video games. Mona says she almost cried, “It was the best thing I’d ever heard. He had a friend.” 

Mona and Bob Sherkin both are both currently members of the Reena Foundation Board.