Steven Justein was first introduced to Reena through his sister Sherri, an individual with diverse abilities, some 35 years ago. “My parents thought they would have to raise her all her life, that she wouldn’t be self-sufficient or anything,” says Steve, “and along came Sandy Keshen and Rabbi Kelman and they said, ‘we have a special place for your sister’. She went to live in a group home, and she learned to be self-sufficient, eventually moving into her own apartment. It changed her whole life from being completely dependent on my parents or her siblings to someone who is completely independent.”  

Fifteen years later, Steve was invited to play hockey in the Joel Schwartzz”l Memorial hockey tournament, in honour of a former Reena supported individual, and played on a team with then President of Reena Foundation, Gary Sim. After participating in the hockey tournament, Justein felt that he really wanted to get involved with Reena and create an event for Reena that was more inclusive. “My sister and all her friends bowled every week and they really looked forward to it. They loved it, and I thought what a great idea it would be to get all the Reena individuals together with their families, because we never really got to meet anybody else’s family very much. There were really no events where families got together, got to know each other, discuss each other’s situations. So, I asked if it would be okay to put on a bowling event.” Together, with his sister Elaine, Steve helped make ‘Striking for Reena’ a reality. Eleven years later, ‘Striking For Reena’ has become one of Reena’s signature events raising some $3 million over the years to help fund various Reena projects. 

Steve Justein continued his work with Reena, becoming an active member of the Foundation Board, Chairing it from 2017-2021.  Justein says he came on during a time when the boards weren’t as cohesive as they are today, but he says, they were able to “create an environment where Reena and Foundation acted as one. We were able to able to create new relationships, new fundraisers, and build a healthy financial foundation to raise money for new residences etc.”  

Justein believed that the work Reena did for the individuals and specifically the families “was phenomenal” and yet it wasn’t recognized in the community except by those directly affected. He knew the importance of becoming more known to both educate and fundraise and says he thinks ‘Striking for Reena’ has allowed Reena Foundation to connect with more people. “The perception of Reena has changed over the years. It used to be a very niche. It wasn’t looked at as a community thing…if you didn’t have a special needs child, you didn’t think of donating. I used to have to explain to people what Reena was when I was fundraising, now I say I’m raising money for Reena and they say, Wow, that’s such a great organization.” 

Steven Justein is not slowing down. As Chair of Reena’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations, he says he wants to spread the word throughout the whole community that Reena is a leader in the sector and celebrate Reena’s accomplishments. “For me Reena has become one of the greatest organizations in dealing with people with special needs and all three organizations (Reena, Reena Foundation and Batay Reena) have really succeeded. And in our 50th year it’s really something to celebrate. We’ve come such a long way. I just really wanted to be part of that journey. As chair of Reena’s 50th anniversary I want people to know that Reena is stronger than ever and will grow to higher heights and provide services for more and more people and the next 50 years will be greater than the previous 50 years, which is going to be hard to do…but we’ll do it anyway.” 

Steve says his work with Reena is extremely fulfilling and he feels great about everything Reena has accomplished, but he says he can never give back enough for what Reena has done for his sister 

Steven Justein is currently a member of the Reena Foundation Board and Chair of Reena’s 50th anniversary celebrations.