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Top 20 Under 40 - Elana Waldman

Philanthropist Elana Waldman is raising aWEARness
By: Daniel Horowitz
Published: February 10th, 2012 in Culture » Society » Interviews
Elana Waldman with husband, Mark, and daughter, Sydney

Shalom Life is proud to present our 2nd annual ”Top 20 Under 40” list. This list encompasses 20 individuals of diverse occupations and backgrounds from businessmen and businesswomen and innovative entrepreneurs, to philanthropists, entertainers, doctors and more, the list places a spotlight on the myriad of talented, creative and passionate Jews, all under 40, who call Canada home.

Top 20 Under 40 - Elana Waldman

Age: 38

There are those who talk the talk, others who walk the walk. Toronto’s Elana Waldman personifies the latter with her unique combination of strength, courage, compassion and inspiration.

Waldman, a 38-year-old native of Montreal, continues to show the leadership and commitment to her community – through volunteerism and generous philanthropy – that is a vital part of what makes Jewish Toronto one of the Diaspora’s most envied, and often emulated Jewish communities.

And, Waldman continues to make a difference in the lives of so many while she continues to stage a Herculean fight against ovarian cancer.

Married to Mark in 2002, and the mother of eight-year-old Sydney, Waldman, who earned her BA at McGill in Political Science and Law degree from Osgoode, practiced family law at McCarthy Tetrault until Feb 2007 when she was forced to take leave to undergo her first round of cancer treatment.

During her working days, Waldman became involved with the One Family Fund – an organization that provides direct financial, legal, and emotional assistance to victims of terrorism in Israel. She was the organization’s president for four years.

Along with volunteering her valuable time, Waldman continues to support a number of organizations financially as well.

Since her diagnosis, Waldman has used her unique skill set and uncommon commitment to helping others.

“While I was going through my first line of treatment I decided that I wanted to do something that would bring more awareness to the issue of ovarian cancer within the community at large. I reasoned that if someone who was relatively well informed about cancer and the BRCA mutations was so lacking in knowledge, most people probably knew even less.”

Shortly after that realization, Waldman, true to form, turned her words into actions after reading an article about an event that takes place in the Hamptons. Waldman decided to create a similar event in Toronto to benefit ovarian cancer research at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. And, with that, aWEARness was born.

“The first year of aWEARness was 2008,” says Waldman. “It was a huge success and I really believed that I had reached a large number of people who would otherwise not know about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. We also raised over $200,000 for research that year. We put the event on two more times. Unfortunately, with the turn in the economy and the continued health issues that I have, I had to make the decision not to do the event any longer.”

Not one to rest on her laurels, Waldman also became involved with an initiative called "It's Time to Shout".

“Ovarian cancer is called the cancer that whispers and this is a campaign of empowerment for those whose lives have been touched by the disease, either directly or indirectly,” she explains. “The website, www.itstimetoshout.com is the brainchild of Leigh Himel, one of Mark's high school friends. Essentially, it is a website where people can upload their stories so that we have a critical mass of people raising their voices. The goal is to raise awareness and money for research into an early detection tool.”

In addition to the website, Waldman has a video blog on chatelaine.com, also called Time to Shout.

“I post every week or so about my journey with cancer. My aim is to educate about ovarian cancer but also to show that you can live with cancer. While it is challenging, there are still many wonderful things to enjoy in life and cancer doesn't have to take those away.”

An inspiration to all who know her – and countless others who have never met her – Waldman maintains a happy, positive outlook on life.

“I have generally always been a fairly happy person. My disposition is just naturally optimistic and while at times that optimism has been tested, it has helped me focus on the light at the end of the tunnel when things get hard. People tell me that I am very strong. I don't believe that. I am a mother. I do what I have to do to be here for my family. I do what I can to enjoy the time I have. Whether I die from cancer, get hit by a bus or live a long life – no one knows. I can choose to worry about that or I can choose to make the most of whatever the time is that I have. I choose the latter.”

Shalom Life is currently searching for the best and brightest Jews under 40 in New York who have gained recognition in business, entertainment, philanthropy, technology and more. Please send suggestions to top20NY@shalomlife.com

Related articles: Top 20 Under 40, Elana Waldman, Chatelaine, Ovarian Cancer, Time to Shout, Israel, One Family Fund, aWEARness, Philanthropy, Charity
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