Here at Assiff Law, we’re proud to pass on our values to the younger generation. Lila, Norm’s seventeen-year-old daughter, recently organized a mask fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. A truly incredible accomplishment that will support their mission of creating life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.
We interviewed her to learn more about her history with volunteering, her thoughts on the current pandemic, and what she wishes people would learn from it.
Assiff Law Office: Why did you choose Make-A-Wish?
Lila Assiff: I chose the Make-A-Wish Foundation because I believe that people with illnesses should not be defined by their illnesses; they should have the same opportunities as everyone else. As well, I wanted to help children who were experiencing hard times. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is an organization that grants children with life-threatening illnesses a wish of their choice. The work that the Make-A-Wish Foundation does is truly inspiring, and I am proud to help support such a worthy cause.
How did you come up with the idea of creating masks?
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges; however, I believe that with challenges come opportunities. Wearing face masks has been a practice advocated by public health officials in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and so I thought that we could help keep people safe while also supporting a good cause by selling face masks for Make-A-Wish.
Please guide us through the whole process: the mask creation, then the sale, etc.
First, I had to ask for permission to use the Make-A-Wish logo on the masks. After working with Make-A-Wish and getting their approval for the design of the face masks, I researched several companies and was able to find a Canadian company to make the face masks at a reasonable price. I think it is especially important during these unprecedented times to support Canadian businesses. When the masks arrived, my mom helped me individually wrap and label each of them (thanks Mom!).
As we started to fundraise, I was pleased to see the outpouring of support from our community. Word-of-mouth helped increase our mask sales; people would tell their friends, who also wanted to help spread the positivity by supporting our fundraiser. One skill that I was able to develop with the help of my sisters was using social media to help drive this campaign. I put together pictures of the masks and information regarding contactless delivery, and my sisters posted it to their social media followings, which garnered a lot of support for our campaign. Those who were interested contacted us through social media, and we arranged for contactless delivery. I am really grateful for the help of my sisters in raising awareness!
In a time of COVID restrictions, it must have been challenging! How did you manage to handle that?
Yes, COVID restrictions have made it more difficult to fundraise than in previous years. In the past, I was able to fundraise through my school, the Edmonton Islamic Academy, and host fundraisers. Over the years, these fundraisers have raised over $10,000 for Make-A-Wish. However, this year, my school indicated that it did not have the resources to support the Make-A-Wish initiative, so I had to pivot. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I was able to expand the Make-A-Wish campaign beyond my school and into the broader Edmonton community. Neighbours, friends, and colleagues were very supportive, which was heartwarming to see.
Your father Norm is very involved with charities. Would you say that he inspired you to take action and volunteer? If so, how?
My parents have always impressed upon me the importance of giving back to our community. From a young age, I would volunteer at Edmonton’s Food Bank, putting together food hampers and learning about the importance of helping others. Being able to see the impact that I had on others first hand gave me a sense of fulfilment and gratitude for being able to contribute to positive change. I also raised money for the Stollery Children’s Hospital during elementary school.
What began as an idea grew into a passion to reach out to the greater community and lend a hand. Throughout junior high and high school, I became involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As Chair of the Make-A-Wish Student Fundraising Committee at my school, I was able to mobilize several of my peers to volunteer in this campaign, and they continue to volunteer today. Through our volunteerism, we were able to sponsor a wish child named Emma, a three-year-old girl with a spinal tumour. Her wish was to go to Disney World, and she was able to have lots of fun seeing all of her favourite characters! Being able to positively impact a young girl’s life was a very meaningful and heartwarming experience for me. I will never forget how appreciative Emma’s mom was when my friends and I presented the cheque; it was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life that I will always remember.
Seeing the charitable contributions my parents have made and being involved in fundraising efforts from a young age has made me realize the importance of helping others. As a Muslim, charity is a pillar of my faith, and I strive to give when I can and help others. My parents have passed on a tradition of giving and showing compassion for others, and I hope to pass on this tradition to the next generation as well.
What lessons did you learn from the whole pandemic/lockdown situation?
The pandemic/ lockdown situation taught me the importance of staying in touch with people, even if it is virtual.
I also learned the importance of staying positive and taking time to appreciate the small things, like family movie nights or baking cupcakes with my sisters — things that still followed the guidelines but allowed us to have fun and take a break from the stress of the pandemic.
Further, I learned a very important lesson about not taking things for granted. One day, we are at school and everything is normal; the next day, schools are closed, and we are no longer seeing our friends or teachers. I realized that even though school can be stressful, it is not something to take for granted.
What lessons do you wish people could take away from the current situation?
I hope that people are able to see the silver lining in this situation. These challenges also present opportunities for us to be innovative and creative, seeking new ways to adapt to the current situation.
Do you see yourself volunteering again in the future? For Make-A-Wish, or any other charity?
Absolutely! I plan on continuing to support charities such as Make-A-Wish, and hopefully inspire future generations to impact their communities in a positive way.
You can help too!
By creating Make-A-Wish branded masks, selling them and donating the funds to the foundation, Lila raised $1,850, and Assiff Law matched it for a total of $3,700!
We encourage you to support Make-A-Wish’s mission by participating in any of its campaigns and fundraisers in Northern Alberta. A donation can also help make a difference.
To learn more about how you can get involved or make a donation, visit the Get Involved section of Make-A-Wish’s website.