RBC Race for the Kids Toronto has an enthusiastic team of volunteer Ambassadors who are dedicated to helping you meet your fitness and fundraising goals. Check out their bios below and follow them on social media for motivational posts and RBC Race for the Kids Toronto updates, and be sure to check out the Ambassadors blog for weekly updates!

To get to know our 2016 RBC Race for the Kids Ambassadors, click on their picture for more information!


Andrea Taivassalo

Andrea Taivassalo

What got you into running?

Six years ago I looked in the mirror and saw a mom, wife, sister, daughter, teacher… But, what I didn't see was who I was independent of other people. I had gotten so used to meeting other people's needs that I had forgotten myself and that is where running entered my life. It has become the way I can identify who I am by something I do just for me.

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

Before a big race I love to watch the movie "Spirit of the Marathon". It always gets me excited for the big race.

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

Nothing beats scrambled eggs with lots of cheese and crispy bacon.

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

I love to do anything active with my wonderful husband two children. We go snowboarding, biking and running together. I also spend a lot of time being the best swim parent I can be as my children pursue their own goals in the pool as competitive swimmers.

Connect with Andrea:




partnersinstride.wordpress.com

Carina Cappuccitti

Carina Cappuccitti

How has running impacted your life?

Running has helped me to manage my time. I must stay organized and scheduled so that I can fit my training in. Nothing is better than running after a long day at work.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

I like "Play Hard" by David Guetta.

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

I pack everything I need for the race the night before and also lay out my outfit. In the morning, I have the same breakfast (every race I run) of oatmeal with peanut butter and blueberries.

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

I practice yoga regularly, love trying new recipes, and grew up cheering on the Blue Jays.

Connect with Carina:




carinacapp.blogspot.ca

Carmy Do

Carmen Do

What got you into running?

My best friend wanted to go out for the cross country team high school and as the BFF it was my duty to go with her, even though I was not a fan of running. Over time I fell in love with it even though I really disliked going to practices after school!

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

I didn't mean for this to being a pre-race ritual but I've done it so many times that it just felt weird not to. Before leaving for a race, I'd take two scoops of peanut butter straight from the jar as my "fuel."

What is your favourite pre-race or night-before-race meal?

My go-to meal before a race is chicken pesto pasta. You can never go wrong with carbs and protein and I can never say no to pesto.

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

While road racing is my first love, trail running has slowly been overtaking it. I love running in Sunnybrook Park. There are so many little secret trails in the park that it's an adventure every time I go in.

Connect with Carmy:




carmyy.com

Cathy Vandergeest

Cathy Vandergeest

What got you into running?

The competitor in me wanted to give running a try when I found out my sister had started. I also wanted a work out that would burn a lot of calories and that I could do with my energetic dog.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

I have a playlist of high energy songs that only play during races. If I happen to hear any of these songs on the radio, I always want to drop everything and GO!

What is your favourite pre-race or night-before-race meal?

My night-before-a-race meal is usually roasted salmon, rice and green beans. The morning of a race is always a toasted bagel with raspberry jam on one half and peanut butter on the other.

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

My favourite Toronto running spot is the Martin Goodman Trail. It is especially great since the city has improved the trail along Queen's Quay allowing for a seamless connection between east and west. There are tons of runners to wave to along the way, lots to see, it's flat and there are very few stop lights.

Connect with Cathy:




runningdesigner.com

Jenn Kimoto

Jenn Kimoto

What got you into running?

I wanted the challenge of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

Can't Feel my Face by the Weeknd (Especially when it's cold outside!)

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

I like to wake up at least 3 hours before the race and get some good complex carbs and healthy fats into my system before running.

What is your favourite pre-race or night-before-race meal?

Flatbread with some sort of lean protein and avocados the night before!

Connect with Jenn:




Laurie McCann

Laurie McCann

What got you into running?

I started running in my mid-thirties when a friend challenged me to run a half marathon. I have been hooked ever since.

How has running impacted your life?

Running is where I go to so my best thinking, keep me fit and it helps me refocus and get on with the day.

What is your favourite pre-race or night-before-race meal?

Pizza....hands down

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

I spend time with my family and love to go camping.

Connect with Cathy:




Lisa Root

Lisa Root

How has running impacted your life?

Running has literally changed my life. I am healthier because of it and I have met so many lifetime friends due to running. I couldn't imagine not having running in my life.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

The song that really gets me pumped is "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, it just really gets me going!

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

Refueling after a run is usually nachos or pizza and always a cider.

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

Best spot for a run in Toronto is the trails, any trails Don Valley, the Beltline, Sunnybrook to name a few.

Connect with Cathy:




Mark McAllister

Mark McAllister

How has running impacted your life?

Running has had a huge impact on my life. It has brought mental clarity and physical improvement while also helping me bond with the large running community in Toronto.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

The Constant One by Iron Chic is an album that gets me so pumped up I can't listen to it on race day for fear of pushing too hard too early. I learned that the hard way.

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

I love running through Philosopher's Walk by the ROM though it's only a block long. The Lower Don Valley Trail is lovely and anywhere around the Evergreen Brick Works.

When you're not running, what do you like to do?
When I'm not running I enjoy pushing myself to read more, watching documentaries about anything, exploring Toronto where I've only lived for three years, keeping up with my family who live in different parts of the world, and trying to choose my next distance.

Connect with Mark:



Matt Small

Matt Small

What got you into running?

I started running in 2006 when I was challenged by a supervisor at work to participate in a charity run. From that moment on, I was hooked! The excitement of the crowds cheering you on, along with the other participants and race volunteers too!

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

I wouldn't say there is any one song that gets me pumped, but there are a few artists that I listen to regularly. Gotta represent the 6ix and listen to Drake, but then I also like anything by The Black Keys. My musical tastes are varied.

What is your favourite pre-race or night-before-race meal?

Natural peanut butter is always a winner for me. If I don't have a bagel, I will throw a banana into a wrap and slap some PB in there. The best (for me) pre-race snack!

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

If my training has been spot-on and I have dialed in my diet for this race, the first thing I look to devour is a GIGANTIC CHEESEBURGER!

Connect with Matt:




Melanie Locke

Melanie Locke

What got you into running?

I started running in 1989 when I went away to university. I needed an outlet to help cope with the stresses, and I found running to be very beneficial for my mental wellbeing, and had a side effect of also benefiting my physical wellbeing. 

How has running impacted your life?

Running saved my life.  After a series of traumatic events over the years, I have always found strength and healing in my runs, and while I am not fully healed, I know I would be much worse off if I didn't run.  It has also connected me to the running community with a sense of camaraderie and support networks that are also crucial to healing.

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

I always go to my chiropractor for a session of fine-tuning adjustments before every race. When my body is moving well, mentally I feel like I have an advantage at the start line compared to other people who will be running with aches and pains.

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

One of the many things I love about Toronto is the large amount of green space within the city.  I love to start my run in Taylor Creek Park because I have the option of running through adjoining parks as far north as Edwards Gardens, or south to the Lakeshore, without ever being near cars or stopped at traffic lights.

Connect with Melanie:




YouTube Dr. Melanie Locke Health and Wellness Specialist

Melinda Ciffolillo

Melinda Ciffolillo

How has running impacted your life?

Running has opened a whole new world to me.  It is more than exercise. It is my stress relief and my strength. It has taught me I can do anything.  I have met so many wonderful people in the running community.  Many of us are very close friends even when we are not running together.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

I run with no music and just focus on the happy I feel when I take my first step out the door.  It isn't always easy, but it is always worth it

What is your favourite pre-race or night-before-race meal?

I always eat pasta the night before and drink a Gatorade before I go to bed for longer races. The morning of I always have a coffee and bagel (with a scoop of Nutella).

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

Think about running!  I also have a very busy life being single parent to two beautiful daughters and working full-time in the health care industry.

Connect with Melinda:




Michaela Mersch

Michaela Mersch

What got you into running?

I started running as a way to get some alone time from my 5 roommates and to clear my mind while at university. I found it was a fun way to explore new places, meet new people, and connect with the environment.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

My ultimate pump up song is "POWER" by Kanye West. There are some runs where I need a beast mode track, but then there are those runs where some Nora Jones does the trick.

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

I always pick my race outfit the night before to maximize style points, and to avoid thinking in the morning. I wake up pretty early on race day and make oatmeal for breakfast!

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

The beaches Boardwalk is awesome first thing in the morning. A beautiful sunrise over the lake and a lot of dogs, what more could you ask for?

Connect with Michaela:




fitbymick.com

Mike Ordono

Mike Ordono

How has running impacted your life?

Running has changed my perspective in life. I was able to realize the potential of what my body can achieve when pushed and the value of each little step no matter how slow or how fast you start. I learned to embrace the hurt in everything.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

If you ever see me doing high knee jumps at the start line, I probably have Steve Aoki's Delirious on blast on my headphones. That is hands down the best song to get anyone pumped up and if you haven't heard it please do yourself a favour and get it before the next race.

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

I'm not much for rituals. Does lots of sleeping count?

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

Humber trail in the West End. Along the river, it'll take you all the way down to Lake Ontario from the 401 without ever having to surface on the road and from there you can go west or east along the lake.



Mike van Mil

Mike van Mil

How has running impacted your life?

Since I have started running I have noticed many positive changes in my life.  Health wise I have dropped a pant size, I have had more energy and I am less winded during exertional activities.  Social wise I have made many great friends, my wife and I have a new bond and interest to share that has brought us even closer, my kids are now becoming more health conscious and my son wants to run "like his dad," he will be running his first 5k with me at the end of April 2016!

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day? 

I like to arrive early so that I can get things like my headphones set up, pick up my bib, and meet friends.  I find being prepared really helps with nerves as and chatting with friends helps to keep my mind clear.

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

After a run I love to eat some sort of energy/protein bar and a banana.  After a long race I love it when the food box contains a small amount of sugar (chocolate, dried fruit) some protein and a banana.

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

I live east of Toronto so my favorite place to run is the Ajax Waterfront Trail.

Connect with Mike:




paramedicmike.ca

Morgan Henderson

Morgan Henderson

How has running impacted your life?

Running has helped me learn to love myself and be more confident. There are always good days and bad days. It teaches you to not beat yourself up when you don't hit distance or time but when you do it shows you that you are stronger than you thought. You are capable of anything.

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

I used to take races very seriously and disappointed myself when I finished with a horrible time. Now before a race I just remind myself that this is all for fun. It's just a run, enjoy the ride.

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

After any run, especially a race I make sure I get my protein in. A smoothie with protein powder, coconut water and banana is my favourite. Nothing is worse than being sore because you aren't feeding those overworked muscles.

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

I really enjoy working out so when I'm not running I'm weightlifting. And if I'm not working out I'm hanging out with my dogs because pets are the best and they are ok with just going for a walk when you don't feel like running.

Connect with Morgan:




Naomi Algate

Naomi Algate

What got you into running?

Three years ago I signed up for my first race RBC Race for the Kids! The race was the impetus for getting me back into running.

How has running impacted your life?

Running has truly given me so much in return. I have gained lifelong friends, I have learned I can persevere when things are tough, and I feel that running allows me to clear my mind and feel refreshed and restored. The best thing is I can translate all of these running positives into my daily work and family life.

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

Oatmeal and fruit are my go to re fuel foods.

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

I never stop running. I have 2 young kids ☺



Nicholas Newell

Nicholas Newell

What got you into running?

My mom was always an avid runner, when my best friend died it was something I picked up naturally that helped me focus back on life and relieve stress.

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

Gelato, I don't know if that counts as refuelling though…

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

Easy, Crothers Woods trail system.

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

When I'm not running I'm pretty big on the theater, checking out new cafés, and cycling to unique locations.

Connect with Nicholas:


Nicole Goodbrand

Nicole Goodbrand

How has running impacted your life?

Running is a huge part of my life. I run for my mental health more than my physical, as it really allows me to organize my thoughts. Plus, physical activity is known to help treat depression, which is really important for me in the winter as I struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

I always include "Somewhere to Run" by Krewella - it always seems appropriate, plus it came on when I started my first 15k so it has sentimental value. Overall, anything with a fun beat power my run, you can usually find lots of Soca hits on my playlist.

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

Chocolate Milk! I am a chocolate fiend and nothing tastes better than chocolate milk after a run! Then I love the standard runner's banana and maybe a nut bar.

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

Since I don't live in Toronto, I think the whole city is a great place to explore. I like exploring places that are busy but not to the extent that I get caught up in pedestrian traffic, but my all-time favourite routes always bring me to water.

Connect with Nicole:




Robert Brouillette

Robert Brouillette

What got you into running?

The day that I decided I wanted to give running a try was when I was in high school on a trip to Paris, France of all places. My teacher dared me to run from the bottom of the Eiffel Tower to the top without stopping while most of my classmates took the elevator. I succeeded the climb and my teacher turned out to be the cross-country running coach and invited me to join the team the following year.

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

I like to refuel after a run right away with either a big cold glass of chocolate milk, a fruit filled protein shake or a simple water bottle. For most of my late morning runs I like to follow up with a brunch consisting of PB & J bagel, maple & brown sugar oatmeal, variety of fruits and a yogurt cup.  

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

Being a runner from out of town I only get into Toronto on a few race occasions. My top three spots were Yonge Street for how fast the road can be, High Park for its rolling hills, and the Waterfront for its beautiful view along the trail.

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

I feel like I am always out on a run but when I am not, I like to try other sports & activities like swimming, biking, soccer and ping pong with friends and family. I have been to a couple neat places around the world like Kenya, Egypt, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Arizona in the last couple years so I do like to do some travelling.

Connect with Robert:




robbrouillette.wordpress.com

Sandi Swan

Sandi Swan

What got you into running?

My mother in law gave me a treadmill and on January 1, 2012 I announced on Facebook that I was going to run on it daily. My friend Christine asked me to train for a half marathon with her... then I was hooked!

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

"The Final Countdown" by Europe

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

I need chocolate milk and a banana ASAP after a run. Later in the day, I indulge in something like pizza or a burger.

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

I like to play volleyball and slo-pitch. I go for walks with my family through the neighbouring natural area. I love to snuggle up with my kids and watch movies.

Connect with Sandi:



sandiswan.wordpress.com

Tina Benigno

Tina Benigno

What got you into running?

I initially started running because it was a convenient form of exercise. Not long after, my mom gave me the book, "Marathon Woman" by Kathrine Switzer, which put the idea of running an organized race in my mind.

How has running impacted your life?

Running has helped me stay healthy, and has kept me centred even though I don't always love it or have great runs. Through running events and social media, I have met many encouraging and inspiring people. The running community is incredible!

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

"Fight Song" by Rachel Platten

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

There are so many great spots to run in this city! Along Lakeshore is nice if you can get down there. I also love running in the High Park neighbourhood.

Connect with Tina:



tinainstride.blogspot.ca

Athena Francis

Carina Cappuccitti

What got you into running?

Two years ago I realized my life and health needed a change. I decided to start running, it was slow at first but when I found my legs I was hooked. I needed to find who I was again as an individual person- not a wife or mom… but as me!

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

I tend to get up early and prepare for what is ahead, mentally and physically. I arrive early to take pictures with friends and running groups and clear my head of all anxiety and nerves so that I can do what I know needs to be done- RUN

What is your favourite way to re-fuel after a run?

Nothing is better than brunch with friends. Eggs, hash browns and bacon or a good juicy burger, yum!

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

As a single mom, when I am not toting my teenage son to mall - I have found my STRONG. I love to go to the gym every day and work on strength and stamina. I have found that cross training is just as important as our daily and weekly runs.

Connect with Athena:




Allison van de Kemp

lAlison van de Kemp

What got you into running?

I began running after moving to Malta (a small island in the Mediterranean). My husband & I made some new friends who talked us into signing up for a half marathon. We had never run before at all so we were blissfully ignorant on race day! After I crossed that finish line in 2012 I knew that running was something that would be a part of my life!

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

 I tend to overthink race day so this year I'm planning to "pretend" it's just a regular day! Having no ritual will be my new ritual!

What is your favourite pre-race or night-before-race meal?

Spaghetti Carbonara (the proper way with no cream!)

What is the best spot to go for a run in Toronto?

Along the lake is always beautiful but I also love running down King Street at night. There's something about running past all the people while the lights of the city are shining!

Connect with Allison:




thelazy.me

Michelle Clarke

Michelle Clarke

What got you into running?

I started running a very young age because my mom discovered I was really bad at dancing.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

When I run I take the opportunity to listen to an entire album instead of playlists. My favourite album at the moment is Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

I usually read short stories about runners who have overcome bigger obstacles than I couldn't even imagine and still crossed the finish line.

What is your favourite pre-race or night-before-race meal?

I eat chicken and pasta every single Saturday night during training and the night before a race. It's boring, but it works.

Connect with Michelle:




michelletherunner.com
Fit Friday

Vicky Leung

Vicky Leung

What got you into running?

I started running to lose weight because I felt like it was the easiest thing to do. It turned out to be a lot of fun and I made a few friends along the way. Now I run because it makes me feel better both physically and mentally.

Is there a song that gets you really pumped up for a run?

I listen to a lot of EDM and dubstep. I like anything with a good beat that keeps me moving. I have songs from Glitch Mob, Deadmau5, Seven Lions, Swedish House Mafia and Adventure Club on my playlist right now.

Do you have any pre-race rituals that you think help you on the big day?

No, I'm not superstitious. A good night's sleep is all I need. If you've put in the work and have done your best, then you just need to trust in your training.

When you're not running, what do you like to do?

Eating, watching movies, travelling, exploring and hanging out with my friends. Mostly eating though…

Connect with Vicky:




menubyvicky.com

If you are interested in learning more about our Ambassador program or have any questions, please contact us at rbcraceforthekids@sunnybrook.ca