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City of Toronto frontline heroes throwing first pitches for Toronto Blue Jays games

@ South Asia journal Desk
Five City of Toronto frontline workers have been invited to throw first pitches at Toronto Blue Jays baseball games. The Blue Jays have dedicated the month of August to highlight and honour frontline workers from around the GTA.

The five City staff, representing all of the City’s many pandemic MVPs, have knocked it out of the park, consistently working through the challenges of the pandemic to ensure Torontonians had access to vital City services. Staff work in Senior Services & Long-Term Care, 311, Shelter, Support & Housing Administration, Solid Waste Management Services and Toronto Public Health – five of the many City teams that rallied to fight COVID-19.

The City aces heading out to the ball game are:

Velma Walker
Personal Support Worker at Seven Oaks Long-Term Care Home

Velma Walker is a personal support worker at Seven Oaks, one of the City’s 10 directly operated long-term care homes, who has worked for the City for more than 20 years. Velma has experienced both sides of the pandemic as a healthcare provider and as a patient, having contracted COVID-19 herself and spending nearly a month in hospital.

Velma believes teamwork is key to dealing with the pandemic and that everyone needs to do their part to ensure that the proper infection, prevention and control practices are always followed to keep residents, visitors and staff safe. With her experience battling COVID-19, Velma has become a strong advocate of getting vaccinated against the virus and has supported the vaccination efforts at all City-run long-term care homes.

Velma will be throwing the first pitch tonight as the Blue Jays take on the Detroit Tigers.

Nalin Sunak
Coordinator, 311 Contact Centre

Torontonians who picked up the phone to call 311 Toronto during the pandemic may have reached Nalin Sunak, a Coordinator at 311 Toronto’s contact centre. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the City’s response, Nalin and the 311 team have been on the front lines providing vital and timely information and assistance to Toronto residents.

Open 24/7, 365 days per year, 311 Toronto received over 1.3 million calls last year, a 200,000-call increase from 2019. Nalin and the 311 team patiently listened to callers who were in distress, experiencing a mental health challenge, or just needed a friendly voice on the other end of the phone during an isolating time.

During the pandemic, while providing extraordinary service, Nalin was also dealing with chronic kidney complications and lost a kidney to cancer. Nalin recovered and is back to work full-time, but now requires a kidney donor transplant. Nalin has maintained his positive spirit and support to 311 and Toronto residents, exemplifying a dedication to public service and commitment to his city and colleagues.

Nalin is on deck, throwing the first pitch on Saturday, August 21 for game two against the Tigers.

Roland Bahler
Collection Operator, Solid Waste Management Services

Roland Bahler is a Collection Operator for the City’s Solid Waste Management Services who started with the City in 1990 and has more than 31 years of experience.

Roland is currently working as a Solid Waste Collection Operator collecting residential waste and has been a part of the large team of frontline workers who have continued to work through the pandemic, providing exceptional customer service to the residents of Toronto. Roland’s commitment to his role and willingness to always go above and beyond have been displayed day in and day out throughout the pandemic. He represents 1,100 Solid Waste Management Services staff who have kept the city clean and Toronto’s waste, organics and recycling collection going as scheduled, despite the pandemic.

Roland will be throwing the first pitch on Sunday, August 22 as the Blue Jays play their final game of the series against the Tigers.

Donna Ashman
Client Service Worker and Counsellor, Robertson House

Donna Ashman is a Client Service Worker and Counsellor at Robertson House, a City-operated shelter for pregnant women and women with children in need of short-term emergency shelter. During the pandemic, Donna has been instrumental in coordinating testing and vaccine clinics at Robertson House. She has consistently worked to ensure the space is as COVID-19 safe as possible for its residents and has worked to educate clients with vaccine hesitancy, acting as a vaccine ambassador, ensuring clients have all the information they need to make an informed vaccination decision.

Donna was one of the first City staff to be vaccinated at the City-operated vaccination clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on the clinic’s first day of operations. Her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine was seen by thousands of people as footage of the historic moment played hundreds of times on television.

During the pandemic, Donna has thrown herself into her work as a frontline shelter worker, helping some of Toronto’s most vulnerable residents, while experiencing personal impacts from COVID-19, including not able to see her son who lives in Buffalo, New York.

Donna will throw the first pitch on Monday, August 23 as the Blue Jays face the White Sox.

Omar Ozaldin
Associate Director of Communicable Diseases Control, Toronto Public Health

Omar Ozaldin is the Associate Director of Communicable Diseases Control for Toronto Public Health. Omar is person who investigated the first case of COVID-19 in Toronto. He was on his way home from work when he got the call, turned back around and got to work – a turning point for public health and Toronto.

Omar is a core member of the Toronto Public Health team. He has been instrumental in the City’s response to the virus, leading a team that has been working tirelessly to protect Toronto from the spread of COVID-19.

Omar will throw the first pitch on Wednesday, August 25 when the Blue Jays play game three against the White Sox.

You’re up, Toronto!
The City and Team Toronto vaccination partners continue to make getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as easy as possible. The team has loaded the bases, now it’s time for a grand slam. All people born in 2009 or earlier needing a first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine can get vaccinated immediately and join the more than 74 per cent of eligible Torontonians who are fully vaccinated.

Earlier this week, the Province of Ontario announced that youth who are not yet 12 years old but were born in 2009 and will turn 12 later this year can be vaccinated immediately, rather than waiting for their birthday. City-run immunization clinics continue to vaccinate eligible people – including newly-eligible youth – who walk in without an appointment from noon to 7 p.m. every day. Information on the many ways to get vaccinated immediately is on the City’s COVID-19: How to Get Vaccinated webpage.


“I want to thank the Toronto Blue Jays for honouring these five frontline City of Toronto workers and through them all of our dedicated employees. I am so proud of the work our City workers have done across Toronto throughout the pandemic to make sure that vital services continued to be delivered. These same frontline heroes are helping us continue the fight against COVID-19 and the Delta variant. There is no better sign of the progress we have made than the return of the Blue Jays and Major League Baseball games to our city and I’m thankful that this weekend fans will have the opportunity to show their appreciation for our hardworking employees.”

– Mayor John Tory

“Members of the Toronto Public Service have been heroes throughout the pandemic and I am so proud that the Toronto Blue Jays have chosen to honour them in this special way. Our employees have worked overtime, weekends, holidays – and were willingly redeployed to shelters, long-term care homes and other divisions to ensure the needs of our most vulnerable residents were met. They have been on the front lines since day one and they make me proud each and every day.”

– Chris Murray, City Manager

Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses.

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