Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy doubling its space

Kristin Bartlett, program assistant, Judith Bansil, member companion, and Susee Padias, program assistant.
Kristin Bartlett, program assistant, Judith Bansil, member companion, and Susee Padias, program assistant.

We all do things for love, from small deeds like making coffee to grand gestures like professing our love in a banner across the sky.

Leasiders are among the beneficiaries of the late John Bitove Sr.’s loving tribute to his dear wife Dotsa. From his humble immigrant’s start, John built a business empire and left a philanthropic legacy including the Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy at 1929 Bayview Ave.

The Academy is a welcoming respite for those with mild to moderate dementia. Founded five years ago by The Bitove Foundation, the Academy numbered only four participants when it opened its doors. Today, still affiliated with the foundation, the University Health Network, and York University, the Academy serves many, many more several days a week.

During its brief history, the Academy has provided a stimulating environment where professional artists, in the fields of music, movement and the visual arts offer engaging programs that appeal to a range of interests and abilities. Academy members, some accompanied by their care partners, attend weekday program offerings.

One of these, visual artist Simon Law, grew up in a home filled with music and arrived at the Academy, with his father, when it first opened its doors. Simon has been sharing his passion for music appreciation ever since, and his program is one of Dotsa Bitove’s favourites, which she continues to attend. Dotsa is also one of the Academy members who have contributed their artwork to greeting cards that the Academy sells as part of their fundraising activities.

Program assistant Kristin Bartlett, who leads weaving, macramé and other textile activities, says, “It’s inspiring to give and receive with members’ care partners in a creative, fun and supportive environment.”

The Academy’s artistic and program manager Velta Vikmanis comments proudly that “the Academy will be doubling its space by the end of 2018, and we welcome visitors to take a tour or enjoy a trial visit.” She adds that “Vonna Bitove, Dotsa and John’s daughter and executive director of the Bitove Foundation, is very engaged and responsive to the Academy’s needs.”

In her own words, Vonna says, “This is such a happy place and a dream come true for my late father. He wanted something that my mother, Dotsa, would benefit from and represent the type of individual she was before she was touched with dementia.”

Researcher Christine Jonas Simpson, the Academy’s director of philosophy and academics and also an associate professor at York University’s Faculty of Health, notes that “the Academy uses the medium of the arts to foster engagement, relationships and life enrichment. Bringing a community together where shared learning enhances everyone’s quality of living and we can all be free to be who we are.” As one Academy member said recently to Christine, “I’m 90-years-old and I’m learning to paint!”

About Suzanne Park 60 Articles
Suzanne Park is a leadership and conversation coach and writer who enjoys bringing to the pages of Leaside Life the unique experiences and community contributions of her Leaside neighbours. Her daughter Zhen, a student at Leaside High School, is also a contributor to Leaside Life with a fresh perspective on her community.