The Magic of Camp Ooch

“Brush up on your old tricks and learn some new ones as a group of real,
professional magicians reveal some tricks of the trade.
The day will end with a magic show for your friends and families,
where YOU will be the star.”
-Camp Oochigeas “Wacky World of Wizardry” brochure

On November 2, 2013, Camp Oochigeas and Magicana once again, joined forces to deliver their annual, one-day fall workshop packed with magical happenings and laughter, called, The Wacky World of Wizardry. Led by Julie Eng and assisted by magic coaches, James Alan, Joe Culpepper and Suley Fattah, participants spent the whole day learning sleight-of-hand wizardry in order to offer a magic showcase for their families and friends at the end of the day.

We were thrilled with the result! With an Alakazam here and a Hocus Pocus there, the participants put together a wonderful showcase and shared the magic of the day.

Camp Oochigeas is a privately funded, volunteer-based organization that provides year-round programs for children affected by childhood cancer, including the unique and exciting opportunity to experience the wonder of camp. Every year, Magicana teams up with Camp Oochigeas to deliver a modified My Magic Hands workshop, designed to reach out to kids using magic as a teaching vehicle to build their confidence and public speaking skills. The team at Camp Ooch is pretty amazing themselves, bringing about a wonderful partnership to support the young magicians.

Thanks to the volunteers and our My Magic Hands team, the day was full of magic and success – one that we will surely remember as it is marked by mirth, mystery and delight. We hope to share this experience with you again, next year!


My Magic Hands Celebrates 9 years at Holland Bloorview!

It is hard to believe that  My Magic Hands was originally launched nearly a decade ago.

Magicana applied for funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation(OTF) to develop a pilot program version of  “Magic Hands”.  In 2004, the program was designed and tested during the year in four different at-risk communities around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including Canada’s top children’s rehabilitation hospital, now known as Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. The response to the pilot program was excellent and Trillium agreed. Magicana was then awarded a multi-year grant to expand  My Magic Hands program (and, to simultaneously develop Senior Sorcery – a program designed specifically for the senior population). My Magic Hands continued to evolved and developed through funding from private foundations and donors. Today, this program is funded solely by the Slaight Family Foundation.

All the way, My Magic Hands has been working side-by-side with Holland Bloorview, specifically in occupational therapy and speech therapy programs. The magic program is recognized and acknowledged by occupational therapists, staff and parents of clients as a unique, successful and motivating tool assisting clients to reach their therapeutic goals. Session after session, we are continuously motivated – and inspired – by the hard work our participants give to the program. It’s all about The Big Show where the children really do become magicians as they stage and star in their own production. The show never fails to marvel – never a dry eye in the house!

It’s hard to believe that we just wrapped up our 2013 summer session at Holland Bloorview marking our ninth year at the hospital!

None of this would have been possible without dedicated volunteers and hard-working staff from Holland Bloorview. The program only works because of the one-on-one attention volunteers give each client.  The communal effort between Magicana and the Holland Bloorview team is what makes our program so unique and so special.

We hope that our collaboration continues to evolve and we look forward to resuming our sessions with the hospital later this fall.

Congratulations to our latest graduates! May the magic continue in your magic hands!



Summer of Helping Hands

For the past few weeks, lead by magicienne Julie Eng, we made one of our favourite stops to Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab to bring some magic to the Helping Hands program.

Helping Hands is a modified constraint induced movement therapy (CIMT) for clients with hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body) secondary to an acquired brain injury or stroke. Participants are required to wear a splint or cast on their non-affected hand. Activities that encourage the functional use of their hemiplegic arm, such as magic, help participants in their physical therapy.

Helping Hands aims to promote the use of each participant’s affected upper extremity through individually selected activities targeting specific movements and upper extremity function. This is where magic plays a vital part: while it challenges participants to use their hemiplegic side, it also provides them with a goal and feelings of accomplishment after performing a magical feat that warrants instant feedback, such as an audience applauding a performance.

Magic truly has a versatile effect to those who practice it, and we watched it all spring to life in our Helping Hands participants. Some of our “magicians” in this session were past participants, allowing us to dig deep into our bag of tricks and to come up with new challenges for them. We were able to further empower magicians by asking them to also to coach one another.

By the end of the session, we saw that magic built confidence, promoted control and discipline, and created great satisfaction in each magician’s individual and group accomplishments.

We hope the wonders of magic continue with each of our graduates, and may it be shared to other members of our community!

Thank you to the ever-amazing team of dedicated staff and volunteers at Holland Bloorview. It takes one-to-one support to make this sort of program successful. We are so lucky to have so many stellar coaches regularly at our sessions. Thank you, Team! It was a great one!

Coaching Kids into Life and Magic


Getting a new perspective on how our workshop affects lives inspires us to continue evolving My Magic Hands so that it can reach and benefit those who need it the most. We believe our workshop is therapeutic not only to its participants but to our volunteers as well. My Magic Hands gives magic coaches a sense of purpose and community: they have become part of great change in the lives of others, and have become crucial to their growth and development. In addition to this, My Magic Hands is an effective starting point to those who want to enter the rewarding career of Occupational Therapy, or health studies.

With mutual benefit stemming from both sides of our program, we are pleased to see the ripples of effect our program has started. We hope Aneesha’s testimonial, another committed volunteer from our past session at Holland Bloorview, will encourage our readers to volunteer and support My Magic Hands.

Aneesha states:

“Magic is, believing in yourself.  If you can do that, you can make anything happen.”

These words by German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe echo when I look back on the wonderful weeks at Magicana’s workshop and one-on-one sessions.

After the ‘My Magic Hands’ workshop at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital ended in March, our team of ‘magic coaches’ embarked on yet another journey, of one-on-one magic sessions, in April. With the leadership of Julie Eng, our multi-faceted magic instructor and Salma Kassam, our exceptional occupational therapist, we ventured into comfortable zones of therapy, to help the kids develop their magic skills, with the intention of developing their fine motor, speech and cognitive skills. Therapy, usually described as ‘boring’ by the kids, became fun and exciting.

During the one-on-one sessions, while the kids were thrilled about the magic tricks, our team focused on trying to achieve individual goals, as well as improve their sense of social interactions and growth. The team leaders, working in unison, aim to unlock each child’s true potential and help them create a future of possibilities. Each session comprised of working on one or two magic tricks with practise and attention to detail. Every one-on-one session ended with a little magic performance that allowed the participants to showcase their developed skills. Witnessing the transformation of a child (who in normal circumstances would shy away from displaying his abilities) into a confident performer was remarkable.

When I first joined the program I did not know what to expect. But after the completion of these sessions I have come to experience senses beyond description. Laughter, mischief, innocence, friendships all became important elements in every session.  With our team leaders, other members of the hospital’s staff and Aletheia,  a wonderful co-volunteer (and friend), I truly had a remarkable experience and wonderful memories to look back on. Thank you. I look forward to future interactions with Magicana and their work. I started this testimonial with a quote and would like to end with one too.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting, for our senses to grow sharper”- W. B. Yeats




From a Magic Coach’s Perspective

Teamwork makes it happen. L to R: Salma Kassam, OT, Volunteers Aneesha Nair and Aletheia Chiang and magic instructor, Julie Eng.


We have just finished two amazing sessions with Holland Bloorview, with the help of the hospital’s staff and two incredible volunteers, Aletheia and Aneesha. Magic Coaches are truly the essential element that contributes to the success of our workshops. The mentorship and encouragement participants receive during their sessions are certain to endure beyond the performance of their Big Show. These are relationships both participants and magic coaches carry  as they continue their journeys in life and magic.

We had the pleasure of learning about the experience of two magic coaches, Aletheia and Aneesha, summed up in a blog entry. We are proud to share Aletheia’s writing and hope it inspires others into volunteering.

Aletheia writes:

Following the success of Magicana’s 4-week My Magic Hands workshop at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in March, our team of “Magic Coaches”, program leader, and Occupational Therapy staff, continued with another set of 4-week one-to-one sessions in April. Our aim was to provide individual one-to-one support to a smaller group of young participants–(some new, some returning!)–as they learn new magic routines and tricks, and in the process, develop and apply many fine motor, cognitive, speech, and interpersonal skills.

In these one-to-one sessions, participants learned the various components of new magic routines at a comfortable pace customized to their skill level and ability. Our team worked to create a quieter, more focused environment where more attention was paid to each participant’s developmental and therapeutic progress in the learning and performance of the magic routines. Furthermore, they developed interpersonal growth through peer-to-peer interaction, group support, and mutual encouragement.

At the end of each session, our young magicians had the opportunity to perform the magic trick of their choice to a warm audience that consisted mostly of family members and fellow peers. The art of performance is an important component of magic, and touches on key life skills such as self-confidence building and public speaking. For some of these participants, who would otherwise shy away from public performance in a larger group, these one-to-one sessions gave them the chance to perform for those closest to them, in an intimate and small setting they could be comfortable in.

With many new, young magicians of April’s one-to-one sessions now becoming graduates of our program, we look forward to the next opportunity to share the wonder of magic within the community! Many, many thanks to the special tutelage of the program’s lead instructor, Julie Eng, and Salma Kassam, Occupational Therapist staff at Holland-Bloorview, as well as to the focused coaching of dedicated volunteers, for making this unique opportunity possible for our friends and family at Holland-Bloorview!

Spring Magic at the Holland Bloorview


We just wrapped up another successful My Magic Hands session at Holland Bloorview Kids Hospital and we could not have done it without the extraordinary dedication of Holland Bloorview staff and volunteers.

A major factor to client success is the incredible individual attention participants receive from our “magic coaches” – aka staff and volunteers. Through focused coaching, participants learn the importance of having a mentor while they learn magic tricks customized to meet their goals. Coaches become the voice of encouragement that is essential in developing their self-confidence and self-esteem – two “must-haves” for the Big Show.

For our last group, what a Big Show it was!

Family members and other hospital staff gathered to watch our magicians perform their magic learned throughout the session. The Big Show was a chance for our participants to shine and show hard work truly does pay off. We are very proud of our graduates and congratulate everyone.

We are so grateful for the enthusiasm, time and effort our volunteers, Aneesha Nair and Aletheia Chiang, have given so selflessly into our program along with the amazing staff of Occupational, Speech and Physical Therapists who made sure our magicians were well rehearsed and prepared. We look forward to working with this team again on our next session and wish them the best of luck on their future endeavours.

Magic Library


Magic Library


A magic library is just what every home needs! So, we have made a donation of nearly 40 magic books to our long-time partner, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation HospitalThe books come courtesy of private individuals who have kindly made donations to Magicana over the years, and we are thrilled that they are now being housed in such a great facility.

As we enter our tenth year bringing My Magic Hands to the clients at Holland Bloorview, we have discovered many  young, budding magicians along the way. So to fully support their interest in this new potential hobby, we wanted to extend the gift of magic by way of this library. Speaking with the hospital’s and school’s librarian, Shelley Neal, we are pleased to hear that the books have been earmarked for a “Magic Nook” where students can study, research and simiply absorb all things magic.

Some of the donated titles include, “Mark Wilson’s Greatest Close-up Magic Tricks”, “The Magic Book” by Harry Lorayne”, “Walter Gibson’s Big Book of Magic For all Ages”, “The Magic Book” by Karl Fulves, “Dunninger’s Monument to Magic”, “The Great Houdini” by Beryl Williams and Samuel Epstein, “The Master Magicians” by Walter Gibson, “The Stein and Day Handbook of Magic” by Marvin Kaye and many more.

We hope the all our students enjoy and learn from their magic library as much as we have enjoyed sharing the wonder of magic.

Summer Wrap Up for My Magic Hands at Bloorview

We just finished yet another round of My Magic Hands at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation and we are proud to say, that as always, it was an amazing experience for both our instructors, volunteers and participants!

We had a particularly big and lively group this time round, the last group before summer ends. We are so proud of our junior magicians and of their magic coaches as  they carried out their performances for The Big Show. The hard work and dedication each participant contributed, clearly showed in the delivery of their magic tricks and scripts, along with the help and generosity that their magic coaches graciously gave them.

This wraps up our ninth year of summer sessions at Holland Bloorview–and we’re proud  to say, that we had a great and unforgettable summer learning and teaching magic and wonder, and look forward to our fall session.

The Wonder Behind the Magic

We like to view My Magic Hands as a communal effort, for the successful delivery of each session – especially at Holland Bloorview where the program’s fulfillment depends on the generosity of our sponsors and the dedication of  volunteers, therapists and participants.

As we’ve come to learn over the years, the beauty of magic lies in its flexibility and versatility. Since partnering with Holland Bloorview, we have observed how magic affects young adults in many ways. It has helped them regain confidence, become more vibrant, and practice control and discipline in order to perform their tricks effortlessly and with the confidence of a performer.  A thriving example of the benefits our workshops reap is the Helping Hands camp we have facilitated over the past three  summers.

What makes this program unique is that it is a modified constraint induced movement therapy (CIMT) for clients with hemiplegia (paralysis
on one side of the body) secondary to an acquired brain injury or stroke. Participants are required to wear a splint or cast on their non-affected hand. They then engage in activities that promote the functional use of their hemiplegic arm and hand – such as magic!

Helping Hands aims to promote the use of each participant’s affected upper extremity through individually selected activities targeting specific movements and upper extremity function. Magic becomes a great tool as it can simultaneously challenge students to use their hemiplegic side while achieving the thrill of “getting” the magic trick to work. It can be a slow and laborious effort for the clients to try and hit each of the meticulous movements with their less dominant hand–but they do so because of the greater goal to “get” the trick. For an instructor, it can bring tears to one’s eyes!
The program is run by an interdisciplinary team of staff (occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, physiotherapists and social workers) and volunteers. Magicana is brought in to provide the magic component inside the existing frame work of the camp and leads the lesson in magic. What is wonderful is the near one-to-one support that each client receives at Holland Bloorview. We refer to the staff and volunteers present as the client’s ‘magic coach’ which shifts their perspective on the entire experience. Needless to say, it is a very heartwarming experience to see success in the smiles of both our clients and their magic coach.

Helping Hands is truly a program that requires group effort, and we would not have been able to deliver as efficiently as we did if it wasn’t for our magic coaches, our dedicated volunteers who generously donated so much of their time and hard work. Thank you to the recent round of volunteers / magic coaches who volunteered their time to be with these amazing clients: Sinthia, Maggie, Nicholas, Sarah and Pinky – the true wonders behind the magic!

We hope the therapeutic advantages of magic continue with each of our graduates, and may wonder be shared to other members of our community!


Magic Healing at Holland Bloorview

It’s a busy summer for My Magic Hands!

We currently have two specially focused sessions with Holland Bloorview called, Helping Hands and Hand 2 Hand.

These summer programs focus on strengthening the client’s less dominant hand by restraining the dominant hand, on and off throughout the camp. Naturally in this conditions, magic becomes increasingly difficult to perform – especially when clients naturally want to use their dominant hand for fine motor tasks, such as shuffling a deck of cards.

However, the staff and volunteers in the sessions act as magic coaches for the students (magicians) and encourage magicians and assist them on a one-to-one basis, providing children a nurturing and positive experience. It is incredibly rewarding to see progression emanating from our current participants in this accelerated summer session. We congratulate magicians and their ‘magic coaches’ for such an outstanding job!

Thanks to the generous donors and sponsors of our My Magic Hands program, we can continue making a difference in our community and keep in our pursuit in sharing wonder.