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  • Writer's picturePat Browne

Randa Zahra and Sunil Chand

The power couple – when I say power, I mean there is nothing these two do that isn’t with all their heart and full focus.

Sunil and Randa moved into our neighbourhood a little over 16 years ago. Their children – Ziad and Layla – have grown up here.

This is a family on the move. Literally – this family embraces activity. Both kids are avid skiers. Ziad whose 14, is a super athlete, he doesn’t just ski, he’s into freestyle competition. He doesn’t just play hockey, he’s an A level player. Layla, 12, not to be outdone, competes in both slalom and GS (giant slalom) and has a passion for all things equestrian. Layla rides both English and Western saddle and participated in her first show last fall.

To facilitate the family’s love of outdoor sports, they bought a holiday home in Collingwood north of Toronto. Collingwood supports the family’s love all things outdoors with both summer and winter activities. Situated on Nottawasaga Bay, the southern part of Georgian Bay, Collingwood boasts beaches and ski hills. The city is a gateway to the Blue Mountain ski resort, with downhill and cross-country trails.

So how did this couple find our little community? It’s a story of one of our own staying close to home. Sunil emigrated with his family from Guyana in 1980. They landed in Don Mills with their first home at 1055 Don Mills road. Sunil was 10 and ready to embrace Canadian culture. He attended Greenland school and then Don Mills secondary and collegiate. He played hockey at the Don Mills Civitan Arena in the winter and played tennis at Bond Park in the summer. “When we first arrived here Don Mills Centre had just acquired its roof,” says Sunil. “I’ve seen the changes, I know the Don Mills paths, I knew it was a place to raise a family.”

Randa, on the other hand, didn’t know Don Mills. Here family immigrated from Abu Dhabi when she was 10. He father was from Lebanon and her mother from Syria. They landed in Scarborough where Randa grew up. Her first exposure to Don Mills came after university with a job at Foresters Financial at 789 Don Mills Road. That’s where Randa and Sunil met.

When Sunil introduced his wife to the area he grew up in, I don’t think they knew it would become a community love-affair. “We loved the size of the house and being on the park meant we got to meet our neighbours quickly,” said Sunil.

“Even today, we’ve really only done cosmetic things to the house other than adding more storage for all the sporting gear,” said Randa. “We’re thinking of redoing the kitchen. Over the years I’ve found our tastes changing, so we’d like to update the kitchen, make it a little more modern and ready for a family of adults.”

“The children are obsessed with our community. We all love our neighbourhood. Because we’ve raised our kids here, we know people throughout Don Mills, nothing compares to the community we have here.”

“We had briefly thought about moving to a free-standing house, but no one was excited about the prospect. The kids do not want to move. They have friends throughout our neighbourhood and in the greater Don Mills community. They are both in French immersion programs – Ziad is at School Secondary York Mills Collegiate and Layla is at Windfields Middle School.”

“This last year, through Covid-19, has been a challenge. Both Sunil and I are still working remotely. We are lucky that our jobs, Sunil, head of Canadian cyber security at CGI and me at Deloitte, can work from home. During the first of the pandemic, we spent our time at the Collingwood house. It was great for keeping the kids busy, but restrictive in that we had not set the place up for work and the kids really missed our community and neighbors.”

“As I look forward from now, I want to live more in the moment. My life is super structured. Although I have a great deal of autonomy at work, its still a systematized environment,” says Randa. “I’m passionate about fitness, health and wellness. Every decade I learn so much about myself. The beauty is that I can look at what works for me and what doesn’t. Then it’s a matter of jettisoning what doesn’t work and focussing on the positive."

“I want to teach my grandchildren how to ski,” said Sunil. “I’ve been looking at certification so that I can make that, and possibly teaching others, a reality. It may be hard to believe, but this kid from Guyana loves the snow. I’m an avid tennis player and make it a point to play at least twice a week, but winter sports are my passion.”

“We grew up in an environment of strong values. We want to pass those on to our kids and this is the place to do that because we are surrounded by like minded neighbors and friends.”

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