The Sluga Family was recently featured in Neighbours of Kingsway, an exclusive magazine serving the west Toronto communities of Sunnylea, The Kingsway, Old Mill, and Chestnut Hills. The article was published in the September issue, written by Laura McInnich. Read a copy of the article below.
Meet The Sluga Family!
On the sunny July day that I visited the Slugas at their Princess Anne Manor home, I arrived to find a house buzzing with energy. It was summer vacation and Andrea Sluga was at home with her three children – Arianna, 8, Allegra, 5, and Antonio, 3 – while her husband Adrian, a senior executive at JLL Real Estate, was at work. Allegra was keen to ride her bike around their subdivision, undeterred by the fact that the bike was probably a size too big for her. (She was successful regardless!)
Big sister Arianna was helping her mom get Antonio set up on a new tricycle that they had picked up that morning at Holland Bloorview. It was clear from the start that this was not a household lacking in activity!
Married since September 2007, Adrian and Andrea met at a local YMCA gym in Scarborough, where they were living at the time. “I knew that first night, after he approached me and we finished off a workout together, that there was something different about him,” recalls Andrea. “It was almost an instant connection of sorts that this person was meant to be in my life. It was an odd feeling to get after having just met – but it’s true.” A gym is an appropriate place for this couple to have met, as they certainly continue to be as active as ever, as do their children. Arianna trains in the pre-competitive program at Etobicoke Gymnastics and Allegra will also join the program this fall. Arianna has also earned a spot on the competitive trampolining team and both girls enjoy swimming, skating and soccer.
Competitive sport seems to run in the family as dad Adrian provisionally qualified in the 2004 Olympics for javelin. He also used to play on the junior national basketball team. Andrea is an avid runner, having started racing at the young age of 6 and completing her first marathon in 2006 in Ottawa. Running was something she kept up throughout all three pregnancies – even once starting a jog on the treadmill unknowingly in the early stages of labour! “Running truly is an outlet for me to decompress and reflect,” says Andrea.
The family’s affinity for fitness and Andrea’s passion for running contributed to their establishment of the Toni-Yo-Yo Run for Fun in support of Silver Creek Preschool. The other, bigger inspiration for their annual fundraiser is their son Antonio.
Antonio was born in July 2016, and his parents and doctors immediately noticed his “failure to thrive.” After some time, it was determined that he is the first known person with a new DNA “spelling mistake” in chromosome 16. Though still considered globally delayed, Andrea can’t help but appreciate all the wonderful progress Antonio has made. She credits this to some of the incredible support systems they were able to have had in place early on. One of these supports has been Silver Creek, a pre-school for children with physical and developmental challenges.
The idea for the fun run first came to the Slugas on Mother’s Day 2017. That day was the first time they had gone on a planned outing as a family of five and marked the end of a very emotionally and physically challenging 10 months since Antonio had been born. The outing was The Chocolate Race in St. Catharines – a 1km and 5km fun run that Andrea and her daughters planned to complete. Andrea had not had time to train; however, she remembers a confidence approaching the starting line, telling herself this race would be for her son and that she’d run as hard as she could in honour of all they had been through as a family. “I could have finished dead last and still been so proud just being at that race.” It ends up, she didn’t need to worry about coming in last. She was the first female, following two other men, and had a personal-best time. “I remember having this tremendous feeling coming up the last stretch, knowing I was about to finish first female in front of my family and children. They were cheering me on so excitedly that in that beautiful moment, I actually broke away before the end to give high-fives to my daughter and husband first before crossing the line. Acknowledging them was more important to me than the win itself.”
“The kids and I were so proud of her. They loved seeing their mom at the front of the pack,” recalls Adrian. The high that the race gave Andrea - the feeling that she “could move mountains” - was one she wanted to share with other families of children with special needs. It was that day the idea of the Toni-yo-yo Run for Fun was born. “We decided then, in that moment, that we’d name it in Antonio’s honour with the goal that one day he would walk his own run,” says Andrea.
Now with the second annual run approaching on September 22, Antonio is already so much closer to making this dream come true. On the backyard patio with his sisters, I can see that he is now very mobile (getting into the girls’ markers and toys!) and is able to stand with support. Andrea and Adrian’s goal seems within reach. Four years ago, when the couple was looking for a new home, they knew little about Etobicoke. But when their agent introduced them to the area, they were won over by its big lots, mature trees, and beautiful homes with character. And when they first saw their current home, they fell in love with it. Now, after somewhat stumbling onto the community, it has become a huge part of their lives and of their effort to support families in need.
“We really live in such a wonderful neighbourhood surrounded by people who care. The inaugural Toni-yo-yo Run for Fun was heavily supported by the community and successful because of that caring spirit,” says Adrian, who is also the Marketing Director for the event.
“Etobicoke and The Kingsway provide an emotional richness that we have never felt living anywhere else,” adds Andrea. “The way we’ve seen local families here supporting one another, both in celebration and sorrow, has been incredible. People genuinely care about their neighbours and you can’t put a price tag to that type of community belonging.”
Feature photo by Anne-Marie May of Welcome Aboard Photography