Toronto university student founds business while seeking summer job

Keith and Christy Murton celebrate their silver business anniversary alongside Sierra and Dakota, their two dogs.

Keith Murton wanted a summer job. But the 21-year-old security guard was tired of working indoors. Starting a business was his only answer.

“It was something I wanted to do outside,” Murton said. “I started (the Kutting Krew) with two friends from Ryerson (University.)”

It wasn’t long before he borrowed money from his parents, acquired a lawn mower and started advertising the trio’s grass-cutting service. One friend named their business after the popular 80s band, the Cutting Crew.


After designing and printing  5000 advertising flyers, the young Krew found starting a business wasn’t easy. Knocking door-to-door was time consuming and required the investment of many unpaid hours.

The original group disbanded after several weeks when one friend quit, preferring to hold onto his other job, while the second took some of the customers and formed a separate business, following a disagreement.

It didn’t stop Murton. He kept the name and continued running business from his parents’ basement, encouraged by their first success with a customer.

“It was pretty exciting, like, oh, something worked,” he said. “Before you sign up your first customer, you think you’re never going to get one.”

During his first year, Murton worked on 17 lawns. He remembers his parents were very supportive and understanding, especially when Murton got the family car dirty, which he used to transport the lawn mower.

Continue reading

Disability accessible travel technology provides independence and confidence

(December 2015)

Digital StillCamera
Laila Grillo climbs Switzerland’s Mt. Altmann, in her homeland. /// photo courtesy of Laila Grillo

She can climb mountains, ski and speak four languages; but Laila Grillo could not attend language school in Ireland, because “they didn’t want a blind student.”

Others told her it was impossible to pursue a farm internship once she expressed her interest to study international agriculture, yet since then, Grillo completed two internships and is currently enrolled in her fifth semester at the Bern University of Applied Science, in Switzerland.


The 24-year-old doesn’t let people tell her what she can or cannot do, but seeks ways to work around any circumstance, instead.

“I never had a school saying we don’t accept blind students,” Grillo said. “I was sad, because I couldn’t go with my class, but at the same time I was also lucky to come to Canada.”

Grillo is fond of travel and passionate about both mountain, as well as rock climbing. She also visited Italy, France, England, Wales, Liechtenstein, Spain and eventually Ireland, scaling nine mountains and various indoor climbing walls, including those in her Swiss homeland.

At that time, she studied economics and languages to become a business employee. Currently, Grillo speaks Italian, German, French and English. During her mandatory studies in an English speaking country, she lived in Toronto with her friend, Sheila Ford.

According to Ford, all that could stand in the way of success for Grillo and others with disabilities are people, not a disability itself.

“I know this from personal experience, because of being deaf myself, there’s a huge price you pay for it,” she said. “The stress of trying to become a part of the world that you would usually be excluded from.”

Continue reading

Voluntourism: good, bad and ugly

(November 2015)

Hoi Yee Ding /// photo courtesy of Ms. Ding

A former lifeguard, weighed down by 30-50 lb. equipment, struggled while learning how to swim all over again along the Honduras Barrier Reef, scuba diving and collecting data for Reef Conservation International.


Hoi Yee Ding’s childhood dream lay under the sea, but the 30-year-old Toronto clerical worker left behind her passion, marine biology, back in university.

In 2014, years later, swimming around vivid parrot fish, queen conchs, dangerous sharks and invasive lionfish, rekindled what Disney’s The Little Mermaid first inspired in her life.

“You sometimes move away from passion and rediscover it when you have a chance,” Ding says. “That’s why I wanted to look for volunteer experience in marine life. The first few days (diving) is a little bit scary, it’s literally learning how to swim all over again.”

Changing her regular vacationer routine after travelling across North America, Europe and Asia, she searched for possibilities to give back to the world and planet Earth.

A research report by travel analyst Henry Harteveld, shows Ding is one of over 3.5 million people embarking on international volunteer trips each year. The multi-billion dollar volunteer tourism industry – also known as voluntourism – is the fastest growing sector in the travel space, according to CBC documentary Volunteers Unleashed.

It is also the most controversial, following instances where voluntourists take jobs beyond their training or ability while rushing to provide international aid.

“Medical students operating on people… the dangers of that,” says Jacob Taddy, founder and director of Onwards Inc. “Or I think teachers is the one that really hit home with me, we wouldn’t allow a random high schooler to walk into our elementary school and teach our kids, but it’s totally fine over there (in developing countries.)”

Continue reading

Parkour women are on the rise

(October 2015)

Each day is a journey for Brandee Laird. Living in motion, the 28-year-old pulls herself over walls and balances on rails. Running both indoors and outdoors, the head coach of Seattle’s Parkour Visions Gym vaults over fences, flips off bars and rolls across various types of terrain.

She hosted the fifth annual North American Women’s Parkour Jam for the first time in July 2015, welcoming 75 women travelling from across the United States and Canada for a two-day weekend event in Seattle, Washington.

“It was surreal to host the event,” Laird said. “It was also powerful and touching to visually see the impact of my leadership, as if they were all trying to prove to me – and some do, verbally – that I am a valued part of our community and an inspiration to many.”

But this self-described warrior-poet is not alone; along with other Parkour leaders, they coach women and men alike in a discipline originating from France in the ’90s.

Dan Iaboni is the head coach at Toronto’s Monkey Vault Movement Training Centre – the world’s first Parkour Gym opened in 2008 – he sees an increasing popularity among women in what used to be a male-dominated discipline. He trains classes that started having an equal participation rate among both men and women.

Continue reading

The Great Escape – A Canadian story

(December 2013)

Many people envision a plethora of vivid imagery when they hear about The Great Escape.

Whether those are individual memories, remembering others who served in the Second World War, Nazi rule under Adolf Hitler’s reign of terror, the famous Stalag Luft III POW camp or the 1963 classic Hollywood film – featuring Steve McQueen and his dramatic motorcycle scene – many go without realizing it is, in fact, a Canadian story.

As award-winning author and journalist Ted Barris, illustrates in his new book The Great Escape – a Canadian Story, those holding key and general roles are Canadians, in what he says may be the greatest escape ever.

“It’s information that probably hasn’t been seen or heard before, because everyone thinks of the story as being that of the movie that came out in 1963,” he said. “My point is all these key positions in the hierarchy of the escape and the planning of it and the execution of it, were Canadian.”

In the film’s attempt to recreate the story in which the 80 Commonwealth airmen dug their way out of a POW camp, through a 400 ft. tunnel code-named Harry, it portrays fictitious characters instead of those involved in the actual escape.

While the film characters kept the roles of the prisoners, they changed their names and nationality. This makes it easy for members of the audience to confuse their identity with that of the real prisoners.

James Garner appears as Lt. Robert Hendley, (The Scrounger) in the film, an American in the RAF.

“… wasn’t true,” Barris said. The scrounger in the actual escape was a guy named Barry Davidson, he was a pilot from Calgary.

Continue reading

Toronto girl represents sick children in personal, inspiring stand against cancer

(March 2013)

Helena Kirk holds a string of beads. Each represents a step of hope. There’s one for a finger poke, one for chemotherapy. The next is for a spinal tap and another for port access. Over 500 beads adorn a necklace seven-year-old Helena holds in her hands.

“For every procedure I get a bead,” she said.

Patients undergoing treatment at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) are awarded small tokens of victory, referred to as bravery beads, in their battle against cancer. They are like milestones on a long journey. In Helena’s case, that journey started at age three. Since then she has taken on the role of ambassador, for the SickKids Foundation.

Her steps of hope began with an earache on April 1, 2009, when her mother, Sarah Calderwood, took Helena to see a doctor. Blood tests later revealed she had leukemia. Rushed to SickKids, Helena began treatments that continued over the next two-and-a-half years.

Continue reading