Nathalie Kaspy Shtern is a member of the Montreal Wexner Heritage 09 group. Nathalie is the President of Akiva School, the Founder and Executive Director of The Comfy Cozy Fund, and involved in and a member of various organizations in the Montreal community.  She is a Criminologist by profession.  Nathalie can be reached at

The best lessons are learned through unexpected opportunities.  We often do not realize the breadth of our learning until we look through the clear lens of retrospection.  Sometimes, defining one’s leadership, that ‘ah-ha’ moment requiring ‘step-up’ action, presents itself as shrouded. 

In 2003, my son Jake was diagnosed with cancer.  Not exactly a momentous time to think about leadership.  However, it became clear that I needed to make a choice about how to react.  Life was challenging us to fight, to innovate, to create and to make things happen.  I have always been an innate believer that the impossible is possible.  I needed desperately for Jake to believe that too.  I had very little control over the illness and could not eradicate it, however, I could manage his outlook.  I wanted to help my son and others to overcome cancer’s disturbing side effects.

Thankfully, Jake won his medical battle.  Along the way, we learned that it is not the events of life that define us, but rather our reaction and attitude towards them.

Jake and I became the co-founders of the Comfy Cozy Fund – a charity benefitting hospitalized children.  Through hundreds of volunteers involved in our events and one million dollars in donations, Jake too believes that anything is possible.  This was the most defining leadership moment in my life as a mother, a wife, a person affected by cancer, a community member, a fundraiser, a Jew and a citizen.

Although I wish I had never been given this opportunity, I cherish the outcome: a healthy son and thousands of kids fighting battles in ‘comfier and cozier’ environments.