As a person who struggled for a long time with ADHD and dyslexia. Jay Mandarino understands the need for those with a learning challenge to receive the kind of support that will help them develop self-confidence, self-esteem, and direction. To learn more about his story and suggestions, read on!
THE EARLY YEARS
I was always a slow reader and I had a hard time pronouncing words and reading. I also had a really hard time focusing due to a very low attention span. My parents were both excellent readers who could tell there was something wrong. They arranged for several doctors including a psychologist to run some tests but no one could figure out what was wrong with me. They just described me as a slow learner and said all I should hope for was to maybe finish grade school and go to a special school similar to a halfway house for challenged young adults. They also said that career-wise all I could hope for was a job as a gasoline attendant, or if I was lucky, a mechanic’s apprentice. They told my parents that university was definitely not an option and even high school would be a challenge to complete. In school I was treated as an outcast. At one point I had to go to the front of the class to read out loud and I couldn’t pronounce the words and people started laughing at me. I was humiliated and felt stupid and so I started to cry.
I had no real friends and I was always getting into trouble, mainly fighting with other boys who often were older than me. I was picked on and bullied and I was not allowed to be on any sports teams or even given the chance to try out. My depression and extremely low self-esteem caused me to run away from home and to consider suicide twice. When I was nine years old I stood on top of a local bridge and contemplated jumping, but for whatever reason a voice within told me not to and I stopped. I was institutionalized at that point and given every kind of test possible and again the results indicated that there probably wasn’t anything that could be done for me. They prescribed Ritalin and I was medicated for a couple of years. Thank God my parents never gave up on me as I grew older and never stopped trying to find a solution.
Luckily for me they found another doctor who did some new tests and concluded I possibly had dyslexia and ADHD. This was the first news that showed promise that the mystery was solved! He suggested a private school with small classrooms could be a great solution. So I was pulled out of grade school and instead of going into Grade 8, I was placed in Grade 9 at a new school. It was there that I met Kevin, who introduced me to skateboarding and is still my best friend to this day. I love skateboarding so much that I consider it my saviour, changing my life forever. As I got older, my parents found another doctor who recommended I go to school in New York just near Buffalo, at an institute that specializes in teaching those with learning disorders—specifically dyslexia. My parents drove me down, I got tested and they confirmed my diagnosis: dyslexia and ADHD.
After years of being told I was stupid by both teachers and students it was now confirmed that I was actually smart with a well above average IQ, in fact it was near genius level. I entered The Gow School in Grade 10, with Grade 4 level reading skills and Grade 6 math. Two years later I graduated with honours and scored the highest mark on the New York State Regents exam for geometry, 98%. I also became co-captain of The Gow chess team and we won 70% of our matches. After Gow, I graduated from Grade 13 at Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute high school in Toronto and then went on to York University. I was three credits short of finishing my BA when a severe ski accident almost took my left leg. I spent six months in the hospital and had to undergo 10 years of rehab and physiotherapy, plus over 110 hours of surgery.
I started C.J. Graphics Images during Grade 13 in partnership with a friend named Chris. At the end of grade 13 I bought Chris out for $1256.00. While at university I made a new friend, Jim, whose father was a printer and then became a printing broker. I later registered the business as a proprietorship under the name C.J. Graphics and in 1985 I incorporated the company.
Initially I set up shop in my parents’ basement, then after university I bought a small townhouse and used the basement for production and the first floor for reception and meetings.I occupied one of the bedrooms on the second floor and sublet the other to a friend to help pay the mortgage. Shortly after that I bought a small industrial building using my townhouse as collateral. Later the city expropriated that building and I used the funds to buy a larger one and hire more staff. I then bought a second building across the street. After selling both buildings in 2000, we moved to one of our current locations and now we have three buildings totaling more than 125,000 sq. ft.
We own 35 different companies including three Not-For-Profits. Our total sales are over 40 million and we are still growing. I have one of the best teams in the country and I’m so proud of them. Profit Magazine named us one of the top 100 most profitable Canadian companies; we have been featured in many articles and have won over 6,500 awards. In the last five years alone we won more awards for quality printing than any other printer in North America!
I have also won a lot of awards for my philanthropy. Here is a quote from a recent article: “Jay’s philanthropic work has been acknowledged in many editorial articles, letters of praise and with numerous awards including three medals – the Diamond Jubilee Medal from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship from the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, recognizing individuals who, through exceptional long-term efforts, have made outstanding contributions to their communities, and the Order of International Ambassadors Medal.”
I am on the Board of the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario (LDAO), and have been co-chair of its annual breakfast for the past 10 years, which has raised over $1 million. I have also been co-chair of its “Stay in School” program, working with several Toronto police chiefs over the years. I speak at local high schools and around the globe free of charge to educate people on learning disabilities, or as I call them, learning challenges.
Here is an excerpt from one of my talks:
“My teachers and classmates told me I was stupid—until I was diagnosed with dyslexia, a disorder that is characterized by difficulty processing words. Eighty percent of learning disorders are dyslexic in origin. Reading problems are one of its symptoms. The disorder is hereditary and varies in degree of severity, thus affecting some people much more than others. I would never want any child to go through what I went through. It is vitally important to raise awareness about dyslexia so that it can be caught early. Children must have hope so they can chase their dreams and succeed in life and in business.”
Back in Grade 9 my best friend, who had lots of patience, taught me to skateboard; it changed my life and probably his as well. I would practice eight hours a day, six days a week. I was addicted. It was an individual sport, not a team sport, where you really only competed against yourself. The sense of community and willingness to help other skaters was incredible. It was hard work but also enjoyable, and it boosted my self-esteem. I skateboarded everywhere. I worked all summer on my skills and jumped over a Ferrari in front of the Toronto Eaton Centre in front of hundreds of spectators. Of course we didn’t have YouTube back then, but The Toronto Star shot pictures and I made the papers. The following summer I entered a contest at the CNE and got third place for slalom and fifth place for freestyle. During those years I was part of the Canadian contingent that greeted star skateboarders from the USA such as Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Jay Adams, who were all featured in the movie “Lords of Dogtown.”
Today I continue to skateboard and operate the largest Not-For-Profit indoor climate-controlled skatepark in the world. Our mission is to engage and empower all children in the community including at-risk youth and those with special needs such as kids affected by Cancer, Autism, Down syndrome, Deaf, Asperger’s, ADHD, OCD, LDs or any other challenge one might have. I also took over a skateboard program which I developed into ISCP (International Skateboard Certification Program)/SKATZ (Stance, Kicks, Axles, Transfers and Zen). As part of this program I travel all over the country and across the globe training instructors and promoting this great sport.
To inquire about our classes, click here.
CJ’s SKATEPARK References:
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto
Dr. Kenneth Handelman, MD FRCPC – Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
LDAO (Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario)
Mark Grimes – Toronto City Councillor
Through my Not-For-Profit JBM Auction Services, I aim to make giving appealing. Whenever I am invited to fundraising events to act as an auctioneer or master of ceremonies, my motto is: “Lend a hand by raising yours.” I donate my gala services to 50-60 events around the globe. In exchange for these services, I ask organizations to make a donation, small or large as they see fit, to my foundation sponsors and our special needs programs.
To inquire about my availability, click here.
Click below to view the awards Jay Mandarino has won.
Order of International Ambassadors Medal
Hero of the Year Award & Thank You Letter
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee & Medal & Certificate
Good Citizen Medal & Press Release & Certificate
Urban Hero Award
Canada’s Printing Industry Leader of the Year & Press Release
Canada’s Printing Community Leader of the Year
Meritorious Service to Youth Award
PrintAction Community Service Leader Award
ORT Local Hero Award
Etobicoke Chamber of Commerce Business Exellence Award
Profit 100 Award
IAPHC Premier Craftsman Award
Who’s Who Award
Domtar Fine Papers Award
His accolades also include:
- Canada’s Printer of the Year, Graphic Monthly Magazine
- The 100 Most Profitable Companies in Canada List, Profit Magazine
- Canada’s Printing Leader of the Year, PrintAction, Canadian Printing Awards
- Entrepreneur of the Year, Etobicoke Chamber of Commerce
- Community Leader of the Year, PrintAction, Canadian Printing Awards
- Lifetime Achievement Award, PrintAction, Canadian Printing Awards
(Jay is the first person under 60 to ever receive this award)
- Sam McCallion Community Involvement of the Year Award for CJ’s SKATEPARK, a Not-For-Profit company, awarded by the Mississauga Board of Trade Business Awards of Excellence
Jay currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario. He’s also served on the Pinball Clemons Foundation Board, The Advertising & Design Club of Canada (ADCC), was past Director of the Graphic Designers Association of Toronto, past President of the Toronto Club of Printing House Craftsmen (IAPHC), and past President of the Waterless Printing Association of North America. He’s also been a member of several key boards and committees for the PIA, OPIA (Ontario Printing & Imaging Association) and the IAPHC.
For a list of our companies, please visit: The CJ Group of Companies’ official website
My first book, “Cause for Laughter: Jokes From the Insane, Arcane, and My Uncle Wayne,” is now in its second printing. It features the best jokes I have collected over the past 25 years from various celebrities, politicians and friends. All book proceeds go to charity. My upcoming second book will teach adults and children about skateboarding.
Click here for more information.
Click here to see photos.
CJ Graphics Inc. Communication Solutions
560 Hensall Circle, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, L5A 1Y1
Tel 416-588-0808 ext. 232 Fax 905-272-0809
We’re located between the Queensway and Dundas Street East, 6 kilometres (4 miles) west of Hwy. 427, approximately 12 minutes from Toronto Pearson International Airport.