Local people nominated as ‘sparks’ for inclusion

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They make a difference, each in their own way, to promote inclusion.

Community Living recently launched a Spark Change in Your Community campaign across Ontario to recognize people who have been advancing inclusion in their communities. So far, five people in the Huntsville area have been nominated for their efforts.

Kim Thompson and Rosemary McGuire-Herman can be found at the track at the Don Lough Arena every Monday, helping anyone who wants to participate in the upcoming Band on the Run event, says their nominator, Andrea Johnston. They helped Team Inclusion in Motion prepare for the 2017 event and all of the participants completed the 5km walk/run. They are now busy welcoming those who want to train for 2018.

Local musician, Sean Cotton, has been using his music to promote inclusion. He wrote and produced the song, “Spread the Word,” which advocates for the end of the use of the “R” word. The song’s video included people of all abilities. (You can watch the video below.)

Sean promotes inclusion through open mic nights at a local bar where all are welcome and included, and he also volunteers with People First Huntsville, a self- advocacy group, and with Community Living Huntsville, donating his time to perform at community events to raise awareness about inclusion, wrote Glen Slater, who nominated Sean.

“I enjoy the open mic pub nights because we get to sing together. He comes to visit me and we work on songs to play at pub night,” says Slater. “He’s a nice guy. The pub nights are the best!”

Six years ago, a small group of retired, ageing golf hacks in Huntsville were rallied by one of their own – Gary Donald – to do something meaningful in their community, wrote his nominators  Roy Miller, Ron Baker, Bob Burrows and Rick Wardell.

Gary proposed working with Community Living Huntsville to include some of the people they support at a Wednesday morning golf outing. Community Living Huntsville liked the idea and Deerhurst Resort agreed to lend their driving range and a few holes of their Lakeside course as time allowed.

The volunteers, led by Gary, started this golf project with three people from Community Living Huntsville — wonderful Ryan, chatty Rex, and Big Dog John, whose nickname came from the donated driver he used when he hit the ball a mile on the range. Today, the group has grown to eight participants, including Brenda, Terry, Margo, Blake, Bonnie and Kelley, and five volunteers. The objective is simple: To have fun, get together, and be included.

Scott Doughty is the general manager at Hidden Valley Resort, is a spokesperson for Community Living Huntsville’s Supported Employment Program. To him, hiring people who have an intellectual disability just makes good business sense. As someone who worked his way up from dishwasher to manager, he understands that if given a chance and the right supports, people can thrive, shares his nominator, Michelle Ainsworth.

Inclusion is a huge thing that you have to have within the workforce… I think hiring people who have a disability is a great thing. It opens the door to people who feel it has been shut to them because of disability. You don’t know how well someone can do until you provide that opportunity!
Scott Doughty, Hidden Valley Resort

Community Living Huntsville’s Supported Employment Program works collaboratively with people who receive support and employers to ensure success. Blake works at Hidden Valley Resort.

“It’s been an amazing experience for us to have Blake work here. He is always on time for work, excited to meet new people and be part of the team,” says Scott. “We focus on his strengths. His disability doesn’t deter him from being able to go out there and do the job.”

To Scott, the Supported Employment Program makes his community stronger.

“Working alongside Community Living Huntsville allows people to feel included in the community, the workforce and the town. It is something that every business needs to be a part of. Our community is not large. It needs to support people who have a disability and offer opportunities. We are a powerful community when all of us work together, not just the few.”

Steve Speicher and Cam

Steve Speicher and Cam

Steve Speicher works at Community Living Huntsville and Community Living South Muskoka as an advocate and mentor to Cam, who has Angelman Syndrome, and through Cam became involved in the Angelman Syndrome community. He began hosting an annual event in Gravenhurst alongside local hockey teams, and ensured that it was Cam who got to drop the puck to start the game, says Steve’s nominator Sue Tiffin.

“The event raised hundreds of dollars, but more importantly, Steve ensured that people in Cam’s community had the opportunity to get to know him,” writes Tiffin. “Steve is incredible. Whenever anyone is in need of assistance, he’s immediately there to help them without saying a word. He is thoughtful and caring. He really believes that everyone deserves to fully live life, as he does.”

You can read the full nominations for these ‘sparks’ and others at sparkchangetoday.ca. While you’re there you can also nominate someone you know who is working to promote inclusion.

An earlier version of this post neglected to mention Steven Speicher. We apologize for the error.

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1 Comment

  1. Karen Wehrstein on

    More credit where more credit is due: Rosemary McGuire-Herman does something else for inclusivity. She holds an important volunteer position with the Muskoka Novel Marathon, which raises more than $30,000 per year for our local YMCA Literacy Services. That money helps pay for free literacy, numeracy and computer skills instruction for adults, and related programs, providing inclusivity through teaching these skills. Most recently, it has funded the Y’s English as a Second Language class, helping newcomers to Canada, including three Syrian families, become included in our community and our nation. Thanks for all you do, Rosemary!

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