Wall of Honour

Rich Vanderwal

Rick Matos

Abdi & Zeinab

Zeinab & Abdi honour SCI Ontario and Sharol

It was a month and a half before we were connected with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCI Ontario). My husband, Abdi, had his accident and sustained a spinal cord injury in Egypt. We spent three weeks there and then it was another three after being airlifted to a hospital in Toronto. During that time, everything was dark, It’s like living in a house with four walls and no windows; not knowing what exists out there. Imagine having this kind of accident. You have so many questions. I did - I wondered would he ever walk? Would he ever sit? There were so many “ever’s”.

We were introduced to SCI Ontario through a nurse at the hospital. Christine, a Peer Support Coordinator, came to visit Abdi and I. For Abdi, it was important seeing someone like him. She was the first person throughout all this to say anything positive. After hearing for a month and a half bad news after bad news, she put a light at the end of the tunnel. It was the first time that someone showed us there could be life after a spinal cord injury.

We were visited by another Peer Support Coordinator, Charlie, and between both of them, they answered our questions. They were also helpful even when it came to telling me how I could educate myself. In a time of such confusion, this was so important.

From there, Abdi went through the rehabilitation process. We were supported by Maggie, a Regional Services Coordinator (RSC). She sort of paved the way and lead us through the phases of rehabilitation. Abdi is home now and accesses attendant services through SCI Ontario. Sharol is our RSC now.

It’s really like a big family - that’s how it feels. I adore the saying the SCI Ontario has - we’ve got your back. Because it’s so true. I heard that the person that started SCI Ontario (Canadian Paraplegic Association at the time) was paraplegic himself. He started it out of need and although it was unfortunate for him because he didn’t have the support, it’s very fortunate for us that this organization was started. They have really thought of every angle. You really feel that they are there for you.

We want to honour and extend our sincere gratitude to everyone who has been in our life and helped us through this journey - Christine, Charlie, Maggie and Sharol. But we especially want to recognize and honour Sharol. She has done so much and she is so experienced. She knows everything at the tip of her fingers. Sharol is very kind, very resourceful, and very attentive. Even the way she speaks to you - her smile - it makes you feel calmer. It’s so simple, but it matters.

Without SCI Ontario, I don’t know how life would be. Going back to the time right after the accident - hearing the word never is so discouraging. There may be truth to it, but it’s hard to hear. We need hope and it’s so important to know that there is life after a spinal cord injury.


Abdi: I honour my wife, Zeinab. She is always by my side. I also honour SCI Ontario as a whole. If I had to pick someone, it would be Sharol. She is wonderful. Whatever I need or whatever questions I have, she is so helpful for me.

Barb Dafoe

Honour Story

There are three mottos that I like to live my life by: 1) if you don’t set goals, you won’t improve, 2) it’s my body, it’s my life, and 3) there is always hope. These beliefs have helped me to rebuild my life after sustaining a spinal cord injury 8 years ago.

I fell down the stairs at my house and laid for over an hour before someone found me and called for help. The fall resulted in quadriplegia and all I could do at the time was blink. I’ve come a long way since then, but it didn’t happen without setting goals and working towards them.

I met Stephanie, a Regional Services Coordinator with SCI Ontario, while I was doing rehabilitation. Stephanie worked with me to help make my goals a reality. The main one being to go home. My apartment at the time wasn’t accessible and after working in a nursing home for 25 years, it wasn’t where I wanted to go. Stephanie got me on a waiting list for an accessible apartment and two years later one became available. I was able to return home to my community.

Now, it’s the everyday things that make me proud. Things like being able to take a few steps across my apartment, swimming in the pool at the Peterborough Sport & Wellness Centre and advocating for accessibility as a volunteer with the Council for Persons with Disabilities in Peterborough. I try and find ways to reach out to others with disabilities; to be a shoulder to lean on and to let others know that they don’t have to be alone.

Without Stephanie and SCI Ontario, I probably wouldn’t be connected to all of these things. SCI Ontario helped me to know where to go. There are three people I would like to honour: my ex-husband, my god and Stephanie at SCI Ontario. I honour them because they have all been there with me on my journey and have made it possible for me to reach my goals and keep setting new ones.

Council for Persons with Disabilities

Honour Story

The Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities (CPD) is a volunteer-led organization, dedicated to improving the quality of life for all persons with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity in all aspects of life. The CPD also advocates on behalf of persons with disabilities and promotes public awareness and understanding of the needs of persons with disabilities.

The Peterborough CPD wishes to honour Stephanie Bolton, Regional Services Coordinator with SCI Ontario. Stephanie is a director on the Board of CPD. At CPD, we look to partnerships with outside organizations for their expertise. Stephanie has been a great community resource and her ability to make connections and connect the dots is invaluable. Especially in a rural community, advocacy and education are extremely important when it comes to accessibility.

Although Stephanie has been involved in a number of projects with CPD, one example that stands out is an annual event that we organize. It’s for National Access Awareness Week. We invite different organizations to come out and have information booths and we’ve implemented role playing into our recent event to increase awareness and understanding. Stephanie assisted with mobility role playing, where we have someone use a mobility device in a public space and they are paired up with someone who has lived experience. Stephanie was very good in terms of ensuring that it was done in a dignified way. She also ensured a certain level of professionalism so that the activities could happen safely and seamlessly.

Stephanie is incredibly professional and has a great sense of humour. She gets that persons with disabilities are people first and foremost and she is a passionate advocate for accessibility in our community. We’d like to honour her because she really cares about the people she works with and strongly believes in equal access, inclusion, and dignity.

- Caitlyn Costello, Anna Lee, and John McNutt

Council for Persons with Disabilities

Alec Denys

Alec Denys

Stephanie Honours Volunteers, including Alec Denys

As a Regional Services Coordinator with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, the work that I do is supported by many amazing volunteers in the community. I want to honour them. They dedicate their time and energy to helping others and making our community more accessible and inclusive. Among these volunteers, there is one that I would like to highlight.

Alec Denys is a Peer Support volunteer with SCI Ontario but has also supported other projects. When I think of leadership, commitment, and leading by example to create change to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, there are few that have the stamina and dedication that Alec does.

A healthy and active lifestyle has always been an integral part of Alec’s life, but it has been especially important to him after sustaining a spinal cord injury. Alec spent his career working at the Ministry of Natural Resources. After his injury, he was offered a desk job. But he refused to be limited by other people’s expectations. He pushed for an ATV and adaptive equipment, like leg braces, to be able to continue working in the field. He found a way and always does. He has this saying, that he doesn’t want his disability to define him, and he makes sure it doesn’t.

The fact that he focuses on abilities and strengths, not weakness, is one of the reasons why I recruited him to be a Peer Support volunteer. He challenges others to step outside their comfort zone and to push their boundaries. He’s a role model because he embraces this in his own life. Aside from devoting a good deal of time to volunteering in the community, Alec is a five-time Paralympic athlete in archery and is an avid sportsman. Skiing, curling, basketball, cycling - you name it, he does it.

Alec says that what he enjoys the most is being able to make a difference in someone’s life. He gives the example of being out cross-country skiing one day with one of the people he was matched with through the Peer Support Program. They had been out once before and this was their second time. It was a nice day, late afternoon, and things seemed to be going well. His match was eager to go further and Alec was getting worried that he may have pushed him too far, especially seeing him struggle with a steep hill. But then he turned to Alec and said, “there’s no place I’d rather be right now.” It’s these types of moments that he enjoys the most - helping people feel something they thought they would never experience again.

I would like to honour Alec because he is a role model to many, with a kind heart and an open mind. I am proud to work with Alec on projects in our community and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone else who understates his work while making the biggest impact to those around him.

Debby Bothwell

Debby Bothwell – Living Life on her on Terms – In Honour of Her Family

Debby Bothwell was born 60 years ago with spina bifida. Back then, the disability was relatively unknown.

“The doctors told my father that I should be left at the hospital to be put up for adoption, forgotten about and to have more children. My parents, who were in their early 20s, ignored the medical advice and brought me home,” Debby said.

This is why she honours her late parents, Reta and John, who always encouraged her to pursue her goals and strive for a full, independent and healthy life.

“Growing up, if I needed a new wheelchair or leg braces, my parents would connect with other parents of children with disabilities and arrange funding from the Rotary Club. The only homecare support available was a public health nurse who would visit us at home sporadically. When I started school in kindergarten, my teacher had physiotherapy training. Parents from the community would drive us to our medical appointments. I was integrated into mainstream school in grade one.

“My brother and I both had chores, like feeding the family cat and dog and washing dishes. If I couldn’t reach anything, like the cat’s dishes and food, they were placed within easy access so I could do it, just as my brother did. My father built me a bicycle from used wheelchair materials so that we could go out bike riding together as a family.”

Debby honours her parents through advocacy efforts by reminding others of how life was when accessibility was practically non existent.

In 2005, Debby was diagnosed with spinal stenosis (secondary complications related to spina bifida) and had to leave the workforce after having more than 30 years of employment in various clerical positions, including the provincial Ministry of Finance.

Shortly after that she obtained assistance from Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. The supports included: housing help, Peer Support, funding for wheelchair and assistive devices – cushions, mattresses, transfer boards and transfer sheets. They were a godsend. Without their, help, Debby doubts she would have the quality of life she enjoys today.

Now retired, Debby lives with her brother and his family in Whitby in a bungalow where they often relive their childhood memories. “I give him a lot of credit for taking care of me after my parents died. I lived with them my whole life and it was a real shock to lose them within five years of each other.”

As well as honouring her parents, Debby honours herself by being diligent in her self-care, by following a healthy diet and exercising at home. Staying connected with her friends also boosts her mental health.

These values keep Debby grounded and help her to maintain a sense of purpose in her life. She is grateful to her friends and family and for the continued support from Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, which has given her a sense of independence by linking her with key services in her community that have empowered her to live life on her own terms.

Dorn Roche

Dorn Roche – In Honour of His Father and his Invaluable Life Lessons

For nearly 50 years and most of his adult life, Dorn Roche of Ottawa, has lived with a disability. He is fearless and unstoppable.

He has lived life to the fullest and did exactly what he set out to do. He pursued an education that led to a successful accounting career, participated in a wide range of adaptive sports, including sailing and curling, got married and contributed to the disability community. Dorn is well known to Spinal Cord Injury Ontario as a former employee and an active supporter and fundraiser.

In August 1966, Dorn’s life changed forever.

While driving home from a dance club near St. Adele, he fell asleep and hit a telephone pole, sustaining a permanent spinal cord injury and paraplegia. The support and encouragement of his family, especially his father, Desmond Thomas Roche, helped him through difficult times.

Dorn’s father taught him when he was a little boy to stick with what he endeavored to do, even though sometimes he had difficulty completing it.

“He taught me that if you stick with it, you will succeed. This is what I strived for all my life. I applied this in my education, work, faith and social activities. My dad was a great advocate for moving forward and accomplishing our goals. Even today, when I set out to do something, I’m always thinking of what he would do,” Dorn says.

Dorn is also grateful to Joe Laliberté, the former Executive Director of what was then called the Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA) Quebec Division. Joe was a great support to Dorn and his parents. Joe was a war veteran with a spinal cord injury so he had first-hand experience of what Dorn was facing.

Joe had many discussions with Dorn and his family and he emphasized the possibilities. Joe showed Dorn’s parents how to make changes in their home to make it accessible. He encouraged and supported Dorn in continuing with his active social life.

“From that point forward, I was always an advocate for CPA. Everything he explained was on how to stay positive in faith, health and social living. Advice I have taken to heart ever since.”

Several years later, in 1991, after working as an accountant, Dorn saw an advertisement for a position with Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario (now known as Spinal Cord Injury Ontario) and met with David Byers, the Executive Director at that time, and they hit it off immediately.

“I worked for many years as their Director of Administration and Finance and will always remember the terrific time I had. It was a very positive and satisfying atmosphere. I left in 2000 and moved to Ottawa, where I continued my relationship with the Ontario branch of the association.

“SCI Ontario has been a large part of my moving forward, right from that initial meeting with Joe Laliberté in September 1966 to now. I continue to help SCI Ontario on an ongoing basis and they continue to help me.

“As I am getting older – I am now 70 - things are changing with my body and paraplegia, so I need information on aging with a disability. I would also like to pass on information about the aging process to others who have paraplegia. I think this is extremely important for the young people who have this disability.”

Dorn honours the support he received from his father and from Spinal Cord Injury Ontario through his commitment to helping others with disabilities.

Gary & Gayle

Gary & Gayle

Gary & Gayle - Honour Story

Gary Froude and Gayle Dempsey are pillars of the arts and culture community in Port Carling in Muskoka. It keeps them very busy. They have a gallery attached to their home, they run artist-in-the-school programs, give lessons and do other cultural programming. Their life turned upside down, though, on June 27, 2013 when Gary ended up in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital because of an unidentified virus. He was totally paralyzed, unable to move anything but his eyes. The exact cause is unknown but is an unidentified virus. Faced with the challenge to adapt to a new way of living, they have approached it with the same vigour as when they were building the arts community. Their experience shuttling between various hospitals and healthcare facilities in Toronto and Barrie has made them aware of some of the gaps in the healthcare system. They’ve seen first-hand what it’s like to hit road blocks along the way.

One of these road blocks was learning that Gary wouldn’t be able to go home. He uses a ventilator to help with his breathing and they were told that there weren't enough resources (nurses or trained staff) in Muskoka to be able to provide care for someone who uses a ventilator. With some creativity, persistence, and help from Heather Hollingshead, they’ve been able to find another way.

Gary and Gayle met Heather, a Regional Services Coordinator with SCI Ontario, when Gary was in the ICU. She has been with them on this journey ever since. At the time, they hadn’t really wrapped their heads around what Gary would need to be able to live independently. He would need things like a wheelchair, a modified vehicle, and renovations to make their home accessible. Heather was able to let them know about all these things and right away began the process to get Gary a wheelchair. As time has gone on, Heather has been there to assist them. She was also able to put together one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle - getting Gary home.

After learning that local healthcare resources wouldn’t be able to provide that level of care for Gary to return home, they applied for direct funding and were successful. They were also accepted into the Transitional Home Ventilation Program at West Park Healthcare Centre in Toronto. This program is unique because it provides training to the individual and their caregivers on everything to do with using a ventilator. Training this team and not having to rely on external care means it will be possible for Gary to go home.

Although there are many people that Gary and Gayle would like to honour, Heather is at the top of their list. They explain that without her, they wouldn’t have the quality of life that they have now. Gayle explains that “she just weaves everything together in such a beautiful way. She’s never left all the way through this process.” Gary adds, “it’s interesting because, where we come from in Port Carling, we’re looked upon as the gurus of the creative community. As much as we know that community, Heather knows the health community. She has it down pat and has led us so gently and so wonderfully.”

They’d also like to honour their families and their community, as well as Raj and the team at West Park, who have been so supportive. Gayle says, “especially Gary’s family who committed to doing the transition to home program. Without that commitment we wouldn’t be here today.”

Finally, Gayle and Gary honour each other. For Gayle, she honours Gary because he’s had the courage and desire to keep going, to keep getting better and to get home. She honours him especially for his resiliency and courage. For Gary, he says “it would have to be the same for me with Gayle because she’s still here. It’s been a long year and a half road, she’s still here and she’s still at my side. That’s pretty phenomenal, too.”

Elizabeth Winkelaar

Elizabeth Winkelaar

In honour of those who have given her strength and comfort

By Mary Dufton

Photo by Propeller Dance

Ottawa’s Elizabeth Winkelaar is very active in her community. For more than a decade, she has been a recreational and competitive adaptive sailor and for almost as long, a dancer with the local Propeller Dance troupe. She and her partner David have sailed the Caribbean in a tall ships adventure. She is the 2012 winner of the Celebration of People’s Artistic Excellence award for her work with Propeller Dance. She is also a dedicated volunteer with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario’s Peer Support Program.

Elizabeth sustained a spinal cord injury when she was 18. She and her fiancé were travelling on a motorcycle that was hit by a truck driver. She credits Spinal Cord Injury Ontario with providing her with the support to lead the life she leads today.

From the beginning of her injury, SCI Ontario’s staff was there for her. She had her rehabilitation at the Lyndhurst Hospital in Toronto where SCI Ontario’s offices are also located.

When she was living near Parry Sound it was very isolating. Regular visits from SCI Ontario’s staff were life-savers for her; helping her in so many ways to maintain her fitness and knowledge. When her marriage ended and she needed personal care funding, they helped her get through what she calls “the hardest time of my life.” Without them, she doubts she would have made it and believes she would be in a nursing home or a psychiatric hospital instead of in her own home.

“Since moving to Ottawa, I became part of SCI Ontario’s Peer Support Program. This has been a huge help to me and I have been so fortunate to meet other women and men who have disabilities, who take the time to talk with me and get to know me. If I can also give back something with my own knowledge and experience, it makes me very happy and fulfilled. Many of my dearest friends have disabilities; they are the finest people I know and they inspire me every day to do my best and keep moving forward.

“First, I honour my parents for helping me adjust to my paraplegia. They did not waste time on blame or anger. They were very sad and scared but they rose above that to be there 100 percent for me. They gave me the strength and courage to face the challenges of a new life. Their unconditional love, devotion, sense of humour, and simple hard work gave me the support I needed to approach being a paraplegic with a positive attitude. If you have someone who loves you and is in your corner, you can face anything. The strength of family in general has always been a well-spring of comfort to me.

“I also honour all the women with disabilities who have been my friends and mentors throughout the years. Some of these relationships have developed through the Peer Support Program and others have come from sailing with Nepean Sailing Club with other sailors with disabilities. There is no time too dark or confusing to share with these women. These are true friends; friends who accept me unconditionally and who are there for me by simply making a phone call or reaching out by email. From these women, I have learned to laugh in the face of pain, that all things get better with time, that all things are easier when shared.

“I've also learned many practical things like where to find accessible places to go and enjoy; what is going on in the city; and how we each, at times, face challenges with our loved ones as well as others in society. Together we are stronger and wiser in dealing with these challenges.”

We can learn a lot from Elizabeth’s story about the importance of gratitude, strength and the support of friends and family to get us through the tough times.

Madelyn Scanlan

Madelyn's Honour Story

It has been almost two years since I had to stop working at SCI Ontario due to health issues. For those who do not know me, I held the role of Peer Support Coordinator in the Ottawa office for 11 years. I am happy to honour a few individuals with whom I had the pleasure of working with throughout these years.

The first individual I would like to honour is Angela Clair, a Regional Service Coordinator in the Ottawa office. Angela arrives at work each and every day ready to tackle the many challenges of the job. She has helped so many people over the years in so many ways from spending time listening to their concerns, helping clients find equipment, housing, and doctors and even retrieving runaway pets. Her joie de vivre is contagious which makes every day a good day to be at work.

As the organization can attest to, Peer Support volunteers are the heart of the organization. Although I was blessed to have over forty amazing Peer Support volunteers, there are a few who deserve extra recognition for the many times they selflessly met with their peer matches, attended patient education sessions and Peer Connection events. I honour Randy Romain, Maura Athayed, John Knight, Pierre Heroux, Mario Dube and Jeff McBride.

I also had the opportunity to work with a number of Peer Support Coordinators in the rest of Ontario but the two I would like to honour are Charlie Warriner and Ron Rattie. Charlie and Ron are very special individuals, their sincerity of heart and great sense of humour made our monthly conference calls and provincial workshops great fun.

I can honestly say that I miss working at SCI Ontario. It was a great place to work. The management, staff and volunteers truly care about making a difference in the lives of those they serve. I extend my love and respect to all.

Sally Thomas

Sally Thomas

Sally Honours Her Brother through Art

By Sally Thomas
8” x 14”
Acrylic on pressed board

Thinking about how to honour her brother, Wayne, Sally knew it would have something to do with music.

“He loved music like I love art,” Sally says.

In the painting (pictured at right) there are indents and they represent sound decibels in music.

Wayne passed away when he was 18. He was a musician and just generally very passionate about it - both listening and playing. There is a lot of texture in the piece, representing aggressive music - the kind Wayne listened to.

Adding a bit of her own personality and as a way to honour herself, Sally chose to do the painting in vibrant, bright colours. Sally explains that it’s important for her to honour Wayne because he didn’t get the chance to live or the opportunity to grow up.

Sally is a Peer Support volunteer with SCI Ontario and has accessed their services in the past. She can often be found in the art studio and recently had her first art show at Heartwood House in Ottawa.

Shirley Clark

Honouring Paul

For six years now I have been an Opening Doors Monthly Donor with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. I started out as a donor and immediately realized that this organization that has been around for 70 years really was unique.

When I first went to their office, I was visiting a friend who was there recovering at Lyndhurst and he told me about the Peer Support volunteers from Spinal Cord Injury Ontario who would come to visit him. They were helping him to cope and to let him know that he would be okay and that someday he would be back at home and perhaps volunteering himself.

That made all the difference to me. This personal contact, so soon after his injury, with people who have a spinal cord injury who are volunteering and working. to me was very unique. I could see firsthand the great work they were doing.

Not only do they employ people with spinal cord injuries but they also offer so many programs and services throughout local communities to assist people to integrate back into their community.

By donating, I felt like I was giving back to help those newly diagnosed so they could get to that point again in their lives where they could volunteer and work.

I would like to honour my friend Paul who has a spinal cord injury.

When I think of Paul and how much he has achieved in his life and how happy he is, I am so proud of him and that is why I honour him. He has achieved far more than most people I know with probably far greater effort, yet showing it effortlessly.

I honour Paul by supporting SCI Ontario as a monthly donor and in doing so helping other people with a spinal cord injury to achieve the same in their lives.

I am proud to be an Opening Doors Monthly Donor with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.

Marshall Hogan

Marshall Hogan

Homan/Hogan Charity Bonspiel

On February 28th and March 1st, the community of Smiths Falls came together for the inaugural Homan/Hogan Charity Bonspiel. The energy that was felt throughout the weekend is hard to put into words. There was certainly a warmth and friendliness during the tournament and it’s clear that the event was supported by the community on every level.

Marshall Hogan was just thinking to himself that he’d like to be doing more in the community when the perfect opportunity presented itself. He’d spent the first few years after sustaining a spinal cord injury adjusting to a new way of life, but now he was feeling ready to get involved in something more. He’s always been a very community-driven person. Prior to his injury, he played and coached hockey and was a mentor to many and he was eager to get back out there again.

Unbeknownst to Marshall, his brother-in-law, Dan Andress, had proposed the idea of a charity bonspiel at the local curling rink. It would benefit Spinal Cord Injury Ontario because of Marshall’s injury and personal connection. He had come up with the idea and people were excited. But he wasn’t sure if Marshall would be on board. So, Dan asked him if he would lend his name to the bonspiel. For Marshall, it was just the kind of opportunity he was looking for. Both of them saw it as a way to honour the people close to them, but for different reasons.

For Dan, it was a way to honour and give back to Marshall for everything he’s done for their community. The thing that strikes him the most is that Marshall makes time for everyone. As a mentor in the community, Dan has always admired Marshall’s willingness to pitch in and help. Especially while coaching competitive hockey in Smiths Falls, he never failed to instill a feeling of giving back in those around him and that is exactly what Dan wanted to do.

The other person Dan honours is Mark Homan. The first half of the bonspiel’s name belongs to Mark who is an Ontario junior curling champion. Dan is so grateful to him and his team for spending their weekend at the tournament. Lending his name to the event was a really big deal to Dan.

Marshall was really glad to have the opportunity to be part of the event. He saw it as a way to honour the people who have supported him and helped him get to where he is today. So, who does Marshall honour? There are many people, including his personal support workers and staff at the Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre. At the top of the list though, are his wife and sons, who kept him going through the darkest times.

It was also a way for Marshall to help others with spinal cord injuries. And help it did!

The inaugural Homan/Hogan Curling Bonspiel raised $6,772 to support people with spinal cord injuries. The money raised will rebuild lives and help to rekindle a passion for life in someone with a spinal cord injury, through programs like Peer Support.

One of the other things that Marshall hopes will come out of the bonspiel is increased awareness about accessibility. Marshall realized that it might not be at the top of people’s minds - it wasn’t for him before he was injured. But it’s very important to him to try to make these changes, especially in his community of Smiths Falls. Not only for himself, but others too.

Mike Mulligan

Mike Mulligan

Always Moving Forward

I didn’t have to look very far to see who I would honour. Without a doubt, it’s my family. They have been by my side since I first sustained my spinal cord injury when I was a teenager. From that time on, their love and unwavering support has kept me moving forward.

On June 15, 1996 my life changed forever. I was a typical teenager living in Southwestern Ontario. I liked sports, did okay in school and had a part-time job at a local grocery store. But on that day, driving home from a party, I lost control on a gravel road and flipped my parents’ car. I had broken my neck causing me to have C4 quadriplegia, having no movement from my neck down.

During my time in the ICU and at Parkwood Hospital in London, where I did my rehabilitation, I was never alone because of the support of my family. I did physiotherapy and learned how to do the little things like eating, writing, and typing, which gave me hope and made me realize that, really, I could do anything.

I have never let my disability stop me from moving forward with my life. I was able to finish high school, get a university degree, get a great job, buy a house, drive independently and travel throughout the United States and Australia. I’m very happy with my life and the accomplishments I have made but I’ve never given up on my dream of one day walking again.

One of my goals was to stand at my sister Jamie’s wedding. I had heard about a center in California that was specializing in Spinal Cord Injury Recovery and I decided to check it out. I wasn’t sure what they could do to help me, but I went into every training session with a positive attitude. During my time there, I was able to learn more about my nervous system and how to increase my upper body and core strength.

Not long after this training, with the assistance of my new standing chair, I realized my goal and stood beside my sister at her wedding.

After months of successful training at home, I decided to head back to California. However, the trip was put on hold as I was diagnosed with Chronic Myloid Leukemia and needed to start chemotherapy. This was one of the most difficult things I have had to deal with. I was very fortunate, though, that this type of cancer could be treated with a daily pill. I continued my treatment and I was finally given the okay to continue my journey.

I returned to California and continued to learn about my nervous system and set a goal of free standing with the assistance of a trainer. My family came to visit (pictured at right) and it was an honour to have them there, when I was able to stand with them for the first time in almost 17 years. My hard work and determination had paid off and I could see that they were so proud of me.

It always comes back to my family. They’ve always been there to push me and encourage me to do whatever I want. SCI Ontario’s Peer Support Program didn’t exist at the time I had my accident. So it was my family who were my peer support. It wasn’t until later in my life that I would meet Penny, who introduced me to SCI Ontario and asked if I would be a Peer Support volunteer, assisting others who were adjusting to life after a spinal cord injury. I really value having the opportunity to chat with other people who are going through a similar experience and tell them about my story and what I’ve been able to accomplish since then. I really enjoy giving back in this way.

With the support of my family and friends I have always been able to overcome the challenges of living with a spinal cord injury. My next goal was an ambitious one. I wanted to bring what I learned throughout my life and in California to Southwestern Ontario to help others with spinal cord injuries, to help them learn to set and achieve goals like I have. Always close by and ready to help; my family was by my side when I opened my own business, Moving Forward Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, in London on October 1st, 2014.

It is by continuing to set goals and work towards my dreams that I honour my family. I’m so grateful for their encouragement in everything that I do. I’m looking forward to seeing the progress of the Moving Forward Center and seeing what comes next.

For more information about Moving Forward Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, visit www.movingforwardlondon.com

Muniba Arshad

Muniba Arshad

Muniba honours Stephanie, her family and her husband

My husband, Arshad, sustained a spinal cord injury at work one day three years ago. In a moment, everything had changed. I want to honour all of the people who have been by our side and helped us through this experience.

At the time, we didn’t know what was really going on or what was wrong with Arshad, or even how he was going to live. We thought we were done - there’s nothing we can do.

We met Charlie, a Peer Support Coordinator with SCI Ontario, while Arshad was in the hospital. It was a turning point. When Charlie came, I was surprised to see him because it was my first experience seeing someone in a wheelchair and doing everything: driving, having a family, living independently. We became hopeful.

Charlie introduced us to Stephanie, a Regional Services Coordinator with SCI Ontario, who would be able to help us get the right equipment, navigate the healthcare system and WSIB. Stephanie also helped us realize it would be possible for Arshad to come home.

It’s been a long road and one that we’re still on. There have been many meetings with doctors, lawyers, and WSIB; but from the very beginning SCI Ontario has been there and to this day, is still just a phone call away.

I want to honour Stephanie because she taught me that we are living the same life as before, just in a different way. It’s very different, but at least we are living - which is how we’ve explained it to our kids as well.

I’d also like to honour our friends and Arshad’s sister and brother-in-law. Myself, I don’t have any family here in Canada and they have helped me to get through this. We have survived with the help of our friends and Arshad’s family. They have been a real blessing.

Finally, I want to honour Arshad - my husband. He has had to experience all of this and he is still there for us. I am so grateful that he’s home. He’s spending his time with us and can see our kids grow.

Randy Maura

Randy Maura

Muniba honours Stephanie, her family and her husband

Watching Randy and Maura interact, it’s like something straight out of When Harry Met Sally. Remember those clips sprinkled throughout the movie? With the couples sitting on the couch together, finishing each other’s sentences? They showed us what true love looked like and couldn't help but make you smile.

That’s Randy and Maura.

Randy has quadriplegia and is blind. The cause of his illness is unknown; but it is a kind of neuro-muscular disorder which has yet to be diagnosed. The effect of the virus has progressed throughout his life and he now has limited movement of his head and uses a ventilator to breathe. He met Maura, a volunteer from Brazil, while he was living at a complex continuing care facility. Randy was helping her with her English while she volunteered at the hospital. They became friends and over time, fell in love. They have since married. Now, they are role models for many who wish to not only live, but thrive, in the community despite the systemic barriers that remain.

Randy is very clear about how he feels about Maura. “My love for Maura was unbelievable. I never loved anyone as much as her. When we were apart, all I did was think of her. She was my pride and joy, and I wanted to share every moment with her; but with me living inside an institution, it was just not possible,” he says. Their love for each other has helped them to overcome challenges throughout the years. The first one they faced was early on in their relationship: moving in together. As Randy mentions, it was difficult having a relationship while he was living in the continuing care facility. They were hoping to move in together outside of the hospital and in the community.

Randy had been on a waiting list for two years for accessible housing. When he finally got the call that an apartment had become available, they had two weeks to accept. It might seem like an easy decision, but staff would not allow Randy to leave the hospital unless he had the right equipment to live on his own. This included an environmental control machine costing thousands of dollars, which enables Randy to do things like answer the phone and open the door. Raising enough money would mean that Randy could live outside of the hospital. It would also mean that he and Maura could finally move in together. In the next two weeks, they reached out to their network, and did everything they could.

They were successful.

Randy and Maura raised $20,000 in just two weeks. It was possible with the support of the media and community organizations, including Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCI Ontario). Randy believes that they were able to raise the money because people could see how much he wanted to make it happen. It’s just one of a long list of examples that show Randy’s passion, drive and determination.

Although she felt overwhelmed at the time, Maura was happy to be moving in with the love of her life. Randy and Maura have since lived together for 16 years. A month after moving out of the hospital, the pair became Peer Support volunteers with SCI Ontario. Randy wanted to give back to a community organization that had helped him achieve his goal of living on his own. He also wanted to show others with disabilities that they could do whatever they set their minds to, believing that if he can do it, so can they.

One of the things Randy had set his mind to was writing a book about his life growing up with a disability and his experience living within an institution. The goal of the book was not to make a profit, but to inspire others and tell them not to quit. His personal mantra is “where there’s a will, there’s a way” and he always tries to find a way. Randy couldn’t type it with his hands and a regular keyboard, so he wrote by typing in Morse code. He used his cheek to tap on a metal tab, which was attached to his wheelchair and positioned beside his head. Each letter, each word was done in Morse code, all the while Randy adapted to the changes in his capabilities as life went on. Four years later his book, called Facing the Challenge, was complete. In it, Randy describes his experience living in an institution as he refers to it. He writes about the lack of privacy and independence he felt, as well as his activism while fighting for residents’ rights as President of the Resident’s Council.

When asked if it was Randy’s determination and fighting spirit that attracted him to her when they first met, Maura explains what set him apart. Randy loves life. Even though he can’t see, he can’t move, and he can’t control anything he does in a physical way; he has the capability to control his own life without limitation. She’s quick to add that his positive outlook on life is not something that comes easily to her, it takes effort and she feeds off Randy’s energy. What’s most attractive to her, she says, is that Randy has a vision of his own life in a completely different way than others do of him. It’s easy to see the love, affection and pride they have for one another. They have a casual banter, smiling often as they describe their life together.

Like any relationship, it’s not always this peachy. One of the most challenging things they face as a couple is keeping up with the physical progression of Randy’s condition. Not because it limits the things they can do together. It’s because it means figuring out new ways to do things. The creative process to find these solutions usually results in a lot of arguing between them as they go back and forth over the best approach. It’s just the way they brainstorm. Although they joke that, with getting older, they are going to need to find a new approach. Maura explains that she’s inquisitive and likes to find solutions, and Randy needs solutions, which is why they are a good match. Always thinking of others, Randy adds that once they have found a solution, they like to share it with others to help other people. He believes that his strength and purpose in life is to help others.

Randy and Maura have really enjoyed being part of the Peer Support Program and having the opportunity to share their experience and knowledge with others. Along the way, Randy has met many people, but there are two in particular that he would like to honour. The first person is Madelyn Scanlan. She was the Peer Support Coordinator with SCI Ontario at the time. Randy explains that Madelyn sets a very good example and has a way of making things look easier. Madelyn understands the challenges faced by those she helps and Randy admires that she never shies away from tough conversations or sharing her personal experience to help others feel more comfortable. The second person Randy honours is Luc Polnicky, a fellow Peer Support volunteer. He is a very good example of what can be achieved after sustaining a spinal cord injury and when you are motivated enough. He sustained an injury early in life and went on to become a social worker to help others. He’s also a fellow author, having written a book on his own experience with disability. It’s clear to see why he honours Madelyn and Luc; they have had a big impact on Randy.

As well as honouring others, Randy also honours himself. He does this because he is true to himself in spite of his physical circumstances and the fact that his capabilities are always changing. He says that he’s never given up and has always tried to do his best, like when, a few years ago, Randy had to get a tracheotomy and start using a ventilator to breathe. For a lot of people, they would see this as the end. For Randy, it was the beginning, giving him more energy, enough to finish his book and volunteer in the community.

Maura says that, in life, you have a choice to give up or keep going. Randy responds that he never gave himself that choice, it was always clear to him that he’d keep going. He’s motivated by helping others cope with their disabilities or problems, fiercely believing that you have to find the positive in everything. He says that he always tries to be an example for others.

And what an example he is.

Each of us has that same choice: to face the challenge or not. Perhaps we could follow Randy’s example and choose to face it with love.

To learn more about Randy and his book, visit: https://www.facebook.com/FacingTheChallenge

Joanne Smith

Joanne Smith

Joanne Honours Lynn Mineque

I have had a 27 year relationship with SCI Ontario. It’s one that is still going strong to this day and I think it speaks volumes to what I think of the organization.

Over all of these years, the one thing that has kept me engaged the most are the friendships that I’ve made. I started out as a client and following my injury, was part of the Peer Support Program. That’s what really helped me get through. It’s also the reason why I’ve wanted to give back.

Since then, I’ve been engaged with SCI Ontario in a number of ways. I became a Peer Support volunteer and I’ve worked at SCI Ontario. I’ve also served as a board member and now I volunteer at events. Each time I return there’s a reunion-like atmosphere at events and this camaraderie and support has carried through over 27 years.

If I had to honour just one person, it would be one of the people I’ve known from the beginning: Lynn Miñeque. She is an incredible woman. Lynn is Manager of Special Events and in each of the roles I’ve had with SCI Ontario, I’ve had involvement with her all the way through. The organization would not be the same without her. What strikes me most is that she’s so genuine and sincere in everything that she does. This is what makes SCI Ontario.

In addition to Lynn, what has inspired me is looking at others with spinal cord injuries that have successfully followed their dreams and passions. They are out there living their lives and not letting anything stop them. I’ve always admired people being innovative and finding ways to pursue their passions and their dreams, whether it be family, career, or sports. That’s what I honour because you’re being true to yourself and following your dreams, whatever they may be. It never ceases to amaze me what people can do.

I honour myself by being true to who I am. The support I’ve received from so many people involved with organizations like SCI Ontario has allowed me to live as “normal” a life as possible. From having a career and a family, to travelling and just being able to do everything I’ve wanted to do. It’s been quite the experience.

Kim Demberline

I remember my great grandmother standing in front of the old Zellers on our Main Street of our town selling poppies every November. It didn't matter what the weather was like snow, sleet or rain my Nanny stood out there in her beret and sash, selling those poppies. She did it for her sons who fought in World War 2, to me that was honour. Lest we forget.

Today the word honour has been put back in my vocabulary for some of the same reasons my Nanny did her poppy selling and a few new reasons.

Seventeen years ago I had an unfortunate accident that left me a paraplegic. The year’s following have been an interesting journey of self awareness and love.

My family and friends, which have been a loving and supportive constant in my new life, have my respect and honour for standing behind me when I needed them and beside me in my successes. I know sometimes it was a very hard journey for both me and them, emotionally and physically but think we have come out on the other side with a close loving relationship.

In 1997 I was introduced to SCI Ontario, back then we were called Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario. My first contact with SCI Ontario was with Heather Hollingshead, Regional Services Coordinator, Barrie Office. It's funny I always joke that my first meeting with her in my drug induced state in ICU. I thought she was a Pastor. She was so kind and gentle but I just couldn't comprehend what she was trying to tell me. Heather is not one to let things go, so she went to see my family assisting them with the anticipation of my needs.

Once I arrived at Lyndhurst, Heather was part of the team that was the catalyst to my return home. She found me a place to live (my original residence was not accessible) assisted with filling out the forms for my finances, get the equipment that was needed and helped me get personal assistance in my new home.

Once I was discharged from the safe accessible world of Lyndhurst, it was very easy to slip into the secure confines of my new apartment. Not really wanting to leave into the world of barriers and uncertainty. Now this is where you would think my ties would end with SCI Ontario, after all I was rehabilitated and home, but Heather and SCI Ontario not only want you to live independently but to be a complete person one needs to have community participation, a purpose.

I was starting to have this premonition of me sitting in my apartment 20 cats at my feet; cigarette hanging out of my mouth, blinds closed watching soap operas all day. What a nightmare! This where the phone rings, it's Heather. “I was wondering if you would like to come out to a Wheelchair Relay Committee meeting." The Barrie Office had just had their very first one and wanted to do it again the next year. This ended in over 8 years of sitting and chairing on a committee with a very successful run of fundraising. This volunteering also lent itself to part time employment with SCI Ontario, Barrie Office. Heather must have had a premonition too thank god it was a different one.

I am the Regional Services Assistant working three days a week. I answer phones and do administrative work. I am often the first contact family and/or prospective new clients get when reaching out. It’s nice to be that ear, to let them know there they are in good hands with SCI Ontario. I am also the Peer Support Coordinator for the Barrie Office I coordinate Peer Connections each month bringing peers together for education, information and fellowship.

I love my job and working with the great Team at SCI Ontario. It's great to give back, to be there for others and show them there is life after spinal cord injury.

So I honour Heather Hollingshead, Regional Services Coordinator, mentor and friend, who has helped make the person I am today, and all the others at SCI Ontario that work so hard for this organization.

Lest we forget. I honour the great men and women who came back from World War 2 wounded and spinal cord injured, who had the belief that para's and quad's could live an independent, self reliant life with full community participation. These brave men and women took their own misfortunes and turned them into a new life for all those who followed in their footsteps or should I say wheel prints by starting Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario now Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.

I now know the real reason why Nanny stood out there in all sorts of weather. Honour, is a hard thing to repay but I really appreciate the life I have that so many helped to shape.

Shaun Westlake

Shaun Westlake
Respect, self-respect, and dignity are a few words to describe the values by which Shaun lives his life. SCI Ontario has benefitted from his high standard of volunteerism, as do all of the people he has influenced during his journey as a passionate advocate for people living with SCI.

About 30 years ago, Shaun sustained a C7-C8 SCI when he dove into a swimming pool. After he was stabilized at Ottawa Civic Hospital, he was transferred to Lyndhurst Rehabilitation Centre in Toronto. The day after he arrived, someone from SCI Ontario paid him a visit. That is when his relationship with us started, as a client, throughout his post secondary studies and to this day, working and living in Owen Sound.

“If SCI Ontario had not been there, my journey would have taken a lot longer, and it wouldn’t have been as comforting and fulfilling,” he said. “Would I have been institutionalized, or as independent as I am today? Would my perspective on what I’ve gone through been different? Someone at the hospital told me, “Today may be a horrible day, but tomorrow might be better.” Since then, my philosophy has been that it will get better. And yes, it has, and I’m happy how my life has turned out.”

He said, “The biggest disadvantage to someone with SCI is access to information, if you’re not in a large city. When you have an SCI, you have so many questions. I had a vision of where I saw myself in 20 years, then with my injury, that career path changed instantly and completely. SCI Ontario helped guide me on my new path.” Shaun started volunteering for the local Grey Bruce chapter about 20 years ago, and has been an active member on the Board of Directors for nine years. He is involved on the advocacy and governance committees, “giving back to an organization that helped me so much throughout my life.”

Shaun’s high values were instilled in him by his parents, who he honours for their never ending devotion. “I chose to honour my parents and all of the parents of people with SCI. I remember my journey from when I was 19, to now 47, and my parents have always been my anchor. Everyone who goes through this has to rely on family, and I can’t envision being where I would be without them. Having an SCI was dramatic, and it affected me most directly. On an emotional level I think it impacts family members more. I was busy with rehab and medical tests, and didn’t have time to think about anything else. That is what family members have more time to do.”

And how does he honour himself? By being true to what he believes in. “Maintaining a unique identity, not thinking of myself as using a wheelchair, and people not seeing me in a wheelchair. Using a wheelchair doesn’t define who I am; I’m just three feet shorter than what I used to be.”

With an education in computer science, Shaun is employed as a Team Leader at TC Transcontinental Printing in Owen Sound. When not busy working full-time, he is an avid amateur photographer, a fan of OHL hockey and enjoys spending time with friends and family.

Harley Nott

Harley Nott
“To contribute and thrive, not just survive” has been Harley’s motto. In his own words, he grew up, “a bit rough,” in the great outdoors of Vancouver Island, was expelled from school at 16, and worked in construction, forestry and logging for two years. In 1980, at 18, he broke his neck diving into a river. A logger with quadriplegia and a grade nine education, he saw little prospect for jobs and life. But he chose life, and decade later he was a busy trial lawyer and criminal prosecutor at the Department of Justice Canada, in Toronto.

Harley was introduced to the B.C. Paraplegic Association (now SCI BC) when he and his wife finished law school and were married. They both got articling jobs in Toronto, but needed guidance as to where to stay. “The association was very informative, and I don’t know what I would have done without them. The counsellors were the first people I saw using wheelchairs who had jobs, wore suits and ties, and had wives. It was a model that really helped me when I needed it.”

While practising as a lawyer, he was persuaded by a friend to join CPA Ontario’s (now SCI Ontario’s) board of directors. After he took a medical retirement from his law practice in 2002, he thrived in his volunteer position, and expanded his role beyond what he could have imagined.

He describes his volunteer roles as, “a bit of a vortex that pulled you in.” He started as a member of the board of directors and was also chair, and vice chair. He joined CPA National (now SCI Canada) as a delegate, and became President of the national association. He was a member of the board of directors for the Rick Hansen Institute (2005 – 2010), and sat on the board at Lyndhurst Centre which became the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. He was also on the board of the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network.

Harley has also been actively involved in Peer Support for many years, being matched with someone who is newly injured. A terrific role model, Harley was able to share with clients what his life was like when he first sustained his injury, and how they might be able to deal with obstacles they faced.

In working with SCI Ontario, Harley says, “I was able to see how things worked from the inside out, and was able to play a role in developing great programs.”

When asked who he honours, Harley was quick to say, “The founders of the organization; the WW11 veterans who returned from war, in an era when anyone with a disability was institutionalized. They weren’t about to be put in an institution. “If I honour the principles of the organization and the founders, then insofar as I do what they do, there is a certain honour in that.”

We are privileged that Harley chose to work with SCI Ontario. Harley lives in Toronto, and is a husband and proud father who enjoys spending time with his two children.

Mary Dufton

Mary Dufton
Mary Dufton has made great contributions to help remove barriers for people with disabilities and enable them to realize their full potential. Through her work, she has helped open doors for people with disabilities, increase awareness, and promote an inclusive, equitable society.

Mary was born with spina bifida and developed hydrocephalus shortly after her birth. Her involvement with SCI Ontario began in 2010, when she was first introduced to the organization through friends. She had already been writing for a number of disability publications and wanted to explore more writing opportunities. She met with staff at SCI Ontario, Ottawa region, and has been involved with the organization ever since. She said, “The staff at SCI Ontario are always supportive, and we share a common interest and understanding.”

She sees her volunteer work as, “an outlet for creativity, and an opportunity to be connected to, and give back to the community. That’s what is important. The greatest reward I get is helping make a difference. I’ve also made a lot of friends through SCI Ontario’s fundraising and peer connections events and summer barbecues I’ve attended. I have learned to water ski, alpine sit ski and sail. I am sure that I would not have done any of these activities if I had not been for the people I met who introduced me to these activities and who’ve inspired me to try new things. From this, I have also gained an insightful perspective on the community of people with disabilities. And I feel like I belong.

Mary has worked as a project officer with the public sector for the past 15 years. She has volunteered with national, provincial, and local disability organizations, including SCI Ontario, The National Capital Able Sail Association, Independent Living Canada, and the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association (SB&H) of Ontario, of which she has been a member since 1995. In 2011, she was the recipient of the Celebration of People Award for her volunteer work. Additionally, she and her husband Andre have a local support group for adults with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus, the Taster’s Club, where people can get together, share their experiences, and provide support to each other.

Along with a full time job, with everything she has on her plate, it is astounding how much Mary accomplishes. She says, “I enjoy all of my volunteer work and am thankful for the opportunities I have. In writing stories, I take my time to listen to people, and honour them for who they are. They help me realize that we have so many things in common. And I have learned something from everyone who has shared their story with me.”

Kim Donaldson

Kim Donaldson
With more than 20 years in the public policy field and in senior volunteer political roles, Kim is motivated by the causes she represents. She has been described as one of the best strategic communicators in the industry, and we are privileged that she has volunteered her time with us for more than 13 years.

Kim first learned the value of strong advocacy campaigns through her involvement in student issues at the post-secondary level. Today, as a Senior Consultant at Capital Hill Group, one of the largest independent government relations firms in Canada, she works on behalf of clients representing a wide range of social causes.

Kim first got involved with SCI Ontario, on behalf of one of her clients. She recalled, “From our very first project encounter, we formed a strong relationship, and I have been fortunate since to be engaged in numerous worthwhile projects.” Kim’s work with SCI Ontario utilizes her area of expertise – government relations. Working with our government relations committee and board members, she is a resourceful guiding hand, developing strategic approaches on a variety of fronts. She said, “Over the years, I have witnessed a huge growth in the reputation of the organization as a credible policy partner that is a go-to source for advice and information. To have played a role in this is very rewarding.”

“SCI Ontario has given me a heightened sensitivity and awareness about disability issues, and a way to help others understand what it’s like to live with a disability.” Kim recently had both of her hips replaced, and says she went through a lot of pain, physiotherapy, and mobility issues walking with a cane. “You don’t know what it’s like, unless you’ve genuinely dealt with it. I would say 60% of the time, every roadblock I hit; I got a better understanding of barriers for people with disabilities. For me, going through this, and working with SCI Ontario, has been like being on a spiritual journey, a transition from being well intentioned to understanding. I know the work we do together is making a positive impact.”

When asked who she honours, Kim said, Bill Adair, for whom she would always “sign up for another tour”, Joe Dowdall who has been enormously inspirational, and all of the staff with whom she has worked, with “a special shout out to Peter Athanasopoulos”. “I am very glad they are there. I hear stories about how someone’s life has been changed due to a catastrophic injury, and I think what if it happened to me? The first call I would make would be to SCI Ontario. They are on the front line, and I know they would be there to help.”

Despite her busy schedule, Kim continues to be active in politics: most recently, she was a key member for candidate Kathleen Wynne during her 2013 leadership campaign and 2014 election, and served with Premier Wynne’s transition team. Kim is a member of the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, and the Founder’s Chapter for Equal Voice, a multi-partisan organization dedicated to electing more women in Canada.