A Village In My Heart…

Today, Her Honour the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, will preside at a ceremony at Queen’s Park in Toronto where I will receive the David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility in the Role Model category.  Foremost in my mind in this special moment will be the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” My “village” will be in my heart today, and with gratitude I will accept the award in your honour.

In my early days at the Campbell Children’s School and the Grandview Children’s Centre, there were hundreds of clinicians, speech and language pathologists, physicians and occupational therapists and, yes, even a few behavioural consultants who all believed in my future probably more than I did at that time.

The phenomenal communications professionals and rehabilitation engineers at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (formerly the Hugh MacMillan Children’s Centre) gave me my “voice” and, together with the innovative team at Ideas for Independent Living, allowed my human spirit to soar.

The extraordinary educators at the Durham Catholic District School Board who are committed to inspiring learning in all students were amazing at recognizing my potential when some people would say there was none.

My colleagues and friends at Durham College were unwavering in their commitment to support my journalism aspirations and survived my exploits, including an unplanned trip down a flight of stairs on campus. I feel privileged to be one of your graduates, and I’m proudly wearing my Alumnus of Distinction pin on my lapel today.

The researchers at the Pennsylvania State University, the University of Alberta, and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital taught me to live discovery every day. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in your research projects, which have informed us more about inclusive education, assistive technology, literacy and communication.

The Together We Rock! team helps to turn possibilities into realities every day.  This extraordinary team of employees and volunteers keeps me focused, especially on Monday mornings!  In addition, my Rocking Comma Queen editor, talented illustrator and voice production duo bring my presentation stories to life.  The corporate leaders, educators, community organizations and students who have experienced the Together We Rock! message and then made a difference by taking one step to make the world a more accessible and inclusive place are my inspiration.

My friends are just the greatest.  You accept me for who I am and make me a better person.  We share moments of joy, sadness, laughter and unforgettable adventures.

The Draper, Evans and McDraper families support my endeavours with enthusiasm.  My aunts, uncles and cousins are the precious gifts in my life.  I know today that my late grandparents and dear Colleen and cousin Peter are with me in spirit.  In my head I can hear my Grampy Evans giving me some last-minute advice: “Try not to run over the Lieutenant Governor with your wheelchair!”

My brother David has taught me so much over the years.  It is fitting that you are a teacher with the Durham District School Board.  Your students are fortunate to have you in their lives.  You and Lyndsey are fabulous parents and built-in playmates for my adorable nieces.  

My parents, Craig and Nancy, have been my rock, and rock stars in my journey. Your greatest life lesson has been to teach me that all of us have unique gifts that can help to make our world a better place for ourselves and others.

So today…when I receive my award, I will pause for a moment and think of all of you, and with my heart I will say…You Rock!