October is Community Living Month!
The theme for community living month this year is Honouring Our Leaders. We want everyone to get to know a few of our community living leaders. Here are their stories:
LAURIE LARSON, Biggar
Laurie Larson, President of SACL, came to the community living movement as a parent looking to connect with other parents and to improve opportunities for her two sons who have disabilities. Laurie was a founding member of the SACL Family Network, a provincial network of families who have a member with a disability. She draws her strength from other families who have lived through the same challenges that she has faced as a mom and as an advocate. Laurie says that her inspiration for being involved in social change comes from SACL’s founding parents in the 1950s who bravely defied the norms of the day and worked diligently to ensure that their sons and daughters with intellectual disabilities would not be institutionalized, but would have a life in the community. Deinstitutionalization and creating more and better options for supported living in the community is a job that Laurie wants to see through to the finish line. She looks forward to a day when her sons will receive the supports they need based on their own dreams, goals and interests. As a Community Living Leader, Laurie is a visionary, maintaining that as a society we can and must do better at accommodating and including people with intellectual disabilities in school, work, recreation and all areas of community life. Ensuring that Saskatchewan is a place where every citizen is included and valued, no exceptions, is Laurie’s primary goal.
VIVIAN THICKETT, Meadow Lake
brings her whole heart to the community living movement. She is first and foremost a mom who has worked hard to ensure that her son has the same opportunities as all children have. As a Community Living Leader, Vivian has committed herself to ensuring that families have access to all of the services and supports that they need for their children to lead productive, inclusive, fulfilling lives. Vivian’s experience with service systems inspired her to lead the development on an advocacy handbook for parents of children with disabilities to help them navigate their way through the system. Incorporating the real experiences of families, this book now provides guidance to parents who are seeking services and supports. Vivian sees beyond the barriers, gathering and affirming families to dream positive dreams for their sons and daughters with disabilities. Living in a small, close-knit community like Meadow Lake
presents unique challenges as well as exciting opportunities and possibilities for making inclusion real, a situation that Vivian takes full advantage of in connecting people together.
SHANE HADDAD, Regina
Shane Haddad is a long-standing, respected member of SACL and is currently second vice-president. Based on his experience of breaking down false barriers in his own life, Shane put all his efforts towards developing the advocacy movement for people with intellectual disabilities. In 1980, Shane was one of the founders of People First of Saskatchewan, an advocacy group of members labeled with intellectual disabilities. He has been an elected member of the board in various capacities ever since. Presently Shane is President of the national organization, People First of Canada. Helping others tell their story is Shane’s passion. His proudest moment was when he helped develop a book of stories entitled Life Landscapes; Saskatchewan Advocate Stories of Success. Recently, Shane’s major focus has been the deinstitutionalization of people with intellectual disabilities, pushing for the closure of Valley View Centre, the last remaining institution in Saskatchewan. Shane and his wife Brenda have been married for 17 years and are the proud parents of three children, Tyler, Matthew and Whitney. In all that he does, Shane continues to be a forward -thinking leader, using every available opportunity to break down myths and stereotypes that surround disability and is a living example of what true inclusion looks like.
DOROTHEA PEHL, Outlook
Seventeen years ago, Dorothea Pehl was invited by a family friend to join the Outlook branch of SACL. As a community member, Dorothea saw that community living was an important organization, and that community members have a role to play in ensuring that people with intellectual disabilities are included and accepted. The Outlook branch strives to improve the quality of life of people with intellectual disabilities, a goal which inspires Dorothea. She notes that in Outlook, acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities is not a problem at all and that people with intellectual disabilities are participating as full citizens in work, recreation and all aspects of the community. Dorothea is proud of Variety Place, Outlook’s vocational centre, whose incredible staff show a strong commitment to community living in how they support the participants who attend. As a Community Living Leader, Dorothea is motivated by the success of the Buddy Program, an opportunity for people with and without disabilities to socialize and build friendships. She wants to ensure that these opportunities continue to make Outlook a great community to live in for all people.
JIM AND GAIL LOBLAW, Humboldt
When Jim and Gail Loblaw moved to Humboldt, Saskatchewan from Manitoba, they brought a lifetime of contribution to the community living movement. They became involved in the mid seventies when they found out that their daughter Tracy had a disability. They could see that if Tracy was going to have a good life, change had to happen. The Flin Flon Association for Community Living was the only voice around for people with intellectual disabilities and was advocating for better services and supports for families. Early on, Gail remembers sitting on the school board and a variety of committees in northern Manitoba, breaking ground in bringing the idea of integration into schools to ensure that Tracy could go to school with her peers. Jim, who has held national and provincial board positions over the years, remembers advocating in many areas so that people with disabilities would be able to develop their potential. The biggest strides in community living that Jim and Gail have seen in their time have been real jobs for people with intellectual disabilities and individualized funding, where funding is based on the person’s needs. They are most proud to say that Tracy’s potential has been developed and that she has fulfilled some of her greatest dreams. The Loblaws are still actively involved, workinf hard so that Saskatchewan develops an individualized funding program for people with intellectual disabilities.
JUDY HALLIDAY, North Battleford
Judy Halliday has been an active player in the community living movement for over 16 years, filling many different roles, as an employee, as a step mom of a young woman with an intellectual disability, and most recently as an Executive Board member of SACL. As an employee at SACL in the early 1990s, Judy witnessed the discrimination and injustice that many people with intellectual disabilities face, her eyes were opened, and she wanted to help break down barriers to inclusion. Over the years, Judy has seen improvements in human rights, and more importantly, changes in public attitudes and perception around disability. Judy feels that for every setback, we are moving three steps forward. As a Community Living Leader, Judy believes in the power of stories. The three SACL Life Landscapes books document the successes, challenges and joys of people with disabilities, parents and siblings. Judy feels that there is still a lot of work to do to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities have support and acceptance to live full lives in their community, particularly in the areas of deinstitutionalization and inclusion in school. Judy is proud to be part of a fifty year legacy of social change and says her life is much richer having had the opportunity to be community living volunteer.
DAVE LAREAU, Regina
Dave Lareau began his involvement with community living on the Board of the Regina Early Childhood Intervention Program, an organization that supported the early learning of his son Roger and many other Regina children who have disabilities. A few years later Dave was introduced to SACL and knew instinctively that the SACL’s vision, a full life in the community for people with intellectual disabilities, was the same vision he and his wife Lill had for their son. Dave’s commitment to good leadership and open communication were apparent and he was invited to sit on the Board of the Regina and District Association for Community Living in 1998. He has served on the provincial Board of SACL for the past six years and is currently the Third Vice President. Dave sits on the Saskatchewan Government’s Advisory Council on Disability Issues, advising government on policy development and bringing the perspective of parents. Dave says that his development as a Community Living Leader has been motivated and shaped by his son’s journey. As a young adult, the benefits of inclusion are evident in Roger’s life as he ventures into his first work experiences, building relationships and establishing his place in the community. Bringing the perspective of a father and a community leader, Dave has been a speaker for the United Way, getting the message out that people with intellectual disabilities are contributing, valuable human beings who deserve opportunities, acceptance and support to be active community members. Dave is passionate about the future and ensuring that Roger always has the supports he needs to lead a fulfilling life. This has led him to help develop a chapter of the national Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network organization here in Saskatchewan in order to help parents of people with disabilities plan for their adult sons and daughters. Dave looks forward to a day when people with disabilities have adequate financial and disability supports outside of the welfare system and, as adults, they have control of their own lives and the services they need, and the opportunity to live out their dreams.
MAYA REICHEL, Saskatoon
As chair of the SACL Family Network, Maya Reichel knows the power of connection-in her own life and for other families who have children with disabilities. The Family Network connects families who have relatives with disabilities together at regional events and retreats to have fun, rest, learn and rejuvenate in an accepting environment that celebrates diversity. Maya got involved in the Family Network at an information night for parents of children with disabilities, realizing that as a family, they weren’t alone. Maya began volunteering with the Family Network, getting more involved over time when she realized that as far as we have come in establishing rights for people with intellectual disabilities, they are still often isolated from mainstream society because of fear of people who are different. She has seen families get discouraged when their children with disabilities are left out or labeled. As chair of the Family Network, Maya is passionate about educating everyone about the damage done when children are labeled and excluded. Maya is determined to create a more tolerant and supportive community by educating others, telling stories of resilience and contribution, and helping the community at large to put aside preconceptions around disability. As a Community Living Leader, Maya looks forward to a day when people with disabilities will be recognized as contributing community members and will have the opportunity to access individualized supports. Her goal as chair of the Family Network is to help families expand their circle of support and their knowledge, because that is where they find their strength.
JOANNE GERMAN, Kindersley
After a great experience with her local Early Childhood Intervention Program, Joanne German realized that her family, and other families of children with intellectual disabilities, needed an ongoing way to connect and support each other. Joanne’s gathered families together and searched out what was happening for families of people with disabilities in other parts of the province. When she found out about SACL, Joanne and a determined group of parents formed the Kindersley Branch of SACL as a way to formalize their connection as a group and draw from the wider resources of a provincial network of families. Joanne knows the importance of having a strong advocacy organization, both provincially (SACL) and nationally through the Canadian Association for Community Living, getting behind parents. Whether it is to access individual advocacy support, school transitioning, or educating the public and taking on big issues, Joanne knows that SACL is there for families-especially for those who are too busy to tackle issues themselves. Through an inclusion grant from SACL, Joanne and the Kindersley Branch are proud that they were able to create a recreational swimming program that has been available for many years. As a Community Living Leader, Joanne’s vision is to see more opportunities—opportunities that will lead to a full, inclusive life for people with intellectual disabilities—even in small communities like Kindersley. Joanne has seen the benefit of an SACL Employment Opportunities program in Kindersley, a program which helps people with disabilities find fulfillment and some financial independence through a real, paid job. Filling gaps like employment support, creating new opportunities and raising awareness of what is out there are Joanne’s goals. Ultimately her passion is to give families hope for the future-that their sons and daughters with disabilities will have meaningful, contributing lives in their home community.