Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Wheelchair Accessible Edible Path

I am super pumped to share a new project idea that has the potential to have a long-lasting impact on the people of our province! I couldn't be more excited!
 
The Aviva Community Fund has donated more than $8.5 million over the last decade to create positive change across Canada. This year, they are donating another $1 million towards initiatives that bring people together to create change within their community.

Ability Employment Corporation has been approved to enter the contest for a chance to win $100,000 towards the creation of a new, "Wheelchair Accessible Edible Path" that will be built around the existing Farm and Market in Clarenville.

A wheelchair Accessible Edible Path would serve the needs of people with disabilities and special mobility requirements who have limited access to outdoor green spaces. In line with the Government’s commitment to "removing community barriers for people with disabilities", the Ability Employment Corporation (AEC) would like to develop this project to provide all community members, regardless of ability, an opportunity to learn, play, and reap the many recreational and mental health benefits that are connected with being outside in nature.

The Edible Path will be a ‘living classroom’, designed to educate community members and visitors about Newfoundland’s wide variety of native edible plants, as well as the health benefits of consuming the naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which they contain. The path will be wheelchair-accessible, posted with braille signs, and guided by nature specialists to ensure that people from a variety of physical and cognitive backgrounds can enjoy all that the path has to offer.

AEC is a charitable organization that provides career counseling and job placement services, along with social and volunteer programs to persons with intellectual disabilities and other barriers to employment. The Edible Path will also provide a platform for those with disabilities to build valuable employability skills while leading the ongoing path maintenance and upkeep.

A Wheelchair Accessible Edible Path would make a world of difference to families like mine. I remember shortly after my son, Brennen was born, having to make a huge mental and emotional adjustment to the hopes and dreams I had held for my family. I grew up, like most Newfoundlanders, picking blueberries on the rocky hillsides with my mother and grandmother, and skipping through vast fields of wildflowers with my younger sister. I had visions of recreating moments like these with my own family, but when we were told that Brennen was not going to be able to walk, those dreams were shattered. Just this summer, my sister took her own young children to a local farm to pick strawberries, and while we thoroughly enjoyed the sweet berries they brought back to us, I can't help but ache for the opportunity to create memories like that with my own child.

In order for the Wheelchair Accessible Edible Path to become a reality, it needs your votes! A minimum of 20,000 votes are required to have a shot at one of the three $100,000 prizes. Here's how you can help:

Visit https://www.avivacommunityfund.org/voting/project/view/18-55 to see the project details and create an account to vote.

Voting begins September 25th and ends October 4th. You can vote up to 10 times, so please use all of your votes! Tell your friends, share on social media, and encourage others to vote as well! The Wheelchair Accessible Edible Path is a brilliant idea that would provide many deserving individuals with the opportunity to participate in something that is so distinctly part of our culture and heritage, it should not be missed.


 “Having a disability should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life.” (inspired by Emma Thompson).

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Run, Walk, Stroll & Roll

On September 8th, we participated in the 7th Annual Stroll & Roll for Easter Seals!


This year's event took place in Bowring Park, and participants were able to choose either the the 5K Run or the 2K Walk Challenge. Serious racers could complete the full 5K with other hardcore runners on the South Brook Trail, or anyone wanting to take it easy could cruise the 2K course at their own pace around the park. (We picked the latter).

The Stroll & Roll raises much needed funds to allow Easter Seals NL to continue to offer quality programs and services for children and youth with disabilities right here in our province.

We look forward to the Stroll & Roll every year because as much as it is about raising funds, it is also about bringing together a community - families, children, parents and caregivers, all united by a common thread: we live with, or support persons with disabilities. I have written many times about how important it has been for me to connect with other parents who are experiencing similar challenges, and I am lucky to now have so many friends in this community. It's the people we meet at events like this one who help me to think differently about disability and help to bring more understanding and acceptance to this sometimes intimidating journey.

The Stroll & Roll is open to anyone and everyone, and this year, we invited some of Brennen's friends and supporters to join our team! Here are some photos from the day!


After the walk, there was a barbecue for all participants and some really fun lawn games set up in the park. My sister brought her little girl out with us for the afternoon, and she had a blast! They have just recently moved back home to Newfoundland, and it is so nice that they will now be able to join us for events like this one. She is the sweetest!


There was live entertainment by local group, Junction Road, and they were fabulous! Brennen loved the music, and had a few dances with Nanny!


We found some painted rocks throughout the park, including this one that we all thought was very fitting.


And we even spotted some secret fairy doors leading into some of the biggest trees. 


We had a wonderful time strolling and rolling with some very special people supporting a very special cause. The weather was just right for this time of year and made for the perfect send off to summer. Even though the kids are back to school, it is still technically summer for another couple of weeks, and this day will be one of our favourite memories from this summer, for sure!


Thanks to everyone who joined us, who sponsored our team, or who has shown their support in other ways. If you would still like to donate, it's not too late! Help us help Easter Seals meet their goal of raising $20,000 to support their programs and services for persons with disabilities! 

Click HERE to donate!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

NL Rock Art

Over the summer, Andrew and the children and I have been enjoying some of the walking trails in and around town that we frequent regularly. On a recent visit to Voisey's Brook Park, we noticed some painted rocks hidden along the path. They made us smile, but when we looked a little closer, I saw that there was a message on the back: "NL Rock Art. Keep or Rehide". We ended up finding several beautifully painted rocks tucked in around the trail that day. We collected one or two and hid them in different locations in the park, and we choose this special strawberry rock to bring home.

When I looked up 'NL Rock Art', I was amazed to see that this is an actual thing that people do! The idea is to paint rocks and place them around the community for others to find and enjoy!


It is incredible to see some of the time and talent that goes into painting theses beautiful rocks! We found this one with the bunny while walking around Kent's Pond. I think the general thought is that you rehide them for others to find, unless you find one that you love or inspires you - then you keep. We are keeping this beautiful bunny, for now anyways!


I know it might not sound very exciting, but I got a surprising amount of thrill out of hunting for painted rocks this summer. Once I realized that they were hidden all over some of our favourite locations, we were eager to get out there and find more!

I loved the idea so much that we decided to paint some rocks of our own and hide them in special places around town. We hid a few in Bannerman Park, and still have a couple more to hide on our next adventure!


These rocks provided hours of entertainment, both from creating them and imagining where we were going to hide them. Is this happening in your community? Next time you are out for a walk on the trails or in a park in your neighbourhood, keep your eye out for some interesting looking rocks! They are so fun to find! (Maybe you will find our sweet little turtle or chick?!)


Check out NL Rock Art on Facebook to see where they might pop up next!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Matter of Perspective

So, I'm just going to be honest and say that our life can be really hard at times. If you've been following our journey on my blog, I'm sure this comes as no surprise. It is a known fact that caring for children with complex needs can take an emotional and physical toll on parents - and I'm sure that when people make statements like that, they are talking about caring for one child with extra challenges. We have three.

Our days and nights are consumed with caregiving and meeting the needs of our children. It is a full-time job for both Andrew and I, and it can be exhausting, as you can imagine. While we recognize the importance of taking care of ourselves (both individually, and as a couple), the time to do so just doesn't always present itself, and it is easy to let it slip. Without time to devote to our relationship, we have found ourselves on more than one occasion feeling like we are merely tag teaming as caregivers, and this is not how we want to exist.

One day last week, we arranged it so that we had a couple of hours to ourselves and we were quick to take advantage of that time alone together. We grabbed our sunscreen and sandals, and headed to the beach! Worsley Park is a beautiful little spot right on the ocean's edge in Chamberlains, CBS. Andrew and I used to go here quite a bit when we first got together. We would hike the trails and take in the breathtaking views of Conception Bay, daydreaming about our future and how we would spend our life together. We even had our eye on a house out this way, but we ended up building a better one.

When I take a step back and put things in perspective, I guess I could say the same for the life we had imagined - we built a better one! Though it seems really tough at times, and there are many nights where we don't sleep, and there are days that it seems we will barely make it through, as we look into each other's tired eyes, I know that there is no one else either of us would want to be this exhausted with. 


While walking along the rocky shore, I said "Let's find a heart-shaped rock!", then took two steps and looked down to see this:


Andrew and I had a wonderful day together. It's amazing what a couple of hours to ourselves can do for our relationship, our mental health, and our overall outlook and attitude going forward. It really doesn't take much. After an hour or two breathing in some salt sea air and getting our feet wet in the cold North Atlantic, we were rejuvenated and ready to head home to our kiddies.

Our lives are busy, and the challenges we face with each of our children can be a lot to manage at times, but we are well equipped to handle whatever comes our way. Knowing that we have each other is what makes it all possible, and though they are few and far between, these opportunities to reconnect and spend a little time alone together are good not just for us, but for our whole family. 


"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." -Lao Tzu

We need both of these things, and fortunately, we have an abundance of both, made stronger by our love for each other.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Everyone Can Play

A while back, I wrote about the grand plans that Easter Seals NL had in the works for a new accessible park and playground (see that post HERE). Well, a year has past, and the state-of-the-art playground is now a reality! The grand opening was held on June 14th, and since then, the play space has been full with children of all ages and abilities playing together. It is a beautiful thing!

This is the first fully accessible and inclusive playground in our province, and it was greatly needed. All children should have the opportunity to play!

Before now, Brennen and I would drive by neighbourhood parks without a second thought. I knew he couldn't play there. The bumps and steps were a barrier, and the wheels of his chair would get stuck in the pea gravel before we even got to the play equipment. It was no use even trying.

This new playground on the grounds of Easter Seals House on Mt. Scio Road is more than just accessible. It is welcoming to all children, regardless of ability. Children here can play together, make friends, take risks, and challenge themselves to try something new.

In addition to offering a wonderful experience for our children, this playground offers a reprieve and a sense of normalcy to families like mine who face significant challenges on a daily basis. This is a place where we can let our kids just be kids, and not worry about whether or not they will fit in, or if they will be able to participate. Brennen still needs help to interact with many of the features of the play structure, but the ramps and soft surface make it easy to navigate and fun to explore.

This playground is just Phase 1 of the Easter Seals NL Accessible Park Project. Future plans include a gazebo, sensory garden, amphitheatre and hardcourt surface. We can't wait for that!

Here are some photos from our time at the playground!


If you would like to help support Easter Seals NL programs for children with disabilities living in our province, or if you would just like to spend the day hanging out with Brennen and I, join us in Bowring Park on September 8th for the Run, Walk, Stroll & Roll! Click HERE for details!