Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ben's Adventures

Brennen and I received a beautiful book recently about a little boy named Ben.

Benjamin Robert Gerlach loved being outside with the sun in his face and the wind in his hair. He was a triplet, brother, son, friend, student and church-goer. He was also a young boy living with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy. But this didn't define him. He loved lights, toys, movement, noises, his preschool class, his brother and sister, and his mommy and daddy.

He had many challenges in his short life but lived every day with a smile on his face. After a two-year fight with multiple respiratory illnesses, Ben lost his battle on May 2, 2016. This book is dedicated to Benjamin and shows that everyone can have an adventure. And despite medical and physical differences, all kids can play and dream.

Ben's mom, Elizabeth wrote this beautiful book in memory of her son. She was inspired to develop the Ben's Adventures series as a tribute to her son, allowing him to live on and share that even though his short life was a struggle, he was a little boy first.. with friends, dreams, and a love for his family and his life.

In spring 2017, Elizabeth launched the Ben Smiles Memorial Foundation to spread Ben’s story, his smile, and to support their community through gifts and acts of service. Ben Smiles is dedicated to enhancing the playing, learning and living of special needs kids and their families by gifting toys and other important devices to children like her son Ben.

A portion of the proceeds from book sales will support Ben Smiles' mission. 

Elizabeth believes that things happen for a reason, and this was meant to be their story.

"I can't walk. I can't talk. But that's okay! I use my imagination every day."

Brennen and I love reading this book together because it is not often that we get to see characters portrayed in stories that have abilities similar to his. We love how Ben uses his imagination to take him on all sorts of fun adventures, and I like to hope that this is what Brennen does as well. While we try to do lots of fun things together as a family, I am sure that Brennen also imagines himself floating through the clouds, or running on a beach and building sandcastles. That's just what kids do! Their imaginations are limitless and getting swept up in their thoughts and dreams is possibly the best thing that can happen to a little brain.

Elizabeth, I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Benjamin, and I know that nothing can take away the pain of that loss, but you are doing incredible things to keep his memory alive and you are having a lasting impact on families with children like ours. Thank you for sharing your boy with us. Thank you for showing me the power of imagination. I am both inspired and challenged to embrace this ever complex life and to encourage my own child's imagination in every way I can. 

Read more about Ben's Adventures and purchase your own copy of the book HERE!

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 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!