Saskatchewan Ambassadors

"The ambassadors message and story was very powerful. He was very personable and engaging. Our students gained valuable insight into the value of inclusiveness. Thank you!"

Anon, Teacher, Saskatchewan

Allard Thomas

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Allard was born deaf and attended the R.J.D. Williams School for the Deaf in Saskatoon. He participated in many sports such as soccer, volleyball, basketball, fastball, curling, and swimming.

Upon graduating with a B.A. from Gallaudet University with a major in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science, Allard held a position with a private company specializing in computer software design for 31 years.

Allard now teaches American Sign Language to hearing clients and also works with Deaf immigrants who have no language when arriving in Canada. He is the founder of several Deaf organizations in Saskatchewan and continues to organize workshops, events and seminars for Youth in his community.

Blake Lamontagne

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When Blake was 16 years old he spent many weeks with his friends fixing up his old truck. One afternoon they got it going and took it for a test drive. On their way back to the house he lost control of the vehicle, hitting the ditch and causing them to roll.

After Blake woke from his coma and got out of ICU, he realized something wasn't right. He had to come to terms that he was going to be a paraplegic and that his future life plans would no longer be realistic.

Blake didn't let the wheelchair define who he was. He is currently exploring the workforce, and his love for sports and his passion for farming and the outdoors are stronger than ever. He continues to live his life to the fullest extent.

Janice Bruynooghe

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Janice was happily married, and working in the agriculture industry that she grew up in and loved. Her family and friends were her world and she enjoyed all that life had to offer.

At the age of 26, as she was driving to one of her work commitments, she fell asleep at the wheel and rolled her vehicle. Janice’s life changed in the blink of an eye.

Janice spent ten weeks in the hospital plus many months in rehabilitation adapting to her new reality as a paraplegic. Her past-paced life came to a near grinding halt as she learned the ins and outs of moving forward in a wheelchair.

Now, Janice’s life is filled with undeniable happiness and success as a busy wife, mother, business owner and industry leader. She has chosen to embrace her new life, facing life’s daily challenges while smiling along the way.

Heather Kuttai

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Before her injury, Heather was a playful tomboy growing up on a grain farm.

When she was six years old, Heather and her mom were driving home from school. It was a hot day, so she was sprawled out on the back seat with the windows down, hoping to catch a bit of a breeze. The next thing she knew, the car had crashed. Her injuries left her a paraplegic.

Although Heather’s body was dramatically changed, what changed even more were the expectations that others had for her. People assumed she would not live a high quality life, and that she would never finish school, get a job, or be able to have a family.

Heather went on to receive her Master’s of Science degree and is also a decorated Paralympic athlete, team Canada coach, published author, wife and mother.

Jennifer Gabrysh

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Before her injury, Jennifer was a very active individual and enjoyed many different types of sports. In 2007, Jennifer was throwing a football around with some friends when she jumped into a swimming pool to catch the ball. She crashed into the concrete by the shallow end and sustained a spinal cord injury.

Jennifer received an incredible amount of encouragement from family and friends, which propelled her to move out on her own, pursue her education and participate in extracurricular activities.

Jennifer recently completed her Masters degree in public policy including an eight- month internship at the Ministry of Agriculture. She continues to participate in her favourite activities -- she often goes fishing, ski-dooing, and on ATV trips with family and friends.

Natasha Urkow

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After she graduated from high school, Natasha was a model and aspiring actress. She worked on furthering her career and looked forward to making money and living on her own.

One night, Natasha was in the back seat of a car driving around with some friends. The driver sped around a corner too fast, losing control of the vehicle and rolling over multiple times. Natasha was thrown from the car, and sustained a spinal cord injury that left her a quadriplegic.

Natasha didn’t let her injury interfere with her passion for the Arts and is currently majoring in Theater at the University of Regina.

Mike Staffen

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Mike grew up in Regina and was very active in sports, playing basketball for the University of Regina as well as premier league rugby in Victoria.

In 2008, Mike was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma, which left him in a coma. When he woke up, there was damage to his optic nerve and Mike was left without his vision. After several months of treatment and rehabilitation, Mike was able to leave the hospital.

Mike had to learn new skills in order to adapt to his new situation as a person without sight. Understanding how important technology would be for his success, he learned to use adaptive technology and software for the Blind.

Mike is now working on his Masters Degree in Public Administration, and completing an Executive Internship as a Policy Analyst for the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sports. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the guitar and going to the gym.