Once a Difference Maker, always a Difference Maker.
That statement holds true for Maura Del Medico, who was awarded a Rick Hansen Foundation School Program (RHFSP) Difference Maker of the Year Award in 2016. She was recognized for her tireless commitment to her peers for her extracurricular work at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic High School in Ontario. She was president of her school’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education – more commonly known as D.A.R.E – club and organized several fun outings for the group. In addition, Maura volunteered at the local hospital, offering friendship and comfort to children who were undergoing day surgery.
These activities led Maura to becoming one of the first youth presented with an RHFSP Difference Maker of the Year award. As Maura remembers, it was a huge surprise.
“I didn’t really realize doing those sorts of things equals that sort of outcome,” she recalled. “It really wasn’t on my radar!”
Maura is now a first-year student in McMaster University’s four-year Midwifery Education Program. The intensive program trains students to be health care providers who care for women during pregnancy, labour, birth, and the postpartum period; and provide care for newborns.
“I just genuinely enjoy helping people. I like doing things that help others, especially if it’s in an area where they may not be able to help themselves, or don’t have the resources to help themselves,” Maura said.
“Helping others is something that’s continued through today for me,” she continued, “I just like to use my time in a way that is going to do something that makes a difference. I’m fascinated by the medical system and fascinated by that connection that you can build with people. So, I think it just went hand in hand with what I want to do later in life. It just worked out that I got to help people along the way.”
This approach to life is exactly why Maura received the RHFSP Difference Maker of the Year Award. The Award is presented to students and educators who are making a difference by breaking down barriers, promoting inclusion, and creating change to make the world a better place.
Maura said she carried lessons learned from her high school years into adulthood. “One of the things I recognized when I was young was that you need to treat every person uniquely,” she said. “This is still something I practice today and it’s a huge cornerstone in the midwifery practice.”
Lessons from volunteering at the local hospital have stuck with her, too. Early on, she realized that what worked for one patient did not work for the other; it was up to her to be flexible and cognisant of individual needs.
“At the beginning stages you think, okay, every person who’s in here is going to want to do A, B, and C. But then you find out what works for one person – maybe they just want to sit and talk – may not work for another person. Maybe they just need to play a game and they don’t want to talk about what’s happening right now in their life. So that’s something I really thought about,” Maura said.
While having the ability to recognize and understand the thoughts and feelings of other people is in Maura’s nature, receiving the RHFSP Difference Maker Award as a teenager not only gave her meaningful recognition but also the lasting perspective of being role model.
During her journey of being a Difference Maker, Maura also learned that even the smallest act of kindness can have a big impact.
“You don’t need to work yourself to the bone to make a difference,” she said. “I think that’s important that you take care of yourself as well as those who you’re trying to make a difference to. Because if you’re only thinking about other people, you won’t be a good version of yourself. You need to take some time for yourself, as well.”
We hope you enjoyed catching up with one of our Difference Makers as much as we did. We would also like to extend our congratulations to Maura on her recent engagement!
The RHFSP Difference Maker of the Year Awards are presented annually at the end of the school year to K-12 educators, community leaders and students who positively impact accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities, in either their school or wider community. Do you know someone who deserves recognition? Learn more about the awards and submit a nomination today!