Our Ambassadors are an inspirational group of people with diverse disabilities available for free speaking engagements at schools or organizations across Canada.

Explore our team by using the filter below to search for Ambassadors in your area! If you’re looking for a specific Ambassador, please use our Search tool bar above to search by name.

Alberta

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Bean Gill

Bean has been named the new Miss Wheelchair Canada 2018 and works as a client ambassador for Project WALK and shares her story of what is possible for people with disabilities, to help break down attitudinal barriers.  Several years ago, while in Las Vegas with friends, she woke up with extreme pain in her lower back. A virus had attacked her system, paralyzing her from the waist down.

Bean has been named the new Miss Wheelchair Canada 2018 and works as a client ambassador for Project WALK and shares her story of what is possible for people with disabilities, to help break down attitudinal barriers. 

Several years ago, while in Las Vegas with friends, she woke up with extreme pain in her lower back. A virus had attacked her system, paralyzing her from the waist down.

Bean felt defeated, thinking all her hopes and dreams were over. But she vowed to walk again no matter what. As she went through rehab, her disposition changed and she began to see things with positivity and acceptance.

In her free time, she loves yoga and spending time with her family. 
 

“Each new day is an opportunity to show the world that nothing can stop me, not even a wheelchair.”  – Bean Gill
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Kuen Tang

Kuen has had many firsts: the first person with quadriplegia in the world to letter comic books for DC comics, the first person with quadriplegia to do functional-electrical stimulation rowing in North America, and the first person with quadriplegia to hike up Ha Ling Peak in the Rockies.  She was driving home after a short vacation when her car veered off the highway and launched over a cliff. She was thrown out of the car and sustained an SCI.

Kuen has had many firsts: the first person with quadriplegia in the world to letter comic books for DC comics, the first person with quadriplegia to do functional-electrical stimulation rowing in North America, and the first person with quadriplegia to hike up Ha Ling Peak in the Rockies. 

She was driving home after a short vacation when her car veered off the highway and launched over a cliff. She was thrown out of the car and sustained an SCI. Waking up after a week in a coma, she had to face a new reality. She accepted her body was no longer the same, but believed her many dreams could still come true.

And they did. Kuen earned her Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta and launched new adventures. In her spare time, she loves to paint, wood work, and glass etch. She enjoys rugby, alpine skiing, and hiking.

“Don’t let my disability scare you, let my ability impress you!” – Kuen Tang
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Marilyn Erho

Marilyn works as Peer Coordinator for SCI Alberta and is an avid hand-cyclist. When not cycling, she enjoys the calming influence of her garden. At age 25, Marilyn and her husband were struck by an oncoming driver who’d had a seizure and drove across the centre line.

Marilyn works as Peer Coordinator for SCI Alberta and is an avid hand-cyclist. When not cycling, she enjoys the calming influence of her garden.

At age 25, Marilyn and her husband were struck by an oncoming driver who’d had a seizure and drove across the centre line. Marilyn sustained a spinal cord injury. Fortunately, her husband survived the accident.

Immediately after her injury, Marilyn faced a lot of uncertainly about her future. She made the best out of each day with a positive attitude and determination. She learned to appreciate the simple things and takes pride in going beyond what she was told she’d be able to do. She enjoys sharing her story to help others.
 

"Life is subject to change without notice. Live each day to the best of your ability and never give up on your dreams." – Marilyn Erho
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Ryan Yeadon

Ryan works for the City of Calgary and enjoys opportunities to volunteer and give back to his community. In the summer, he’s often found at the local reservoir taking groups parasailing, or riding his hand-cycle on the city’s bike paths. He was born in a small ranching and logging community and spent a lot of time outdoors, exploring and camping.

Ryan works for the City of Calgary and enjoys opportunities to volunteer and give back to his community. In the summer, he’s often found at the local reservoir taking groups parasailing, or riding his hand-cycle on the city’s bike paths.

He was born in a small ranching and logging community and spent a lot of time outdoors, exploring and camping. After graduation, he worked as a forest-fire fighter, then in the oil patch. He always loved to mountain bike. Riding his bike on a trail near his home, he lost control and flew over the handlebars, falling and sustaining a spinal cord injury.

After recovering from his accident, Ryan found new ways to enjoy the outdoors. He also discovered a favourite new hobby, sledge hockey, and is currently the goalie for the Calgary Scorpions.
 

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Shauna Paisley Cooper

Shauna is a stay-at-home soccer mom, who coaches her daughter’s soccer team and volunteers for various school program and fundraisers. She speaks to newly injured SCI patients at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and also volunteers for the SCI-Alberta Adapted Adventure Sports Program.  She was an energetic and athletic wife and mother when she fell off her mountain bike and broke her neck, leaving her with quadriplegia.

Shauna is a stay-at-home soccer mom, who coaches her daughter’s soccer team and volunteers for various school program and fundraisers. She speaks to newly injured SCI patients at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and also volunteers for the SCI-Alberta Adapted Adventure Sports Program. 

She was an energetic and athletic wife and mother when she fell off her mountain bike and broke her neck, leaving her with quadriplegia. After six months in the hospital, she returned home and struggled to figure out how to be a wife and mom in a wheelchair. She battled with depression for another year and half until finally overcoming it.

Since then, Shauna has not looked back. She enjoys hand cycling, kayaking, and camping with her family. She also loves reality TV and live theatre.

“Don’t let your disability define your abilities.” – Shauna Paisley Cooper
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Stephanie Carvalho

Stephanie works as an Employment Equity Assistant with Human Resources at the University of Alberta, and is an active member of her church. She loves spending time with her family and friends.  At age four, she was diagnosed with a genetic disease, Chronic Optic Nerve Atrophy, and lost her ability to see.

Stephanie works as an Employment Equity Assistant with Human Resources at the University of Alberta, and is an active member of her church. She loves spending time with her family and friends.  At age four, she was diagnosed with a genetic disease, Chronic Optic Nerve Atrophy, and lost her ability to see. Facing this sudden and permanent change, her family worried for Stephanie’s future and how her life would be limited by her lack of sight. Stephanie credits having a positive attitude and an iron will for overcoming obstacles. Living with vision loss didn’t change the choices she made or the goals she set for herself, and she’s accomplishing everything she puts her mind to.  

“Through action and understanding, we can help each other to move beyond our differences, find commonalities, and work together on the creation and fostering of an inclusive society.”  – Stephanie Carvalho
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Susan Littlechilds

Susan is passionate about the farming community and volunteers her time as a 4-H leader and a board member for Camp Mackinicholea. She is also a CNIB Champion.  She was always involved in her children’s schools and in her community.

Susan is passionate about the farming community and volunteers her time as a 4-H leader and a board member for Camp Mackinicholea. She is also a CNIB Champion. 

She was always involved in her children’s schools and in her community. Driving was a defining part of her life, delivering mail for Canada Post. In 2012, she was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease and was no longer able to drive. This was a huge blow to her independence and financial freedom. 

The reality of having to rely on others for help was her hardest and most valuable lesson. She is currently a full-time student at Athabasca University, pursuing a degree in psychology. In her spare time she participates in obstacle-and-mud runs with her son, and enjoys running, fishing, camping, and farming.
 

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." – Helen Keller

British Columbia

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Arnold Cheng

Arnold never expected he would become an avid wheelchair basketball player, or even go bungee jumping from his wheelchair. But he did know how to persevere and adapt to change. He had just finished working a year overseas after graduating from university when the protective layer around his spinal cord died off, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Arnold never expected he would become an avid wheelchair basketball player, or even go bungee jumping from his wheelchair. But he did know how to persevere and adapt to change. He had just finished working a year overseas after graduating from university when the protective layer around his spinal cord died off, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Despite the injury, moving from Vancouver to overseas and back again taught him something extremely important – how to adjust to new situations. He saw using a wheelchair as just another adjustment on a long list of recent adjustments. During his recovery, he began sharing insights about his disability on his blog. His friends suggested he get involved with organizations dealing with disabilities. This led him to try new things and always look for new adventures.  

“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.”  – Paulo Coelho
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Ashley Gowanlock

Ashley is a three-time Paralympian in Para-Dressage, representing Canada at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. She also rode at the 2010 and 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games (USA and France, respectively). Her career highlights include top-10 finishes at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Ashley is a three-time Paralympian in Para-Dressage, representing Canada at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. She also rode at the 2010 and 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games (USA and France, respectively). Her career highlights include top-10 finishes at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympic Games.

She began riding at the age of two, after being diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Her parents were told horseback riding would be great physiotherapy and help with her stretching and balance. She was soon hooked, and by 2006, made her debut on the Canadian Para-Dressage Team in Langley, B.C.

Ashley has engaged in public speaking for many years, and since 2014, has been an ambassador for Right To Play, an organization dedicated to educating children about healthy, active living. She published her first book, My Opportunities Just Dress Up As Obstacles, in late 2015.
 

 

"You have to wake up everyday and make the decision that today you will chooose joy no matter what obstacles you may face. And when in doubt it's always a good idea to laugh at yourself."   – Ashley Gowanlock
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Brenda MacDonald

Growing up while losing her vision has had its challenges for Brenda. She has gone from having to move closer to the TV or using a monocular to see the blackboard, to not being able to recognize people on the street. She has adapted, but sometimes still runs into posts and needs a guide for skiing, or navigating difficult scenarios like an airport or a low light restaurant.

Growing up while losing her vision has had its challenges for Brenda. She has gone from having to move closer to the TV or using a monocular to see the blackboard, to not being able to recognize people on the street. She has adapted, but sometimes still runs into posts and needs a guide for skiing, or navigating difficult scenarios like an airport or a low light restaurant. Brenda learnt early on that the only way to get anywhere was to be a self-advocate. However, she thanks all the teachers around her that helped her through her high school years.

Brenda has a non-cancerous brain tumour that was found when she was 2 years old, and which still has. The tumour is due to a genetic condition known as Neurofibromatosis 1, where her body can grow tumours anywhere there is a nerve ending. She has had numerous surgeries to remove other tumours in her body, and she has had chemo and radiotherapy for the brain tumour. Brenda has just recently been classified as being legally blind.

In the fall, Brenda will be starting her second year of college. She is studying Resort and Hotel Management. She is also a Para Alpine ski racer, with sights set on one day going to the Paralympics. Brenda also loves to bake and cook, write, draw, and spend time outdoors. She is currently finishing her Gold level of the Duke of Edinburgh program. Brenda dreams of one day opening a small bistro/bakery that is accessible to everyone, of all different abilities.
 

“I don't let anyone or my disability define me or hold me back from going after my goals and dreams.”   – Brenda MacDonald
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Chris Somerville

Chris’s long-time passion for skateboarding led him to open a successful business, Street Dreamz Boardshop in Delta, BC. He loves spending time rolling around in his wheelchair at skate parks and being part of the community. Chris had been pursuing a career as a competitive skateboarder when he was in a serious car accident.

Chris’s long-time passion for skateboarding led him to open a successful business, Street Dreamz Boardshop in Delta, BC. He loves spending time rolling around in his wheelchair at skate parks and being part of the community.

Chris had been pursuing a career as a competitive skateboarder when he was in a serious car accident. The car he was a passenger in hit a curb too tightly and crashed, leaving Chris with paraplegia. He spent many months in hospital recovering from the accident. 

Today, Chris enjoys spending time with his fiancée and extended family and friends, and taking his two bulldogs to the park. He’s also an avid camper.
 

“No matter how many times, you get knocked down. Never give up on your Dreamz.” – Chris Somerville
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Danielle Windecker

Danielle was born missing her right arm at the elbow. As an adult, she learned that this was most likely due to a condition called "amniotic banding”. Danielle currently works full time in marketing and communications for a busy nonprofit social service agency, and sits on the board of directors for an association for communications professionals.

Danielle was born missing her right arm at the elbow. As an adult, she learned that this was most likely due to a condition called "amniotic banding”.

Danielle currently works full time in marketing and communications for a busy nonprofit social service agency, and sits on the board of directors for an association for communications professionals. She also lives with her partner, Grant, and in the future would like to complete a master's degree in communications.

While being born without an arm hasn't stopped Danielle from pursuing what she’s wanted in life, it has been a source of internal conflict. She doesn’t want to be treated differently because of her arm, but she does want others to understand that it sometimes takes hard work to make it look like it’s not a big deal.
 

“I never cease to awe at the power of communication and consideration. When we take the time to talk to and hear one another, amazing things can happen.”   –
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Grant Hardy

Grant recently graduated with a BA in Philosophy from the University of British Columbia. He appears on TV as a presenter for Accessible Media, covering stories about technology as well as events and inspiration people around the community.  He was born with Leber congenital amaurosis, a genetic condition that causes blindness.

Grant recently graduated with a BA in Philosophy from the University of British Columbia. He appears on TV as a presenter for Accessible Media, covering stories about technology as well as events and inspiration people around the community. 

He was born with Leber congenital amaurosis, a genetic condition that causes blindness. Being blind since birth has its limitations, but Grant leads a very positive life, and continues to prove that he is a normal, capable individual.
 

“We are all subject to inconveniences, whether physical, emotional, monetary, or otherwise. With the right attitude and accommodations, we can overcome those inconveniences to lead happy, fulfilled lives.” – Grant Hardy
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Iris Thompson

Iris is a stay-at-home with two young daughters and volunteers as a peer counsellor for CNIB.  In childhood, she was diagnosed with a chronic eye condition, which required many eye treatments and surgeries. At age 35, she lost all her vision as a result of a vascular tumor on her retina.

Iris is a stay-at-home with two young daughters and volunteers as a peer counsellor for CNIB. 

In childhood, she was diagnosed with a chronic eye condition, which required many eye treatments and surgeries. At age 35, she lost all her vision as a result of a vascular tumor on her retina.

She learned many skills so she could manager her daily tasks independently, like taking her children to school, organizing the household, and getting involved in her community. She’s also planning on returning to school to launch a new career. 

For fun, she enjoys reading, knitting, and taking long walks, as well as curling and hiking with her husband.
 

“I focus on abilities, rather than disabilities. I think of what I can do and not what I can’t do.” – Iris Thompson
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Jenna Reed-Cote

Being born with Spina Bifida, Jenna has never known life without it. One aspect of growing up with Spina Bifida that made life difficult for her was being immersed in such an adult world, forcing her to mature much quicker than her peers, making it difficult to make friends. However, Jenna did earn a lot of respect and confidence through Karate.

Being born with Spina Bifida, Jenna has never known life without it. One aspect of growing up with Spina Bifida that made life difficult for her was being immersed in such an adult world, forcing her to mature much quicker than her peers, making it difficult to make friends. However, Jenna did earn a lot of respect and confidence through Karate. Despite being in a wheelchair, she rose the ranks in Karate and earned her second degree black belt.

Jenna had to learn that people are drawn to confidence, and that confidence comes from doing things that you love and feel good about - your soul can’t help but shine. This is how she found the courage to move across the country BY HERSELF and start a new life, making friends that have seen her at her absolute best and absolute worst.

Jenna is now in the midst of completing her Master’s Degree in Social Work so she can work in the pediatric healthcare system. She completed Tough Mudder Half in 2016 and still works out four times a week. Jenna also loves public speaking!
 

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Jessica Kruger

Jessica is in her final year at Simon Fraser University, a speaker for Worksafe BC, and wheelchair rugby player. She’s also a baker and cake decorator, who won the chance to be the face of “Something Sweet,” a perfume by Lise Watier. Before her accident, Jessica was an active teenager who played basketball and softball, and she dreamed of a profession where she could help people or animals, a psychologist or veterinarian.

Jessica is in her final year at Simon Fraser University, a speaker for Worksafe BC, and wheelchair rugby player. She’s also a baker and cake decorator, who won the chance to be the face of “Something Sweet,” a perfume by Lise Watier.

Before her accident, Jessica was an active teenager who played basketball and softball, and she dreamed of a profession where she could help people or animals, a psychologist or veterinarian.

One summer, while working for a small painting company, Jessica fainted and fell off a ladder, leaving her with quadriplegia. In rehab, she dealt with the frustrations of living in a wheelchair, but soon realized that people in wheelchairs could do all the same things as anyone else, just in a different way. 
 

“Through positivity, hard work and determination any challenge can be overcome.” – Jessica Kruger
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Jim Ryan

Jim knows the support of his wife, family, and friends carries him through each day. He’s looking forward to sharing his story as a volunteer with the Rick Hansen Foundation. In March 2016, Jim slipped while diving through a large wave in Hawaii.

Jim knows the support of his wife, family, and friends carries him through each day. He’s looking forward to sharing his story as a volunteer with the Rick Hansen Foundation.

In March 2016, Jim slipped while diving through a large wave in Hawaii. The wave drove his head into the sand, breaking his neck. He was paralyzed instantly and nearly drowned due to the injury. He now has quadriplegia with minimal movement in his arms and legs.

Before his injury, Jim worked as an airline pilot and enjoyed a variety of sports including golf, hockey, paddle boarding, and cycling. Since his injury, he’s investigating new employment and volunteer activities. 
 

“This is the life I was given, I may as well live it.” – Jim Ryan
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Jim Teneycke

Growing up, Jim’s personal attitude, along with the support of his family and friends fueled the drive to live a fulfilling life. Today, Jim, his wife, and son continue to live a great life, however, having a disability and accomplishing daily routine tasks often requires ten times the amount of work and planning. While he and his family have accomplished so much, there continues to be many barriers that people with disabilities face.

Growing up, Jim’s personal attitude, along with the support of his family and friends fueled the drive to live a fulfilling life. Today, Jim, his wife, and son continue to live a great life, however, having a disability and accomplishing daily routine tasks often requires ten times the amount of work and planning. While he and his family have accomplished so much, there continues to be many barriers that people with disabilities face. Jim believes that education in both attitudes and planning continue to be important issues.

Jim was born with Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital, a type of dwarfism that has caused many issues causing Jim to have over 30 operations, most of which took place when he was a child. At the age of 15, his severe scoliosis was starting to damage his spinal cord and he was rushed to the hospital for a spinal fusion to stop further progression. Every couple of years after the spinal fusion, he went in for another round of corrective orthopedic surgeries.  As Jim ages, he finds it requires more and more effort to manage daily routines. “We all have the same desires to accomplish something, enjoy something or experience something, it just may take some of us a 'little bit' longer to get there... Maybe we will enjoy it that 'little bit' more?”

When Jim’s son was born with the same condition, he had an overwhelming urge to try and make his son’s life a little easier than his had been. He wanted the world to be more aware, prepared, and accessible.

Jim owns a business that continues to do well. He enjoys being with his family. His wife is a teacher, and they have a 13 year old son. They live in the country, and after a long day of work or school, they prefer to spend time at home. On weekends, they often explore local areas, or the rest of the island. They love to travel, go on day or weekend trips, go camping, and ATV riding. They also have a Miniature Dachshund named Hank.
 

“Most of the struggles we have each day are from a lack of design and planning in our surroundings. Making sure there is a ramp to every entrance is a great accomplishment, but that's only a start."   – Jim Tenecycke
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Kirsten Sharp

Kirsten worked as a producer in the animation and film industry for almost 10 years. She is now a Peer Support Specialist for Spinal Cord Injury BC.  She was 14 years old and on a ski trip in Whistler when she accidently hit a man-made jump and landed in a tree well.

Kirsten worked as a producer in the animation and film industry for almost 10 years. She is now a Peer Support Specialist for Spinal Cord Injury BC. 

She was 14 years old and on a ski trip in Whistler when she accidently hit a man-made jump and landed in a tree well. The impact severed Kirsten’s spine, leaving her with paraplegia. Her attitude and outlook on life had always been positive, and the accident didn't change that; she returned to school the day after leaving rehab, determined to move forward. 

Kirsten went on to graduate with a joint major degree in business and psychology and also holds a diploma in media in television production. She also competes in tennis, and loves to swim, row, and bike. 
 

"There is only one failure in life, and that is the failure to try." – Kirsten Sharp
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Kyle Gieni

Kyle works for a law firm and volunteers with the adapted fitness centre, PARC, at ICORD. In 2013 and 2015, he was a member of the national wheelchair floorball team representing Canada in Holland. For the past five years, he has played sledge hockey for the BC provincial team, winning the Western Canadian Championships twice.

Kyle works for a law firm and volunteers with the adapted fitness centre, PARC, at ICORD. In 2013 and 2015, he was a member of the national wheelchair floorball team representing Canada in Holland. For the past five years, he has played sledge hockey for the BC provincial team, winning the Western Canadian Championships twice. 

Kyle sustained a spinal cord injury and a head injury after the brakes failed on his bike while driving down a dirt hill. He spent the next three months in hospital recovering and re-learning how to do simple daily tasks. 

His pain has lessened greatly through exercise and sporting activities, but he attributes most of his success to the loved ones who helped him along his journey. He currently lives with his long-time girlfriend, with whom he hopes to spend the rest of his life. 

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Leanor Vlug

Leanor studied at Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., earned a Master’s in Adult Education and taught deaf and hard-of-hearing adults for 25 years.

Leanor studied at Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., earned a Master’s in Adult Education and taught deaf and hard-of-hearing adults for 25 years. She’s currently a program development consultant and volunteer. 

When she was 10 years old, her life changed dramatically after becoming deaf from a reaction to medication. Not being able to hear conversations and depending on others to tell her what was being said was very frustrating, and Leanor felt isolated from her family and friends. But as she began to meet other deaf children and adults, her world expanded.

She raised two hearing daughters with her deaf husband. She enjoys reading and spending time with her family. 
 

“My disability allowed me to travel widely, meet interesting people, and work with others as an advocate for greater equality for deaf, hard of hearing, and the deaf-blind community.” – Leanor Vlug
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Louisa Bridgman

Louisa has a Bachelor of Arts degree in business and psychology and current works for the Disability Foundation, where she assists others in finding recreation and employment activities.  She was born with cerebral palsy, but knew she could become an educated, productive member of society. In elementary school, she faced discrimination in a non-inclusive school setting; it wasn’t until high school that she was fully integrated with her peers.

Louisa has a Bachelor of Arts degree in business and psychology and current works for the Disability Foundation, where she assists others in finding recreation and employment activities. 

She was born with cerebral palsy, but knew she could become an educated, productive member of society. In elementary school, she faced discrimination in a non-inclusive school setting; it wasn’t until high school that she was fully integrated with her peers. 

After leaving home and living in care facilities for a time, Louisa now lives independently. When not advocating for other people with disabilities, she acts, models, and writes poetry. 

“Do not let other people’s negativity or your own fears get in the way of pursuing your dreams.” – Louisa Bridgman
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Marco Pasqua

Marco was born with cerebral palsy, but thanks to his parents, who introduced to him to sports at an early age, he thrived. He has competed in the BC Games for Athletes with Disabilities since 1994, earning 22 Gold, 10 Silver and two Bronze Medals in various sporting events.  Over the years, Marco has advocated for people with disabilities through his volunteer work with Easter Seals, The Lions Society of BC, The Sunshine Foundation, The Active Living Alliance, and The United Way.

Marco was born with cerebral palsy, but thanks to his parents, who introduced to him to sports at an early age, he thrived. He has competed in the BC Games for Athletes with Disabilities since 1994, earning 22 Gold, 10 Silver and two Bronze Medals in various sporting events. 

Over the years, Marco has advocated for people with disabilities through his volunteer work with Easter Seals, The Lions Society of BC, The Sunshine Foundation, The Active Living Alliance, and The United Way. He started his own business as an inspirational speaker and has spoken at TEDxStanleyPark and The Duke Of Edinburgh Awards. In 2013, he received the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ by the Self-Employment and Entrepreneur Development Society, and in 2014, was nominated for the BC Business ‘Top 30 under 30’ award.

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Marika van Dommelen

Marika is a member of the Rick Hansen School Program team, and is excited to start on a new career path as a personal life coach. She enjoys photography and is a published photographer.  She was born with spina bifida, but she had a positive attitude and didn’t shy away from taking chances, always believing she could reach the many goals in life that she set for herself.

Marika is a member of the Rick Hansen School Program team, and is excited to start on a new career path as a personal life coach. She enjoys photography and is a published photographer. 

She was born with spina bifida, but she had a positive attitude and didn’t shy away from taking chances, always believing she could reach the many goals in life that she set for herself. 

An ex-para-athlete, Marika tries to stay in shape by wheeling or cycling. Of all her accomplishments, she is most proud of is being a wife and mother of a teenage son.

“People often ask me if I had the choice would I choose to be born without my disability. I have had such a rich life, full of challenge, but also love, joy and opportunities to live my life to the fullest. I would not trade any of this for the opportunity to walk.” – Marika van Dommelen
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Neil Matheson

Neil completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of British Columbia and then pursued a career in IT. He has worked for the Disability Foundation as a mentor and liaison for Persons with Disabilities. Born with cerebral palsy, he has always used crutches for his mobility to fit in with the able-bodied crowd and have a full, exciting life.

Neil completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of British Columbia and then pursued a career in IT. He has worked for the Disability Foundation as a mentor and liaison for Persons with Disabilities.

Born with cerebral palsy, he has always used crutches for his mobility to fit in with the able-bodied crowd and have a full, exciting life. Recently widowed, he finds life as a single disabled dad challenging, but also extremely rewarding, and his young son brings him joy daily. 

When not hanging out with his son, Neil likes working on the computer, writing, and photography.
 

"Getting married and becoming a father is what gave me a healthier balanced outlook to overcome my disability on the one hand, and yet fully embrace it with the other." – Neil Matheson
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Robb Dunfield

Robb is an accomplished hand-mouth artist and manages special projects for the Rick Hansen Foundation Ambassador Program. He’s married and a father of twin girls, now in university. As a young man, he was severely injured in a fall from a third-storey balcony.

Robb is an accomplished hand-mouth artist and manages special projects for the Rick Hansen Foundation Ambassador Program. He’s married and a father of twin girls, now in university.

As a young man, he was severely injured in a fall from a third-storey balcony. He received a very high-level spinal cord injury, losing all mobility and sensation from the neck down and becoming ventilator-dependent 24 hours a day. 

Doctors felt Robb would have no real opportunity to rehabilitate, so he lived in an institution for seven years. Eventually, Robb and five other individuals with similar injuries joined together and developed the world’s first independent living group home for persons with high-level spinal cord injuries. He lived in this home for six years, before marrying his wife and moving into their first home.

“My life feels incredibly full and I’m very blessed. I get excited waking up every morning and seeing what’s in store for me.” – Robb Dunfield
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Teri Thorson

Teri has enjoyed fulfilling careers as a Paralympic athlete and fashion designer. She’s mom to a young son, as well as an active volunteer for WC Race Series and SCI-BC. She’s worked hard to become independent.

Teri has enjoyed fulfilling careers as a Paralympic athlete and fashion designer. She’s mom to a young son, as well as an active volunteer for WC Race Series and SCI-BC.

She’s worked hard to become independent. While on vacation in Australia, the driver of the car she was in skidded on a hairpin turn on a gravel road and rolled the car. Once a professional dancer and model with a job in the software industry, she was left with paraplegia.

After spending a year of rehab in both Australia and Vancouver, Teri tried to get back to the life she had before her injury. While this has been difficult, she has had many successes.

“Success is a result from mistakes and failures. Also from achievements and the hard effort we put into ourselves by what we do.” – Teri Thorson
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Tom McCandless

Tom has given hundreds of geology presentations and is now eager to share the story of his path from fierce independence to proactive interdependence.  At age 20, he entered a 160-km motorcycle desert race. Early into the race, he cut the track to pass the crowd.

Tom has given hundreds of geology presentations and is now eager to share the story of his path from fierce independence to proactive interdependence. 

At age 20, he entered a 160-km motorcycle desert race. Early into the race, he cut the track to pass the crowd. Coming face-to-face with a huge boulder at 80 km/hr, he jumped it, sending both Tom and motorcycle cart-wheeling through the air. Tom later awoke from surgery with paraplegia.  

After several weeks in hospital, Tom returned to university and with the help of new friends and mentors, he graduated with his first degree in geology. He now holds a PhD in geology and is an adjunct professor at two universities. He’s also president of an international consultancy and was directly involved in the discovery of two diamond mines in Canada. 
 

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Trent Seymour

Trent learned traditional ways of hunting, fishing, and food preservation from his parents and grandmothers. He is Dakelh; his ancestry is Lheidli T’enneh. He belongs to the frog clan.

Trent learned traditional ways of hunting, fishing, and food preservation from his parents and grandmothers. He is Dakelh; his ancestry is Lheidli T’enneh. He belongs to the frog clan. His home is located on the bank of the Fraser River in the very same spot his great-grandparents’ home was located. 

Since Trent was a child, he loved playing sports. He began soccer at age 5, followed by taekwondo, fastball, and hockey. While hunting with friends near his home in 2014, he was injured in a shooting accident and was left with paraplegia. 

Trent believes with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible. He continues to play sports and further his education. He is attempting to make Team BC in Wheelchair basketball and sledge hockey. His outlook is extremely positive despite the complications associated with his injuries, and he feels fortunate to have supportive family and friends.

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Tyler Tingle

Tyler was an active young adult when he was injured. He enjoyed the outdoors, often going mountain biking or dirt biking and fishing and camping in the local lakes near his home town. When he was injured, many people suggested he play wheelchair basketball, but Tyler wanted to live life as close to the way he did before he was hurt.

Tyler was an active young adult when he was injured. He enjoyed the outdoors, often going mountain biking or dirt biking and fishing and camping in the local lakes near his home town. When he was injured, many people suggested he play wheelchair basketball, but Tyler wanted to live life as close to the way he did before he was hurt. He got his big restart at this going to the drag race track to watch a friend’s race; when they later talked, Tyler’s friend suggested he get a car to race. Tyler has now been drag racing for 25 years. Many people had continued to ask Tyler about wheelchair basketball as well.  He ended up trying it, and since the early 90s he has played, coached, and organized wheelchair basketball in Kamloops.

The night of Tyler’s injury, he and a few friends had agreed to go to a friend’s house to have some drinks. The plan was for him to spend the night there and head to work the next morning.  At some point during the night, the plan changed and they decided to look for a party. The driver took a 40km/hr corner at 110km/hr in a highly lifted 4x4 truck with 40 inch tall tires. The truck lost control in the corner and rolled repeatedly, throwing all 4 occupants from the vehicle, due in part to the vehicle damage and in part due to no one wearing a seat belt. Tyler suffered a broken back and SCI upon impact with the ground. The driver did not make it, while the other 2 occupants were treated in the hospital that night and sent home.

Tyler was sent first to Merritt Hospital and then later to Kamloops. After a short time in Royal Inland Hospital, he was flown to Shaughnessy Hospital where the spinal cord unit was. Tyler was in Shaughnessy for one month, but his back wasn’t healing as hoped so it was recommended his back be fused. Surgery was more involved than initially thought, and the fuse ended up from T2 - T9. Another month in the hospital followed before he was moved to GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre.  Tyler worked hard, had a great attitude and a good home to move back to so his stay at GF Strong was only 2 months long, which was considered short at the time. Tyler’s folks added on to their existing home which included a new bedroom and a larger accessible washroom. He lived back in Merritt for a year, where he went back to high school before moving to Kamloops where he was later enrolled in the Computer Aided Drafting and Design program at Thompson Rivers University. Following school, Tyler started his first job working for a local architectural firm where he stayed 9 years. I looked at what the challenges were, what needed to be overcome and worked successfully through to reach his goals.

Tyler had worked in the architectural field for over 16 years. Since then, the economic crash and significant SCI related medical issues have encouraged Tyler’s retirement. Tyler now keeps busy with many projects and more importantly, his wife and her two daughters.
 

“I was injured at 19 years old in 1989. At that time, I was told it would likely be 10 years before they had a cure for SCI...  I wasn’t waiting around; I had stuff to do. Following my SCI I went to university and then back to work to help life get back to normal. In the time since the injury, I’ve been looking at what can still be done, not what can’t.”   – Tyler Tingle

Manitoba

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Darrin Luke

Darrin has three university degrees, a job he loves with a great company, and is raising two stepsons with his beloved wife. He enjoys playing sports such as sledge hockey and wheelchair tennis. He also waterskies and has completed three half marathons.

Darrin has three university degrees, a job he loves with a great company, and is raising two stepsons with his beloved wife. He enjoys playing sports such as sledge hockey and wheelchair tennis. He also waterskies and has completed three half marathons.

At age 10, he was diagnosed with a cancerous spinal tumour. Doctors didn't think he would survive, but intensive chemotherapy and radiation kept him alive. After the cancer, he was paralyzed. He managed to regain his mobility from the ages of 15 to 21. 

With hard work, he relearned many things, teaching himself to dress, bathe, and drive. He also worked through tough emotions like guilt and anger. Today, Darrin has the life he once thought he’d never have.  

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Jared Funk

A veteran on Team Canada, Jared Funk has competed in wheelchair rugby since 2001, winning three Paralympic medals - Silver in Athens 2004, Bronze in Beijing 2008 and Silver in London 2012.  He was introduced to wheelchair rugby in 1993 after a car accident left him with quadriplegia at age 18. After the 2012 London Paralympics, Jared took a break from wheelchair rugby to be at home with his wife and three young children.

A veteran on Team Canada, Jared Funk has competed in wheelchair rugby since 2001, winning three Paralympic medals - Silver in Athens 2004, Bronze in Beijing 2008 and Silver in London 2012. 

He was introduced to wheelchair rugby in 1993 after a car accident left him with quadriplegia at age 18. After the 2012 London Paralympics, Jared took a break from wheelchair rugby to be at home with his wife and three young children. 

He then became involved with the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries IMPACT Team as coordinator, and is back training and playing wheelchair rugby on Team Manitoba. 

Jared hopes to inspire those in sport or considering sport that there are means to join. Having an injury can mean the start of something bigger. If there is a will there is a way, Jared is proof of that.

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Paula Orecklin

Paula is celebrating her disability by shooting a documentary. For 15 years, she’s lived with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.  At age 13, she twisted her ankle.

Paula is celebrating her disability by shooting a documentary. For 15 years, she’s lived with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. 

At age 13, she twisted her ankle. Since then, every movement and touch triggers excessive pain. Her condition was diagnosed over a year later. 

Although she had to leave university when new medications hindered her ability to focus and think, she has kept a positive mindset. She continues to make progress, using canes and a wheelchair to move around.

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Ryan Sturgeon

Ryan holds a Master’s degree in counselling psychology and works as a community mental health worker. After a diving accident at age 16 caused incomplete quadriplegia, he spent several months in hospital undergoing intense physiotherapy and surgery.  Grateful to be alive, Ryan never lets anything stop him.

Ryan holds a Master’s degree in counselling psychology and works as a community mental health worker.

After a diving accident at age 16 caused incomplete quadriplegia, he spent several months in hospital undergoing intense physiotherapy and surgery. 

Grateful to be alive, Ryan never lets anything stop him. Now a husband and a proud father of four children, he is working towards becoming a distinguished toastmaster. 

He enjoys camping, spending time with his family, and creating events to raise awareness about disabilities.

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Samuel Unrau

Active in both wheelchair tennis and sledge hockey, Samuel won five silver medals in the Western Canadian Summer Games in 2007 and 2011, and a gold and silver medal in the Western Sledge Hockey Championships in 2010. In 2015, he placed 12th at the Wheelchair Tennis Nationals.  He was born with spina bifida and paralyzed from the waist down.

Active in both wheelchair tennis and sledge hockey, Samuel won five silver medals in the Western Canadian Summer Games in 2007 and 2011, and a gold and silver medal in the Western Sledge Hockey Championships in 2010. In 2015, he placed 12th at the Wheelchair Tennis Nationals. 

He was born with spina bifida and paralyzed from the waist down. He became active in many sports and found a group of supportive friends. Although he has faced many challenges, he believes his experiences have shaped him into who he is today – strong and unwavering in his determination.

Samuel completed his Bachelor of Business Administration at the University of Winnipeg, and is starting a CPA designation toward a career in accounting. 
 

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Sarah Anderson

Sarah is an aspiring teacher and currently an active member of her high school choir, vocal jazz ensemble, and social justice group. Her drive and determination is stronger than any challenge she faces. She was diagnosed after birth with Cerebral Palsy, a non-progressive condition that affects muscle coordination.

Sarah is an aspiring teacher and currently an active member of her high school choir, vocal jazz ensemble, and social justice group.

Her drive and determination is stronger than any challenge she faces. She was diagnosed after birth with Cerebral Palsy, a non-progressive condition that affects muscle coordination. This affected her ability to walk, crawl, or use her hands effectively. Sarah’s tremors progressed and finally led to the diagnosis of Generalized Dystonia. 

She has learned to adapt to her abilities and cultivate hopes and dreams for the future. A high academic achiever, she has been on the honour roll for two consecutive years. She consults on federal disability acts, and makes presentations to Sustainable Living Academy Manitoba Events on issues of social justice and equity. 

Despite not always being able to attend school full time, this young and fearless girl is well on her way to graduating high school at age 18, and eventually pursuing a career in education. 
 

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Shannon DuPont

In January 2013, Shannon was the passenger in a vehicle. The driver lost control and the car rolled. Shannon was found 100 feet from the vehicle, and was taken to the hospital.

In January 2013, Shannon was the passenger in a vehicle. The driver lost control and the car rolled. Shannon was found 100 feet from the vehicle, and was taken to the hospital. She was eventually diagnosed with an L1 incomplete spinal cord injury.

During the time of her injury, Shannon was the Transition services Rehab Counsellor at Canadian Paraplegic Association. Even though she was very good at transitioning members of CPA, she found it difficult transitioning herself.

Shannon currently works for the province of Manitoba with a degree in Social Work. She has three nephews and a niece that are her pride and joy. Her life wouldn’t be complete without her faithful dog Becky who has got her through many rough moments.
 

“There are some things you can’t change and you have to move on with your life. It’s about picking your battles.”   – Shannon Dupont
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Shealon Kuly

Shealon was a passenger in a car traveling at high speed when the car rolled over and hit a hydro pole that left her with a T2-4 complete spinal cord injury. She spent two months in hospital and five months in rehab.  Shealon decided to seek intensive rehab and worked really hard at getting stronger.

Shealon was a passenger in a car traveling at high speed when the car rolled over and hit a hydro pole that left her with a T2-4 complete spinal cord injury. She spent two months in hospital and five months in rehab.  Shealon decided to seek intensive rehab and worked really hard at getting stronger.  The first 8 months were a blur for Shealon and being faced with her new reality didn’t hit her until she came home from rehab.

Before the accident, Shealon was very active and enjoyed playing soccer, rugby and snowboarding.   She had initially planned a month-long trip to Europe after she graduated but unfortunately had to cancel due to the changes in her life. However Shealon still tries to do many of the things that she did before her accident and she likes to travel and explore new places. For her 24th birthday she went skydiving and she is also hoping to try sledge hockey next year.

Shealon likes to spend time with family and her one and a half year old puppy. She is considering pursuing a career in the field of Design.

"Innocence is a gift, compassion is learned.  By working together we can all make that happen."   – Shealon Kuly
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Zephania Mantaga

Zephania is the executive director of the Canadian Multicultural Disability Center. He has been involved in many projects involving disability and ethnicity. At age five, a measles infection caused him to lose his sight.

Zephania is the executive director of the Canadian Multicultural Disability Center. He has been involved in many projects involving disability and ethnicity.

At age five, a measles infection caused him to lose his sight. Despite this, he didn’t lose his determination to overcome challenges. He learned to believe in himself and never give up. 

Today, helps people from different ethno-racial backgrounds cope with health-related challenges and participate fully in their communities. 

New Brunswick

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Patrick Avery

Patrick has a BA in Psychology and was hired by the Correctional Service of Canada as an Institutional Parole Officer. Today he still works for CSC, Atlantic Division in assessment and special projects.  After suffering a spinal cord injury at the age of 17 in a car accident, Patrick spent close to 14 months in hospitals and rehab.

Patrick has a BA in Psychology and was hired by the Correctional Service of Canada as an Institutional Parole Officer. Today he still works for CSC, Atlantic Division in assessment and special projects. 

After suffering a spinal cord injury at the age of 17 in a car accident, Patrick spent close to 14 months in hospitals and rehab. Today he believes living with a disability can be a gift, offering different opportunities you would have never otherwise experienced. 

Patrick believes an injury or disability does not define a person - attitude does. He wants to inspire youth to take a good look at the world around them and see what they can do to make Canada accessible and inclusive for everyone.
 

Newfoundland and Labrador

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Alaina Butt

Alaina believes every obstacle she encounters and overcomes only makes her stronger. With her upbeat attitude and amazing sense of humour, she doesn’t let anything slow her down. Born with Spina Bifida, Alaina was taught to try to do things for herself.

Alaina believes every obstacle she encounters and overcomes only makes her stronger. With her upbeat attitude and amazing sense of humour, she doesn’t let anything slow her down. Born with Spina Bifida, Alaina was taught to try to do things for herself. Her parents wanted her to be independent despite her disability. 

She worked hard for many years to become more self-reliant. Today, she works part time as a dispatcher for a paratransit system in St. Johns. 

When not at work, Alaina enjoys reading, watching movies, listening to music, and learning about new kinds of technology.
 

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Dion Regular

Dion works full time as a peer-support specialist, assisting individuals with SCI and other mobility issues in community rehabilitation. He also works part time in finance.  At age 20, in 1999, he was newly married with a nine-month old son.

Dion works full time as a peer-support specialist, assisting individuals with SCI and other mobility issues in community rehabilitation. He also works part time in finance. 

At age 20, in 1999, he was newly married with a nine-month old son. On his parents’ wedding anniversary, he slipped while climbing down some scaffolding. He fell through a plank, hitting his head and fracturing his neck. He was left with incomplete quadriplegia.

Dion spent a long time in rehabilitation preparing for his new life. He has worked hard to regain what he could of his arm and leg movement and beat the odds.
 

Nova Scotia

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Emma Logan

Emma lives life to the fullest as an active university student and athlete. She lost her hearing when she was 13 months old due to meningitis. Having lived with hearing loss for almost her entire life, Emma says it hardly feels like a disability.

Emma lives life to the fullest as an active university student and athlete.

She lost her hearing when she was 13 months old due to meningitis. Having lived with hearing loss for almost her entire life, Emma says it hardly feels like a disability. She considers it a part of herself that she can’t see her life without. 

Emma credits her hearing loss with contributing in positive ways to the person she is today. She began participating in sports at age five, starting with soccer. Today she competes with the St. Francis Xavier University women’s curling team, which won the 2017 Atlantic University Sport curling championships.

When not in school, she works for Scotiabank, and is cultivating a passion for art and travel. She is taking painting courses and will be participating in a student exchange in 2018 to Australia.
 

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Mark Hobbs

Mark lives with Cerebral Palsy, which has not stopped his drive and determination to be the best he can be. He is a co-founder of Fundmetric, a technology company that specializes in helping charities identify and inspire donors using real-time data analysis.  He served as Vice President (Internal) of the Dalhousie Student Union, facilitating leadership opportunities for over 180 student societies.

Mark lives with Cerebral Palsy, which has not stopped his drive and determination to be the best he can be. He is a co-founder of Fundmetric, a technology company that specializes in helping charities identify and inspire donors using real-time data analysis. 

He served as Vice President (Internal) of the Dalhousie Student Union, facilitating leadership opportunities for over 180 student societies. In 2010, Mark was awarded the Malcolm Honour Award, the highest honor available from the Dalhousie Student Union for exceptional dedication to extra-curricular activities on campus. Mark holds a Bachelor of Political Science. 

Mark was accepted in the highfliers program as one of ten entrepreneurs poised for high growth. He was also selected from over 1500 applicants as one of 30 youth ambassador to the Junior Team Canada Program where he represented businesses on an international trade mission to Mexico.

Prior to moving to Nova Scotia in 2004, Mark was the first disabled kayaker in Regina Saskatchewan. He was awarded the President's Award for sportsmanship and perseverance. He was also nominated for Junior Citizen of the Year.
 

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Nicole McDonald

In High School she created Access Awareness Day and she was the first student in the new Axcess Acadia program at Acadia University, where she was instrumental in establishing logistics. She is maintains a busy schedule currently employed at two jobs; the QEII Foundation and Independent Living Nova Scotia (ILNS). She is a “Humans of Teamworks” recipient and was invited to assist the QEII Foundation Training Materials Committee to make it more accessible.

In High School she created Access Awareness Day and she was the first student in the new Axcess Acadia program at Acadia University, where she was instrumental in establishing logistics. She is maintains a busy schedule currently employed at two jobs; the QEII Foundation and Independent Living Nova Scotia (ILNS). She is a “Humans of Teamworks” recipient and was invited to assist the QEII Foundation Training Materials Committee to make it more accessible. She was the Accessibility Coordinator for the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery in 2017 and was the Art of Disability Coordinator for ILNS in 2015 and 2016. In 2015 she won a Human Rights Case fighting for the right to access Post-secondary Education with a support attendant. She has extensive public speaking experience sharing her stories with Ability Starts Here Symposium in 2012, 2015 and 2016, and with Inverlie Consulting doing school staff presentations to name a few. She believes in inclusion in all aspects of living but has a special interest in disability related challenges around education, employment and housing.

“I Believe I can make a difference in the lives of people living with a disability. I Believe that people who have a disability should be able to live, work and play – just like everyone else. I believe that as a Rick Hansen Ambassador, I can help change the way people think and making community more inclusive for all.” – Nicole McDonald

Ontario

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Alec Denys

Alec has many talents, from archery to advocacy for people with disabilities. He enjoyed a 35-year career with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and retired to a 4.5 acre property.

Alec has many talents, from archery to advocacy for people with disabilities. He enjoyed a 35-year career with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and retired to a 4.5 acre property. He stays active by gardening, cycling, kayaking, paranordic skiing, wheelchair curling, and practicing archery as a member of the Canadian Para-Archery National Team. 

As a young man, Alec wanted to work at a job he loved, start a family, be involved in sports and in the community, and be healthy. At age 29, while bow hunting, he experienced a spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia. After four months in rehab, he realized it was up to him to find new ways to achieve his goals. He chose to see the road ahead as full of possibilities rather than limitations. 

Alec believes his life goals have been realized to a much greater extent because of his injury. He gives back to his community as coordinator of the Active Together Program for Peterborough Council for Persons with a Disability, Chair of the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee for the Township of Selywn and the County of Peterborough, and a peer support mentor for SCI Ontario.
 

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Andrea Andrecyk

Andrea is a graphic designer, para-sports athlete, and volunteer ski instructor, currently working as a peer support coordinator for SCI Ontario. When she was 12 years old, she contracted Transverse Mylitis. The virus affected the use of her legs, causing paraplegia.

Andrea is a graphic designer, para-sports athlete, and volunteer ski instructor, currently working as a peer support coordinator for SCI Ontario.

When she was 12 years old, she contracted Transverse Mylitis. The virus affected the use of her legs, causing paraplegia. Andrea persevered, graduating from a three-year graphic design program at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, ON, and working at the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper for 12 years.

She was a member of the Canadian National Adaptive Team from 2005-07, competing in two world championships in Belgium and Australia and bringing home three bronze medals for Canada.

Andrea is a member of the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiers - CADS at Edelweiss Valley in Quebec. Every weekend in January and February, she volunteers her time to help children and adults with disabilities learn how to ski. She inspires them to focus on their abilities not their disability.
 

"If you cannot stand up...stand out!" – Andrea Andrecyk
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Anthony Frisina

Anthony is passionate about accessibility, inclusion, integration, and equal opportunities for people of all abilities. He has first-hand experience of how mobility can change. Born with Spina Bifida, he moved from using a cane to help him walk, at age 13, to using a wheelchair full time.

Anthony is passionate about accessibility, inclusion, integration, and equal opportunities for people of all abilities. He has first-hand experience of how mobility can change. Born with Spina Bifida, he moved from using a cane to help him walk, at age 13, to using a wheelchair full time. He graduated from Mohawk College with diplomas in E-Business and Office Executive Administration, and currently works at Mohawk College and McMaster University. He enjoys playing sledge hockey and baseball and spending time with family and friends.

“I enjoy reciprocation from the audience asking questions, not only about me, but about my personal thoughts on accessibility and inclusion in general and what it means to me.”  – Anthony Frisina
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Bob Asham

Bob Asham sustained a spinal cord injury one night in January of 1988. During a night of hockey with his Men’s hockey team, he went headlong in the boards and broke his neck. He spent six months in hospital recovering and doctors told him he had a 10% chance of regaining any movement from the neck down and would require constant care.

Bob Asham sustained a spinal cord injury one night in January of 1988. During a night of hockey with his Men’s hockey team, he went headlong in the boards and broke his neck. He spent six months in hospital recovering and doctors told him he had a 10% chance of regaining any movement from the neck down and would require constant care.

Bob was able to beat those odds. After 2 years of rehab he returned to work, having gained enough movement to walk short distances with crutches. He also uses a wheelchair for everyday getting around. Bob Asham has coached Minor Hockey and Baseball for the last 12 years and has sat on the Accessibility Committee in his community for the past 8 years.
 

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Don Calvert

Don Calvert was a busy man with a family, an athlete, a registered nurse on the surgical unit, a local paper mill worker, and a Union Executive Board member, until he was involved in a single vehicle roll over. Don was involved in a single vehicle roll over. He was in a coma, had broken most of the vertebrae in his spine, collapsed his lung, broken almost all his ribs and was air lifted to Sunny Brook Hospital in Toronto.

Don Calvert was a busy man with a family, an athlete, a registered nurse on the surgical unit, a local paper mill worker, and a Union Executive Board member, until he was involved in a single vehicle roll over. Don was involved in a single vehicle roll over. He was in a coma, had broken most of the vertebrae in his spine, collapsed his lung, broken almost all his ribs and was air lifted to Sunny Brook Hospital in Toronto. Since then, Don and his wife started to invest in real estate properties in his hometown and also in Florida where they now manage a rental business and keeps them busy. Don also began to volunteer and started a committee that evolved in a nonprofit, of which he is now chairman. Using his side-by-side four wheeler, Don loves exploring the amazing trails in his Northern Ontario community with his daughters.

“It takes much less energy to deal with life’s curve balls in a positive way that in a negative.” – Don Calvert
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Elsa LaLonde

Elsa faces challenges head on. She’s a successful athlete competing in Women’s National sitting volleyball and women’s single scull para-rowing. She is a student at the University of Ottawa and a community worker at Valoris for Children and adults of Prescott-Russell.

Elsa faces challenges head on. She’s a successful athlete competing in Women’s National sitting volleyball and women’s single scull para-rowing. She is a student at the University of Ottawa and a community worker at Valoris for Children and adults of Prescott-Russell. As a passionate volunteer, she is the coordinator for the Jumpstart Foundation in eastern Ontario, foster family for a six-year-old girl with special needs, respite worker for special needs kids, and a speaker for SCI Ontario. She even plays the violin!

Elsa was in grade 7 when she lost control of her snowboard and crashed, leaving her with a brain injury and paraplegia. She spent the following two years at home recovering from her accident. Always a gifted student who participated in many different clubs and sports, and dreamed of becoming a doctor, Elsa has had to adapt and find new ways to use her abilities. 
 

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Fernando Resende

Fernando Resende spends his time doing a variety of things. Among them, he volunteers for multiple organizations including Rick Hansen Foundation as a public speaker advocating for the importance of accessibility, inclusion, adopting a try new things and never-give-up attitude regardless of your situation.  He is a husband and father and has tried almost every adaptive sport that is known.

Fernando Resende spends his time doing a variety of things. Among them, he volunteers for multiple organizations including Rick Hansen Foundation as a public speaker advocating for the importance of accessibility, inclusion, adopting a try new things and never-give-up attitude regardless of your situation. 

He is a husband and father and has tried almost every adaptive sport that is known. He is an avid cyclist and tennis player, having competed in both at a charity and competitive level. Presently he still focuses on handcycling but occasionally helps out with wheelchair tennis. He enjoys volunteering his time to kids with disabilities and newly injured adult programs.

Before his Spinal Cord Injury 16 years ago, he worked for many years as an Art Director primarily in publishing and advertising. He has been an avid Photographer since studying Fine Art back in University and opened FMprints.com 10 years ago. He likes to travel to interesting places and is always inspired by new surroundings, which end up being inspiration for new photographs. He has experimented with printing on different materials such as different types of plywood and unique metals. His works have been shown in Galleries and Shows all over Toronto. 
 

“Life has so much to offer and you can be incredibly strong both in mind and body that you’ll surprise yourself, just keep moving forward in a positive direction.” – Fernando Resende
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Jackie Silver

Jackie is finishing up her kinesiology degree at York University with plans to study nutrition at Ryerson University. She volunteers as a mentor for a youth group and speaks to groups of teenagers about dealing with life’s challenges. Born with a vascular malformation in her left leg, her condition was fairly manageable during childhood.

Jackie is finishing up her kinesiology degree at York University with plans to study nutrition at Ryerson University. She volunteers as a mentor for a youth group and speaks to groups of teenagers about dealing with life’s challenges.

Born with a vascular malformation in her left leg, her condition was fairly manageable during childhood. One day, as she was leaving school, she spontaneously fractured her tibia and fibula. After a very lengthy recovery, she needed two canes to walk. Her life was completely changed as she had to adjust to her limited mobility.

Today, when not at school, Jackie enjoys exercising, baking, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.

“The test in life that we’re given is whether we choose to focus on our disabilities and what is lacking in our lives or choose to focus on our abilities and what we have.”  – Jackie Silver
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Joel Dembe

Joel works with RBC as part of the RBC Olympians Program and with Tennis Canada as a coach and ambassador, promoting inclusivity within the sport.  Shortly after he was born, doctors discovered a benign tumour near his spine. While the tumour was successfully removed, Joel began using a wheelchair at a young age and has had many corrective surgeries growing up to fix his scoliosis.

Joel works with RBC as part of the RBC Olympians Program and with Tennis Canada as a coach and ambassador, promoting inclusivity within the sport. 

Shortly after he was born, doctors discovered a benign tumour near his spine. While the tumour was successfully removed, Joel began using a wheelchair at a young age and has had many corrective surgeries growing up to fix his scoliosis. 

Spending a lot of time in hospitals as a child allowed Joel to face adversity head on and prepared for life in a wheelchair as an adult. He recently retired from high-performance competition after representing Canada at the Paralympic level.
 

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Joey Desjardins

Joey is a student at St. Lawrence College, working toward a business degree and looking forward to starting his career. He volunteers as a peer counsellor for the PARTY program, loves to hand-cycle (and often competes professionally), and alpine ski.

Joey is a student at St. Lawrence College, working toward a business degree and looking forward to starting his career. He volunteers as a peer counsellor for the PARTY program, loves to hand-cycle (and often competes professionally), and alpine ski.

He experienced a spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident. Out on his regular Sunday ride, he pushed his motorcycle faster than normal and crashed. Joey spent four months in hospital, and many more at home recovering. 

Although it was a difficult journey, Joey pushed himself to overcome these new obstacles.

“Live your life to the fullest, stress less, and laugh often.” – Joey Desjardins
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Joshua Dvorkin

Josh has overcome great obstacles and is now a counselor, a writer, and a student about to undertake his third degree.  Early one morning before work, he was having a cup of coffee and talking to his neighbour on his balcony when he had an epileptic seizure. He fell seven feet to the pavement below, landing on his head and breaking his neck.

Josh has overcome great obstacles and is now a counselor, a writer, and a student about to undertake his third degree. 

Early one morning before work, he was having a cup of coffee and talking to his neighbour on his balcony when he had an epileptic seizure. He fell seven feet to the pavement below, landing on his head and breaking his neck. When he woke up and realized he was paralyzed, he was so panic stricken he went into cardiac arrest. He suffered five cardiac arrests while in hospital and now lives with a pace maker.

Through all this, Josh managed to both survive and thrive. When not working, he enjoys painting and collecting.
 

“Positive things happen to positive people.” – Joshua Dvorkin
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Julie Sawchuk

Julie won the 2017 Be Bold for Change Award, honouring inspiring women in her community. She authors a blog about her recovery from a spinal cord injury, and advocates for bike safety and accessibility. Julie - a married mother of two, science teacher, and coach - was training for a triathlon on her bike when a car hit her from behind.

Julie won the 2017 Be Bold for Change Award, honouring inspiring women in her community. She authors a blog about her recovery from a spinal cord injury, and advocates for bike safety and accessibility.

Julie - a married mother of two, science teacher, and coach - was training for a triathlon on her bike when a car hit her from behind. She sustained a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis from the chest down. Her recovery in hospital lasted over three months.

Since then, she has transferred her skills as a teacher in the classroom to that of an activist in the community. While it’s been a difficult journey, she actively encourages people to work past their own their challenges and reach out to others in need.
 

"Learning how to live with paralysis has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Others have told me they could not do it, but you don't know what strength you have until you are in the midst of needing it." – Julie Sawchuk
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Lisa Derencinovic

Lisa’s passion for social work was sparked while volunteering at CNIB, when she found a mentor in her co-facilitator. She opened her own personal counselling business, and became a social worker, part-time group facilitator, and part-time yoga teacher.  She was diagnosed with a genetic eye disease at age four.

Lisa’s passion for social work was sparked while volunteering at CNIB, when she found a mentor in her co-facilitator. She opened her own personal counselling business, and became a social worker, part-time group facilitator, and part-time yoga teacher. 

She was diagnosed with a genetic eye disease at age four. Though her vision slowly worsened over time, she held out hope it would stabilize. Finally at age 18, she found acceptance and learned to use a white cane. During her first year at university, her white cane helped her get around the busy, downtown campus. 

In her free time, Lisa enjoys running, swimming, and yoga. She also loves to read, dance, and spend time with friends and family.
 

“Life is much easier when you live in positivity and accept yourself rather than fighting against who you are and living in negativity.” – Lisa Derencinovic
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Lorin MacDonald

Lorin is President of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. Born with deafness in both ears, she found learning how to work with her disability wasn’t as hard as combatting negative attitudes about what she could and couldn’t do.  She always dreamed becoming a lawyer, and eventually she graduated university and was accepted to law school.

Lorin is President of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. Born with deafness in both ears, she found learning how to work with her disability wasn’t as hard as combatting negative attitudes about what she could and couldn’t do. 

She always dreamed becoming a lawyer, and eventually she graduated university and was accepted to law school. She now practices human rights law. 

Giving back to her community is very important to Lorin. She sits on the board of the ARCH Disability Law Centre, and is also a member on the Ontario Bar Association Equality Committee. 

In her free time, she likes to read biographies, collect Irish pottery, and do crossword puzzles.
 

“How I do things is not really a big deal and it only becomes a big deal if you make it one." – Lorin MacDonald
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Mardelle Woods

Mardelle hopes to inspire everyone to embrace their inner hero and be the best they can be. A retired healthcare work for seniors and their families, she’s a mother of three grown children and dedicated to her community. At age 29, Mardelle suffered a complete spinal cord injury and brain injury during a tragic accident which claimed the life of her husband.

Mardelle hopes to inspire everyone to embrace their inner hero and be the best they can be. A retired healthcare work for seniors and their families, she’s a mother of three grown children and dedicated to her community.

At age 29, Mardelle suffered a complete spinal cord injury and brain injury during a tragic accident which claimed the life of her husband. After spending months in neurological intensive care, doctors told her she’d never walk again, have cognitive ability, or any quality of life. Her father insisted she be placed in a rehabilitation centre, and after a few months of intensive care and treatment, Mardelle walked out of the hospital. 

Today, she enjoys a wide variety of activities including skating, light hiking, camping, knitting, writing, gardening, travel, and spending time with family.
 

"Embrace life, its yours to live in a good way with passion, love , respect and being curious about everything, Chi-Miigwetch Gizhe- Manidoo (Ojibway Translation- Many Thanks to God the Creator)." – Mardelle Woods
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Marion Croft

Marion has always been a go-getter. She studied Human Resource Management at Ryerson University and works for Ontario Power Generation. She is president and owner of Vital Access, a speaker, and an active volunteer.

Marion has always been a go-getter. She studied Human Resource Management at Ryerson University and works for Ontario Power Generation. She is president and owner of Vital Access, a speaker, and an active volunteer. 

When she was 18 months old, she contracted polio. After three years in hospital recovering from the effects of polio, she was keen to live life to the fullest. 

Marion still makes time in her busy schedule to enjoy music, driving, and travelling.

”We all have watershed moments in our lives – what we chose to do about them and how we accept the inevitable will give us the quality of life that God intended for us.”  – Marion Croft
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Meenu Sikand

Meenu is an international disability rights advocate. She’s received numerous awards from the Canadian government, Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, Voice Media Group, and other organizations. She is currently president at the Center for the Independent Living, chair of the Vaughan Accessibility Advisory Committee, and board member of the Punjabi Community Health Services.

Meenu is an international disability rights advocate. She’s received numerous awards from the Canadian government, Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, Voice Media Group, and other organizations. She is currently president at the Center for the Independent Living, chair of the Vaughan Accessibility Advisory Committee, and board member of the Punjabi Community Health Services.

When she first arrived in Canada, she began to experience intense back pain. An X-ray showed the cause: the rods inserted in her back to support a childhood spinal curvature needed adjustment. During the surgery, she sustained an unexpected spinal cord injury and was paralyzed.

Meenu faced this life-altering event head-on. She’s proud to be a daughter, wife, and mother. When not advocating, she enjoys reading, writing, and listening to music.

“I cherish every challenge and the all the opportunities that come with it.” – Meenu Sikand
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Mike Greer

Mike has a strong interest in motivational speaking and accessibility advocacy, with a goal to help organizations better understand the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. He holds a degree in Information Technology and has worked for the past nine years as an IT sales professional.  He has had Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) his entire life.

Mike has a strong interest in motivational speaking and accessibility advocacy, with a goal to help organizations better understand the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. He holds a degree in Information Technology and has worked for the past nine years as an IT sales professional. 

He has had Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) his entire life. OI is a genetic disorder characterized by bones that break easily, often from little or no apparent cause. People with OI may have just a few or as many as several hundred fractures in a lifetime.

Mike believes having to deal with multiple broken bones, a number of surgeries, and all the people who helped him along the way have made him the person he is today. He feels fortunate to be independent, with a great support group of family and friends, his wife of 10 years, and two corgis.

In his spare time, he and his wife have recently taken up short-distance marathon running and are card-carrying Disney Vacation Club members. 

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Robert Hampson

Robert is a student, competitive swimmer, and runs a successful charity. He’s received the King Clancy Award, a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal, and has been inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in recognition of his work for people with disabilities. When he was four years old, doctors discovered a brain tumour was affecting his vision.

Robert is a student, competitive swimmer, and runs a successful charity. He’s received the King Clancy Award, a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal, and has been inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in recognition of his work for people with disabilities.

When he was four years old, doctors discovered a brain tumour was affecting his vision. Even with surgery to remove it, Robert lost his sight. He then spent more than 11 years battling his brain tumors and learning how to adapt to a world he couldn’t see. But being blind has never held him back. 

In his free time, he enjoys trying new recipes and woodworking.

"Never tell me something is impossible. If you want to do a thing badly enough you can find a way. When somebody tells me I can't, it usually makes me want to do it even more." – Robert Hampson
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Sarah Mueller

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Sharon Brant

Sharon has had a 25-year career with the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario. She is a speaker for both the CNIB and Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, and enjoys educating the public about living with a disability.  She was born with glaucoma and has been fully blind since she was 13 years old.

Sharon has had a 25-year career with the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario. She is a speaker for both the CNIB and Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, and enjoys educating the public about living with a disability. 

She was born with glaucoma and has been fully blind since she was 13 years old. Her childhood dream was to help people by becoming a doctor or nurse, but without her sight, she made different plans. 

Sharon wants the world to know having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t live a full and successful life. She is married with two sons, and in her spare time loves to read, listen to music, and take long walks.
 

“Never say I can’t.” – Sharon Brant
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Therese Estacion

Therese has been a teacher for almost 10 years, helping students believe in themselves and find their true purpose. Having a physical disability has not stopped her at work or at play.  Her belief that miracles do happen – and that openness and compassion exist all around us – stems from her experience of having both legs amputated below the knee, as well as her fingers on both hands.

Therese has been a teacher for almost 10 years, helping students believe in themselves and find their true purpose. Having a physical disability has not stopped her at work or at play. 

Her belief that miracles do happen – and that openness and compassion exist all around us – stems from her experience of having both legs amputated below the knee, as well as her fingers on both hands. 

When not encouraging students to find the courage and wisdom to answer their calling, Therese participates in activities that bring her joy, especially yoga, hiking, travelling, and dancing.
 

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Tracy Schmitt

Unstoppable Tracy has shared the stage with Jane Fonda, John Travolta, Mel Gibson, Mark Whalberg and more! Unstoppable Tracy awarded first place at a Top 1% International Motivational Mega Speaker conference of thousands. She is the winner of the 2017 Robert W. Jackson Award [Founder of the Canadian Paralympics], 2017 Ontario Premier Awards winner and 2018 Women of Essence Global Award Nominee and as seen on CBC, NBC, and FOX!  Oprah Magazine shared her story as Quest for the Gold World Cup Sailor, who climbed Himalayan mountains, captained 110-foot-tall ship, won paraskiing bronze and funny too.

Unstoppable Tracy has shared the stage with Jane Fonda, John Travolta, Mel Gibson, Mark Whalberg and more! Unstoppable Tracy awarded first place at a Top 1% International Motivational Mega Speaker conference of thousands. She is the winner of the 2017 Robert W. Jackson Award [Founder of the Canadian Paralympics], 2017 Ontario Premier Awards winner and 2018 Women of Essence Global Award Nominee and as seen on CBC, NBC, and FOX! 

Oprah Magazine shared her story as Quest for the Gold World Cup Sailor, who climbed Himalayan mountains, captained 110-foot-tall ship, won paraskiing bronze and funny too. 

Unstoppable Tracy was born a 4-way amputee. She is an award winning Leader in business and in sport, Humanitarian, Advocate, Decorated Athlete, International Speaker delivering the Lim[b]itless Secret. Now she adds best selling author to her long list of amazing accomplishments. Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul endorsed her upcoming book ‘Unstoppable YOU; Exceed Uncertainty, Embrace Possibilities, Earn Independence’.

Tracy doesn't just talk high performance in business...she lives it. As Corporate Consultant while at Air Canada (AC) and Shoppers Drug Mart (SDM) she worked simultaneously with management and unions over the competing demands of airline bankruptcy looming and pharmaceutical reform to facilitating restructuring plans that enabled AC and SDM to maintain their high standards out performing the stock market providing numerous award-winning training programs. Tracy was sought after for the Planning and Integration of the Pan Am and Parapan Am games in which she supported the largest most successful games ever.
 

Prince Edward Island

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Elyse Cottrell

Prior to her diagnosis Elyse often put things off. Her diagnosis, and the fact that her disability is potentially progressive, added new obstacles with each relapse. It has taught her the importance of doing things she wants to do when the opportunity arises, and enjoying what life has to offer.

Prior to her diagnosis Elyse often put things off. Her diagnosis, and the fact that her disability is potentially progressive, added new obstacles with each relapse. It has taught her the importance of doing things she wants to do when the opportunity arises, and enjoying what life has to offer.

Elyse was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in her early 20s. She now has Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome including Multiple Sclerosis, Graves Disease, autoimmune hepatitis and diabetes. She has mobility issues as a result of MS and lives with chronic pain.  

Elyse is currently completing her Masters in Social Justice Studies at Lakehead University, having done a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (Honours), and Diversity and Social Justice Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island as a mature student. Her research interests stem from her personal experience and are around intersectional barriers to health care. She recently got married (July 2018) and she works as a researcher, as well as a peer support program coordinator for a local non-profit. She loves playing board games, dungeons and dragons, swimming, going on outdoor adventures especially if they involve waterfalls or swimming, reading, writing, and drinking tea. 

“Every barrier has a solution. Sometimes you need people to get creative to figure out the solution, and sometimes you need people willing to fight for them.” – Elyse Cottrell

Quebec

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Alexandre Dubé

Alexandre is constantly thinking of new, exciting projects. He attended university and received a Diploma in communications at age 24. He found his first job the following year.

Alexandre is constantly thinking of new, exciting projects. He attended university and received a Diploma in communications at age 24. He found his first job the following year. 

When he was 11 years old, his parents told him he lives with a rare disease. He met with many health specialists as a youth and soon realized his life would be different than from what he’d imagined. 

Although he had to leave behind his childhood dream of becoming a professional hockey player, he knows giving up is never an option. Alexandre is determined to spread the message that people with physical disabilities have a multitude of dreams and ambitions, and can contribute in a variety of ways to the life of a community. 

"I do not believe that people are bad or inherently cruel. Sometimes, they simply don’t understand. That is why I love to share my past, present and future with a group. Each person can learn something from my experience, including me." – Alexandre Dubé
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Gisèle Lamontagne

Gisele has an active life as a mother, social worker, and volunteer for various organizations. She counts biking, swimming, working out, and playing the piano as her favorite hobbies. As a child, Gisele dreamed of becoming an Olympic diver.

Gisele has an active life as a mother, social worker, and volunteer for various organizations. She counts biking, swimming, working out, and playing the piano as her favorite hobbies.

As a child, Gisele dreamed of becoming an Olympic diver. While practicing some diving maneuvers on a trampoline, she landed improperly on her back and damaged her spinal cord. After surgery, the surgeons weren’t optimistic about her recovery, but through hard work and determination Gisele regained 95% of her mobility. 

 Gisele continued to enjoy water activities and wrote a book on pre-natal aquatics.
 

“So few people think of how lucky they are to be able to perform the most simple daily tasks that have become very difficult for others. Feel blessed for the little gifts you receive each day.” – Gisele Lamontagne
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Marjorie Aunos

Marjorie does not allow herself to be limited by her physical challenges. She works as a psychologist and researcher with several Canadian universities. She’s raising a young son with some physical support from her parents.

Marjorie does not allow herself to be limited by her physical challenges. She works as a psychologist and researcher with several Canadian universities. She’s raising a young son with some physical support from her parents.

After a car accident left her with paraplegia, Marjorie spent five months in hospital and an intensive rehabilitation centre. She fought hard in rehab to walk again, believing a “good” mom was a “walking” mom. Then she realized, even in a wheelchair, she could accomplish a lot and motherhood could still happen the way she had imagined, but with a little help here or there. With determination, Marjorie learned all the skills necessary to take care of both herself and her son.

She relearned to drive with her hands, and also makes sure she does everything that she would have done with her son if she were standing.

"I won’t dwell on things I cannot change. Instead, I will honour every single muscle I can control by using them to their full capacity for everyone who cannot! Just like I would love to see ‘walkers’ use their legs and go up the stairs instead of using elevators." – Marjorie Aunos
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Sylvie Roy

Sylvie believes a person’s ability to succeed comes from within. She was born with retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumour on the retina of her eye. He right eye was removed when she was five months old, and she has a visual residue of less than 10% in her left eye.

Sylvie believes a person’s ability to succeed comes from within. She was born with retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumour on the retina of her eye. He right eye was removed when she was five months old, and she has a visual residue of less than 10% in her left eye.

Sylvie always knew she was different from other kids, but her parents encouraged her to pursue her goals and believe in her dreams. She always lived alongside sighted individuals, obtaining visual supports to assist with her studies and employment.

Today, she is completing a Master’s degree, with research relating to persons with visual disabilities. She has two daughters and is also a grandparent. She feels we can all learn to look at life through the eyes of the heart.

"I wonder why there is a lack of understanding today regarding the activities of daily living of people with disabilities? I believe that technology and the diverse ways in which we communicate today can help us to show our peers how we achieve our potential." – Sylvie Roy

Saskatchewan

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Blake Lamontagne

Blake doesn’t let using a wheelchair define who he is. He lives life to the fullest, pursuing his passions – sports, farming, and the outdoors. He’s also exploring the workforce.

Blake doesn’t let using a wheelchair define who he is. He lives life to the fullest, pursuing his passions – sports, farming, and the outdoors. He’s also exploring the workforce.

As a teenager, he spent many weekends with friends fixing up his old truck. On a drive one afternoon, Blake lost control, hitting the ditch. The vehicle rolled, placing Blake in a coma and leaving him with paraplegia. 

In spite of these challenges, Blake doesn’t believe in giving up – or giving in.
 

“Life isn't always going to be fair to you. It can throw you curveballs and knock you down when you least expect it. Never lose your inner spark, that fight. Sometimes that spark is all you need to pull you through.”  – Blake Lamontagne
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Heather Kuttai

Heather knows what it’s like to defy expectations. After a car accident resulted in paraplegia at age six, many people assumed she wouldn’t have a good life and would never finish school, get a job, or have a family. She proved them wrong.

Heather knows what it’s like to defy expectations. After a car accident resulted in paraplegia at age six, many people assumed she wouldn’t have a good life and would never finish school, get a job, or have a family.

She proved them wrong. She has a Master of Science degree, and is a decorated Paralympic athlete, coach for Team Canada, published author, wife, and mother.

She loves to give back to her community and is involved with organizations including the Canada Games Foundation and the Saskatoon Food Bank. She tries to find time for her passions: cooking, swimming, and doing yoga.
 

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Janice Bruynooghe

Janice lives a happy, successful life as a wife, mother, business owner, and industry leader. She also knows about determination. While working as a professional in the agricultural industry, she was driving to a work commitment when she fell asleep at the wheel and rolled her vehicle.

Janice lives a happy, successful life as a wife, mother, business owner, and industry leader. She also knows about determination. While working as a professional in the agricultural industry, she was driving to a work commitment when she fell asleep at the wheel and rolled her vehicle. Her life changed instantly.

She spent 10 weeks in hospital, and many months in rehabilitation as she adapted to her new life with paraplegia. Her previously fast-paced life came to a slow crawl as she learned to move forward in a wheelchair. But Janice chose to embrace her new life, facing her daily challenges with a smile.

She’s a proud hockey mom, and likes to hand-cycle, garden and read. 

“I truly believe happiness depends on our attitude, particularly how we respond to life’s challenges, whether big or small.”  – Janice Bruynooghe
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Natasha Urkow

Natasha is passionate about the Arts and is currently majoring in Theatre at the University of Regina. 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.

Natasha is passionate about the Arts and is currently majoring in Theatre at the University of Regina.

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, when the driver suddenly sped around a corner too fast and crashed. Natasha sustained a spinal cord injury, leaving her with quadriplegia.

Despite her injury, Natasha continues to work hard to achieve her dreams.

“Everyone has something to live for. Sometimes we just need help looking for it.”  – Natasha Urkow
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Terri Sleva

Terri works as a treasurer at the SaskTel Employee Network. She is passionate about social justice issues and enjoys helping people improve their lives.  Diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, her condition gradually caused quadriplegia, and she had to adjust to this new reality.

Terri works as a treasurer at the SaskTel Employee Network. She is passionate about social justice issues and enjoys helping people improve their lives. 

Diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, her condition gradually caused quadriplegia, and she had to adjust to this new reality.

Adopting two children from Romania inspired her to make a difference in the world. Today, she actively volunteers with many organizations representing people with disabilities.
 

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