Thank you all very much. I must say that as honoured as I am to be here tonight, I am more grateful to have received the gift of ErinoakKids, in my life. When I think back upon on the great memories of my life, each of them is invariably touched by ErinoakKids in some way.
One of my most treasured goals, put simply, was to be an integrated and functioning member of society. As a young boy I relied upon my parents for everything; from the time of getting up in the morning until it was time for bed. As a child there is a constant struggle for any young person to gain space from their parents and become their own person. As a young person with a severe physical disability, my parents were nervous just to leave me and go to the grocery store.
“What would happen if there was a fire?” they would ask, and of course as a know-it all youngster I would retort, “Oh yes, those spontaneous fires that break out when I’m left alone for two minutes.” Even then, I was begging for my own identity and could not understand my family’s cautious perspective.
I think part of my inability to understand was in part because of the confidence that ErinoakKids instilled in me. Whether it was wheelchair baseball, bowling or going away to a week-long winter camp, their philosophy was always, “Why not?”
ErinoakKids was vital in not only helping me acquire the skill set I would need for later independence, but also to help me learn of the vast array of solutions available to someone like myself. So, whether I was a youngster asking ‘why not’ when my parents needed groceries, or as an adolescent who wanted to dive head-first into the University experience, I always had the confidence, despite the naysayers and so-called experts, that if I wanted to achieve a goal I simply had to put the stubborn genetics that come with having red hair to use, and get it done!
As I got older and began to understand that my parents perhaps had valid concerns, and that as a fifteen-year-old I did not have all the answers, I began to appreciate ErinoakKids even more. Without their Independent Living Program I never would have got to see my father’s “Aha!” moment, where he saw for himself that his son could live a healthy and fulfilled life without being on call 24/7.
As grateful as I am to ErinoakKids, I am equally humbled to see all of the warm faces here tonight. Your support of this organization means the world to me. It is because of ErinoakKids that as an adult I have my own apartment and am pursuing a post-graduate education, but it is because of you that I know thousands of more young people like myself will receive the same gift.
ErinoakKids is just that: a gift. Not only do they help children reach for the stars, they support families in building their child a foundation for an amazing future, and most importantly they are a leader in the community.
ErinoakKids teaches us all that no matter the obstacles faced, these kids are capable of reaching excellence and reminding everyone else in society that they can too.
I thank you all for your support and your vision in helping build a better future, where dreams are accessible to all.
November 8, 2011