Meet Grace Kennedy and Ben MacDonald, our 2017 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassadors. They will spend the year representing Easter Seals and raising awareness for kids with physical disabilities across Ontario.
Grace Kennedy says, “Giving back makes me feel great!” It’s in part because of this attitude that Grace has been selected as a 2017 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador.
At 15 years old and in Grade 9, Grace lives with her parents Dean and Lesley, as well as three siblings, Travis, Leah and Cali. Grace has a passion for arts, science and drama. She especially loves to read, draw, listen to music, swim, and play board games with her family, cook and bake.
As you can see Grace has varied interests, and that includes serving food at a local soup kitchen for those in need.
That’s quite the spirit for a girl who was born with Spina Bifida. Grace wears AFOs on her lower legs and uses a wheelchair for long distances or trips. She says of kids with physical disabilities, “We are special, but all children are special. We are unique and wonderfully made and should be accepted for all that we are, not just what people see.”
As a 2017 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador Grace wants to bring awareness about accessibility, inclusivity and acceptance for children like her. “I want to share my story of hope,” says Grace. “Of being born at 25 weeks weighing 1lb, 10 ounces and of my parents being told I would never walk or talk.”
Certainly Grace has defied doctors’ predictions. Grace is a spunky teenage girl who has overcome tremendous obstacles and challenges and has faced the world with unapologetic courage!
“Look beyond my braces,” she says. “Look beyond the way I walk and see me, meet me, speak to me, look me in the eyes and let’s talk. And I will do the same with you.”
Grace has attended Easter Seals camp five times. She went to Camp Merrywood in Perth, Ontario once, and Camp Woodeden in London, Ontario four times. “My favourite thing about camp is meeting new people, the high ropes course and the drama program. I also really enjoyed dressing up for the final dinner and dance. I really hoped someone would ask me to dance, and it happened!”
In her own words being a 2017 Easter Seals Ambassador will give Grace the opportunity to “be the voice of those who may not have a voice and to speak about acceptance for all people.”
Having served as a local Easter Seals Ambassador in Sault Ste. Marie for the past two years, 16 year old Ben MacDonald has proven his dedication for representing kids with physical disabilities. That is why he has been selected as a 2017 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador.
Born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative neuromuscular condition that causes the muscles to progressively weaken, Ben uses a power wheelchair to get around. In spite of his condition, he refuses to slow down. “My condition has given me a great outlook on life and has made me even more grateful for what I do have,” says Ben.
As a 2017 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador, Ben says that he has been “filled with an intense desire to be the voice for kids who do not have one.”
Currently in grade 11 Ben’s favourite subject is English. He lives with his parents, Heidi, Scott and 14 year old sister Meghan, and enjoys many activities including going to the cottage, singing, reading, writing and, like most boys his age, playing video games.
Ben’s greatest passion, other than representing Easter Seals Ontario, is writing, “Because I love committing my ideas and creative imaginings through the written word. I love describing and creatively crafting vivid and realized worlds and tales.”
After graduating from high school Ben hopes to begin a career in communications, because that will allow him to further develop his writing abilities and build his speaking and presentation skills.
Last year, Ben attended Camp Woodeden for the first time and confesses that his favourite part of the camping experience was “the many friends I made and the knowledge I gained about what life was like for other kids with physical disabilities.”
Like most kids with physical disabilities Ben hasn’t had many opportunities to form friendships with kids like him, so “forming intimate connections with other kids who have physical disabilities was extremely valuable and important to me.”
Being a 2017 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador means the world to Ben. He says, “I look forward to meeting new people and continuing to develop an understanding of physical disabilities for everyone. Being able to represent Easter Seals is an honour. Every day on this Earth is a beautiful gift.”