Meet Graham Baskin and Madisen Dean, our 2019 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassadors. They will spend the year representing Easter Seals and raising awareness for kids with physical disabilities across Ontario.
As a 2019 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador, 16 year-old Graham Baskin is looking forward to spending the year meeting new people and improving his public speaking and media skills. Graham lives in Uxbridge with his parents and the family dog, Juno.
With a passion for history, this outgoing Grade 11 student is a member of his school’s Vimy Club, the Improv Club and the Student Council. Last year, he received the school’s Resiliency Award to recognize his perseverance and high level of engagement in school life. Outside of school, Graham enjoys reading, playing computer games and watching sports. He also volunteers in his community, plays sledge hockey, bikes, swims and likes to travel. In 2017, Graham was selected as an Accessibility Ambassador for Uxbridge because “having a barrier in his life does not stop him from being active in the Uxbridge community… Graham’s frontal and forward involvement in our community has been one of the key movements to create inclusive environments for people of all abilities.” He hopes to pursue a future in history or dramatic arts.
Graham was not born with a disability. It wasn’t until age six that his parents noticed he was stumbling and unable to go down stairs with alternating feet. Despite a lot of investigation, the underlying medical condition causing his disability remains undiagnosed. Over the years, his symptoms have slowly progressed, and today it is difficult for Graham to walk. It also impacts his fine motor control and he has a slight speech impediment.
Although Graham is still able walk with a walker, he mostly uses a wheelchair to get around. Easter Seals has helped fund a lift for his home to make it accessible and enable him to be more independent. An avid Easter Seals camper, Graham enjoys the freedom camp offers as well as the many accessible activities, particularly archery and the high ropes course.
The message Graham hopes to spread during the coming year: “Easter Seals kids along with other kids with disabilities are people just like you and me, however some of the world can’t see past their appliances. These kids prefer for people to get to know them first before they are judged. By doing these events and sending kids to camp, Easter Seals makes these kids unstoppable!”
Bubbly, bright, 11-year-old Madisen lives in Hamilton with her mom, stepdad, older brother, sister and family pets, Fred and Shark. A grade six student, her favourite subjects are French and Art. She works hard to maintain a solid B average – an impressive accomplishment because her medical challenges mean she misses many days of school.
Madisen is affectionately described by her mom as being “feisty and strong-willed” mainly because she has been living with painful physical challenges most people would find unbearable. At age five, Madisen was diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as “Brittle Bone Disease,” a condition that causes her bones to shatter from the slightest bump or pressure. She also has epilepsy. Madisen’s condition is so rare she is considered one-of-a-kind. It also means she is in pain a great deal of the time and some days it’s hard for her to get out of bed.
As a result of her condition, she uses a walker, wheelchair, stair lifts inside and outside her house, a bath lift and a van lift. She also wears a back brace and ankle-foot orthotics on both feet.
Madisen loves to swim because in her words, “I can do whatever I want in the water.” She also loves to sing, so much so that she inspired a group of kids with special needs to join her to form a choir. Singing is a way Madisen can express herself without worrying about injuring. It has also empowered her to “give back” to other kids with physical challenges.
One day, she wants to become a Child Life Specialist to help kids undergoing painful or frightening hospital procedures.
In the coming year, Madisen is excited to learn new things and share her story “so other kids don’t feel alone and to let adults know what we go through.”
She also wants to give back to Easter Seals for the help she and her family have received. “It’s important for donors to know how much they changed my life,” says Madisen.
As for the message she wants to spread regarding kids with physical disabilities: “I want to tell people that we are regular kids too. We may just need some help to do regular everyday things.”