When I received Kalea’s diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy I looked it up on the internet and saw a child in a wheelchair. My world stopped.
Kalea’s Mum, Michelle, had known for a long time there was a concern and was researching surgeries and procedures and specialty therapies. She devoted herself to finding the best help possible and at 3 years old, Kalea had Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery at Montreal Children’s Hospital. Then the long rehab began – living in a hospital for six weeks before continuing day sessions. At the same time, we were choosing suitable schools and other activities to help her development. As with other Easter Seals families, this creates an enormous mental stress with so many life-changing decisions to be made and trying to look after all the family at the same time.
We were first introduced to Easter Seals when we were invited to family camp at Merrywood, where we had a fun-filled week with other families. We learned that we were not alone on our journey as every family had one thing in common – we all had a child with a disability. Family camp was designed to give the parents a break while at the same time providing a stimulating program for the children. Counsellors dedicated their time to helping care for the children and providing a wonderful range of activities during the day, as well as organized events for the parents in the evenings. We got to relax and meet other parents and share stories. We had support.
For one whole week many of the daily challenges effecting Easter Seals families faded away as activities were completely accessible to ALL and no one was left out because they had a disability. All the children were having such a great time and the families were having fun doing things together. We had never imagined that we could take part in things like sailing, canoeing, archery, pottery and the many other completely accessible activities that were available at camp. Seeing the way the children were included in absolutely every aspect of camp life brought tears to our eyes many times throughout the week, and taught us how we may be able to make our lives more accessible for Kalea.
As Kalea got older, we began to learn even more about how far Easter Seals and their volunteers would go in helping families. Equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs and more specialized items are extremely costly any many families could not afford these items if not for the assistance of Easter Seals.
After a few years of attending family camp, Kalea decided that she wanted to attend camp independently. As we dropped her off for her first time attending a 10-day camp at Merrywood, we had no doubt in our minds that we were leaving her in capable hands and that she would have a wonderful time. Every year since then she has attended Individual camp, switching from Merrywood to Woodeden in London. Camp was a highlight of the summer and the friendships she developed lasted throughout the school year with everyone counting down the days until the start of the next year at camp. Kalea’s next goal is to become a counsellor at camp so that she can help to provide a fun program for future Easter Seals Campers.
When we heard about the Easter Seals Ambassador program, we knew that Kalea would make a wonderful representative for Easter Seals. Although she wasn’t chosen the first time she applied, two years later she got her chance and she was introduced as the Easter Seals Ambassador at the 2014 Conn Smythe Dinner. Kalea used her year as ambassador to bring attention to the wonderful services provided by Easter Seals at a variety of events. As the voice of thousands of children with disabilities in Ontario, she encouraged people to make a donation to Easter Seals in order to keep their programs and services available for as many children as possible.
WHAT MAKES YOU STAY AN EASTER SEALS SUPPORTER?
Just before Kalea was born, we had started a business called Medair Time Critical Express whilst living in a one bedroom apartment. From the very beginning, we knew that if our business was successful, we wanted to use some of our profits to donate to worthwhile causes. We also wanted to create an environment where philanthropy was not only encouraged but actively practised by employees. To date Medair employees have participated in the Upper Canada Run, Walk & Roll for several years now, and in 2019 we had a team of employees answering phones and taking pledges at the Toronto Easter Seals Telethon.
We have personally seen the positive impact Easter Seals has had on not only our own family, but also the families of the many friends that Kalea has made during her time at Easter Seals camps and events.
We are proud to be an Easter Seals family and Medair is thrilled to continue to support Easter Seals in the year to come.
“Kalea’s wish is that every kid gets to go to camp.”
Written by Andy Davies, President and CEO, Medair, and an Easter Seals’ parent