Oakville, July 18, 2013 – Last evening, a dozen teenage clients of ErinoakKids, including Michael Robinson of Oakville, achieved an important life milestone. They graduated from the ErinoakKids Independent Living Program (ILP), a unique initiative that teaches young people with disabilities to live more independently.
18-year-old Michael has Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive genetic disorder that gradually weakens the body’s muscles. As a result he uses a wheelchair all the time. Yet at the ILP he was able to discover sailing, thanks to the fully supported environment.
“Sailing was the best,” he says.
And so is the friendship he found in the program. Michael started the ILP not knowing any of the other participants, but left the program with 11 new friends.
The ILP offers clients of ErinoakKids an 11-day course in a fully accessible and supportive environment at the Sheridan College Residence in Oakville, teaching them to do a variety of things for themselves. Since its inception in 2001, 144 young people have graduated from the Independent Living Program. They’re all linked by a common drive to reach their full potential as independently as possible.
“The annual graduation night is a celebration of the success and accomplishment of these determined young people,” says Bridget Fewtrell, President and CEO of ErinoakKids. “The ILP teaches participants to shop, cook, do laundry, do banking, navigate public transit, direct their own care, and many other tasks they need to manage more independently.”
While sailing with Burlington Able Sail was definitely the highlight of the program for Michael, the most challenging part was learning how to direct his own care. Yet this was a challenge he feels he’ll be able to overcome.
“The ILP does not receive government funding, but relies entirely on the support of donors,” explains Fewtrell. “It is an essential service for these young people and one which we could not offer without the generous support of our community.”
This year the Independent Living Program is supported by the Pendle Fund at the Community Foundation of Mississauga, the Sheridan College Residence and Conference Centre, Motion Specialties Mississauga, the May Court Club of Oakville, the Kiwanis Club of Oakville, the Milton Harley Owners Group, Accenture and the Solel Sisterhood.
What’s next for Michael? He and his family are planning a Caribbean cruise to cap off the summer. After that, he’s back to Oakville to complete high school. Beyond that, there will be lots of opportunities to explore, he says. “I’m more confident now. I think I’ll be able to live independently.”
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About ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development
ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development is Ontario’s largest children’s treatment centre, serving more than 13,500 children and youth annually who have physical and developmental disabilities, autism, and communication disorders as well as children who are deaf or blind. Our mission is to help our clients achieve optimal levels of independence, learning, health and well-being. Serving Halton, Peel, Dufferin — and, for some services, Waterloo and Wellington — ErinoakKids has approximately 600 staff and 10 sites from which we provide a comprehensive array of assessment, medical, therapy and support services that help children and their families. In 2011 the Ministry of Children and Youth Services approved a redevelopment project to enable ErinoakKids to consolidate its current facilities into three larger sites which will be ideally situated for easy access within our catchment area, and designed specifically for the care of children and youth with special needs. The new facilities are expected to open in early 2017. For more information about ErinoakKids please visit www.ErinoakKids.ca
Editor’s note: We were saddened to learn that Michael passed away on September 8, 2013. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Director of Communications
ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development
P: 905.855.2690 ext. 4301