Our baby girl, Madison, was born three years ago. She arrived early at 32 weeks. We enjoyed those early months. But at the age of six months we realized she wasn’t meeting her milestones for gross motor skills. Then, after her first birthday, following a battery of tests we received the devastating news. Madi has Cerebral Palsy (CP).
Madi will be a Villager for life. As she calls it, it’s her second home. It’s also the place where I have had many joyful life experiences, and have always felt at home.
My first experience with Variety Village was when I was four. We lived in the neighbourhood. My mother was a special education teacher who often brought her classes to the Village for adapted fitness programs for kids with disabilities. She loved the inclusive, integrated philosophy and soon realized that there was something for everyone with or without disabilities. So she introduced me and my brother to Variety Village.
Over the years we participated in Children in Motion, a unique program focusing on the fundamentals of play; we had Red Cross swim lessons, and attended summer camps. My entire childhood and teenage years involved working and volunteering with children and adults with disabilities and sparked my passion for teaching so, like my mother, I took the path to become a special education teacher.
After graduating, I returned to Variety to work part-time in programs. That’s when I met my husband. James was a long-time member of Variety Village and was giving back by volunteering with the Sunshine Swim Team – a team for swimmers with developmental disabilities.
Having grown up alongside people with disabilities, James and I always said if we had a child with a disability, we would be prepared. We were wrong. We really didn’t know what we were doing in the beginning but, we didn’t see Madi’s “disability” as a barrier, and we clearly understood we needed to provide her with all the help we could give her. It gives me some peace to know Variety Village will be part of Madi’s journey moving forward. I couldn’t imagine her life without the Village.
I watch Madi as she swims in the pool with her instructor Ryan or 16 year old Flames Team swimmer, Jessica. Because Jessica also has CP, she and Madi have created a unique bond. Madi loves the water and has become a little fish. Swimming has eased Madi’s leg pain, made her happy and helped her sleep better at night. She is happy with her accomplishments and new-found confidence and she is working hard in the hope she will one day swim on the Flames team like Jessica. More importantly, I see that Madi is proud of herself.
I laugh as Madi zooms around the fieldhouse with her walker or climbs the obstacle course in her Children in Motion program. It comforts me to know she will receive expert instruction and physiotherapy and that she will see her entire family participating in programs together – Madi has a little brother now; Jack, who is nine months old.
I’m grateful we have a place like Variety Village. Our children are accepted, safe, comfortable, and included at their “second home.” Madison and all the kids’ like her need your support. Variety Village is essential in the lives of so many children and families.