Monday, October 22, 2012

Disabilities don't matter among teen girl's peers

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 20, 2012 B2

Wendy Taylor can barely talk about Community Living Winnipeg without crying. The organization means so much to her and her family, it is almost impossible for her to explain her experiences with CLW without becoming overwhelmed with emotion.
Taylor is mother to Jordana Kilgour, a 15-year-old girl with a big personality and a love of people.
But before becoming involved in CLW, a non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of people living with intellectual disabilities, Jordana had few friends.
She has Hurler syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects everything from her mobility, to her mental development, to her ability to communicate.
In her short life, Jordana has undergone more than 30 surgeries and has already surpassed her life expectancy of 12 years old.
Taylor said these barriers make it difficult for Jordana to form lasting bonds.
But when Jordana's school, George Waters Middle School, established the Circle of Friends program in 2011 through CLW, she was able to connect with other kids with disabilities similar to her own.
"It is always Jordana's favourite part of the week when she goes to Circle of Friends," Taylor said. "I always said before the program, Jordana had acquaintances, not friends. Now, she has an abundance of friends."
Last year, United Way donated more than $176,000 to CLW. United Way funds more than 100 programs just like CLW in an effort to build stronger, more aware communities and to spark positive social change.
Taylor has seen first-hand how much this financial support has benefited her family and community. The program inspired Taylor so much, she became a board member in September.
"Every child could benefit from the use of this program. Because of funding, there's only one person to facilitate this program for the entire city," Taylor said.
The Circle of Friends program will start its second year of operation this week. Taylor said her daughter has been anticipating the first meeting for weeks.
"It brings me to tears of joy. This program is just so amazing."

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