Daryl is a brilliant visual artist who loves to bowl, works at a pizza shop, volunteers with Quest Food Exchange, and collects pop can tabs to fundraise for Spina Bifida. He also goes swimming at Killarney Community Centre a few times a week, and his mom wondered if having a ‘gym buddy’ to show him how to use the fitness equipment would benefit his overall health and experience. Together with his Connector, Daryl made a poster asking for help.
Camille is a mom, works for posAbilities, and has a sister who is non-verbal. Due to a car accident, Camille had been attending regular physical therapy sessions but when those completed she struggled to find the motivation to continue. When she saw Daryl’s poster sent out through posAbilities’ Friday communications email, she thought to herself, “here’s an opportunity to get to the gym, I live close by, and now I can teach someone else these things that I have just learned!”
In January 2017, they met and have been going to the gym together twice a week ever since. “Daryl is very sweet. He seems happy to be here and shows his appreciation with hugs.” Not only was timing important to make this connection happen, but time is an important factor to deepening the connections. After 4 months of coming here regularly, Daryl is known by the other fitness centre users: “When he’s not here, people ask where he is. I think that Daryl associates the gym with friendships and positive interactions – there are a few guys here who are regulars and they like all joke around and kid each other.” One of the fitness centre workers chimed in: “This is what community looks like – people being open to diversity, and interacting with each other…everyone is welcome!”
After their workout, Camille and Daryl have a protein shake. Daryl’s mom has been noticing that he has been losing weight and making better food choices. He’s starting to go workout on days that are not scheduled with Camille. By regularly coming to Killarney Community Centre, Camille noticed that they have preschool drop-ins and sometimes Daryl and her go upstairs to say hi to her son and husband at the toddler gym. Now her son is enrolled in the preschool in the fall.
Community connections not are only about the individual connections a person makes, they are about everyone finding places that increase feelings of belonging, deepening relationships over time, and shifting the culture of community spaces to increase the overall connectedness and well-being for everyone.
Contributed by: Brooke Oxley