Mark often needs a little help, but that doesn’t stop him from helping other people. In fact, it’s a big part of what makes Mark special.
Living with an intellectual disability doesn’t stop Mark from doing everything he can to improve the lives of the people around him. His sister-in-law Tami says of Mark, “He wants to give back to his community. He has an awful lot to offer.”
The platform for Mark’s volunteer spirit is his more than three-decade connection with an organization supported by United Way. Tami says, “It makes our family so happy to know that Mark can participate in a variety of activities in a safe, accommodating and engaging atmosphere, an environment that’s catering to his needs and the needs of his peers.”
Tami has seen what she calls the “ripple effect” of Mark’s participation. “It’s about the friendships that are made while attending that program. It’s about the independence gained by attending that program. It’s about the magic that you witness when you see the growth in your loved one because he had that opportunity.”
Mark puts that magic to good use. He has developed his social skills and a love for performance through his involvement with the organization’s drum corps and regular dancing and karaoke events. That led him to participate in several videos and speaking engagements over the last few years. He has become a valued member of the organization’s advisory board and has been volunteering at Juravinski Hospital for a number of years.
So the organization may be providing support to Mark, but it also helps Mark’s community and his family. “My favourite part,” says Tami, “is hearing Mark’s stories about the fun he’s having.”
During a recent bypass operation, Luan’s heart stopped due to complications and she died on the operating table. At 83, this was just one of many surgeries and many close calls Luan has had over the years.