The sessions were largely tied to this year’s theme, Spark Change: Raising Awareness and Advancing Inclusion.
On the morning of September 14th, Community Living Ontario President Hélène Morin-Chain provided greetings to conference delegates and Minister of Community and Social Services Dr. Helena Jaczek also welcomed participants by video.
Three-time Olympic medalist Silken Laumann gave the keynote address. She spoke about the many obstacles she encountered, not only in her athletic life, but also the intense personal challenges of her past. Silken also talked about the approach she uses to live a bold, loving and successful life, and challenged participants to accept change and to strive to reach their dreams.
Silken was preceded by Colin Sanders, who shared with conference delegates why and how he intends to row across the Atlantic Ocean by himself on December 1st, 2017. Part of Sanders’ journey is to raise awareness and funds for Community Living Ontario through an initiative called A Million Possibilities: Solo Ocean Row 2017. He also thanked the many support organizations that chose to host their own fundraising initiatives in support of his row with funds raised remaining in their communities.
Guest speaker Bruce Anderson discussed how most of us think of belonging and inclusion as the result of the number and quality of relationships in different parts of our lives. He then asked if that limited definition of belonging restricted our ability to feel like we belong.
A highlight for many delegates was the dinner and dance at the Elements on the Falls, overlooking the Horseshoe Falls. Later in the evening, Sean Avery, Stella Curtis, Leighton Jay, Michael Jacques and James Taylor travelled to the Illumination Tower. There, they turned on the 10,000 LED lights that illuminated the falls in Community Living’s colours.
Community Living Ontario has a tough act to follow when it hosts the 65th annual conference on September 13th and 14th, 2018 at the Sheraton Parkway in Richmond Hill.
Ron Laroche, Community Living Ontario