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Patricia and Gabi Franks

“People who don’t have children or haven’t been around children with disabilities don’t often understand the emotional struggles that parents go through.  Community Living Ontario’s Family Leadership Series opened up conversations and opportunities when I was a single parent, working full-time, needing help to arrange activities, finding respite care and searching for more for Gabi and myself.”

Patricia Franks, Gabi’s Mom

When Gabi was born, Patricia and her family wanted to ensure that as Gabi grew up, she was an active participant in the family’s activities and included in her community. Like Patricia, all parents seek out engaging, life-enriching opportunities for their children, and this is no different for families who have a loved one with an intellectual disability. However, advocating for your children or sibling sometimes takes a toll on you and you can become isolated. You may also forget that there are other families going through similar struggles, needing help and support.

In 2007, Patricia, a single parent, was at a point in her life when she was seeking additional assistance and opportunities. She and Gabi were invited to participate in Community Living Ontario’s Family Leadership Series.

This initiative provides space for families of children and youth who have an intellectual disability to create and enhance the vision they have for themselves. It connects them with other families to share knowledge, experiences and expertise regarding many often complex challenges, including housing, education, employment and community participation.

“After attending the Family Leadership Series in Orillia,” Patricia said, “I left with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Education and interaction were key parts of the series. The guest speakers, workshop experiences, and meeting other parents from across the province in similar situations helped remove the feeling of isolation I had.”

“It opened up conversations about the similar struggles we were having,” she explained, “with the school system and with finding community activities that had barriers to participation. Ultimately, it gave me important tools and supports so that I could then venture out in my community and start building from what we had.”

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Kevin, Gabi and Patricia Franks.

The Family Leadership Series resulted in Patricia reaching out to other families in her community to see how they could work together to create a better life for their loved ones with an intellectual disability. Together, they created Caledon Area Families for Inclusion to find solutions to their challenges. The family network’s efforts resulted in the Caledon Housing Initiative, which is working with the Town of Caledon to address the lack of housing options for young adults who have an intellectual disability.

Patricia appreciated how the Family Leadership Series provided behind-the-scenes support, so that the families could be present with one another without distraction.

“I didn’t have to do a thing on those weekends; it was a break from total care. I had adult conversations and really looked forward to the next weekend as I made some new friendships,” she added.

“We all left saying, ‘This was a good idea and this is what I am going to do next. I am going to see how I can make it work in my home and in my community,’ which you absolutely need as you can get isolated.”

The Franks are part of Community Living Ontario’s A Million Possibilities campaign, where we’re raising much-needed funds for family engagement initiatives, like the Family Leadership Series.

Imagine what could be possible if more parents and families like the Franks could participate in this type of engagement. Think about how much stronger our communities will be when families have the knowledge and confidence to more effectively advocate for their loved ones. This holiday season, help Community Living Ontario grow our family engagement initiatives for lifealtering change.

Your support will enable many more families like Patricia’s to experience the Family Leadership Series. Donate Now.