The sky’s the limit for Community Living Atikokan staff when supporting people to achieve their goals.

Community Living Atikokan actively supports individuals to understand their responsibilities within a community, while recognizing and achieving their life’s ambitions. We respect the rights and dignity of informed choice, the freedom to decide, and we promote supports that are consistent with the desires of the individuals we serve. We empower our highly motivated team to be focused and committed to the mission of CLA, and promote full inclusion within communities. So what is inclusion? It is the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities.

Community Living Atikokan would like to share the following example of inclusion and how one Direct Support Professional can make an impact. Here is Rosie Natti and Ken Halvorsen’s story of fulfilling a life’s dream, as described by Rosie:

Early this spring Ken and I were discussing things that we would like to do in our lives. It turned out that skydiving was a bucket list dream for us both. If you are going to jump it is always better to have someone share the experience, so I told Ken let’s try to make this happen.

First, I cleared it with our Executive Director, Jim Turner, who mentioned he knew someone who had done a skydiving jump the previous year in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is only 204kms from Atikokan. I did some research and found out that it was Adventure Sky Diving from Steinbach, Manitoba and they would be in back in August of this year.  I put up a poster with all the requirements to jump and invited others to sign up if they were interested. Nope! It was down to me and Ken.

I then made arrangements with my manager, Tina Pollard, to be scheduled with Ken for two consecutive days accounting for the possibility of bad weather, and I supported him to get a medical to ensure he was physically capable to jump. The doctor advised that he had previously done a tandem jump and knew what the physical demands would be. Together they practiced the poses we would be required to do in order to be successful. The doctor expressed how excited he was for Ken and gave him the medical letter without charge. Since Ken has short term memory challenges and one arm that is paralyzed in a folded position, we watched a video on the Banana Pose, which we practiced several times over a few weeks to prepare him for our big day.

Ken was so excited the night before the jump that he hardly slept. Our friend on the ground, Brandon Bain, was also very excited and completely focused on Ken. At first, our instructors were concerned so they asked him to demonstrate the poses we had practiced, which Ken nailed! We gave them the medical note and together we came up with a plan.  It was decided that Ken would jump first, and I second. I would land before Ken in case there was help needed with the landing. We were brought up in a small plane; smiles all the way! With Ken’s permission, I literally lifted his leg and put it out the door, then helped him with the second one. Before I knew it, they were gone. My partner and I moved toward the door but I couldn’t think of anything other than where’s Ken? I put my legs out the door and before I knew what was happening we were free falling for quite a while. We passed Ken on the way down and I landed several minutes before he did. I left the field and waited and watched as he descended. He was so awesome and I felt so proud for us both. He lifted his legs for the landing so high that he landed on his behind smiling from ear to ear. Once he was down he came to me and gave me the biggest hug. I felt on top of the world, as did he. We accomplished our mission and fulfilled a dream together!

When we returned to town, he proudly told everyone he came in contact with about his accomplishment and we posted many pictures on Facebook to capture and share the experience. It just goes to show that no dreams are too big, and if we put our minds to it, we can accomplish anything! His next bucket list item is zip lining. Stay tuned!

Rosie Natti, Community Living Atikokan