Ambassador of the Year – Kaitlyn Layden
Our Ambassador of the Year Award is presented annually to a person who has been a strong ambassador for our organization, persons with a mobility disability or disability issues. The recipient of a 2019-2020 Ambassador of the Year Award is Kaitlyn Layden of Saint John, NB.
Kaitlyn is an entrepreneur, advocate and community leader. Kaitlyn completed the Business Abilities course online in 2018 and then started her own business called Layden’s Keepsakes which she runs online. Kaitlyn makes customized calendars and photo albums and hopes to expand to greeting cards and other keepsakes. Her talents and skills are impressive – she is also a strong community advocate and has worked hard to ensure bus routes, trails and buildings are accessible and safe in Saint John. For the past year, Kaitlyn had been working hard on addressing the Social Development Household Income Policy and shared her personal journey across social media platforms to bring awareness of the experience those who are differently abled face when trying to get married and find partnership without losing all essential benefits.
Here is an excerpt from Kaitlyn’s recent advocacy:
“Those living with a mobility disability and cannot work should not have to be forced to pick between love and financial stability. The current system makes it difficult for someone to try to become financially independent and maintain a well-balanced quality of life….Getting married is something I’ve always dreamt of and my disability shouldn’t cause my marriage to lead me into a life of poverty and financial uncertainty.”
Kaitlyn believes that “Just because she is differently-abled does not mean she does not have the courage to stand up for what is right… With determination and a positive attitude, anything is possible, and giving up is not an option for her”.
Thank you Kaitlyn for being both an advocate and accessibility leader in NB and for never backing down to any obstacles that may come your way.
Ambassador of the Year Award: Claire McCloskey
Our Ambassador of the Year Award is presented annually to a person who has been a strong ambassador for our organization, persons with a mobility disability or disability issues. The recipient of a 2019-2020 Ambassador of the Year Award is Claire Abigail McCloskey of Fredericton, NB.
Claire is a grade 3 student at Barker’s Point School and is the daughter of proud parents, Annie and Kris McCloskey. She enjoys school and spending time with her friends. She loves music, especially Ed Sheeran. She likes going for bike rides with her family and she absolutely loves swimming. It is her love of water that prompted her parents to borrow a hippocampe from Para NB’s Equipment Loan Service a couple of years ago. A hippocampe is a piece of adapted equipment that can be taken to the beach or the water park, on nature trails and even in the snow. Since borrowing it, Claire’s parents have shared many recreation moments in pictures and have been gracious enough to allow us to use them to help promote the work we do.
And we are happy to do it because Claire has got the best energy and smile! We love her energy so much that we have shared her story often on multiple platforms. We even asked her once, at the last minute on a school day, to participate in a photo opportunity with a funder of the Equipment Loan Service and her family made it happen! Claire proves that one little person can have a huge impact with nothing more than a willingness to help, a big heart and a great smile.
Thank you, Claire, for sharing your life with us and allowing us to share it with the rest of New Brunswick.
Volunteer Award of Excellence: Avery White
Our Volunteer Award of Excellence is presented annually to an individual or group who demonstrates outstanding initiative and leadership in their volunteer work with Ability NB. The recipient of our 2019-2020 award is Avery White.
Avery has been volunteering with Ability New Brunswick since participating in our former annual art auction when she was just 11-years old. As a recent graduate of Leo Hayes High School, Avery’s contributions have grown immensely. In particular today, we’d like to tell you the story of what Avery accomplished in her last year of high school.
In September, at the start of her grade 12 school-year, Avery was asked to set a goal and track its progress as a class project. She ambitiously set the goal of raising $5,000 for Ability NB. Avery got to work right away organizing raffles, draws and Facebook fundraisers. She engaged businesses in Fredericton and Woodstock to get involved like when she partnered with CYV Chevrolet Buick GMC to co-host a car wash or collected a portion of all the sales one night at Chapters Fredericton. Avery motivated other volunteers to help her in these tasks. She researched a list of businesses around the province who she thought may be motivated to give. She executed a letter campaign to these businesses around the province, sharing a compelling story about the work of Ability NB and her fundraising goal to support these initiatives.
Avery met her $5,000 goal in October, but she didn’t stop there. By the time she had a break from school for the holidays Avery had already more than doubled her goal having reached $11,000.
We were ecstatic and thanked Avery for her dedication and celebrated her accomplishment on social media to showcase the power of giving over the holiday season. Avery reminded us in the New Year that it was not yet a new semester in school so she was still working on this class project. Some of her biggest donors had yet to get involved. We could hardly believe it when the final numbers came in. Avery’s fundraising campaign brought in $24,549.07!
Thank you Avery for your excellence in your volunteer work with Ability NB and your dedication to our organization and New Brunswickers with a mobility disability. Your efforts enable us to reach more people who need our help.
Volunteer Award of Excellence: Karolina Gehres
Our Volunteer Award of Excellence is presented annually to an individual or group who demonstrates outstanding initiative and leadership in their volunteer work with Ability NB. The recipient of our 2019-2020 award is Karolina Gehres.
Karolina joined the Board in 2015 and was elected President in 2018. She has provided significant passion, leadership and expertise in support of our mission to empower the independence and full community participation of persons throughout New Brunswick who have a mobility disability.
Born and raised in Ile Perrot, Quebec, Karolina is a Chartered Professional in Human Resources, and holds a Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree from the University of New Brunswick. Since moving to Fredericton in 1998, Karolina has held a variety of positions within the Government of New Brunswick, her current role as Manger, Human Resources Operations, with Service New Brunswick. Karolina and her partner Yves live in Fredericton with his son Luca.
Karolina has a strong knowledge of governance and policy and is always there to support the Board and staff team. During COVID-19, she reached out to staff to give thanks and recognize their incredible dedication and work during such uncertain times. Karolina leads by example and always embraces a tough discussion or decision with an open mind and commitment to a pathway forward.
Here are what her fellow Board members had to say about her:
“Karolina’s professionalism and knowledge of governmental affairs has always impressed me.”
“She understands governance and ensures we carry out our roles as Board members in a careful and thoughtful way.”
“She is kind and always has the backs of her team.”
“Karolina has carried out her duties with diligence, passion and energy. She has keen insight into issues, demonstrates clarity of thought and a rational approach to problem solving. This has served Ability New Brunswick well when it faced some delicate issues. Her dedication to the organization’s mandate and her warm, caring interpersonal style make her a great member of the Ability New Brunswick Board and team.”
Para Sport & Recreation Award: Shane Dunnett
Our Para Sport & Recreation Award is presented annually to an individual, group or organization that has made a significant contribution to parallel sport and recreation in New Brunswick in areas such as competition and achievement, program development, officiating or coaching. The recipient of our 2019-2020 award is Shane Dunnett – Team Captain of the Capital Region Sledge Hockey Team.
Shane has been a leader for para sport in New Brunswick for the last 20 years as both a competitor and an advocate for active living. As a competitor, he played with provincial and national teams in wheelchair basketball for over 17 years. He even played in the United States for a few years including 1 year in Michigan and 5 years in Boston. In 2008-2009 Shane started getting involved with skiing. He competed at the Canada Games in 2010 and nationals in Quebec where he won silver in 3 events. Most recently, Shane has been a major player in the local sledge hockey scene. He played sledge hockey in PEI for 3 years before becoming a leading voice that brought the first competitive sledge hockey team in the province in 2016: the Capital Region Sledge Hockey Team.
Shane is a strong advocate for active living and recreation in New Brunswick. When he is not competing, you can find him hand cycling, camping, fishing, golfing, and working out at the local gym just to name a few. He has recently launched his own YouTube channel, Para Life TV, where he highlights ways to stay active during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent uploads to Para Life TV highlight accessible cycling trails, accessible camping features and obstacles, home workouts and even a visit to our storage facility to highlight our Para NB program and its services. Shane is no stranger to our program as he has been an advocate for our Equipment Loan Service, has helped us review our new upcoming accessible camping checklist, helped us develop marketing materials for our social media pages and new website and he is always willing to volunteer his time helping us at events such as the annual Bliss Carman Family Fun Fair and the Fundy Para Ice Hockey program.
We are proud to say that Shane is a great partner who shares our vison to ensure that “Everyone Plays!” We at Para NB want to thank you, Shane Dunnett! New Brunswick needs more community leaders like you!
Media Commitment to Community Award – Carla Rockwell
Our Media Commitment to Community Award is awarded annual to media that have made a significant contribution to raise awareness of our organization and the issues faced by persons with a disability. The recipient of our 2019-2020 award is Carla Rockwell.
Carla Rockwell, a freelance writer and activist for the rights of persons with disabilities, born and raised in Bath, now resides outside Stanley, NB. Living with since-birth spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, she’s had to overcome many obstacles. A force of nature.For several decades, Carla has been a resource for parents of children with disabilities so that they can understand, as much as possible, that disability will never define their child and they can be guideposts to others who follow. She believes that an empowering life and an appreciation of the importance of health and well-being are essential to happiness.
Since 2012, Carla’s newspaper column, Walk, Don’t Run With Carla, has appeared in The Daily Gleaner; to broaden its reach, she’s made it available on a blog site of the same name, as she writes about many topics ranging from elder care, pet companionship and more recently, issues involving the impact of COVID on persons with disability.
In an article published on June 2, Carla observed: “In such special times, staying committed, especially to those who were already isolated before the pandemic came into their lives, is essential. It’s also important to tell people that we are experiencing difficulties. They want to help. Not everyone has access to the internet; it’s important for our governments to look for ways to improve coverage and make sure everyone can afford an internet connection. For equal access to education for our children, technology needs to be deployed more in rural areas, and pricing must accommodate those of limited means.”
Thank you, Carla, for showing such commitment to people with disabilities and telling the stories that matter.
Excellence in Leadership Award: Monica Ouellette
Our Excellence in Leadership Award is presented annually to an employee who has exhibited proactive leadership and a strong commitment to policies and practices that support quality work and learning environments. This individual demonstrates creativity, fosters a supportive and collegial team environment and demonstrates exemplary relationship building both within and outside of the organization. This award is voted on by the staff team. The recipient of our 2019-2020 award is Monica Ouellette, Team Lead for our Transition NB program.
Monica joined the organization in 2017 as a Transition Planner in the greater Moncton region. She was promoted to the program Team Lead in 2019. Monica is passionate about the program’s work to help youth with a mobility disability transition to post-secondary education, training or jobs. She consistently demonstrates energy, passion and commitment to the organization and her work. One of her service participants recently noted: “Monica made the transfer to university stress free. We had a lot of questions and she was able to coach us through everything. She was extremely helpful.”
Here’s what her team had to say about her leadership:
“Monica is always ready to help out and lend a hand to anyone on our team. She also always comes with a great sense of humor and a love of faxes.”
“Monica is an amazing supervisor. Her use of humour brings up morale in any encounter and her fair leadership and flexible and empathetic nature makes her the obvious choice for this award this year given all the curve balls COVID-19 has brought our team this year. She is patient and takes her time to ensure that her responses follow policies and is an amazing cheerleader for her team.”
“Monica never fails to let people know when they are appreciated, she effortlessly makes everyone feel a part of the team with her positive and welcoming attitude.”
“Monica is a great leader and is always available for a chat whether that be a debrief of a stressful situation or for a brainstorm on ideas that will deliver the best quality of service we can.”
“Monica is one of my favourite people with whom I don’t get to spend enough time. She is unbelievably kind, caring and supportive, but it’s her fantastic sense of humour that truly sets her apart. One quick witted joke from her and the monotony of our thousandth Zoom meeting is broken. It is this sense of humour that makes anyone she encounters feel instantly at ease with her and what a great gift it is for her chosen profession. Congratulations on a well-deserved award!”