Where everyone knows your name: a parent’s creativity and determination helps build a welcoming community

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Teaghan with his friends Claire and Sophie from UBC Best Buddies.

People recognize twenty-year-old Teaghan Collins everywhere he goes.  That’s thanks to a little determination and thinking outside the box work, says his mom, Pam Collins.

“No matter where we go in Richmond, he knows somebody,” says Pam. “He says hi to everybody. If we go to the mall, he knows more people than I do.”

From volunteer to employee

When Teaghan turned 12, he aged out of an inclusive out-of-school program at the South Arm Community Centre where he’d been spending his summer and winter breaks since he was six. The alternative was to start attending a segregated out-of-school program for youth with developmental disabilities. Although it was a good program, Pam knew it wouldn’t be the right fit for him.

So Pam had an idea. Why not see if Teaghan could stay involved in the South Arm program for younger children, but as a volunteer? Teaghan had an older brother who had volunteered, and Pam proposed Teaghan could do the same with some supports.

When she crunched the numbers, Pam was able to show that it would cost less to support him as a volunteer than to attend the segregated program. Little did she know that her idea would eventually pay off, literally.

Teaghan started volunteering for the junior day camp for five-to-seven year olds with support the first couple years, and then started volunteering without supports. Teaghan’s role as a volunteer leader included ensuring all the children and their belongings got on and off the bus on field trips, playing games with the children, and being the group’s photographer.

After a couple of years of volunteering without supports, the community centre hired him as an employee of the program. He’s been paid for more than two years to do what he loves. Pam acknowledges the assistance of Llaesa Brownridge from Richmond Society for Community Living who was instrumental in helping her sell the idea of Teaghan becoming a volunteer with support and then a paycheque.

Trusting your instincts

The key, says Pam, is to take your knowledge about your son or daughter and spread that. She wanted him to continue at the community centre because it was familiar to him, he can get there on his own, and he would be working with other leaders his age, so he also gets invited to social gatherings. She could see how much he loved working with children, and how much the children loved having him as their leader.

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With money earned from his job, Teaghan pays his own way for his annual family trip to Disneyland, where he got to meet Minnie Mouse.

“Trust your instincts about your own son or daughter and then look in the community for opportunities and go for it. And you can always start as a volunteer,” Says Pam.

“The possibilities are endless,” adds Pam. “If they like video games, ask a video game shop if they can volunteer. Figure out what brightens their day, what makes them get up in the morning, and how you can create that in the community.”

Teaghan enjoys taking photos so at the end of each day at the community centre, he prints them and puts them in a book to bring the next day to show the children and their parents. He and the children in the program participated in the City of Richmond’s photo competition a couple years ago and his group won. His album is displayed at city hall.

On top of work at the community centre, he works as a newspaper carrier twice a week, where he’s been named newspaper carrier of the month.  He saves the money he earns from his jobs to pay his own way for his annual family trip to Disneyland.

Planning for a positive transition

Teaghan transitioned to CLBC services when he turned 19. When Teaghan first came to CLBC, he already had a plan with a path for his goals and dreams.

“Pam is a very active and involved parent and has done a lot of work getting Teaghan set up with natural supports in the community,” says CLBC Facilitator Joanna Brownridge, who has worked with Teaghan and Pam.

“Our transition went pretty well,” says Pam.  It’s all been very positive.”

Teaghan is continuing to look for more opportunities to increase his paid or volunteer work hours. CLBC staff referred Teaghan to the CBI Consultants employment program. He now participates in the CBI self-determination employment group that meets each week at the CLBC Richmond office. Teaghan has worked with employment coaches to learn about himself and what he wants in life

CLBC staff also referred him to the Best Buddies program through the University of British Columbia which matches him with a volunteer to go out in the community to do activities together. CLBC staff keep in touch with Pam when they hear about programs or opportunities that would be a good fit for Teaghan that Pam may not have heard about.

As for what the future holds for Teaghan, he plans to look for more employment, grow his talents like photography, and eventually get married, have children and move into his own house.


Leveraging existing community supports

If you would like to consider programs and supports that may already exist in your community, CLBC staff would be happy to help you brainstorm ideas. The Family Support Institute also has a support finder function on its website here that can help you search resources in your local community.

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