Meet Our Ambassadors
Meet Mitch Krohn (2019-20) Adult Ambassador
Mitch is 45 years old, married and has four cats. Throughout his life he has actively been in involved in the Winnipeg theatre community.
“I was part of an improv comedy troupe; I had my own theatre company; and I was an artistic director for another theatre company, so I was quite active going to a lot of rehearsals.”
At 43, Mitch went into the hospital experiencing some chest pains. His day quickly changed when he was rushed to undergo emergency spinal surgery. He had two vertebras fused in his central spine as well as his neck. In the midst of surgery, he suffered a stroke.
For two months, Mitch stayed in the hospital to regain some stability followed by four months of rehab at Riverview. He then went to the Acquired Brain Injury Program in Selkirk to do long term rehab for one year.
It was an 18 month process that left Mitch in a wheelchair, unable to use his left arm.
Mitch and his wife faced a new barrier of how and when they would return home.
“The only way into the house, was stairs. Before something like this happens you don’t think of these things, and then after something like this happens you kind of relook at your life and your situation,” explains Mitch.
It took 6 months before he was able to return home. To overcome this barrier, they had a power lift installed and a deck built over top of their front steps. A ramp was not feasible due to limited space and building code requirements.
“Getting the lift was key to getting home. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like without it. I probably wouldn’t have been able to come home for an extra year if I was still without the lift.”
When asked about how the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities (SMD) has helped him since the accident he replies, “SMD has helped me with the current manual wheelchair I’m in; I have to wait a bit to apply for a power wheelchair. They’ve helped me partially with the lift. The service has been wonderful.”
Mitch received support to cover some of the costs for his power lift through our Assistive Technology program. However, the program is currently out of funds due to high demand for 2018. Our goal is raise the additional $1,500 required to cover the remaining balance owing on his lift and home modification.
When asked if there’s a message he wanted to get out there he stated, “It can happen anywhere, anytime…it all went downhill within a 24 hour period…now, life is changed completely!”
Mitch pointed out that even though he’s still going through the healing process, he feels very fortunate and lucky it wasn’t worse.
“You just can’t quit, you have to keep going!”
Mitch has slowly been able to get back into theatre and performed at the Fringe Festival. When asked what he’s most excited about he says, “I’m really looking forward to when I can get in and out of my vehicle independently as this will open up many opportunities.”
Like Mitch, a sudden life change can incur costs and barriers never thought of before. The Assistive Technology Program aids those in need and requires your support and generosity in order to assist others.
Meet Paul Hamm (2019-20) Youth Ambassador
Paul is an energetic eleven year old full of determination. He likes to dance, make up rap songs, tell bad jokes and make people laugh. He is also very passionate about sports and was awarded a Yes I Can! award for athletics in 2016/17.
“It felt great. A lot of people were congratulating me. I thought to myself, this has got to be a big deal.” Paul shares with a big grin stretched across his face.
As a child born with Cerebral Palsy, Paul strives to not let anything slow him down. With support from SMD, he receives respite, therapy and service coordination and also participates in the Sledge Hockey Program. Last year Paul won the Mark Scheifele award for Break Out Player of the Year. He attributes his involvement with sledge hockey as a key ingredient in his motivation to be the best that he can be.
Paul is also active playing baseball, swimming and running cross country. “I forget about my Cerebral Palsy. I like to see how far I can go. I just go out there and have fun. I push other kids. I like to say, hey you are doing good. Let’s see more of what you got.”
The Yes I Can! Awards were created to recognize the achievements of students who have special needs and of the adults who support them. The awards are presented as part of the annual conference of the Manitoba Council for Exceptional Children.
In addition to his awards, Paul was selected as the 2019/2020 Youth Ambassador for the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities. As the Youth Ambassador, he will be the face and voice for SMD while attending various functions, events and campaigns. He will gain valuable experience speaking in front of small/large groups and the media while having fun meeting new people! We look forward to Paul sharing his story and being a champion for people of all abilities!
Meet Jocelyne Yanofsky (2017-18) Adult Ambassador
Jocelyne, now thirty years old first got involved with SMD as a pre-school student in the Communication Centre for Children for the Deaf and Hard Hearing. She has also benefited from the summer day camps through SMD and later on became a part time councillor to help other children and youth with disabilities enjoy the camp experience. “I love making new friends and helping others,” exclaimed Jocelyne.
For years, Jocelyne and her family have volunteered for the Safeway Campaign by attending the Safeway location at McPhillips and Jefferson. The goal was to help raise awareness and funds to support leisure and recreational programming for children and youth with disabilities in Manitoba.
Jocelyne is looking forward to meeting lots of new people as she embraces her new role as Adult Ambassador for SMD Foundation/Easter Seals™ Manitoba.
Meet Caleb McKague (2017-18) Youth Ambassador
Video courtesy of Global Winnipeg
Caleb is a fun, outgoing five-year old but, at one time, his future was not so certain - his family didn't even know if they'd get to spend 5 hours or 5 days with him, let alone 5 years! Since he came into this world, Caleb has amazed all those around him with his spirit and determination.
Caleb suffered a brain injury and severe seizures at birth and was diagnosed with Spastic/Dyskinetic Quad Cerebral Palsy, which means all four limbs are affected. One of the many obstacles Caleb faces as a result of his diagnosis is the ability to feed himself. Although he is able to eat orally, he also uses a feeding tube.
“His biggest challenge is communication,” explains his mom Cindy. “Caleb is very intelligent. However, being unable to speak makes it extremely difficult to understand what he wants/needs. We get frustrated and feel helpless. I can't even begin to imagine what Caleb must feel like when he looks at something and wants it and nobody can figure it out...It breaks my heart.”
He struggles on a daily basis to do everything but these things do not define him. Cindy didn’t know what to expect and took a ‘wait and see’ approach as Caleb either met the milestones of growing up or didn’t. At eight-months old, Caleb began receiving services from SMD including the Outreach Program, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech language pathology. SMD also provided resources to Cindy and her husband, which helped them to understand what their next steps might be.
“The outreach program has been amazing. The therapists are wonderful. They treat Caleb so well and are a world of useful information. I am very thankful,” says Cindy. Recently, Caleb received a new piece of equipment with funding assistance from the SMD Assistive Technology Program. The Buddy Roamer allows him the freedom and mobility to be independent.
“He can walk up to a table and play with books and his iPad. He dances in it and he is even able to run up to me or anyone and give us a great big hug. He can walk into the kitchen to his high chair or the counter to show us that he needs something or he will walk down the hallway to his room. I love it. One of his favorite things to do is go to the YMCA. He loves to go swimming and into the hot tub. He also likes to play basketball, climb the play structure and go down the slides with his sister. Caleb is so active we signed him up for micro soccer this summer. I am so excited for him to be able to do that this year. He is thrilled. The addition of the Buddy Roamer is the best thing that could have happened to him,” exclaims Cindy.
Taking care of Caleb’s needs and raising a two-year old daughter has been a balancing act for Cindy and her husband but they appreciate the support and precious moments that life has given them.
“People take so much for granted and in this special life you really can't. Caleb told me through his Eye Gaze (a computer he controls with his eyes, and can use to speak for him) that he loved me, for the first time at the age of 4. The most amazing thing was hearing that. Even though it was not his voice saying it and they were words from a computer I still knew that those words were meant for me and that they came from him,’ reflects Cindy.
“This is the road less traveled, but it is easier when we have people who will not be afraid to walk beside us.”
Meet Sandi Reimer (2015-16) Ambassador
Video courtesy of Shaw TV Winnipeg
Sandi has a zest for life and positive attitude that is evident the first time you interact with her. She inspires others to reach their full potential through motivational speaking. In 2014 she was asked to speak at TedX talk in Winnipeg. She is also very active and enjoys keeping herself fit by participating in sports such as hockey, hiking and competing in 5 km races.
"I’m happiest when I have a goal to conquer. Every time I take on a new fitness challenge, a new race, or another hockey game, it ignites me, because I get to push myself beyond my limits and boldly hit the target that lies before me."
In 2013 Sandi participated in the Easter Seals™ Drop Zone. As a first time participant, she raised $1,500 to scale 17 storeys and experienced an adventure of a lifetime.
When asked about her decision to get involved, it was clear she was focused on overcoming any obstacle that came her way. “Only you decide how much you’re going to limit yourself. That’s up to you. It’s not up to anyone else. You’re never going to know how much you can hit that target if you don’t try to aim for it.”
Sandi's involvement with SMD spans over 20 years through the Parking Permit Program and most recently sledge hockey. She strives for excellence both personally and professionally around the community. As the 2015-16 Ambassador for SMD Foundation/Easter Seals Manitoba, we look forward to seeing Sandi at our events/campaigns and sharing her passion for life with others.
According to Sandi, "I endeavour to live an active life with the hope that it will empower others - both able bodied and disabled - to do the same. Sometimes that involves educating people. Other times it means letting people know about the positive impact their support has made. People like to know that what they do makes a difference, and it would be an honour to serve as an Ambassador."
Click Here to watch another video courtesy of Global Winnipeg.
Meet Spencer Lambert (2015-16) Ambassador
Spencer Lambert is a smart, charming and active fifteen-year-old. Born with Spina Bifida, Spencer is able to walk short distances with the aid of Canadian crutches and uses a wheelchair for longer distances. A client of the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities (SMD) Children’s Service Coordination since the age of 2, Spencer was provided with his first wheelchair at 5 from SMD Wheelchair Services when he was starting school.
SMD continues to play a big role in his life through his involvement with the SMD Children’s Leisure and Recreation sledge hockey program. Spencer is someone who doesn’t let disability slow him down or stop him from being an athlete. In addition to sledge hockey, Spencer has played a variety of sports over the years including wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. Today, Spencer competes on the Provincial sledge hockey team and plays wheelchair basketball locally and nationally.
Athletics are not Spencer’s only strengths. Currently Spencer attends St. Boniface Diocesan High School where he is taking the courses necessary to get him into University to study Mechanical Engineering. In his spare time, Spencer is active in the school’s Discovery program; score keeps for Ringette games and enjoys hanging with his friends, going camping, fishing and to the farm.
And of course, being an SMD Foundation Ambassador!
Meet Mitchell Potter (2015-16) Ambassador
Mitchell is 21 years old, friendly, outgoing, has a good sense of humor, and has an infectious smile. Through his involvement with SMD, he participates in the Independence for Youth program and playing Power Wheelchair hockey. Mitchell has been playing Power Wheelchair Hockey since the league began 10 years ago. He has won the league championship and has represented Manitoba in the Canadian Power Wheelchair Championships (link opens PDF ) on four occasions.
Mitchell is a big sports fan and follows the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Winnipeg Jets. He especially loves to attend the games. He enjoys spending time with family and friends at the cottage and throughout the year, hosting people at his house for pay-per-view TV events.
Mitchell graduated from J.H. Bruns where his favorite subjects were history and math. He furthered his education through the Windsor Park Co-op Program and is looking forward to gaining work and volunteer experience.
Mitchell is proud to represent SMD Foundation/Easter Seals™ Manitoba as an Ambassador. He looks forward to attending events and meeting new people as well as the challenge and opportunity to speak and present in public. He believes the variety of programs offered by SMD are important to provide people living with disabilities the opportunity to participate in activities of interest.