Plenty of smiles at Be­yond 21

Seaway News - - NEWS - Todd Li­hou

CORN­WALL, On­tario - Jane McLaren can re­call with vivid de­tail ev­ery time Be­yond 21 makes a dif­fer­ence in the life of a per­son it serves.

“One of the great­est changes is their smile,” she said of the 18 or so de­velop- men­tally chal­lenged peo­ple that take part in Be­yond 21 ac­tiv­i­ties. “It’s not just a smile in their face. It goes right into their eyes.”

Be­yond 21 is a grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides daily ac­tiv­i­ties and stimulation to de­velop-men­tally chal­lenged adults who have had to leave the school sys­tem thanks to their age.

In On­tario, per­sons 21 and older can no longer at­tend school.

“It re­ally be­comes up to the fam­ily to de­ter­mine what their adult child will do,” said McLaren, the group’s pro­gram man­ager. “You still need adult re­la­tion­ships and peer re­la­tion­ships.”

Be­yond 21 has set up its so-called “hub” at the for­mer Gen­eral Vanier In­ter­me­di­ate School on Cum­ber­land Street.

The agency has its own fa­cil­ity, when par­tic­i­pants play games, cook meals and in­ter­act with each other - a far cry from sit­ting at home in front of the tele­vi­sion, which is where many of the par­tic­i­pants would oth­er­wise be.

“They can be­come very so­cially iso­lated,” said McLaren.

On this day one group of about a half dozen par­tic­i­pants have just re­turned from swim­ming, while another group is out gro­cery shop­ping.

“We try to teach healthy eat­ing habits,” said McLaren, who added par­tic­i­pants are also schooled on things like the use of money, and how to cal­cu­late change. “The big­gest joy is when they start to en­joy other peo­ple and blos­som into be­com­ing them­selves.”

Tish Humphries, who helped spear­head the cre­ation of Be­yond 21, said in an ear­lier in­ter­view the age limit of­ten blinks on the hori­zon for par­ents and fam­ily mem­bers of dis­abled chil­dren – they know it’s com­ing and are afraid of what the fu­ture holds.

“You feel very alone when you’re search­ing for pro­grams like th­ese,” said Humphries, whose daugh­ter Emma is part of Be­yond 21, or B21 as it’s known. “We wanted a good life for our daugh­ter and oth­ers who were search­ing for a qual­ity of life for their fam­ily mem­bers.”

Humphries was quick to point out B21 is not a babysit­ting ser­vice.

“Our peo­ple are there to fa­cil­i­tate, they’re not care­givers,” she said. B21 pro­vides the links fam­i­lies need to get their adult child or fam­ily mem­ber ac­tively in­volved in the com­mu­nity.

Be­yond 21 is one of 19 mem­bers agen­cies served by the United Way of SD and G that is in the midst of a $700,001 fundrais­ing cam­paign.

-with Se­away News files

From left are Jean Le­vac and Andy Pant­zopoulus, a pair of par­tic­i­pants in Be­yond 21.

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