Beth Robbins is an artist, retired nurse and mother of an extraordinary special needs child.
Beth has donated a series of her beautiful images as a token of her gratitude for the care and support Ashleigh and the family receives from March of Dimes Canada.
In her own words, Beth talks about March of Dimes and her very special family.
"I think I first heard about March of Dimes Canada when my daughter, Ashleigh, was a young child or perhaps, it may have been even earlier, during my teens. I recall hearing that March of Dimes was an organization working with individuals with physical challenges.”
Fast forward many years later to 2009 when I met up with March of Dimes again but this time truly began to understand in a profoundly significant way the many and substantial roles they play in so many people’s lives, as well as in Ashleigh’s and mine. Ashleigh had finished school and a one-year life skills program at our local community college but due to her multiple disabilities was still completely dependent on me. I was not only her mom but her caregiver, private nurse, speech therapist, social convenor, chauffeur, work placement facilitator…the list went on. Whatever the need, I was there for her with an open and loving heart determined to help. However, her utter dependence on me became a source of great concern. What would become of Ashleigh should I become seriously ill or die? How would this affect her, her life, her well-being? How would she fend for herself?
Fortunately, one of the organizations I reached out to again was the March of Dimes’ Acquired Brain Injury Services. Their participation in the meeting turned out to be a godsend for me and, more importantly, for Ashleigh. We learned that a space had become available in their Independent Living Program and that Ashleigh’s previous application for supportive housing services was at the top of their wait list. After a couple of months of preparations, Ashleigh moved into her own apartment, supported by staff and programming from March of Dimes. She hasn’t looked back. She proudly shops for her own groceries, uses her own bank card, helps prepare her own meals, does her dishes, does her laundry, goes to exercise three times a week, is a regular and welcome parishioner at an Anglican church in her neighbourhood, participates in art therapy and has many more activities. All of these steps to Ashleigh’s independence and sense of self-worth have been encouraged and supported by March of Dimes Canada.
The people that work for March of Dimes Canada make a lasting imprint in the lives that they touch; from the multitude of programs and services that are offered, to the support and advocacy that is given . . . they embody their core values. March of Dimes isn’t concerned about impressing; they are making a difference, they are changing lives for the better, they are leaving an imprint; they care.
We are forever grateful for the individualized programming, rehabilitation services, fostering of independence as well as the genuine care and concern provided during Ashleigh’s time of, as she likes to describe it, “being a homeowner of my own apartment”. March of Dimes has provided a variety of services to improve Ashleigh’s daily-living activities, communication, community orientation and integration, emotional and behavioural control, life skills, as well as vocational and recreational opportunities. All of this has helped Ashleigh flourish and continue to make significant gains in her life and her strive for independence.
However, from my perspective, March of Dimes has given Ashleigh much more than that. She has a profound sense of self and acceptance, of pride in who she is and of her abilities, and a joy of life beyond measure. All of this has been nurtured further through the services that she receives from March of Dimes.
I volunteer or donate so that I can play a small part in showing my love for others with the hope of making the world a better place. I know firsthand some of the struggles that families such as mine face caring for a loved one with a disability and so to see that not only Ashleigh’s life is being changed is a gift beyond words. It is also important for me to help in whatever way I can because I am sensitive to the fact that the many services and programs provided by March of Dimes are dependent on volunteers and sponsorship. The more March of Dimes Canada is helped and supported the more they are able to expand their support to many more individuals like Ashleigh and families such as ours. None of us make it through life completely on our own and March of Dimes is truly making a difference in that regard. So, why do I volunteer/donate? How could I not!
I have many wishes and hopes for MOD Canada and the people that they serve. It is my hope that by increasing March of Dimes’ exposure in the community and corporate/philanthropic worlds, more will see the importance of and comprehend the magnitude of March of Dimes’ work. Ultimately, I hope this will lead to an increased desire for more to get involved and help by donating to and volunteering with this organization. The more help that March of Dimes gets, the more they are able to give people faced with disabilities and make a difference in their lives. After all, “you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give”.
I hope whoever reads this realizes the significant things March of Dimes is accomplishing each and every day as well as the magnitude of the work they are striving to do. You may immediately notice the banner at the top of their web pages which reads, “Solutions for Independence”. I was particularly struck by these words as they reminded me of a photographic project entitled, “AN inDEPENDENT LIFE, that I completed about Ashleigh after she began receiving support from March of Dimes. When I looked at the meaning of the word “in” I was struck by its definition. “In” – something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else. To me that describes March of Dimes. Their work is about finding solutions and surrounding the people that they serve in such a way as to foster as much of an independent life as possible. March of Dimes is the solution and I am forever grateful for their contribution to Ashleigh’s “inDEPENDENT LIFE”.
Mahatma Gandhi expressed it best: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. Let’s join with March of Dimes Canada and be the change we wish to see, solutions for independence.