2012 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador:
Piano lessons, student council and public speaking are some of Natalie McDonald's favourite activities. The 12-year-old grade 7 student is already an unstoppable force when it comes to being a proponent for children with physical disabilities. "Hanover is a small community of 8,000 and I love to share with everyone that lives in and around my area what Easter Seals is all about," she says proudly.
At home in West Grey Township, she enjoys spending time with her family, including her younger brother, Wyatt, and exploring her family's 60-acre property, particularly her two-level, accessible tree house.
Despite being limited by a wheelchair, she maintains her independence as much as possible. Natalie's muscles are weaker than most and are deteriorating slowly, so she relies on help from her family for daily tasks, such as cutting up her food, reaching objects that are placed too high or low and transferring in and out of her wheelchair.
At school, Natalie receives some support from an educational assistant with scribing, but is completely integrated and works hard to consistently attain A's and B's on her report card. Reading, writing, math and music are her favourite subjects and she is currently working on a piano duet with her music teacher. She dreams of becoming an architect for accessible space when she grows up, combining her understanding of wheelchair-friendly space and her creative talents.
As the 2012 Easter Seals Provincial Ambassador, Natalie is enthusiastic about the challenge of being the voice for the 20,000 children and youth across Ontario with physical disabilities. Throughout the last several years, Natalie has developed her advocacy skills by holding birthday fundraisers, attending Easter Seals events and receiving several awards, including Community Champion by her local radio station in 2010. She notes, "my [old] principal jokes about our local community paper, The Hanover Post, being 'The Natalie Post'."
This summer, Natalie will attend Easter Seals Camp Woodeden for the fifth year in a row. In addition to traditional activities like swimming and archery, she also enjoys some of Woodeden's newer offerings, like the lifestyles kitchen and geocaching, a treasure hunting game that uses a GPS device.
As a Provincial Ambassador, Natalie is looking forward to meeting many new faces, including other Easter Seals kids, celebrities and supporters. In particular, she is looking forward to the Telethon, "it's exciting because it's live", as well as the Gala Ball, where she will have the opportunity to dress up and dance, an activity she enjoys.
With her confident attitude and articulate verbal skills, Natalie plans on spending her year as Ambassador encouraging Easter Seals kids across the province to follow their dreams. Her advice to others is simple: "anything is possible if you try hard enough." By attaining her goal of becoming one of the 2012 Easter Seals Provincial Ambassadors, Natalie is well on her way to exemplifying this message.
2012 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador:
Like many twelve year old boys, Brandon McAuley enjoys playing Lego, video games and going to summer camp. At school, math tops his list of favourite classes, because "it's easier than most other subjects", along with history and science. He counts gym as his least favourite subject, because he "can't run as fast as the other kids." Born prematurely, Brandon suffered a brain injury and has a paralyzed vocal cord. However, he maintains his independence at school, through the help of an educational assistant and a laptop to keep pace with his peers. Sometimes, he also uses a microphone to help his soft voice be heard in class. With a great attitude and an abundance of energy, this grade 7 student doesn't let his disability get in the way.
At home, Brandon has a strong support network, including his parents, twin sister Abigail, younger brother John, two grandmothers and long-term respite workers. After school, Brandon helps out around the house with laundry, groceries and dishes and enjoys downhill skiing, soccer and swimming in his spare time. He also enjoys visiting his uncle's and neighbour's dogs, since allergies prevent him from having any pets of his own. Brandon has lofty goals for the future, including becoming a doctor, inspired in part by his parents, who work in the medical field as a nurse and pharmacist.
This year, Brandon will attend Camp Merrywood for the fourth summer in a row and while he "doesn't have a favourite activity - I love them all", is "very excited to start to learn to cook this year" in the lifestyles kitchen, one of the newer activities offered at Easter Seals camp. Reconnecting with friends, canoeing and out-tripping are his among his favourite aspects of camp. He is particularly happy to attend camp this summer as a Provincial Ambassador.
Brandon's cheerful exuberance and his eagerness to share Easter Seals' message makes him an excellent choice to fill the role of 2012 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador. He is looking forward to meeting many new people, including other Easter Seals kids, supporters and celebrities.
Brandon thinks being the Provincial Ambassador will be "an interesting job" and is excited to attend many fun events throughout the year, particularly his inauguration at the Conn Smythe Sports Celebrities Dinner & Auction. In his year as Ambassador, Brandon hopes to spread a simple, but important message: "if you keep trying, you will succeed."
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