Holiday Feast 2018

Thank you to the A! Board, Leadership Team, and Staff for once again hosting a fabulous Holiday Feast. Special thanks to Dr. Helen Pridmore, Faculty of Media, Arts, and Performance, University of Regina for leading us in holiday songs. Dr. Pridmore is one of the research leaders in the VOICE Lab (Vocally Oriented Investigations in Creative Expression) will be a studio space where people with disabilities can think about and develop methods of creative self expression while having the support of people and technology.

For more photos from the holiday feast……..

Event Planners

On May 5, 2016, Kennen Dorgan and Silvia Franco, with the help of their families, did a fabulous job as the event planners for the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Centre Cinco de Mayo party. This was part of Kennen’s PATH plans.

Have you ever looked at a job descriptions for an event planner? Here are some of the requirements:

  • Plan, design and produce events while managing all project delivery elements within time limits
  • Organize facilities and manage all event’s details such as decor, catering, entertainment, transportation, location, invitee list, special guests, equipment, promotional material etc
  • Ensure compliance with insurance, legal, health and safety obligations
  • Specify staff requirements and coordinate their activities
  • Cooperate with marketing and PR to promote and publicize event

Kennen and Silvia did all of this and more. They even helped us with our Spanish pronunciations. If you want a taste of the party check out our Cinco de Mayo photos on Face Book.

You might also want to get a look at what we are calling ‘Piñata therapy‘.

Thanks Kennen and Silvia and your team for this fabulous event.

Photo: Silvia, Heather, Kennen, Carmen

Follow Your Passion

We are often told to follow our passion, but not everyone knows what their passion is. This is not so for Kaitlyn Hoar. Kaitlyn has a passion for and a fascination with India. She is not sure when this began, possibly when she was eight and her grandfather spent several months working in India.

Kaitlyn wanted to share her passion with others at the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Centre (A!TLC). With the help of her companion Hannah, Kaitlyn interviewed someone from Regina whose original home is India. She also did online research, read articles, and watched a documentary about India. On Thursday April 28th, Kaitlyn and Hanna presented Kaitlyn’s story of India to the A! Student Researchers, staff , and U of R volunteers. We learned some about the history, religious diversity, and cultures of India. Kaitlyn and Hanna told us about safety issues, especially for women travelling on their own. Kaitlyn also brought some of the gifts she has received from her cousin while he was living in India. She showed us a sari that is the traditional garment of women in India, and many feet long .

Kaitlyn paid particular attention to what it would be like to live in India, or visit India, if you have a disAbility. She told us about ADAPT (Able Disabled All People Together), a national resource centre for inclusion. ADAPT is making big changes in the culture and accessibility but overall wheelchair travel and inclusion in India is not easy. But none of this deters Kaitlyn, her passion to visit India remains strong.


Rebekah Lindenbach

Rebekah really sees me, not just the surface of me. She always greets me and kids around with me in ways that bring a lightness and brightness to my day.” Debra Brown.

It is tough to write a blog about yourself, so I consulted a few friends to help me with this. I am a natural consultant; I check with others rather than assume they want to do what I want to do. I am also a planner; I like to anticipate my day and be consulted about plans for the day, week, month, and year.

If you live on a dairy farm with your mom and dad, and in the city with your two aunties, have three older brothers, three sisters-in-law, seven nieces and nephews, plus more cousins and aunts and uncles and friends, and you are a Student Researcher at Astonished! with a companion who supports your active life YOU NEED TO PLAN. If you don’t do it someone else will do it for you. I am NOT someone who likes to have others plan my life for me.

For example, it took more than a year of planning, but I am now deep into a quilting project with my friend Deb Ottenbreit (and an auxiliary quilting team). The whole thing started because I wanted to spend more time with my friend, so I thought what the heck could be a project where we could spend more time together, and look what happened… great big fun quilting parties, more time with my friend, and a quilt that is turning out to be very cool and beautiful.

Rebekah notices things and laughs at things that are funny but not everyone notices, but everyone laughs when she does. It is such a great sound.” Ruth Blaser

I am told I am also a gracious hostess. For example, my mom and I plan events for my friends at my farm. We call them Broyhill (the name of my farm) Bashes. It is great to have my friends rolling around the farm and learning a lot more about farming.

I am cautiously adventurous, I know, it sounds like I should be one or the other, but I am both so I am always trying new things. I am currently planning a yoga project with my Auntie Ruth. This spring semester (May-June 2016) we are going to lead a yoga pilot project with the Astonished! Student Researchers, A! staff, and University of Regina volunteers. We were inspired by the work of Matthew Sanford. He is a nationally-recognized pioneer in adaptive yoga for people with disAbilities.

Thank you for your interest in me and my blog post. Rebekah

Photo: Deb Ottenbreit, Rebekah Lindenbach, and Randy Ottenbreit choosing quilt fabric.

Creating Memories

It takes time and commitment to grow a community where we can both remember and create new memories. On Friday January 8, 2016 the Astonished! Social Club both remembered and created memories. We sat in circle for a minute of silence to remember Mark Mould, one of our Astonished! Core Members who has gone on, then we shared stories of remembrance and said we miss you Mark Mould. Mark loved a good time, he would have loved that we also had great visits, played crazy games, and made more memories. Check our FB page to see photos from this evening……..

Kaitlyn Hoar

I am a person with strong ideas, interests, and passions. In 2009, when I graduated from Michael A. Riffle High School, I won the Quest for Excellence Award. I am a Student Researcher at the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Center, and a member of the Astonished! Leadership Team. I live and breathe Astonished!

My friends tell me they love having me as a friend. If you and I were in a crowded room and you said something funny or did something outrageous, I would be the first to notice. I would respond to you with my spontaneous laughter. It’s like a big round of applause’s. My friends like that about me. I like to be in the midst of fun and humor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not always light spirited, I love what I love, and if I don’t love something I’ll let you know that too.

One of my loves is skeet shooting. I bet no one would’ve guessed this would be the outcome of a trip I took, with my mom and her partner Brad, to Brad’s farm. I learned about skeet shooting from Brad’s next-door neighbour Marty Scheller. I also became friends with Marty’s daughter Bailey. I consider Bailey to be my craziest friend and what would life be without crazy friends?

There are a number of Bailey’s in my life; Bailey Scheller, and Courtney Bailey (plus all her Bailey family). Courtney and I became friends when we were at Riffle High School. We have a lot of great things in common; we also have one big grief. Six years ago our good friend Spencer Borlaise died in a vehicle accident. It means so much to me that Spencer took the time to get on my school bus to say goodbye to me before he went off on his trip to Saskatoon, the trip from which he never came home.

I am a loyal friend and really enjoy being with people, but not with everyone. I think I could get a job as a “bullshit detector”. I seem to have a sense of who is real and who is just messing with me. I don’t give “the messers” the time of day.

I like to surprise people. If you checked out my current favorite TV shows [Chicago Fire and Chicago PD] you might think I was in it for the hunks in uniforms. But my other favorite TV show is Teen Mom. Teen Mom is more drama and scandalous rumors and less about uniforms or hunks.

If I have to choose between TV and live theater it’s live theater every time. I particularly like live theater at the University Theater in the Riddell Center at the University of Regina because that theater is so accessible. If I can’t get in the room it doesn’t matter how great a show is. When I was a mentor in the Issues in DisAbility Studies class at the University of Regina I took my team of social work students to a dinner theater in Regina. I was mentoring them on issues of accessibility. They were horrified at the 45° angle makeshift ramp I had to use to get into the theater space. It was a lesson they won’t soon forget. My dream is to one day see CATS in New York City.

Quirky humour and fun runs through both sides of my big international family. My dad loved to tease me and my friends. I miss him. This year for Christmas, my maternal grandma, Elaine Eyndhoven is having a Ukrainian cook-off at my house. Grandma and her two sisters (one is 96) are in the competition. The prize is a weekend at the Sask Hotel.

Perhaps the winner would like to take me with her because I am a natural at event planning. I think about who I want in the room and I go from there. I’m recently organized a baby shower/sprinkle for Bonnie Cummings-Vickaryous and her baby Anna (Bonnie is the Executive Director of Astonished!). I think about the details, come up with activities, and enjoy the party. Fortunately my mom, Wendy, and my sister, Kyla, are good at food, as I sometimes forget that in my planning.

My big excitement these days is having a companion who will be my driver, come to the A!TLC, and do other things with me. After much negotiation I finally have an Individualized Funding agreement. I am thrilled at this new opportunity in my life.

Photo: Ella McIntyre & Kaitlyn Hoar

Paige Racette

My brain goes faster than I can type, but I have a solution; I use ‘speech to text’ on my tablet and phone, and ‘speech recognition’ on my computer. This makes it so much easier for me to work with the printed word. Learning ‘speech to text’ or ‘speech recognition’ takes patience because you have to train the program to recognize your voice.

I am also a big Pokémon fan. I grew up with it and the game is another opportunity for me to increase my manual dexterity and my training skills. The more you train with Pokémon the stronger the bond between the two of you. It is a little like training a dog, which I hope to do sometime soon. I am applying to get a service dog.

Most people probably don’t know this about me but I am terrified of meeting new people. I am not sure but this fear may be a result of being bullied when I was a kid. My twin sister Pagan calls me ‘Little Ame’ after the boy in the movie Wolf Children because he is very shy, but eventually he discovers his ‘inner wolf’. I don’t let the terror stop me from doing new things; like participating in the Astonished! Summer Literacy Program or going to work four mornings a week at Sask Abilities, but it takes its toll on me. I hope a service dog would help me feel at home wherever I am and hopefully reduce my feelings of anxiety and terror. Wish me luck with my application.

Oh I probably should also tell you that I have Cerebral Palsy, I can’t eat eggs unless they are disguised in a cake, I am careful about what I eat because I have ulcerative colitis, and at one point I had a blood clot.  I have two favourite expressions, ‘burn’, and ‘hello’ (I stretch it out when I am saying it). Pagan and I live in our own apartments that are part of Chip and Dale Housing. Our apartments were designed for us so there is lots of room to get around in our power chairs, to reach the kitchen sink and the stove-top, and to get from our bedrooms to our bathrooms using the ceiling tracks. We both love having our own places. They were painted a few weeks ago and my bedroom is red like the colour in my photo above.

At A! Summer Literacy I loved that we read out loud. I have a lot of trouble comprehending when I am reading, it feels like my mind gets all jumbled up, but when it is read out loud I get it. I have this same problem when I am typing; this is another reason why ‘speech to text’ works so well for me. Another big bonus from the A! Summer Literacy Program is our new friendship with Al. Al is a University of Regina student who volunteered in the A! Summer Literacy Program. Pagan and I got to know him and now we hang out together.

I hope New Zealand will be in my future. I want to see the locations where they filmed The Hobbit  and the Lord of the Rings. I know this is a very big trip but I dream big.

You can learn more from Paige on her blog Jurassicdragon21 Dream Big No Matter What

Ryan Matheison

You might say I was a bit of a rover in my early years. I was born in Saskatoon and then moved to Cudworth, Regina, Balgonie, Regina, Pense, and back to Regina, where I finally settled down. I attended school in most of these places, but spent my final few high school years at Michael A. Riffel High School. After graduating in 2006, I took a few years off and then went to work at Cosmo, where I currently spend my days.

Towards the end of my high school years, I moved into Cheshire Homes where I reside in my “green and white” man cave. This should give you a strong clue about my favourite activity. I am a sports animal who attends Rider games, Pats games, and Red Sox games whenever I get the chance. When I’m not at games, I’m watching games on TV.

I am a core member of Astonished! and attend most of their social events . This summer I am attending my first ever Astonished Literacy Camp. I am the only guy camper, which is pretty sweet. I also attend Friendship Club and BeLonging gatherings when there’s no football or hockey games to watch. In my very limited free time, I listen to country music, watch funny movies, eat pizza, and dream about going to camp. I would live at Camp Easter Seal if they’d let me! My favourite people are my girlfriend Kayla, who also works at Cosmo, and my godmother Margaret, who I visit in Cudworth whenever I get the chance. My friends describe me as an open-minded, good-natured, and honest guy, optimistic even when the Riders are losing and camp is over for the summer.

My Dream Trip by Kennen Dorgan

I am a Student Researcher in the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Centre (A!TLC). I graduated from Grenfell High Community School in 2011. I am the youngest in my family (except for my dog). I have two sisters and one brother. I also have one niece Zoey who I like to cheer on at baseball games. My brother Reed and his wife Renee are having a baby so I will have another niece or nephew by the end of this year!

Two and a half years ago, when I started at the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Centre (A!TLC), I was nervous because everything was new and the University of Regina is a big place. Now I am confident and comfortable with both the people and the place. I am so happy for each day that I spend at the A!TLC. It is a place where I can see my friends and a place where I can give and receive lots of support. Everyone there helps me reach for my dreams and we all have lots of fun together.

Making decisions can be hard for me, but once I know what I want I am focused and go for it. With the support of my family, friends, and Astonished! staff I take on all kinds of adventures. My sister Tanys is a professional photographer and I really like what she does. I want to become a better photographer so I do regular photography exercises as part of my work in the A!TLC. I have a special clamp that holds my iPad to my chair and I use a remote control to compose and take my photos. This helps me keep the iPad steady while I decide what I want in the photograph.

Last fall I was a mentor in the University of Regina Social Work class Issues in DisAbilities Studies. I liked mentoring the social work students in my team. Because I am developing my photography skills we photographed places in Regina that were inclusive. At the end of the course I told my mom “We aren’t focusing on disAbility, we are focusing on ability. I am helping them focus on what they can do to be good enablers in community.”

As part of the Astonished! Summer Literacy program I wanted to learn to text so I could send messages to my sister Lynice (you probably figured out my family is important to me). With the support of the Astonished! staff I really expanded my literacy skills and hope to keep doing so.

Right now I am planning a road trip to Alaska with my mom, dad, and my companion Silvia. It would be easier to fly to Alaska but the airlines won’t let me use my seat insert on the plane and I can’t travel without my seat insert. It provides the support that is necessary for my spine. My dad can make almost anything so he made a way for my seat insert to fit in the truck. We are going to drive to Alaska with our travel trailer. I have already started a blog for my trip. You can follow me at Kennen’s Dream Trip. I chose Alaska as a destination because Lynice and her husband Kris live there.

My next goal is a trip to Mexico! My companion Silvia is from Mexico and I would like to see her country. I have already met a lot of Silvia’s friends and family through Skype and Facetime, and am excited to say “Hola!” in person! There is so much to look forward to.

Pascal Erickson – Rocking with Nickelback

Pascal Erickson  – Just Saying…….
I graduated from Campbell Collegiate in 2005. Since April 12th 2007 I have been conducting my life from Wascana Rehabilitation Centre in Regina. People say I am an excellent conductor, organizing and scheduling things I want in my life. I love music, especially country and rock. My dad and I are regulars at the Craven Country Music Jamboree. Recently, my sister Jennifer and I rocked at the Nickelback concert in Saskatoon (photo of Jennifer and Pascal).

Some of my favourite things are chocolate, photography, painting, reading medical text books, researching on the web, visiting with friends, Camp Easter Seal, playing cribbage, Astonished! events, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. I have a serious case of ‘Rider Pride’. I keep connected to my family and friends, my music, and my Internet research though my iPad and iPhone. They are always on my chair tray.

Some of my favourite Astonished! events include the Halloween Howl and the annual Fundraising event. Both have great food, drink, and music, all things I love.

Because I spend a long time in my power chair, and this can be uncomfortable, my perfect day begins between 9:30 and 10:00 with breakfast in bed. With the assistance of Wascana staff I get ready for my day. I need this support but adjusting to the lack of privacy in a large institution can be challenging. I find it frustrating when staff and other residents think they know everything about me.

I am currently working with the recreation coordinator at Wascana to come up with a volunteer placement that would bring together several of my interests.

I often say ‘just saying’ and several people in the Astonished!  community have adopted this phrase.