Abbey Patallas

Robert Frost wrote ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference’. Abbey Patallas knows this experience of the roads diverging. Five years ago, Abbey set out on the road of a degree in Kinesiology and Health Studies with a major in in Human Kinetics. Abbey is now in the last semester of her degree. In January she began her major practicum with Astonished! Some things have become clear to Abbey; she is really interested in the ongoing relationships with A! Student researchers, enjoys working one-to-one, developing and delivering programming, teaching and learning, and the social aspects of Astonished! She has discovered through experience that she is less interested in the clinical aspects of assessment and rehabilitation, but that knowledge of the human body will serve her well wherever her future takes her.

Abbey is working on the Astonished! Gala, approaching businesses and following up on sponsorships. She is part of the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Centre program three days a week with Melissa Turbuck, and she is working on a web-based sign-up-form for A! volunteers.

Outside of her work at A! and being a student, Abbey has a part time job working in administration at SaskTel. To balance all of this, she enjoys staying active and spending time outdoors. We are happy to have Abbey with us this semester and wish her all the best on the roads of her future.

A! Volunteers and Practicum Students – I

One of the great joys of Astonished! is the mutual relationships and mutual benefits of having University of Regina students join our team for a semester or sometimes longer.  Jasmine Galey, Hallie Burke, and Kathryn Derenisky are part of the A! team this semester.

Jasmine Galey

While living in Calgary, and coaching a group of children ages 8-12, Jasmine Galey had an experience that shaped the direction of her education. One of the children in the group had Asperger’s Syndrome and in order to help this child fully participate Jasmine learned ways for the child to be comfortable, feel ok, and for everyone to be able to do the activities together. Jasmine is in her third year of Education at the University of Regina with a major in Physical and minor in Outdoor Education while completing a Certificate of Extended Studies in Inclusive Education.

As part of her Kin 120 Rec – Persons with Disabilities class, which is taught by Astonished! Executive Director Bonnie Cummings-Vickaryous, Jasmine learned about Astonished! In addition to her assigned work in a practicum group creating a five-week activity program for older years students, Jasmine decided to volunteer with Astonished! She is a volunteer at A! Social Club events and in Yoga for Every Body. Jasmine says she is learning how much everyone can do if given the opportunity.


Hallie Burke

Hallie’s summer work as assistant manager at the Rocanville Aquatic Center was what first lead her to the Bachelor of Sport and Recreation Studies at the University of Regina. Now in her second year, Hallie is finding the program a good match for her interests. Hallie is doing her junior practicum (90 hours) as an assistant in planning with Astonished! Her focus has been preparing for the A! Walk and Roll that will take place on December 1st.

Hallie has been researching and seeking potential sponsorships for the Walk and Roll, writing grant proposals, and doing the background work of organizing and preparing for the event.  She loved working with the Canva software to create a beautiful sponsorship package, has come to understand some of the challenges of timing and fundraising for an event like this, and is excited to know that not-for-profit organizations like Astonished! are potential employers for her skills.

We have been delighted to have Hallie on the team. Some of our volunteers like Hallie are busy working behind the scenes and may not be as familiar to the rest of the Astonished! community. If you are at the Walk and Roll on December 1st check out the banners, the team bibs, the sign in process, and our sponsors, you will see Hallie’s hand at work.

Kathryn Derenisky

“May I sit and eat with you”? Kathryn Derenisky asks rather than assumes. Freedom of choice and using language that offers choice is both a natural and learned skill for Kathryn. Kathryn has been a camp counsellor at Camp Easter Seal and attributes some of her understanding of the importance of choice to her training as a camp counsellor. It is now second nature for her. Kathryn is in her second year of Education with a major in Social Studies and a minor in English and Inclusive Education. She also works as a substitute Educational Assistant in the Regina Public School system and is co-president of the University’s Best Buddies Chapter.

This semester Kathryn is volunteering with Astonished! by assisting Student Researcher Kennen Dorgan expand her literacy skills. Together they identify the sounds of words and Kennen types them on a keyboard. Kathryn is also a member of the A! Leadership Team, helping to plan and carry out monthly Social Club events for and with A! Core Members.

Kathryn says Astonished! offers people more opportunity to open up and express yourself, discover your personal interests and skills, and move toward your goals. Kathryn sums up her approach to life with these words, “Discrimination bugs me, difference makes us stronger.

Thank you to all of our volunteers and practicum students, past and present, and those we have yet to meet. Together we are making a difference.




Welcome Crystal McLaughlin

When Harry Potter went to Hogwarts, he got to really know himself and tapped into his inner strength and skills. He knew suffering and loss in his life. With the help of his parents and his friends, he found his way and his power. Perhaps these are some of the reasons Crystal McLaughlin feels such a kinship with Harry. Crystal is in her final semester of a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Regina (U of R). She began this process seven years ago, when her daughter was one. Crystal was working at the Regina Residential Resource Center and realized she wanted to be part of the positive changes in people’s lives.

These seven years have held love and loss and increased self awareness. Five years ago, Crystal met Darcy Ward. Two years ago, they married, and Crystal expanded her family of two to a family of five, including Darcy’s son and daughter. This past semester Crystal took a leave of absence from school because Darcy was seriously ill. Last month Darcy died of kidney failure. We offer our regards to Crystal and Darcy and their extended families.

With great losses like this we must each find our way to go on. This month Crystal began her major social work practicum with Astonished! Crystal says that this time with Astonished! is helping her carry on. Crystal loves to learn and she is learning about ways of communicating that do not involve speech. Crystal brings a unique vitality and self-awareness to the Astonished! community. During her studies at the U of R she learned that she has both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety. She has found that music and dance help her stay focused and release tension.

Crystal has much to offer Astonished!, and Astonished! has much to offer Crystal, especially at this particular time in her life. We look forward to our time of learning and being together.

PHOTO: Crystal McLaughlin and Kennen Dorgan