‘Inclusion is beautiful’: Community Living Huntsville Autumn Brunch 2022 inspires conversations worth having
Audience members set down their brunch forks and rose to their feet with applause and cheers.
Community Living Huntsville’s 2022 Autumn Brunch saw community members with and without disabilities come together at Grandview Golf Club to share in delicious food, a silent auction, live music, and inspiring conversations worth having on October 2.
The event raised more than $22,700 to support our Transitional Housing Initiative.
“Our entire community has struggled with social isolation in the last couple of years. It has been especially difficult for people with developmental disabilities,” says Jennifer Jerrett, Community Engagement Specialist for Community Living Huntsville. “We reimagined our Autumn Brunch to bring people together for community, positivity, and hope, which are feelings a lot of us want to embrace and nurture now.”
Guests, including Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison, Huntsville mayor Karin Terziano, and Town of Huntsville CAO Denise Corry, heard from two incredible speakers: Chris Beesley, Chief Executive Officer for Community Living Ontario, and Allison Bobbette, an author, singer-songwriter and inclusion advocate.
Community through meaningful contribution
Chris Beesley shared the story of how his son, Mitchell, who was born with an intellectual disability, launched a successful farm-fresh egg distribution business in their neighbourhood mid-COVID-19 pandemic. The business came about from Mitchell’s passion for farming, his connection with a farm that could supply the eggs, and a suggestion from a support worker who saw the opportunity.
Mitchell made plans with his supplier, advertised his business, and gained neighbours as customers. Soon, the business became so popular that Mitchell had to set up a wait list for new customers.
And something else happened. Chris said that, not only did Mitchell soon know many neighbours by name, but they also knew him and greeted him by name, too. Mitchell had created deep connections and a genuine sense of belonging through the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to his community. And that, said Chris, was what “community living” truly meant.
The audience broke into cheers and applause.
Be the change you want to see
Allison Bobbette then shared how her determination to overcome barriers to education and inclusion sparked her passion for empowering people to achieve their dreams.
“I recognized very early in life that I was different from most of my classmates. I was bullied and teased by my classmates for being different. I struggled with why God had made me different,” said Allison. “Gradually, I started to realize my mission in life was to provide a voice for all of us who are different.”
She worked hard to promote and advocate for inclusion. For example, in high school she started a fun and successful networking group for students with and without disabilities. She later sought out and enrolled in a post-secondary program at Sault College, called Community Integration through Cooperative Education (CICE), and launched a special needs chapter group at the college. She and her dad later worked to get a CICE program started at Georgian College, too.
The list goes on.
She now serves on the Empower Simcoe board of directors, is a member of its Believe in Yourself Committee, and co-teaches a Rights Training and Abuse Course.
She has received numerous awards from her elementary school, school board, and college, and a municipal association, for her contributions, advocacy, and leadership.
“I have learned that inclusion is beautiful,” said Allison. She encouraged everyone to be courageous, following their passions, surround themselves with supportive people, and include others. “Even though we are different, we are all in this beautiful thing called life together. So think about love before you think about indifference. Be the change you want to see in the world.”
She then performed her original song, “I am Able,” and received a standing ovation.
Action on housing
Suzanne Willett, event MC and Executive Director for Community Living Huntsville, thanked the speakers, and also thanked the audience.
“By being here, you’re not only helping to strengthen a sense of community and build understanding, you are also taking action on the deepening housing crisis by helping us raise funds for our Transitional Housing Initiative,” said Suzanne. “The initiative empowers a growing number of people we support, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, with the stability, skills, and support everyone needs to have equal opportunity at securing permanent housing in our community.”
Thank you to our 2022 Event Partners, including Shoppers Drug Mart Huntsville, Enbridge Fueling Futures, Near North Business Machines, Brothers of the Blade Motorcycle Club Muskoka, Mathews Dinsdale, Peak Investment Services Dan Willett Financial, Thoms & Currie Professional Corporation, and Stephenson District Lions Club, for helping make the brunch possible.
Community Living Huntsville is a not-for-profit, registered charity that supports and advocates alongside more than 300 people with developmental disabilities, and families, to live, work, and play in unique and purposeful ways in North Muskoka. The organization celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2022. Learn more at clhuntsville.ca. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, and TikTok.