Contributed by Monica Alves, Community Engagement team
They fed us, bathed us, dressed us, cheered us on every step of the way, and played a role in shaping the person we are today. Everyone’s relationship with their mom is unique. As Mother’s Day is approaching, we’d like to take this opportunity to share the stories of a few inspiring moms who are making big strides for diversity and inclusion in our communities. They lead by example – empowering their kids to believe in the strength of diversity and to advocate for a more inclusive and accessible world. The selflessness and nurturing spirits of these women extend beyond their families, touching the wider communities they’re a part of. There are so many every day superhero moms amongst us, but here are just four that we admire for their incredible achievements and impact as leaders in the community living movement… all while raising fulfilled lives of the next generation!
Rachel and Leslie
Rachel is deeply committed to her work with inclusive programs and initiatives for persons with developmental disabilities, and has proudly raised three now young adults. She was only 21 when her first son Leslie was born. With her adventurous spirit and new found sense of motherhood, Rachel splurged on a Cannondale Bugger. These bike trailers were still a novelty at the time, so you can imagine how many heads turned at the sight of this mother and son team coasting through their neighbourhood! “The positive attention felt good and the exercise endorphins helped me cope with the challenges of parenting a child with a rare disability,” says Rachel.
One of their most frequented bike destinations was Café Deux Soleils on Commercial Drive. As the staff got to know him, Leslie was able to order and pay on his own. Over the course of their visits, a meaningful bond was created with the café team. Rachel shares a touching moment between her and one of the cooks:
“She told me that her baby had been born premature and was likely going to have significant disabilities. Then, tearing up, she shared that knowing Leslie made hope possible for her – a hope that her son would have a good life with friends and community.”
Leslie has pachygyria, a rare brain malformation which causes developmental disables and seizures. This was a difficult time for their family. But the research and resources Rachel sought out led her to embark on a meaningful journey of work with Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI).
As a family services consultant, Rachel is valued for turning her passion for inclusion into action in the community. The barriers she encountered while raising her son inspired her mission to provide exceptional support to families in need. She loves helping families move those “road blocks” and seeing them receive the supports they need to “pursue their bliss.”
Beyond the demands of her work life, Rachel paves…or rather pedals the way for inclusion in her spare time too. As an avid cyclist, she decided to spread the love of her favourite pastime with the community. She and Leslie, equipped with his adult tricycle, host a “Try a Trike” experience with Kudoz. Leslie also loves taking transit. His mom proudly shares how his impressive knowledge of bus routes empowers him to explore and go on adventures.
Marta and Katrina
Marta lives and breathes community inclusion, both personally and professionally. She has many titles: volunteer, facilitator, graphic recorder, planner and community engagement coordinator, and has experience working with specific demographic groups vulnerable to higher risk of isolation and loneliness from the greater community. But perhaps the one role that doesn’t come with a job description – that keeps her wheels turning and heart invested – is being a mom to her young adult daughter Katrina. And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! 19-year-old Katrina, also acts as a bit of a community engagement coordinator herself. She often assists in scheduling camping trips and sports games with her neighbours at Driftwood Village Cohousing.
Marta and her family are strong proponents of this community residential model. After discovering Katrina had a diverse-ability, the idea of cohousing seemed like a natural next step. Moving into this North Vancouver community proved to be one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. Marta is highly involved in building meaningful bonds within this supportive and diverse neighbourhood.
You may be wondering, how does she do it all? Well, Marta’s personal mantra is, “It’s not going to be easy but it’s so worth it.” Some of her worthy accomplishments include her work earning a degree in Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, her work with Steps Forward and The Family Support Institute, and designing various workshops presented at community inclusion conferences around BC. Additionally, she is a part of Hive & House, a collective of three females whose mission is to educate, connect individuals, and provide resources and consulting for the development of cohousing opportunities.
The relationship she has with her daughter fuels her ongoing involvement in the community living movement. In their spare time, the Carlucci clan can be found soaking up all the nature BC has to offer through hiking, cycling, or kayaking. Marta shares how Katrina’s passion for music has been the ‘golden thread’ connecting her to opportunities to participate in the community alongside others with similar interests. The shared joy they felt from attending concerts together and listening to Katrina play the ukulele, piano, and trombone with her music teachers, awakened a new desire in Marta to learn piano. This led the two of them to join a band and even record one of their favourite songs, ABC by the Jackson 5!
“Like any 19-year-old, Katrina doesn’t want to do everything with mom. But surrounding ourselves with people who love music like we do and doing it together, has created a wonderful mother and daughter bond between us,” says Marta.
Yuko McCulloch & Liz Cochran
This dynamic duo has been running the Vancouver Parents Transition Group (VPTG) together since 2008, after taking over for the pioneering parent Rachelle Czerwinski. The journey from teenager to adult comes with a new sense of independence, which is something that can be quite daunting for an individual living with a disability and their parents. But Yuko and Liz want families who are going through this to know they aren’t alone.
“We urge families and parents to be strong advocates for their son or daughter during this challenging and confusing time of transition, and to let them know that other parents are their best resource,” says Yuko.
They understand the worries and uncertainties parents often have during this time, as they’ve been through it themselves. The barriers they had to break down with their sons were no easy feat. But with patience and support from the VPTG to draw from, Liz’s son Casey and Yuko’s son Charlie integrated into their community with confidence.
A variety of topics are discussed at the meetings, including advocacy, housing, financial planning, and employment training and opportunities. Liz says the group is really about “connections between families.” Resources are pooled together by of the all parents involved. Over the years, they’ve made several changes to the VPTG to accommodate the busy schedules of working parents. This has made their support group more accessible to countless families seeking resources. They now have between 30-50 attendees each meeting! These two are passionate about sharing their wisdom to help fellow parents prepare for their kids’ futures and reach milestones, making Yuko and Liz our honorary mom dream team.
Liz and Casey
Liz and her husband took on the rewarding albeit demanding duty of raising four children, who have grown into successful adults with a range of passions including law, nursing, and basketball. Her youngest son Casey lives with a developmental disability. When the time came to graduate from high school, they worked hard to shift Casey out of the classroom environment and into the real world. After talking to other parents from Casey’s school, Liz quickly realized there was an alarming lack of information out there for them. Through this experience, Liz felt empowered to give back the knowledge she learned to other families in the position she was once in. Flash forward a decade later; Casey is now a 29-year-old adult leading an active social life. The two often communicate and text each other throughout the day. Casey stays up to date on current events and watches the news daily. Liz helps him figure out world events and sports, as well as offering him support to negotiate tricky emotional and social situations.
Yuko is a proud mom of three, including her son Charlie, who identifies on the Autism spectrum. Charlie has flourished since his transition out of high school. The VPTG played a large role in helping Yuko and Charlie set achievable goals for his post-high school life. The two of them often spend quality time together in the great outdoors. Their favourite activity is taking in the gorgeous sights around False Creek on a causal stroll through Olympic Village. Charlie loves to watch the leaves rustle in the wind and throw stones into the calm motion of the river. Yuko calls him a “One-with-nature kind of guy!” After, they always wrap up their walk with a visit to a local coffee shop for some cheesy bread treats.
posAbilities wishes you all a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend! Are you planning some bonding time to celebrate the special moms, grandmas, aunts, or sisters in your life? Get your brunch on or explore the sights of your city with these events and activities near you: