Volunteers helped a family by building them a new washroom.

Creating a momentum of pride

Sooke Harbourside Lions and volunteers help local family

When one hears the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child,” visions of children in impoverished countries living in mud huts comes to mind. But, the phrase is more personal than that for some people.

One of those people is Susan Percival, an education assistant in Student Support Services at Edward Milne Community School. She is also a Sooke Harbourside Lions member.

Percival, who was hesitant to have the focus on herself, spoke for all of the people involved in a project that has made an incredible difference in the lives of two young siblings. The project began with an email and 250 emails later the job is complete.

Young adults Victoria, 18 and Robert, 20,  both have Freiderichs Ataxia, a rare, recessive genetic disorder, which confines them to wheelchairs and affects their gross motor skills resulting in abnormal speech, changes in vision and hearing. The prognosis is not good and there is no cure.

At 19 Robert suffered a stroke and went from being a walking, talking, skateboarding dude to someone who depends entirely on others. Victoria, who is two years younger, is beginning to see the effects of the disorder.

“She is a beautiful, witty, and determined young lady,” said Percival of Victoria. Victoria is in her grad year at EMCS and dreams of moving out and living on her own. She is not deterred by the fact that she is in a wheelchair.

Both siblings, through the Assistance Dogs through Lions Foundations of Canada were able to get assistance dogs. Fabio and Radar, are both black standard poodles and assist the teens daily by opening doors, picking up objects and barking when assistance is needed. The Sooke Harbourside Lions host the Purina Dog Walk each year at Whiffin Spit. This year’s walk is on June 17.

Percival said, “They are great ambassadors, they create awareness of what assist dogs can do.”

Percival, who visited Victoria, at her home between Sooke and Langford, to play cards couldn’t help but notice the difficult and dangerous bathroom arrangement the teens were forced to use. The rental home they live in was not suited for wheelchair reliant people and such normal tasks, such as bathing, were dangerous in the old-fashioned crowded washroom. Their mother had to assist them even with those most personal daily tasks.

“They’re just an amazing family,” said Percival. “The mom is a hero to me — a champion. She does what she does with a smile on her face.”

Percival couldn’t look away so she took the idea of the project to the Sooke Harbourside Lions and began a process which has created a whole bunch of community heroes.

She wanted to create an accessible, open concept bathroom with $1,000 secured from the Sooke Lions Club.

“We created a momentum of pride,” said Percival. “One person took four months out of his busy life.”

Percival is talking about Dave Dare of Road’s End Contracting who agreed to take the project on.

“I was the stage manager and David was the conductor,” said Percival.

Dare assessed the situation, drafted a plan and offered to take on the entire job from recruiting trades to ensuring things got done.

The demolition, construction, plumbing, electrical, etc., was all done by trades people.

“Every trade I spoke to said they were glad to help,” said Percival. “They were so pleased to think they were helping.”

The seemingly impossible $20,000 renovation got done for just $2,500. Expensive specialized equipment came from the Cowichan Independent Living Loan Cupboard for a fraction of the cost.

“I’m so proud of these folks,” she said.”It was synchronistic.”

The Sooke Harbourside Lions will be fundraising for the remaining $1,500 which was required to complete the project.

“It’s what the Lions Clubs do,” said Percival.