Stelly’s annual Global Gala was extra special this year, as the school celebrated its 40th anniversary and recognized a group of former students who gave a classmate the trip of a lifetime.
When Ottalie Garvin was in Grade 11, she asked if it was even possible to join the Stelly’s Outdoor Pursuits class on their annual journey up Mt. Albert Edward. Garvin has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, but the following year, 19 students, 6 teachers and four support staff brought Garvin up the Island’s sixth-highest peak. The class was given a plaque from the Lisa Huus Memorial Fund recognizing their efforts.
“This is a great accomplishment and I know our Lisa would have loved ever minute of this special adventure. To me, that is true integration,” said Annie Huus, who spoke at the event.
Lisa Huus was the first physically disabled student in B.C. to enter the public school system with a support worker. Her mother Annie manages the Lisa Huus Bursary, which provides money to support university-bound students with physical disabilities. Garvin, who is now a creative writing student at the University of Victoria, is a recipient of this bursary.
The Grade 12 students that accompanied Garvin up the mountain were experienced, having already done the Mt. Albert Edward trip and the West Coast Trail.
During the four-day trek in May 2016, students used shovels to even out paths and ropes to pull her (and her special sled) up the mountain. “What they learned on that trip was how to love, how they could give of themselves to take care of somebody else,” said Paul Ledet, who teaches the Outdoor Pursuits class.
Several weeks before Garvin went, sections of the terrain were evaluated as risky, and they got more treacherous when Garvin did go, so they chose not to summit.
“In the last day, she was in significant pain,” said Ledet, “but she continued to laugh and joke and smile through it all.”
Garvin herself said it was “an amazing spiritual experience that I could not believe,” and that she appreciated “every second” of the work students put in to carry her with them.
Ledet said he was moved by what happened on the third and final night of the trip.
“We got to Croteau Lake and after supper [the students] asked if it would be possible to take her away to where they have the best viewpoint of the sunset and the mountains. And so the Grade 12s just left and as adults we just stayed at the camp and hung out and were amazed by what they were doing to give her the best possible experience.”
He stopped several times in his speech to the crowd, saying “I came prepared,” as he blinked away tears while Garvin teased him with laughter.
“She’s laughing at me because she knows the tears come,” said Ledet.
These days, Garvin is writing a lot of horror stories, and she had a simple explanation as to why that appeals to her.
“I don’t know, because they’re fun, that’s why! Because I want to get as rich and influential as Stephen King!”
Whatever her future successes, though, she will not forget the friends who made her trip of a lifetime possible.
“I love them from the bottom of my heart,” said Garvin. “Seriously, there are few people I love more than these kids.”