'It made me a better person': P.E.I. Easter Seals ambassadors, then and now
As Cameron Gordon, the 2017 Easter Seals ambassador, travels across Prince Edward Island for the annual school tour, he's joining a long list of previous ambassadors dating back to 1957.
The ambassador is a key element to each year's campaign, as he or she has to be front and centre at events throughout the year.
We took a look at some of the ambassadors from past years, and where they are now.
'Most proud' of inclusion in schools: Michael Morrison
Michael Morrison was the 1980 ambassador. He's now, since March, a member of the Charlottetown Rotary and part of the Easter Seals committee for 2017.
"Looking back over the years, I would have to say the thing that I'm most proud of is that inclusion of persons with disabilities into our P.E.I. school system is now the norm rather than the exception that it was in 1980," said Morrison.
"People now see persons for their abilities and what we have in common rather than focusing on our differences."
Morrison was part of one of the first inclusive classes on P.E.I.
"My school, the special class that I was in, in Grade 7, was moved to Stonepark Junior High and I got to integrate into the regular school system to take some of my school subjects," he recalled.
Now that he's part of the Rotary and the Easter Seals committee, Morrison has high hopes for the future, and future ambassadors.
"I can see that it has helped many of them in different ways, depending on their experiences," he said.
"I can think of people who to me have grown through the campaign from being shy in front of a microphone to being very comfortable."
Althlete and advocate: Hannah MacLellan
The 2011 ambassador, Hannah MacLellan, is moving ever closer to her goal of competing at the Paralympics in 2020.
She was 11 when she toured the province as ambassador.
Since then, MacLellan has been making waves in the sport of swimming.
MacLellan just returned from Copenhagen in March where she attended her first World Series Championship.
She was in Toronto in April attending the NextGen Tokyo 2020 Swim Canada Camp, one of 12 athletes selected from across Canada to work with the head Canadian Paralympic Coach in the hopes of making it to Tokyo.
She is planning on attending an Ontario university in the fall to take political science and to continue her swimming.
MacLellan has been very active provincially and nationally in promoting accessibility.
On P.E.I., she recently had a bill passed to improve the language of accessible parking, called Hannah's Bill.
Nationally, she is a member of the National Youth Forum on Accessibility where she has been working with Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Carla Qualtrough in creating legislation for Canada on accessibility.
'It made me a better person': Colton Matheson
Colton Matheson was co-host for the last televised Easter Seals Telethon and impressed Prince Edward Islanders with his musical talents.
He continues to share those talents at benefits across P.E.I. He also went to Disneyworld last year as part of the Montague Regional High School choir.
Matheson has fond memories of his time as ambassador.
"It made me a better person because I felt I was representing people with the same needs as me," he said.
Matheson now attends UPEI, which he says has been "awesome," studying history, music and political science.
When he's not studying, you may also spot him working at McDonald's and he's a big fan of the Charlottetown Islanders.
'Life has been an adventure': Carolyn Laidlaw
It has been 12 years since Carolyn Gallant, now Carolyn Laidlaw, was the Easter Seals ambassador, and she said, "life has been an adventure!"
After graduating from Ecole Francois-Buote, she enrolled in the marketing and advertising program at Holland College in 2013.
While at Holland College, Laidlaw raised awareness about accessibility issues through a video she produced for one of her classes, that went viral on social media.
In October 2016, she got a service dog named Lila.
"My lovable Labradoodle has granted me independence I never thought possible," she said.
"The two big things that she does is helps me with doing stairs and helps me get up when I fall."
Laidlaw got married in October 2016 and now lives in Thompson, Man. People in the community are not familiar with service dogs and so she has written articles for the local newspaper about the importance of the dogs.
The complete list of Easter Seals ambassadors is available here, starting in 1957.
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