Sunbeam Centre has been a major player in Melissa’s world for almost as long as she can remember. As she runs through her schedule for the week it is obvious that Sunbeam Centre’s facilities and staff comprise a significant portion of Melissa’s day to day life. She has support to do things like swimming, where she actually gets the opportunity to experience walking, cooking classes, karaoke (her favourite tune to belt out is “Only Hope” by Mandy Moore), spa treatments, and movies in the afternoons. She does many of these activities in the company of her boyfriend, whom she met at Sunbeam, and the other friends she has made here. All of these activities seem to bring joy to Melissa, but nothing quite as fully as her newest undertaking – Salsa Dancing.
With the assistance of some of Sunbeam’s staff (whom Melissa refers to as “more like family – the older ones are like mother figures, and the younger girls I live with are like sisters”) Melissa has acquired a teacher, “G”, who comes to the Sunbeam Centre gym on Saturdays and Sundays to teach her Salsa Dancing (although they have also ventured into Merengue and Tango). Sometimes her friend or her boyfriend join in on the fun as well. During her learning, there have definitely been times when Melissa has been told “You can’t salsa dance.” While this could of course be very frustrating, Melissa matter-of-factly informs these nay-sayers that “G” adapts the dances to fit her abilities. The friends who join her in her lessons have the ability to walk, but have never made Melissa feel like they won’t dance with her, or won’t be her friend because of her wheelchair. “My friends don’t look at me and see a disability. They see more.”
How do you feel when you dance? “Like a new part of me comes to life”
This is just one of the many great stories that Sunbeam has to share. This story was originally featured in the 2016/2017 Annual Report.