Sunbeam News & Events

Making Contact, Making Connection, Making Community – Lunch and Learn

Dave Hingsburger, a well-known speaker and advocate was the keynote speaker at Sunbeam’s Lunch & Learn on September 25th.  Dave is a humourous storyteller who is able to relay his message through his own life experiences.  He shares these in such a real, raw and honest way that they spark some serious emotions.  His main message is very clear: The way we can best support individuals with disabilities is to really get to know who they are and help them find their community.   

Here is one of the many stories Dave shared that clearly outlined how we want to be making contact, making connections and making community:  

Dave was visiting a group home to offer support to staff and an individual supported he noticed, each time he visited this home, a man sitting in a rocking chair, rocking continually.  We will call him Simon.  After several visits to the group home, having a few spare minutes at the end of a meeting, Dave asked about Simon in the rocking chair. The staff were able to share that he is was an easy person to take care of.  “Tell me what he likes”, encouraged Dave.  Well, no one had an answer other than “Simon likes to rock in his chair.”  Simon rocks but does that make him happy? was Dave’s thought.  So he put the challenge out to the staff that at his next visit he wanted to know one thing, besides rocking, that Simon liked.  Upon his return he was happily met by a front line worker who shared that while out for a drive, Simon had laughed out loud at the sound of a garbage truck backing up.  Wow this is great, said Dave.  Now how can we recreate this same sound? Someone suggested video games, which was a great idea and so the home purchased an Atari system and the game Pong.  For anyone who does not know what the game of Pong is, it is one of the first computer games that was ever created.  It’s been described as a “tennis like” game and it features two paddles and a ball.  The ball travels from the top of the screen to the bottom where, with your joystick you try and connect with the ball to the paddle so that it will bounce back.  It makes a crazy sound that we had hoped would make Simon Laugh out Loud (LOL).

Well it was a success, not only did Simon love to watch staff play the games but with just a few adjustments to the joystick, he was able to play it himself.  This was clearly what made Simon happy.  Now, how could community be created for Simon with this new found internal passion?  They headed down to the local arcade.  The noises in that place were loud, they varied in tone, and they hit from all directions. Simon found his community, and going to the arcade became part of his routine.  As the players got to know him by name they would greet him and call him over to their game to cheer them on.  Simon, who previously spent his days rocking back and forth on his own, had integrated into a community where he was able to actively contribute, and where he became known and appreciated for who he was and what he had to offer.  

What we learned from that story and the others Dave shared was that there is an intentional act required of us. We must connect and build relationships with the individuals in our care so that they can experience it with others.  So he challenged everyone in attendance about their thinking, encouraging us all to look within each individual we serve to help them connect with others in real community.  The first step to that is engaging with each individual to uncover the passion within them. 

This was one of two Lunch and Learns presented by Sunbeam Centre this year.   Thank you to the many other agencies that attended.  If you are interested in 2019 Lunch and Learns please connect with Carole at or 519-893-6200 x 250.

Posted in Sunbeam News

Anything is possible

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.

Posted in Sunbeam News