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i AM WHO i AM Presentation – November 21, 2012

061Wow, what an exciting day! The Pine Ridge Secondary School once again welcomed Muscular Dystrophy Canada to their school for a wonderful i AM WHO i AM presentation of positive messages and opportunity to interact with one another.

This week was also part of anti-bullying month and in order to mark this event, Pine Ridge Secondary School held three assemblies that featured the motivational speaking and incredible dancing of Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli, a National Muscular Dystrophy Canada ambassador.

i AM WHO i AM presentation Nov 21.12 024Luca provided the story of his triumph and how he became one of Canada’s best B-Boys in the break dancing world.  Luca’s message was both powerful and thought-provoking.  He shared how everyone has strengths and should live their life as they choose because everyone is an individual and should be proud of whom they are, which really upholds the motto “I am Who I Am.” Luca also combined this with his message of “No Excuses, No Limits” which means we can all do anything we want if we put our minds to it.  The performances were outrageous and included some high stepping moves and spins that simply were out of this world.  Luca not only performed his talents but shared the stage with many of the students from Pine Ridge Secondary School where they showed off their break dancing talents.  All in all it was an exciting day, which brought the message of acceptance and kindness to all, home.

On top of the three performances there were fundraising efforts to directly benefit Muscular Dystrophy Canada.  These included the sales of I am who I am T-shirts, wrist bands and a sub day fundraiser.

i AM WHO i AM presentation Nov 21.12 001Luca also sold his merchandise which included t-shirts and wrist bands with part proceeds going back to Muscular Dystrophy Canada.

Muscular Dystrophy Canada staff were on hand to celebrate this day and to answer questions on supports and services provided through Muscular Dystrophy Canada.

All in all an excellent day that was inspiring, informative, exciting and “sick” to quote Luca, which means excellent, so I am told.

Thanks again Pine Ridge Secondary School for the wonderful job in organizing such an awesome day and for inviting us.  We love the school spirit and the genuine warmness of you all.  See more pictures here.

Karen Dunbar is a Services Specialist in Ontario and Nunavut region.

Fundraiser pays tribute to her nephew by challenging herself

Many people have heard the story of Mitchell Wilson, who took his life last September.  The 11 year old boy had muscular dystrophy and was a victim of bullying, but in the wake of tragedy many people have rallied to create memorable tributes to this young man, including the Pickering Family of Schools raising awareness and almost $20,000 during their i AM WHO i AM campaign.

Mitchell’s aunt, Sarah, has chosen to honour the memory of her nephew with a 10KM Run for Mitchell.  The event will be held May 26th during the Race Weekend in Ottawa, ON.  Sarah’s goals for her own run are “to raise awareness in schools, to encourage others to show empathy, and most importantly, to give people with muscular dystrophy hope. Hope of a longer, stronger, better life. These things are already happening through many of the programs Muscular Dystrophy Canada has, and it is important to me to support them in these efforts.”

On her fundraising page, Sarah shares the story of inspiration that led to her to decide to train and run 10KM in memory of Mitchell.

Encouraging accepting and inclusive environments

Recently the themes of acceptance and bullying have been coming up again and again.  It’s a popular topic in the media and that’s because many people can personally relate.  The feelings of empathy are prevalent for those who are victims of bullying and for those who are not accepted for who they are.  As a kid, or maybe as a human being, everyone mostly just wants to fit in without drawing attention to their differences, but in some circumstances, including for those who have a long-term diagnosis of muscular dystrophy, the differences can be hard to hide.  But more importantly, differences aren’t meant to be hidden.

Some of the most basic lessons we are taught at a young age –being kind and respectful—get left behind at some point.  One of Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s programs, HOP for Muscular Dystrophy, aims to teach nursery school and kindergarten students the importance of acceptance.  The HOP for Muscular Dystrophy program infuses an educational component that goes beyond the fun hopping activity complete with bunny ears and crafts to promote compassionate and inclusive school communities, where people of all physical abilities are accepted for who they are.

Sometimes these lessons are forgotten, and by pre-teen age they can become huge issues.  An MDC staffer shared this article about the difficultly one boy with a disability had making friends as he got older; once some pre-teens start to register differences more acutely then they draw away rather than put the bit of extra effort that could result in a rich and rewarding friendship for both parties.

Sometimes it’s worse; bullying is an incredibly timely and widespread issue.  An American film called BULLY, which opens at the end of this month, chronicles the lives of individuals and families closely affected by bullying by attaching their stories to the statistic that in America over 13 million children will be bullied this year. A 2007 self report survey among Toronto youth indicates that 16% of youths in grades 7 to 9 had been bullied on more than 12 occasions during the year prior to the survey.  A 2007 review of international literature by Canadian authors finds kids with physical and developmental disabilities are at greater risk of being bullied.  Use this resource when you are navigating bullying and the child with special needs.

In September 2011, Mitchell Wilson took a tragic and drastic measure, and he took his own life.  Mitchell had muscular dystrophy and had been a victim of bullying.  Students from his school region, the Pickering Family of Schools, chose to honour and remember Mitchell by rallying together to effect change and stand up against bullying.  The i AM WHO i AM campaign raised almost $20,000 in three months for Muscular Dystrophy Canada, and their message was loud and clear—acceptance and inclusiveness for everyone.

Acceptance is something that everyone seeks and should receive. I am who I am, you are who you are, and that should be okay.


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

That’s exactly what three students at Pine Ridge Secondary School in Pickering, Ontraio have started to do.  Students from the 19 schools that make up the Pickering Family of Schools have united for an initiative called i AM WHO i AM.  The campaign started fundraising in November 2011 and this past week presented a cheque to Muscular Dystrophy Canada for $19,341.48, almost double their initial goal.  Students collected donations, and sold green bracelets and shirts which featured their campaign slogan.

Their donation will help to provide more families with valuable support and services including funding special equipment, advocacy, or just providing someone to talk to through Muscular Dystrophy Canada support services.  The aim was not just fundraising. The students promote acceptance and inclusiveness as well as awareness of Muscular Dystrophy Canada. The i AM WHO i AM campaign aims to create schools and communities that honour the equity and worth of all; recognize the value and dignity of each individual; strives to inspire students, parents, staff and community members to support each other in learning, working and living together.  This campaign honours and remembers Mitchell Wilson.

The dedicated student leaders along with all students at the 19 Pickering schools who participated in i AM WHO i AM have made an incredible impact.  They were inspired to make a difference at their schools and in their communities.  Their message is simple and clear—acceptance for everyone.  Bravo to Cody, Sarah and Bryan for seeing the change they could effect by rallying students for a worthy cause and encouraging acceptance of everyone for being exactly who they are.

Watch our video from the special presentation on March 2, 2012. [youtube=]

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