Muscular Dystrophy Canada hosted the third National Youth Conference, Youth in Action, which was sponsored by Canada Safeway, in Calgary, Alberta on August 24-26, 2012.
61 youths with neuromuscular disorders from across Canada attended the conference with family members and caregivers. Other participants included health professionals, local volunteers and Chapter members, Muscular Dystrophy Canada staff and members of the Board of Directors.
The event kicked off in the kitchen with the first Friday afternoon session focusing on food and nutrition. The session was called “For the love of Food: Healthy Recipes and Kitchen Tips” and was run by Sharon Chatenay and Tim Marshall. The session included tips on making your kitchen more accessible using adapted utensils and appliances. Friday night continued with the Wild West-themed opening ceremonies, where youth and others in attendance could get to know each other. Thanks to a generous donor from Alberta, each youth received a gift of a white cowboy hat, a special memento of their time in Western Canada.
Saturday was busy and offered four informative sessions for the youth participants. The morning session called “These stairs are out of order!: Activist solutions to the ‘problem’ of disability” led by Lindsay Eales, Ian Gordon and Danielle Peers offered empowering advice for self-advocacy. “Health Care Transitions” with Dr. Lee Burkholder, Keith Knight and Dr. Jean Mah tackled the topic of moving from pediatric to adult health care and how to prepare for the changes that lie ahead. Keith shared his personal experiences on this topic and insights into his approach to overcoming the challenges that he has faced.
On Saturday afternoon, sessions continued with “Moving toward Post-Secondary Education, Employment and Independent Living” which was an interactive discussion with YIA Youth Mentors who shared their own experiences and allowed for the youth to speak their mind and come up with possible solutions together. “Sexuality and Health Relationships” was only open to the youth audience and the discussion, led by Heather Cobb, Luca Patuelli and Stephanie Lebrun, allowed youth thoughtful conversation in a safe environment.
There was opportunity for family and caregivers to learn and receive peer support in the “Your Changing Role with your Young Adult” session with Dr. David Schonfeld and Teren Clarke. This session provided a forum for parents and caregivers to discuss parenting a child with neuromuscular disorders.
Saturday night started with a youth dinner as well as Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s Annual Awards Banquet. After each dinner, the whole conference gathered together to watch an inspirational performance from Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli before the dance party broke out! Youth, family, staff and Board members danced the night away until the party ended at midnight, even though most people in attendance weren’t done dancing!
The Youth Lounge was open throughout the weekend and as a place to relax and socialize. Youth and other participants could also get their photo taken at the Red Gloves photo shoot on Saturday night.
On Sunday the conference closed with two last sessions, one about the I AM WHO I AM Campaign where two students explained the difference youth can make when they set their mind to a good cause and the final plenary with Trudy Pelletier speaking to “What matters most is how YOU see yourself”.
Some participants headed to the Genesis Centre of Community Wellness for an optional program. “Play On” was a fun-filled afternoon of adaptive recreational activities, including powerchair soccer, wheelchair basketball and dance/zumba.
YIA12 was a huge success! Thanks to the youth participants and their families and caregivers for making the event so fun and huge thank you to Canada Safeway as their sponsorship made the conference possible.