COLTYN LIU NAMED COURAGE TO COME BACK AWARD RECIPIENT
Look at him now and you’d never believe his story: hit by a steel vendor’s cart in a shopping mall food court as a toddler, slammed aside like a rag doll, suffering traumatic brain injury which left him having to learn to talk, to walk, to comprehend; left him hyper-sensitive to sound and the world around him, susceptible to screaming fits, seizures and ongoing secondary injuries and challenges.
Look at him now and you see an ‘A’ student, six-feet-four, a volleyball star, a leader and winner with the awards to prove it. You see a mentor to other kids, a volunteer coach and ref. You couldn’t imagine him slithering on his stomach, lashing out in pain, a crying violent boy, bullied mercilessly, not able to handle being touched or understand what was happening or being said around him, moved to home schooling. You’d never believe the daily heartache and struggles he still goes through to be in school, the effort it takes to do everyday activities and the things he loves or the anguish he lives with as he fights through a day and the continuing regressions and pain.
Look at him now and it’s easy to forget the years of poverty, the food bank line-ups, the scrounging to survive, the doctors, lawyers and therapists as his mother and sister fought the system to get him the help he needed. You’d never know the battles they still face and the hardships they continue to endure.
Look at him now and you will see his “me-do” attitude, his will to live and overcome perceptions and beat the odds, you see his love of sport, first as therapy, then as a passion. As one of his teachers puts it, Coltyn “is one of those elite-level athletes who has the innate ability to raise the level of all the people around him”.
Look at him now and you’ll find him helping others, founding, with his sister and mother, K.A.R.E (Kids Actions Really Energize) Power, an organization which identifies community challenges and comes up with solutions from a youth perspective.
Coltyn will receive his award at The Courage To Come Back Awards gala dinner on Thursday, May 5, 2016 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. Tickets and information at couragetocomeback.ca
TOM TERANISHI NAMED COURAGE TO COME BACK AWARD RECIPIENT
by Gerald Haslam
Tom was born in 1942 at a wartime internment camp for Japanese-Canadians. He had significant vision issues from birth, which later developed into retinopathy and macular degeneration, undergoing bilateral cataract and corneal transplant surgeries. Today he has about five per cent functional vision with light sensitivity.
There were early signs in his mid-teens and he began suffering from poor renal function by 1978 and was put under the care of a kidney specialist. In 1983 he was put on hemo-dialysis and in 1984 he was fortunate enough to receive a kidney transplant, which served him well for 30 years. Three years ago his kidney functions were decreasing so he was back on hemo-dialysis by 2014 followed by a second transplant in 2015.
None of this stopped Tom from getting an education and pursuing a career. He received B.A. and Masters of Social Work degrees from UBC and began full-time work at Shaughnessy Hospital in 1968, helping war veterans and others needing rehabilitation and support. When the hospital closed in 1993, Tom transferred to VGH, where he worked in the physical rehab unit and continued teaching and supervising social work students and future doctors.
His deteriorating eyesight and other health issues forced Tom to retire from hospital work in 2004 and from his activity as a private practitioner in 2013, but none of that has prevented him from aiding a rich diversity of community organizations as a volunteer. It’s a long list starting with Kits Neighbourhood House in his university days, then later goes on to include the Kinsmen Society, Lions Society, Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society, Metro Vancouver Cross-Cultural Seniors Network, and the Association for the Equality of Blind Canadians.
He has travelled widely, been a curler, bowler, hiker and cross-country skier. As his friends say of Tom, admiringly, there’s not much he won’t try.
Tom will receive his award at The Courage To Come Back Awards gala dinner on Thursday, May 5, 2016 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. Tickets and information at couragetocomeback.ca
Randene Neill interviews Tom Teranishi – watch live on Global News Hour at 6pm May 4th.
by Gerald Haslam – founding member of Coast Mental Health Foundation, author, past member of The Courage To Come Back Executive Committee
Jerome Bouvier received the 2011 Courage To Come Back award in the Addiction category because his friend Ted Kuntz wrote a letter.
No, that’s not the whole story, not by a long shot, but it’s a crucial part. Nobody achieves a pinnacle like this just because someone else sits down at a computer, but part of it is pretty simple: no nomination, no award.
Kuntz is a Coquitlam psychotherapist in private practice who met Jerome about 15 years ago. The two of them worked together on finding innovative resources for troubled youth. Years later, Ted made the connection between Jerome and the Courage awards. Bouvier is Executive Director of PoCoMo Youth Services Society, which offers street-level services and a mobile drop-in centre to young people in the Tri-Cities of Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam and Port Moody.
Ted Kuntz first learned about the Courage awards through stories in The Province. “I’d been captivated by the stories of recipients over the years,” he says. “I thought about it and wanted to put his name forward. It wasn’t about winning; this was a story that deserved to be told. I figured that a committee of people would read it, and once they knew what he’d accomplished, they’d want to honour him.” Without Ted’s letter, no award.
And they did, but not the first time, in 2006, or the second. The 2011 nomination of Jerome was his third.
“There are just so many great stories,” says Patricia Wiggins of Coast Mental Health Foundation, presenter of the Courage awards since their inception in 1999. She reads every single nomination and arranges the six ‘category panels’ of a dozen or so volunteers, including experts in the various fields, to make the short list of two to five nominees in each category. Then a group of 16-20 distinguished citizens, also all volunteers, makes the final selections. “The choices can be incredibly difficult because there are so many deserving people. A number of our recipients have been nominated more than once.”
Ted Kuntz says the nomination process is “exceedingly easy. For me, writing about Jerome felt like a celebration. People like him teach us how to move through adversity.”
Whether or not the nominee ends up receiving the award on stage at the gala dinner, Ted continues, being nominated gives people who have faced severe challenges an important boost. “I think they feel validated,” he says; “it lifts them higher and they want to contribute more.”
“We hear that all the time,” Patricia Wiggins says. “The nominating process brings people together, increasing their understanding of disabilities, and gives respect to those who have endured so much.”
So what makes a perfect nomination? There are tips on the Coast website, where the nomination form can also be downloaded couragetocomeback.ca “In general,” Wiggins says, “ just tell the story: Don’t overload the selection panels with too much information. Letters of support from others who know the nominee are very helpful.” (Ted Kuntz’s 2011 letter was four typewritten pages plus several testimonials from friends and colleagues’ of Jerome). “All the nominees have made a courageous comeback, but remember that giving back to the community—motivating and helping others—is very important. The panels are looking to be moved and inspired.”
Clearly, Jerome Bouvier moved and inspired them; his journey from drug addict to community leader has brought a tear to many eyes. But for Ted Kuntz and that letter, though, you might never have known.
by Mark Ash, 2010 Courage To Come Back Award Recipient
Courage Recipient Mark Ash
I’m very happy to be here and to share my story with you. Actually, I’m happy to be anywhere and able to do things that “normal people” do.
I’m happy that I can use my hands again and for being able to speak.
I’m grateful just to be alive, for this is my second life.
The old Mark, well he didn’t make it. In December of 2001, I suffered a brain injury due to a car accident. When I woke up in the hospital I was paralyzed.
Every brain injury is different, and in my case, my mind and my memory were unaffected. But most of my muscles weren’t receiving proper signals, especially my fine motor skills. I couldn’t speak, could barely walk or use my hands and had trouble swallowing. Everyone thought it was all over for me. At the time I would have preferred death. You know, when you really start thinking about death, that’s when you learn to appreciate life.
In the two years that followed I struggled with insomnia and severe depression. I saw many doctors and often I was over-medicated. When I did go out, it was with a special group. One of the worst things I encountered was that people automatically assumed that because I couldn’t speak, I was mentally challenged. It was frustrating and demoralizing. Many times I felt like giving up, I didn’t want to continue this miserable existence.
I kept waiting for my body to fix itself. You know like when you have a cold or a broken bone, eventually your body will heal itself. But it doesn’t work like that with a brain injury. I was told by my doctors that most of the healing occurs within the first year of an injury — after that the brain gives up.
I had to accept the reality that no doctors or therapists could fix me. If I were to get better, I had to take my recovery into my own hands. So I began to learn how the human body works, and what I need to do to help it heal. I designed a program for myself. My whole life became a “boot camp.”
I had to motivate myself every day and although I was very working very hard, for a long time there was very little improvement. Many times I became discouraged, but instead of giving my self reasons why I couldn’t, I gave myself reasons why I could, and slowly I began to see results. On my journey I learned not to wait for something big to occur. Start at where you are, with what you have, and that will always lead you into something greater.
I was nominated for a Courage To Come Back Award by my good friend Carmen from Pathways Clubhouse. I was thrilled to be nominated. I didn’t think I’d win.
When Mr. Lorne Segal contacted me to let me know that I was chosen in Physical Rehabilitation category, I was deeply touched. For the next month I did interviews with NEWS1130, the Province newspaper and on Global BC, this was very exiting! I particularly enjoyed my interview with Deborra Hope.
The Award Gala was an absolutely wonderful and uplifting experience. It was an honour to share the stage with all the other recipients. Since then, CBC television did a segment on me and the CMHA Pathways Clubhouse on “Building Pathways for Hope.”
Today I volunteer at the Vancouver Adaptive Music Society studio at GF Strong, where I have many new clients. At the Headway Center for Brain injury and Pathways Clubhouse (where I’m a member), I facilitate “Wellness Through Music” programs. I’m can’t call myself a music therapist because I don’t have a license, so I became a musicologist. I also volunteer with a stroke support group at Douglas Park Community Center, where I have the pleasure of sharing my experiences and knowledge with others, and I volunteer at the Richmond Food Bank.
You know, at first I had to do a lot of cardio at the gym, I needed to force-feed my brain with oxygen, but now I find that “There is no exercise better for the heart then reaching down and lifting people up.”
I want others to look at me and say, “If he could do it, I can do it.” I want my life to be a message.
It’s been said that, “Time heals all wounds.” Obviously the guy that said that didn’t have my wounds. Nevertheless, today I stand before you a new and improved man. I have a new meaningful life filled with happiness. I get to help others and I’m surrounded by people who show me lots of love.
I am eternally grateful to the Coast Foundation through whom I found the inspiration and motivation to come back further than I ever dreamed I could and I’m not done yet.
If your dream happens to fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick up one of those pieces and begin again.
Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.