Arne: Volunteer turned life-long friend

In 1985, when Arne saw an ad in the paper calling for volunteers to be a friend to an individual with disabilities in the community, he said to himself “I can do that.” ABLE2, then known as Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa, matched him with Norman, a person with a disability who shared similar interests with him. Who knew that that journey would last nearly four decades, showcasing the profound impact one dedicated volunteer can have on another’s life? Arne, now ABLE2’s longest-serving volunteer, has not only been a steadfast advocate and Ally to his Friend Norm but also a friend he can rely on and stand with through life’s challenges.

Their friendship started with a simple offer: “You can call me anytime you need to talk,” Arne told Norman. It was an open invitation that laid the foundation for a bond built on trust and understanding. Through the years, Arne offered much more than friendship; he opened the door for Norm to engage in the community, create connections and relationships, and embrace life beyond the confines of his home.

On one of their more memorable outings, Arne suggested a two-person kayak trip, hoping it would be a therapeutic escape for Norman. As they drove towards the park, Norman began to feel uneasy about the trip. Unsure of how to handle the situation, Arne stopped the car on a bridge and gently eased his concerns. The day turned into a beautiful experience of paddling, swimming, and sharing a meal on an island.

This outing was just one of many ways Arne helped Norman navigate his emotions. Whether it was a walk by the river, listening to meditation tapes, or simply enjoying a meal together, Arne was always there, providing Norman with the support he needed. Norman even had a room at Arne’s place, a safe space where he could retreat whenever life became overwhelming.

Despite the challenges, especially through the pandemic, Arne was steadfast in his commitment to his friend. He continued to check in on him, reminding him of the importance of staying active and engaged. Arne’s reflection on their relationship reveals a deep appreciation for the inspiration that Norman is to him and a profound appreciation of their bond. “Norman is a fantastic person. He did volunteer work too. When I met him, he wanted to do a couple of things… He wanted to leave his parents’ place, he wanted to find a place of his own, he wanted to work… And he achieved most of it. Norman is the kindest person you can imagine.”

When asked why he continues to be a volunteer Ally with ABLE2, Arne says “It’s very easy. [Volunteers] don’t have to change their life. They can continue living the way they do. They don’t have to work in a miracle, either. They just need to be a friend. And that’s something we all need, and most of us can be friends.”

Last April 20, 2024, Arne was awarded at the Volunteer Appreciation Event “Impacting Lives Together” for being the longest-serving volunteer of ABLE2.

Arne’s story is proof of the transformative power of compassion through volunteerism. Volunteers like Arne empower people with disabilities to develop meaningful connections, have opportunities to engage and be active members of the community, and ultimately lead fulfilling lives. Through his commitment to his Friend, Norman, we continue to witness the incredible difference one person can make in another’s life simply by being a consistent and caring friend. Arne embodies the essence of ABLE2’s mission of empowering people with disabilities to build lives of meaning and joy.

As ABLE2 celebrates its 50th anniversary, we are inspired by Arne’s compassion, empathy, and commitment. Many more individuals like Norman are waiting for their Allies. By becoming a volunteer, you, too, can make a significant difference in someone’s life, just as Arne has done for Norman. In a world that often moves too fast, sometimes, all it takes to change a life is to be there, to listen, and to care.

Michael overcomes Agoraphobia with his Ally, Mike

In the vast expanse of an arena, amidst the roar of over 17,000 hockey fans, Michael experienced something extraordinary. For someone who had spent much of his life confined within his home due to agoraphobia or fear of open and crowded spaces, attending a live Sens game was a monumental step towards recovery. Michael attributes his renewed confidence and trust to his dedicated Ally, Mike, and the support from ABLE2’s Matching Program.

Michael shared his remarkable experience just days after attending his first Ottawa Senators game with his Ally Mike, made possible by ABLE2’s donors. “I had a wonderful time at Canadian Tire Centre. I have never been in a place with so many people, but my Match kept me calm, and we stayed the whole time.”

Michael has lived with agoraphobia, mental and physical health issues, and has struggled with developing social connections and isolation. “People often come and go in just a blur to me, not knowing who they were or what they came for,” shares Michael about having limited interactions with other people in the community. Health Links then connected Michael to ABLE2 and signed him up for the Matching Program. “I was skeptical that they would be able to help someone like me, or find me a match that would be compatible, but I decided to take one step to recovery at a time,” says Michael.

In the middle of the pandemic, ABLE2 called and said they had a Match for Michael. But with the lockdown restrictions in place, Michael and Mike were only able to connect over Zoom calls. As months progressed and restrictions were lifted, Mike would visit Michael at his home. Mike would encourage him to go for a walk for a few minutes outside, which turned into a quick coffee stop, and eventually a trip to the mall. “We tried to increase what I could do; go to a coffee shop, then the mall, and even Costco, which pushed my limits to the extreme,” says Michael. Little by little, Mike would encourage Michael to go on outings for longer periods and promoting physical activities to strengthen his legs and back. Michael slowly gained confidence and comfort in being in the community and experienced the recovery and transformation that this friendship encouraged.

On that day in March, the Ottawa Senators may have lost, but the biggest winner was Michael. He overcame the anxiety, the overwhelming noise, music, the number of people; something he never thought he would be able to do. “In the last 12 years, I’ve seen only a handful of people. Sometimes months would go by when I haven’t spoken a word to anyone. I am thrilled to see my accomplishments – how far I’ve come on my journey with the help of ABLE2 and Mike.”

Michael’s newfound confidence and trust are a result of the meaningful connection and friendship he has built with Mike. Reflecting on this journey, Michael has expressed profound gratitude for Mike. “I was amazed and had so many better experiences. Looking forward to more outings if opportunities present themselves again. Thanks to my match, I’m getting healthier and better with each event he’s taken me on. I still can’t believe it – over 17,000 people in the arena and I didn’t have a panic attack. Thank you again to my match for his time to volunteer and becoming a great friend helping me overcome agoraphobia.”

Michael’s story is a testament to the impact of ABLE2’s Matching Program. It shows the transformative power of compassion and dedication in helping others overcome their challenges and lead fulfilling lives. Dedicated volunteers like Mike prove that just being there, showing up, and being a friend can make an incredible difference in another’s life.

Finally, Michael describes his Ally Mike as his Hero: “Not all heroes wear capes. A hero to me is someone who can show up no matter the outcome, and still, they come and can be counted on and trusted to do the right thing. I hold Mike in the highest regard. It’s not easy to deal with someone like me. Each and every day, I strive to be like him, to be a positive and giving person.”

Accessible Summer Escapes: Explore these barrier-free outdoor destinations near Ottawa!

What is on your ultimate summer checklist? Making smores by a campfire? A trip to the beach? Or simply enjoying nature exploring trails? Whether you’re on team camp or team beach, you can have a FUN-tastic summer at any of the barrier-free outdoor campsites, beaches and trails near Ottawa! 

While accessibility means different for everyone, Ontario Parks considers barrier-free parks as having level ground (to and from the site), a nearby water source and/or comfort station, a 25-cm high campfire pit, a level parking spot, and an accessible picnic table. Click on the site’s website pages below for more information or contact the park directly. 

Accessible Camp Sites 

Accessible Beaches 

Did you know that seniors aged 65+ and people with disabilities are eligible for reduced camping and day-use fees in Ontario Parks?  You can find a park near you based on the facilities and activities you need. Visit the Ontario Parks website here.

Accessible Trails

As you head out to enjoy these accessible outdoor destinations, remember to put on some sunscreen, dress for the weather, stay hydrated, and know before you go! Enjoy and have a memorable summer with your loved ones!

The information provided in this article is intended for informational purposes only. Rest assured, while we strive for accuracy, we cannot guarantee that all details are entirely current or error-free. Please exercise caution and verify any information by visiting the Ontario Parks website or contacting the facilities directly.  

Celebrating Disability Pride Month

Celebrating Disability Pride Month: A reflection on inclusion and belonging for people with disabilities in the community – by Heather Lacey

July is Disability Pride Month! 

It is a time to celebrate the significant contributions of people with disabilities. People with disabilities are leaders in their communities and businesses and actively assert their rights by calling out injustices around disability inequalities and accessibility. 

It is a time to be proud of the progress society has made in increasing visibility for people with disabilities in the community. However, visibility is only the first step. The true goal is full inclusion and integration— creating a society where people with disabilities can fully participate in ways that make sense to them, with accessibility accommodations as the standard across all programs and services, not just an option. 

While visibility is a significant achievement, it is not the end goal. We have worked hard to ensure that individuals with disabilities are represented in various aspects of life. However, visibility alone does not guarantee true inclusion. It is about providing equal opportunities for people with disabilities to participate, contribute, and thrive in their communities. 

True belonging goes beyond providing accessibility options. It is about creating environments that are inherently inclusive. This means creating spaces, updating policies, and upholding practices that consider the diverse needs of all individuals from the outset, rather than retrofitting accommodations as an afterthought. 

“Diversity is a fact. Equity is a choice. Inclusion is an action. Belonging is an outcome.”

Arthur Chan, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Strategist

At ABLE2, we are committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). We have incorporated DEIB principles into our policies, processes, and everyday work. 

We operate on a hybrid work model, ensuring our employees have the flexibility and accommodations to meet their needs. Through a generous grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, we were also able to purchase adaptive office equipment such as power-adjustable desks, ergonomic chairs, and specialized hardware. These investments benefit not only the employees with disabilities but all employees, enhancing their resilience and capacity to support ABLE2’s program users and their families. 

The organization is also proud to have established a Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) to ensure the representation of ABLE2’s program users and people with disabilities in the community. The CAC is vital in influencing decision-making and providing valuable insights to our Board. Notably, a member of the CAC also serves on the Board of Directors of ABLE2 for full inclusion and participation in decision-making processes. The CAC members also organize events and fundraising initiatives and contribute to raising awareness, empowering them to lead and create even more opportunities for community engagement. Establishing the CAC aligns with our vision of an inclusive community where people with disabilities are seen as able, important, and valued and are active members of the community.

We have also developed a volunteer program based on a DEIB framework, emphasizing the importance of inclusive participation. This move is crucial to ensuring that all voices are heard and valued. 

When we instill DEIB into our work ethics, we create a more vibrant community where everyone can thrive, foster a sense of belonging, and break down barriers to full participation in all aspects of life. This is the direction we must take towards a genuinely inclusive society. 

Inclusion means empowering people with disabilities to participate in ways that are meaningful to them. This involves creating opportunities that fully engage them in social, economic, cultural, and political life. It means they have the same access to quality education, employment opportunities, leadership positions, or community activities. We need to continue to listen to the voices of people with disabilities and involve them in decision-making processes that affect their lives. By doing so, we can better understand their needs and aspirations and create policies and practices that truly support their inclusion. Finally, we must continue to dismantle the barriers that prevent people with disabilities to live fulfilling lives. 

This Disability Pride Month, I encourage you to reflect on how we can move from visibility to inclusion for people with disabilities. ABLE2 is dedicated to this vision of a community where everyone is seen as able, important, valued, and empowered to build lives of meaning and joy. We invite you to join us in making it a reality. 

Published by

Heather Lacey

Experienced Non-Profit Executive Director

Read Heather’s other articles here

Dennis Blenkin

(Dennis Blenkin (second from left) and his Golden Book Tribute, with ABLE2 Executive Director Heather Lacey (on the left), Cathy Hall, and ABLE2 Founder David Hall) 

Dennis Blenkin

We featured Dennis in our 2016 Annual Report and were delighted to learn about his recent award by the Y’s Men International. 

In May 2024, Dennis was recognized for the positive impact he has made in the Y’s Men International communities. He received a Golden Book Tribute, which is a record for posterity of the “Golden Deeds” of Y’s Men. The Golden Book is housed in Geneva, Switzerland. Congratulations Dennis! 

For ABLE2, Dennis Blenkin exemplifies the goals of the Matching Program; he is someone who with support, has led an independent life of meaning and joy.

In 1974, Dennis was one of the first Friends to be matched to a volunteer Ally. In fact, Dennis, along with another young man, was the catalyst for the formation of ABLE2, at that time known as Citizen Advocacy. Dennis and his match were together for many years and his Ally supported him through many life changes such as finding a new place to live, a job and getting married to the love of his life, Cathy. 

However, life has a funny way of flipping things around. Back in 2016, it was Dennis who was visiting his former Ally. At that time, John had been in a nursing home for 10 years and Dennis was one of only two visitors he had each week. To Dennis these visits were a completely natural thing for him to do; John supported him when he needed someone and when John was the person in need, Dennis was his support.

Sadly, Dennis’ wife, Cathy, died about twelve years ago but the now-retired Dennis has been matched again to a new Ally, Peter, since 2020. 

ABLE2 Feature: Rabia Khedr at the Helm of Disability Justice in Canada

“It has become my purpose; to voice for people who cannot voice for themselves or present their views for themselves in spaces that I occupy or have the ability to reach” 

– Rabia Khedr

If you are part of the disability community, an advocate for people with disabilities, or have been following the recent developments of the 2024 Budget, particularly the Canada Disability Benefit, you are likely familiar with Rabia Khedr. Rabia is a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal Awardee, National Director of Disability Without Poverty and a member of the Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities Minister Disability Advisory Group. She is a fearless advocate and champion for accessibility and inclusion. Her influence extends beyond grassroots movements, shaping nationwide policies and standards. Rabia is a driving force in the fight for social justice, disability justice, and human rights, leading the charge for a more inclusive Canada. 

Rabia, who was born with low vision, hails from Pakistan and grew up with a Muslim heritage. Her family moved to Canada in the 1970s and Rabia has since lived in Mississauga, Ontario, where she has raised four children with her husband. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Industrial Relations and Political Science from the University of Toronto and a Master of Arts in Critical Disability Studies from York University. Her firsthand experiences as a racialized minority, living with a disability and having siblings with disabilities, have deeply influenced her perspective on society. This lens is coloured with empathy, tenacity, and a strong commitment to social justice, and has significantly shaped her advocacy work over the years.

Khedr and her sister, Uzma Khan, receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012

Rabia’s career in serving the disability community was not intentional; “It has become my purpose; to voice for people who cannot voice for themselves or present their views for themselves in spaces that I occupy or have the ability to reach,” she declares with conviction. Rabia began working in disability services and with Ethno Racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario (ERDCO), where she had an awakening about the intersectionality of race, culture, faith, and gender. She has since then pursued a work mindset of being a “systems disrupter.”  She served as a commissioner with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the City of Mississauga Chair of the Accessibility Committee. “I challenge systems to respond to the unique needs of people with disabilities, taking into account their whole identity, not just the disabled person components,” says Rabia. 

Rabia passionately talks about the intersection of disability and race and how mainstream disability discourse does not talk enough about the barriers that exist within faith and cultural spaces. “I took my lived experience, and I ended up applying it to much of my work. So, the gaps and barriers that I faced, that my family faced, I didn’t want other people facing. So, I decided to do something about it by getting more and more active in this space and establishing organizations, doing research, offering my perspectives in different conversations,” shares Rabia. 

Rabia recalls an unfortunate instance where she experienced discrimination as a racialized woman with a disability. “In a settlement agency, I was waiting for a meeting, and the staff assumed that I’m there for language testing. I’m like, ‘No, I’m here to facilitate a meeting,” she explains. “They only saw my skin colour, and maybe I was not making good eye contact, so they think I was there for support.” In many other instances, Rabia shares that the customer service staff will speak to her companion, instead of talking directly to her. “It’s really hard to dissect the experiences I have to just my disability or gender or hijjab, because it’s a combination. It’s because I’m a racialized woman who covers her head, and people think, you know, I’m oppressed,” says Rabia. She strongly emphasizes the importance of recognizing the intersectionality of race and disability and advocates for creating more opportunities for racialized individuals with disabilities. 

Her passions, inspired by her experiences, drove her to establish DEEN Support Services, an agency offering spiritual and culture-directed services for people with disabilities. She also founded Race and Disability Canada, an initiative dedicated to exploring and understanding the lived realities of Indigenous, Black and Racialized people with disabilities in Canada. 

Screenshot from the Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force YouTube page

“One of the things I’m striving for is respite and residential services that meet the needs of folks with intellectual disabilities, given their faith and culture. There should be a continuation of a familial living environment when they cannot be cared for by family. We shouldn’t strip them of their identity as a whole person and just focus on categorizing and labeling and behaviour planning. It should be that they still have the right to have the same living experience,” stresses Rabia. 

As National Director of Disability Without Poverty, Rabia has led a nationwide movement to ensure the voices of disabled people are heard, to influence government decisions in reducing poverty and to secure public support for ending disability poverty. However, the recent outcome of the 2024 Federal Budget, which promised to lift people with disabilities above the poverty line, only proposed a $200/month benefit that will only affect 600,000 eligible Canadians. In the podcast Good Morning Hamilton, Rabia talks about the outcome of the Canada Disability Benefit and says, “Provincial Governments should definitely not claw back on this benefit because people with disabilities are living in significant poverty, and it’s not good enough for Canada and Canadians. It’s not a cost, it’s an investment in unleashing endless possibilities of contribution that disabled people have to make, like me. There is much more work left to do to #BetterTheBenefit,” But with Rabia at the helm of this movement, advocates and the disability community can continue to be hopeful.

Rabia Khedr and her family

When asked what she is most proud of, she shares, “I’m proud of my kids. I have a very supportive husband who has supported my career path and whatever I do in the community. We’ve raised four kids, and I’m very proud of that.” She also shares her achievement in building DEEN Support Services from ground zero, to an organization that operates on a seven-figure budget through direct fundraising and grants. The organization also has peer support groups for people with vision loss, people with mobility-related disabilities, caregivers, siblings, etc., and created a network of support in the communities. Moving forward, Rabia aspires to have more influence in making positive changes in the system and “to keep occupying platforms where I can reach,” says Rabia. 

Finally, Rabia imparts a powerful insight for people with disabilities: “Education is your biggest arsenal. Know who you are, recognize your barriers, and have a plan for your own accommodation. Be bold about it.” Rabia exemplifies that people with disabilities make positive and valuable contributions to our society. May we continue to be inspired by her tenacity and leadership as we collectively strive for a more inclusive and equitable Canada.

David Hall: A Lifetime of Service

David Hall at Evening in the Maritimes on May 1st 2024 – Photo by Caroline Phillips

(Story published in the 2013 Annual Report)

David Hall is a life-long community activist. For more than 50 years, this self-described “shy man who likes to stay involved,” has rallied, inspired and organized volunteers to lend a hand in their community. At least three Ottawa-based organizations, most notably ABLE2 (formerly Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa), have David Hall to thank for their creation. At age 75, he’s now working on a fourth.

When he first moved to Ottawa from P.E.I. in the late 60s, he saw a need to rebuild the local brand of the Y-affiliated Service Club. In search of a cause around which he could mobilize support, he didn’t need to look further than where he was working at the time, the Silver Springs Farm Agricultural Training Program.

Two young participants in Hall’s agricultural training program were residents of the home for the intellectually impaired located across the road. They approached Hall to ask for his help leaving the residence. With the support of volunteers willing to raise the fund required, and the commitment of a dedicated advocate, Edgar Quellette, the two young men went on to lead happy, independent lives. And Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa (CAO) was born. 

After a couple for years selling Christmas trees and raising enough funds to support several other successful matches, CAO received a provincial grant. With that funding, Hall’s group hired one part-time employee and increased the number of matches made from fewer than five to more than twelve. By 1974, CAO could afford full-time staff and was established officially as a charitable agency. 

“Community outreach has always been a big part of my life,” says Hall. Recipient of a national community building award in 1986, Hall isn’t slowing down. He’s in the process of mobilizing support for a new program modeled after CAO— this one, for vulnerable people living in poverty. Asked what keeps him motivated, Hall replies that it’s all about “cutting through the isolation, loneliness and feeling people have that no one cares about them.” At the end of the day, says Hall, “We’re all equal.”

In May of 2024, United Way East Ontario awarded David Hall, founder of ABLE2 the Community Builder Award! The organization recognized David’s dedication to community-building efforts, and empowering vulnerable members of the community! 

Congratulations, David!

My EiTM24 Experience by Stacey Bielaski

Music, Lobster, and East Coast vibes in the Capital; Evening in the Maritimes 2024 (EiTM24) was so much fun. It was my third time attending; what a night for an incredible fundraising event for ABLE2!

When I got to the event, I checked out the Silent Auction items and had a complimentary drink to start off the night. Then I found my table in one of the East Coast province’s sections.. 

When the program began, there were East Coast province flags and bagpipes playing. The auctioneer did an amazing job getting the tables engaged with dream-of-a-lifetime trips you wouldn’t believe could be possible. We had a special host, Graham Richardson from CTV Ottawa Evening News. There were two people in ABLE2’s Matching Program who shared about how this program is very important to them. I enjoyed every moment, especially the food, during the event. 

If you are able to come to EiTM 2025, you should. This fundraiser event is for a good cause for people with disabilities. 

Stacey is a Program User, the chair of the Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) and Board Member of ABLE2. 

Federal Budget 2024: Canada Disability Benefit

When the Canada Disability Benefit Act was introduced in June of 2022, it sparked hope for many, it made us believe that this would be a way of addressing poverty and enhancing the financial security of Canadians with disabilities.

When the 2024 Federal Budget was presented it provided 1.4 billion per year for the Canada Disability Benefit program. The program is based on a maximum benefit of $2,400 per year/$200 per month for low-income individuals with disabilities. While this is a positive step forward it falls far short of meeting the urgent needs of people living with disabilities in Canada.

There are over 1.5 million people with disabilities in Canada, this benefit program would only make the benefit available to about 600,000 individuals whose eligibility will be based on the Disability Tax Credit, to make matters worse the program will not be fully implemented until 2028 and only at the 1.4 billion level. This program will not adequately address the needs of the disability community in Canada. We can do better!

It’s crucial that we, as citizens of Canada, continue to advocate and work towards building a more inclusive society. We must be supporters, advocates, champions and allies to people with disabilities in our community. We need to continue to remind the government of their promise to people with disabilities, and to all of us that regardless of ability all people will be treated with dignity, and respect and seen as valuable, able and important.

Published by

Heather Lacey

Experienced Non-Profit Executive Director

Read Heather’s other articles here

A chat with Maelle and Karlene: If you smell what the Rock cooking

I was looking forward to my chat with Maelle and Karlene, a somewhat recently established friendship formed through ABLE2’s matching program. We were to meet at a local Subway, a location that I understood held meaning for the pair as it was where they first met some 6 months or so ago.  

As I opened the front door, after being hit with a waft of the all too familiar Subway fresh bread smell, I scanned the room. I was not sure what they looked like, but I made my best guess and mumbled in their direction “Karlene and Maelle?” Seeing their responsive smiles, I knew I found them. 

My first impression: they looked natural and comfortable with each other, just two human beings sitting for a sandwich on an otherwise unremarkable late Sunday afternoon. 

With introductions out of the way, I got right into it. I asked Maelle what compelled her to get involved with ABLE2. With a smile, she described her busy professional life as a high school vice principal but that she had recently taken on revised duties that gave her a bit more time and flexibility in her life. She knew she wanted to make a difference in someone’s life, and ABLE2’s matching program stood out as a chance to have direct, meaningful and personal experience based on a one-on-one connection. 

I asked them both what they liked to do together. Karlene chimed in first: watching movies, going for coffee / tea, and having lunch.  Recognizing that it will be their first summer together as a match, she also added that she is very much looking forward to having a picnic. Maelle clarified that their friendship is very much a two-way situation. They love to laugh and talk things out, about everything and nothing at the same time – all of the small and big things that make up life. In referencing my own match, I mentioned that after a while such relationships can become just like family. Karlene nodded in agreement: “She is like my grand-daughter!”.   

The conversation flowed as I uncovered more about both of them. In addition to her duties as vice principle, Maelle is an avid camper and loves dogs (she has a Rottweiler rescue and a dachshund). Karlene is a retired hairdresser and loves Reggae music and dancing. 

On to the most controversial topic we covered, Karlene mentioned how much she is looking forward to seeing the new Bob Marley biopic, and I responded that I recently took in the Barbie film and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. To my dismay, Karlene did not share my positive review – at all. Perhaps flustered by this friendly disagreement, or perhaps in a vain attempt to justify my opinion, I then started to gush about Ryan Gosling. I did not expect that.

Moving along, we ended up talking about what a great job ABLE2 does in matching people and in this context, Maelle described how quickly they clicked together, referencing the fact that Karleen was dancing the first time she saw her – what a first impression! 

The most surprising part of the conversation was finding out that Karlene likes pro-wrestling. We had a nice laugh as we almost simultaneously quoted the famous tagline of the former wrestler turned movie star, Dwayne “the Rock”: Johnson: “If you smeeellllllll what the Rock is cooking!!!”. While it is true that I never know to expect when I sit for these chats with ABLE2 matches, I can say with absolute certainty that I did not expect to reminisce about the late 1990s pro-wrestling scene. 

As our chat began to wind down, I asked my usual concluding question: what would you say to someone considering getting involved in ABLE2? 

Karlene was quick with her response:  Just go for it – you won’t regret it, especially if you get a match like mine – she is a dream friend! Maelle added that even though people may seem different on the outside there are always opportunities to connect and find common ground (like pro wrestling!). 

This confirmed (again) to me that differences in people are often superficial. All you need is an open heart, and to spend a bit of time shooting the breeze about the mundane, day-to-day things that make up life.   What a boring world it would be if only people that were the same could be friends. 

And with that, our conversation wrapped up.  It my pleasure a to get to know Karlene and Maelle, and I look forward to seeing them at various ABLE2 events.