Student-run program celebrates 15th anniversary
of volunteering with disabled youth
very week for the past 15 years, from September to
April, a group of Mount Allison students has travelled to
the nearby YMCA in Amherst, nS as part of the Sensory
Motor Instructional Leadership Experience -- better known
as SMILE. The Cumberland Early Intervention Program
(CEIP) matches Mount Allison students with a "buddy"
between the ages of three and 21, who has a mental or physical
disability or delay.
Mount Allison's collaboration with SMILE began in 1997.
CEIP's then-executive director Barb Boiduk would pick up
students on Saturday morning and bring them to the YMCA
to volunteer alongside community members.
Sarah Melanson ('01), Mount Allison's first SMILE
co-ordinator, says, "It started out very small, but from the
beginning it provided a much-needed break for families.
For some, it was the only two hours of respite time they had."
The program, which is jointly funded by CEIP and Leadership
Mount Allison, has grown to more than 50 Mount Allison
volunteers. Students are picked up by bus on campus and taken
to the YMCA to meet with their buddies for the morning.
One of this year's co-ordinators, Emma Kinloch, says the
program has come a long way, even in the past five years.
"It has grown in size, but it has also grown in ability."
The main goals of the program are physical activity and social
development. Co-ordinators organize activities such as swimming,
bowling, sledding, and community events, along with working
on life skills.
"Our most important goal is to have fun," she adds.
A partner program, Support Health Independence nurture
Empowerment (SHInE), was formed three years ago, which
focuses on the social development of older youth. Kinloch says
the group gets more ambitious every year. They will be attend-
ing an upcoming Amherst Ramblers' hockey game, where two
of the participants will drop the puck at the opening faceoff.
Kinloch, a fourth-year geography student, works with students
Jefferson Hayre and Leah Mighton to co-ordinate the program.
She says although it takes up to 15 hours of her time per week,
she wouldn't have it any other way.
"It can be really tiring because we all have schoolwork, a social
life, and take part in other extracurricular activities, but it is
worth the time and some of the agony that comes along with
running any program."
After Mount Allison, Kinloch plans to pursue her Bachelor of
Education and eventually a Master's of Inclusive Education.
"I will walk away this year, but I will never fully walk away. I
will always bring this experience with me," she says.
Alumnus Matt Stanley ('04) would agree. He took part in
SMILE for two years while at Mount Allison. His "buddy,"
Brent Daborn, was a groomsman at his wedding in 2008.
"SMILE was more than just an extracurricular activity for
me," he says. "It was an opportunity for me to connect with
inspirational children, to help them -- and me -- to grow, and
ultimately, to build a friendship that would last a lifetime."
to share your memories of sMiLe from the past 15 years,
visit cumberlandeip.ca, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
to connect with past and present volunteers.
by Melissa Lombard
Groomsman Brent Daborn at Matt and Stef
Stanley's 2008 wedding