My name is Ian Solnick and I had the opportunity to take part in an OPWSA Family Gathering in Toronto in February. By day I work with industry to create awareness around underrepresented areas in health so I was eager to get involved when my friend, Alisha Jaffer, asked for volunteers. I was able to recruit another mutual friend, Reilly, to join me for the day.
When Reilly and I accepted Alisha’s invitation neither of us had heard of Prader-Willi Syndrome so, naturally, we were experiencing some nerves on the drive to Holland Bloorview. Alisha’s email had mentioned food anxiety but neither Reilly or I knew exactly what this would be like or whether it would put a strain on the afternoons activities.
Once we arrived and met all of the participants it was clear that it was going to be a great afternoon of playing Wii, doing crosswords, writing valentines, and making handmade bracelets. Sam and I quickly bonded over a mutual love of Mr. Bean and we spent about an hour working on Valentine’s Day cards, talking about school and his eagerness to get a job. I urged him to slow down and just enjoy being a kid because you can’t watch Mr. Bean at work! I was so struck by his outgoing, loving personality and his level of care for the other kids.
I also got to spend plenty of time with Jack. He was awesome and we had a great time doing puzzles together and drawing. At first it was challenging to understand Jack’s non-verbal cues but we quickly figured each other out and blew off some energy with hallway races. I loved the joy on his face whenever he'd beat me to the finish line.
Snack time came and went without much anticipation or stress. Near the end of the afternoon I got to hang out with Anthony and Jacob and see how Prader-Willi presents itself in young adults. I couldn’t help but notice how intelligent and well-intentioned both of them were and I loved being able to share my passion for photography with Jacob - such a creative, independent guy. Before we knew it it was 5pm and it was time to reunite everyone with their parents.
All in all Reilly and I had a fantastic first experience volunteering with OPWSA and we’d both be eager to get involved at the next Toronto Family Gathering.
Thanks for the opportunity Alisha and Jen!