When Kenneth Goy casts his gaze upon you, there is no option but to respond to the beauty in those large, dark eyes, heavily rimmed with lush lashes. His face, punctuated by wounds resulting from falls he has endured through a lifetime of living with epilepsy, projects a fierce intensity. Kenneth sits askew in his wheelchair, his posture belying the physical strength his large frame still possesses.
Kenneth is the second youngest of four siblings in the Goy family. His father, Jack Goy, a long time board member of the Association and one of the founders of the Grande Prairie Special Olympics committee, remembers Kenneth as a bright child, reading when he was only two and a half years old.
The Goy family was living in England when Kenneth experienced his first seizure and it was an episode that changed their lives. Kenneth was three years old and riding in the back seat of the family vehicle (an “old banger,” as Jack calls it). Kenneth’s Grandmother noticed that he was choking on a candy. Jack immediately stopped the car and tried to dislodge it. Kenneth bit down hard and Jack could not get his hand free. He made his way to the hospital, hand in Kenneth’s mouth, until Kenneth let out “one almighty breath” and Jack’s hand was released.
Kenneth spent fourteen weeks in the hospital following this first seizure. Jack says he went “ from a three year old genius to a six-month old baby, all in about fifteen minutes.”
The Goys saw Kenneth through years of schooling, starting with the Peace School of Hope and then on through the public school system. During a film presentation at the Composite High School, the Goys discovered that Grande Prairie’s Association for the Mentally Handicapped offered employment options for Kenneth upon graduation. Kenneth’s first choice was to work at the bottle depot.
Kenneth has been prone to seizures for most of his life and has endured many falls, quite frequently on his face. As a result, he often looks “beat up.” Kenneth will sometimes resist help after a fall and Jack wishes he would just accept the support that is available to him.
We made him so damned independent, he doesn’t need it now. He needs to forget about independency and take the assistance that’s there. Most of the workers are helping because they care.
Kenneth walked on his ankles until about 1991. His legs had twisted out of line when he was about six years old and his feet folded under. He developed large calluses on his ankles and was in pain for many years.
Kenneth had surgery to repair his legs and eventually was able to participate in the Special Olympics. One year, he got through to the finals of the 50-metre dash. Kenneth won that race and told Jack that he had “floated like a balloon.”
Kenneth also liked to participate in the bowling events and received a gold medal one time, with six strikes in a row during one game. “If you saw him bowl, you’d wonder how he could ever win. He never went to the line but just threw the ball right off the rack.” Jack thinks Kenneth was successful because they did not try to correct his “style” but just let him carry on in his own way.
There was a time when Kenneth loved hockey. He owned jerseys for all his favourite teams and would wear them when “his” team was playing. His father, Jack, would wear the jersey for the opposing team. Ken and his Dad would bet on the games and Kenneth would win those bets most of the time.
Kenneth is now thirty three years old and lives in a group home, which he refers to as “my house.” Staff at the home comment that Kenneth is quite the tease and has a very good sense of humour.
During a visit to Kenneth's residence at 114 Avenue, conversation with supervisor, Peter Sluik, turns to the camping trips Kenneth took with his family when he was a boy. It takes no time for Kenneth, previously engaged in leafing through stack of magazines, to drop them all and focus his full attention on the topic at hand. He smiles when he is reminded of his father Jack's recollection of a young Kenneth, missing from the family camp spot at dinner time, and found sitting high in the branches of a nearby tree.
There have been a lot of happy times with Kenneth but there have been times when you’d think he was going to die on you, right then and there. That is a fear and a worry.