Gary Jantz’s eyes light up as he describes his trip to the National Special Olympics meet in Prince Albert. He participated in the track and field events and returned home with a First Place medal for the long Jump and a Third Place finish in running.
Gary is a seasoned athlete and says he doesn’t get nervous before his events. He enjoys the celebrations at the games as much as the sporting events themselves. Highlights for him are the Opening Ceremonies and the dinner and dance held on Saturday nights during the competition weekend. He finds it interesting to meet athletes from all over Canada. Gary says he plans to continue on with sports in his life.
Gary came to the Association in 1995. His first job was in the woodshop at Swan Industries. He is now in his eighth year at Recycle Plus Fibre, where he sorts plastics and does shredding at least once a week. He says the job is OK. “I’m usually pretty easy to get along with.” Any problems on the job he can easily work out with Deloris Benson, who is a Supervisor in the Fibre Division at Recycle Plus.
I like working at Recycle Plus because I make good money. The people there are really nice to me and make me laugh.
Gary lives with two roommates in an apartment. He says they are mostly independent, with group home workers coming in for a couple of hours in the evenings. The roommates take turns cooking and each does his own laundry. Staff is there for support if they need assistance with anything or even just to talk things over.
Gary participates in a self-advocacy group for people with disabilities. The group discusses life skills, communication, and independent living. He attends church suppers, loves movies and is an avid Grande Prairie Storm hockey fan. Gary has a membership in the Grande Prairie Little Theatre and is always interested in what is going on in the city. Hardly a day goes by when he is not involved in some extracurricular activity.
Gary’s sister Judy Theissen worked at the Barrydale Dorm. She is fifteen years older than Gary but remembers him being tied to his desk in a classroom when he was in grade school. For the rest of the time at that public school, Gary was included in the Principal’s class. That Principal went on to gather a group of special needs students and they built a house together.
Judy enjoys being Gary’s sister and friend and is also thankful for the opportunities he has been exposed to by being involved with the Association. Gary is the youngest child in his family. Judy wonders about his care and how his needs will be met if the Association programs are cut due to government cutbacks.
Gary has gained self-confidence since he has been involved with the Association and Judy says he often surprises her with what he can do. He is more assertive than he used to be, to the point of challenging some of her suggestions, but she prefers that to having him “cowering away from life.”