Whether you are a long time resident or a newcomer to Grande Prairie, chances are that you have met or at least seen Doug Edey working or volunteering in the city.
Doug has received many awards, among them the Great Albertan award and the Special Olympics Athlete of the Year. Doug is an avid volunteer in the community. His first volunteer job was as a caddy for Dave Hunter, an Oilers hockey player. He remembers that he accidentally ran over a cart and that was embarrassing, but everything turned out OK.
Doug continued to volunteer from then on. He can be found at most hockey games, curling bonspiels, figure skating competitions and music concerts. He sells programs, leads the cheering and gets to see most of the celebrities in person. He often phones in to local radio station CJXX with his weekly Top Ten Picks, which are known as “Dougies.” Doug has many interests and one of them is reporting. In the 1990s, he wrote a sports column for “Special Friends,” a magazine about persons with disabilities, published by Marilyn Cramer.
Doug was a student at the Peace School of Hope when he was four years old. He was tiny and really cute, so when his mother Judy dropped him off for his first day at the school, students showered him with hugs and kisses. Even with such a warm welcome, Judy found it difficult to let go and trust that he would be OK.
Doug has many vivid memories of the Peace School of Hope. A springtime trip to the Lievers farm was a highlight for him during his year at the school and he remembers his photo appearing in the Daily Herald Tribune. In it he is holding a baby pig as fellow student Michael Eskdale looks on.
Another student, Doug Whyte, used to look after him at the school. Together they were called “Little Doug and Big Doug.” Doug remembers Hazel Pollock and the Phys Ed teacher at the time, Lorne McLeod. Doug sees many of his classmates from the Peace School of Hope when he is out in the community.
Judy says Doug had “energy to burn” when he was young and when he made the move to the public school system it took him a while to get used to sitting at a desk. The summer prior to starting at Avondale School, he worked with a guidance counselor to practice sitting quietly for lengths of time.
When he completed his schooling, Doug started working and many jobs later started working at the IGA. He has been employed there for fifteen years and enjoys the people he meets on the job. Hazel Pollock remembers meeting Doug at the IGA store when she went to visit her daughter who was working there. When Doug saw Hazel he ran toward her yelling “Pollock,” gave her a big hug and asked what she was doing there. When he found out that one of his co-workers was “Pollock’s daughter” he gave her a hug and kiss every day after that.
One day at the store he was taking a shopping cart back from the parking lot when he heard a mother tell her child “he must be retarded.” Doug wanted to go back and tell her that she was not right and that his feelings were hurt.
Shortly after that incident, Doug was invited to participate in a leadership conference in Edmonton. He was interested in learning all he could about how to be a leader in the community and went on to many new experiences as a result of his commitment to the ideas presented there. Doug is a member of Toastmasters and is also sponsored by Grande Prairie’s Sunrise Rotary Club.
When Doug was first born, Judy knew that something wasn’t right and she sought advice. On her first visit, the doctor told her that she was being a “neurotic Mom” but she refused to accept that opinion.
We knew something was wrong, but we weren’t going to hide Doug in a closet. We wanted to make him a winner and did the best we could.
Now that Doug is middle aged, aging has become a concern for Judy. She finds she would like to do more mothering but knows that it is not what Doug needs right now.
As difficult as it is, she is learning and trying to let go. Judy encourages young families to keep loving and encouraging their handicapped children. “Keep reaching out and trying all you can.”
Doug has many plans for the future. He would like to organize a workshop for teens on the theme of “teamwork.” He is enthusiastic about the potential for change if he is successful with his plan and also acknowledges that it is something that he cannot do alone. “I need help a little bit.” Another project he would love pursue is to publish a book about his life experiences. Doug also has a vision for a residential complex for seniors and the handicapped. “The seniors can help the handicapped and the handicapped can help the seniors.”
Doug will be forty years old in July, 2006. He is proud of the decision his parents made when they were advised to put him in an institution and of all he has achieved so far in his life.
The doctor told my Mom and Dad, “Put him in an institution.” And Mom said no and Dad said no way. And I’d like to say to the doctors. Look at me now.