Glen & Linda Shaw
The Shaws’ son Michael was born in the mid 1960s and they recall that it was a shock to discover that their child had a disability. Glen says it was an eye opener and a steep learning curve. It has taught him a lot over time and he has come to look at people in a different way.
We all have our shortcomings to some degree and whether you are the manager of a company or the president of a country there’s always something that you can say, we’re not all perfect.
In the early years the community was not very accepting of Mike and his handicap. In those days it was not so common to see a handicapped person around. Mike had crossed eyes and that attracted attention to him right away.
Raising a handicapped child was not easy. There was a lot of advice offered to the Shaws when Mike was young and they say that their ideas were not the same as those that they encountered. They decided to raise Mike in their own way and that involved taking Mike with them wherever they went and involving him in all aspects of the family’s life. This was at a time when even the medical profession was encouraging parents to send their kids away for care in places other than their own community.
The Shaws lived for a time in British Columbia and sent Mike to school there until he was about thirteen years old, at which time there were no more schools available for Mike to attend. The alternative was to send Mike away and that was something the Shaws were not prepared to do. People from Grande Prairie told them about the Peace School of Hope. They decided to move back to Grande Prairie so that Mike could continue schooling.
The best advice the Shaws received regarding Mike was from a doctor in Edmonton who told them to treat Mike as normally as possible. He told them “not to expect more than he could do but also never to expect less."
When Michael was three or four years old, Linda took him to see if there was early intervention available in the area. There wasn’t really anything at the time (1968-69). The Peace School of Hope was operating but took children when they were eight or nine. Lorne McLeod was the Executive Director at the time.
Mike attended the Peace School Wing in Montrose School. Linda recalls that Mike hated school in general, but didn’t mind going to Montrose at first. One day Mike missed the bus at the end of the school day and wasn’t there when Linda returned from work. He arrived moments later with his cheeks bright red and when Linda asked him where he was he said, “I joggled home.” She was amazed that he could find his way on his own.
Linda remembers being unhappy with the school situation at times. On days when she was volunteering, she wondered why the coffee breaks were so short. The teachers would be sure to be back in the hallway before the kids would return from recess because there would be chaos in the halls if they didn’t. The hallways could be pretty rough at times, with running shoes flying, etc and Linda thought it was a rough place for Mike to be. She wished he wasn’t in the situation. “I guess I was overprotective,” she says.
Glen and Linda have both been involved as board members with the Association during the time the Asociation was very involved with fundraising. Glen remembers becoming involved initially through volunteering. This led to meeting many of the people working on the projects and to his slowly becoming a part of the process.
The Shaws remember that it was really a challenge to get a good Executive Director for the Association. Another challenge they recall was the decision to buy the bottle depot, which came up for sale in the late 1970s. The business was bought from Mr. Borstad and money had to be borrowed for the purchase. The board wanted to expand opportunities for the clients and operate independently of government support.
It was tough to raise money and they could not rely on charitable donations to cover the needs of the organization. The Shaws have seen many changes over the years. When they first were involved with the Peace School of Hope there was a lot of fundraising to do in order to keep the school programs operating. Charity auctions, the Flowers of Hope campaign and the March of Dimes were a few of the events that were used to raise the funds.
Linda served as President of the Association’s Board of Directors in the 1980s. She is encouraged by the positive changes that have taken place in the organization on behalf of the handicapped through the decades. Respite care is one aspect of service that she would like to see expanded.
The thing that I would like to see more of, if we were going to do any changes, is that there be more respite care offered. We don’t have enough respite care offered. But as far as for Mike, as long as we’re alive, I guess he’ll be with us.
It was also difficult to get all the parents involved and the people who were able to contribute were getting older as well. The Shaws express a great pride in seeing what has been developed by the Association and what is being maintained to this day.
As a board member you look at the big picture and you rely on your staff to carry out the day to day business. We have been very fortunate there.
For the future, Glen sees a mixed bag. He notes that it is important to maintain the programs that are in place. The question of getting bigger must be carefully considered, primarily with the clients in mind. The Shaws believe it is important that the Association doesn’t forget what it is doing this for.
The Shaw’s advice to parents starting out with a disabled child is to treat them “no differently than anyone else.” Glen says that is the best advice they ever received.